| Palm Beach Post
Ohio State rises to No. 3 in the latest Amway Coaches Poll
USA TODAY Sports’ Paul Myerberg breaks down the latest Amway Coaches Poll.
What will the Florida football team look like Saturday coming off a two-week shutdown forced by a spike in positive COVID-19 tests?
That became a bigger unknown Tuesday after the school announced that the program had six more positive tests last week.
The ninth-ranked Gators returned to practice Monday after the outbreak that forced two games to be postponed. Florida has had 37 scholarship players test positive for the virus in October, along with head coach Dan Mullen and two assistant coaches. The outbreak occurred soon after Florida returned from its road trip to Texas A&M.
Mullen said Florida will have at least 53 players available for Saturday’s home game against Missouri — the required number for a team to compete. The game was pushed back from its original Oct. 24 date and will be played in front of a max of 17,600 fans, and not 90,000, which is what Mullen made clear that he prefers in the midst of a pandemic.
Mullen did not reveal any information about the current COVID situation at Florida, other than saying the most recent positive test within the program was last Saturday. So, we know not every player will be available Saturday. But we do not know how many, or who, will not play.
“Not going to confirm or deny anything,” Mullen said about any health-related questions.
Mullen, though, on the day before the program shut down, praised his players for being “a model of safety” when it comes to guidelines and protocols. On Monday, he was asked if the outbreak was caused by players letting down their guard and becoming less vigilant.
“We were always worried about travel.” Mullen said. “What we were doing was working with very few positive cases. Unfortunately, you end up going on the road. You’re adding in a 2½-hour plane ride, you’re adding in bus trips to and from a hotel, you’re adding in pregame meals (and) usually the hotels not as big in the spacing as you have at home so you’re in a tighter meal environment. You’re adding in a visiting locker room (where) it’s about a quarter of the size … so there is no social distancing.
“We always knew that travel was going to be a concern and an issue for us.”
Yet, every other team has the same concerns and a large majority has been able to play a road game and return without an outbreak. Entering this week, 34 games involving FBS schools have been postponed or canceled in two months.
Mullen now is treating the week as he has done coming off a bye or the layoff between the end of the regular season and a bowl, although in both cases players get in some practice times before actual game week.
What’s the biggest challenge?
“Just getting back into the flow of a game routine … getting back into a regular game-week routine,” he said. “Two weeks since practice, three weeks between games. Usually when you have that break, you’re playing a bowl game. But you have a very different set schedule and different planning.”