The Gators are getting back to the basics.
Last week’s struggles against Kentucky in the team’s 27-16 loss showed Florida coach Dan Mullen that the team still needs to master the fundamentals of practicing.
Practice hard. Practice being physical. Practice being tough.
“I talk about, we’ve got to become more physical of a football team. The only place that’s going to happen is on the practice field, in your demeanor and how you practice,” Mullen said. Improving the way they practice will ensure that the Gators won’t repeat the same mistakes when they take on Colorado State at home on Saturday.
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The Rams are fresh of a 34-27 comeback victory over Arkansas in Fayetteville, and Mullen knows that Colorado State can capitalize off any flaws that UF hasn’t yet fixed.
“They’re right in the middle of it, no matter what the situation is. It’s going to be a challenge for our guys,” he said “Against this team, you’ve got to be ready to play four quarters. No matter how the scenario plays out, it’s a four-quarter game against this team. Get ready to go.”
Physicality has been the motif of practice for Florida this week, and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said the Gators must master those areas before they face Colorado State’s skilled offensive players.
“They’re good,” Grantham said about the Rams. “They got talented wideouts, they have a quarterback that can spin it, their running is solid, their tight end is really athletic.”
Grantham’s defense will take the field without star defensive back Marco Wilson, who suffered a torn ACL in the loss to Kentucky. The sophomore will miss the rest of the season.
“It’s a very tough loss,” said defensive back CJ Henderson. “I’m praying for my brother to come back, a speedy recovery. We’ve got guys behind him I hope are going to step up.”
It will be up to Henderson and the rest of the Gators secondary — which has had its share of struggles to start the season — to fill the space of the injured Wilson, who tallied 34 tackles and a team-high 10 pass breakups last season.
But Henderson has played alongside Wilson as another bright spot of the Gators’ defense, and he is confident in his ability to lead the secondary in Wilson’s absence.
“I feel like I lead by example,” Henderson said, “and the guys behind me are going to follow through.”
And Florida will face a quarterback in K.J. Carta-Samuels who won’t hesitate to sling it and test that Gators secondary.
“Those guys are going to throw the ball. They’re very well-rounded,” Henderson said. “We have to come prepared this week.”
The Gators can ill afford for the Rams to expose any more holes on their defense or on their offensive line, which has gotten pushed back and forth through the first two games of the season. However, offensive line coach John Hevesy plans to stick with the same five guys up front.
“The five of them played and they’ve got to learn from it,” Hevesy said, “and the ones behind them have got to learn to practice the same way.”