After Florida was blown out 55-20 in the Cotton Bowl against Oklahoma Thursday, coach Dan Mullen said after the game that his team didn’t have to play because of player availability – and only did so because his players wanted to compete.
“With the number of people that were out for the game, we were under numbers actually,” he told reporters. “We had the numbers to not play the game.
“I give our guys credit. … Our young guys wanted to go play in that game, and they wanted to get that experience and wanted to be on that stage.”
Mullen estimated earlier in the week that he would have 60 scholarship players available for Thursday. The SEC established a minimum threshold of 53 scholarship players for game participation, but teams could opt not to play even if they didn’t meet that number.
It was declared that there would also be minimums at three key positions: quarterback (one), defensive lineman (four) and offensive lineman (seven). Mullen neglected to specify if the Gators were under the minimum at a specific position.
“I kind of viewed — I don’t know, maybe this is wrong — that wasn’t the 2020 football team that you saw,” Mullen said of the Gators, who lost their final three games of the season to end with an 8-4 record. “There were 25 guys missing off the 2020 football team out there tonight. That was kind of a kick-start for us for the future, an opportunity for the young guys to play.”
“The last game the 2020 team played was 11 days ago [in the SEC championship].”
The Gators were without multiple starters, including their top three wide receivers in Kadarius Toney, Trevon Grimes and Jacob Copeland. Star tight end Kyle Pitts was also out. Grimes, Pitts and Toney all opted out to prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft. Copeland tested positive for COVID-19.
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