Discipline is a key concern at The Athletic

Florida football has had its share of ups and downs after more than a decade of steady sideline turnovers that saw a merry-go-round featuring four different head coaches trundle through the swamp. The lack of leadership at the top of the program has manifested itself in many ways, including a lack of discipline among some players that dates back as far as the Urban Meyer era.

The problems came to a head at the end of the 2020 season with the shoe-throwing incident against the LSU Tiger, which many believe marked the beginning of the end of the Dan Mullen era. Trouble continued into the following season, which saw the program set its worst Southeastern Conference game record since 1986 and finish below the 500 mark for the first time since the 2017 campaign — when Jim McElwain was ousted as head coach.

Athletic’s college football staff recently rallied to offer theirs enduring question for any SEC football program, with Florida being the obvious elephant in the room. Here is the entry from Gators Beat author G. Allan Taylor.

Can the Gators rectify the discipline issues behind their string of narrow losses?

Here’s how Florida crumbled in key moments last season: A blocker went the wrong way on a failed two-point conversion against Alabama. A field goal mishap gave Kentucky the crucial points. Brenton Cox played the wrong gap on Missouri’s touchdown in overtime. Several defenders took turns and missed assignments in Baton Rouge. Add these to the mistakes of 2020 that Malik Davis is fumbling about Texas A&M and Marco Wilson’s “LS Shoe” affair, and you see the narrow margin that took Florida from college football playoff challenger to firing their coach.

Billy Napier’s first offseason at Gainesville was marked by an increased emphasis on accountability, with a belief that there is a direct link between players’ discipline off the field and their reliability on the field. He slipped into culture-changing mode last December when his new associates shadowed the remains of Dan Mullen’s associates in preparations for the Gasparilla Bowl. To avoid another mediocre bowl trip this fall, the Gators will need to be more efficient considering their talent level is below average by SEC standards.

Napier’s goal is to be “under a penalty in 30 games,” which would be a steep improvement over the Gators, who were 122nd in penalties per game and 119th in lost distance last season. Consistent with fixing these bugs is the need to avoid turnovers after the Gators ended 2021 down 8.

Honestly, I couldn’t have put it better myself – there seems to have been an institutional weakness when it comes to mental toughness under Mullen, but Napier hasn’t had a chance to prove himself yet. However, the sacking of three players in June (with a fourth on thin ice) seems to signal a change in policy when it comes to tolerating behavior that harms the team, so hopefully these significant concerns are already being addressed.

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