Gators are owning up to penalties

They're only one game deep into the season and Florida's stat sheet is already stained with a disturbing number: 14. Though the Gators escaped with a closer win than they wanted Saturday, they left the Swamp bruised with 14 penalties for 106 yards. So far, this team is in line to performing far worse than last year's squad who averaged 7.7 penalties per game.

Tuesday, offensive coordinator Brent Pease and a handful of Florida players addressed the overriding fear of last season's mistakes carrying over to this season's competition. At the close of last season, Florida racked up 100 penalties.

Senior free safety Josh Evans said the team's penalties last season were due to a lack of discipline.

"You want to have better numbers than you did last year," Evans said. "It's coming along. It might occur here and there, but that's football. You are going to have penalties in a game. Somebody might jump offside or make a wrong play. We're definitely working on it."

Pease also attributed the hefty amount of penalties to a lack of discipline. His offense recorded five of Saturday's 14 penalties, two of which included false starts. Florida posted 10 of the 14 penalties before halftime.

"If you're going to become more disciplined on penalties, you're going to become more disciplined in how you run your life," Pease said. "Going to class on time, how you prepare, being here, pay your tickets, get your books in on time… whatever. That's how you've got to become in life. You've got to compartmentalize yourself and be disciplined."

Pease praised the orange and blue's solid tempo during the game and said the team didn't struggle with time issues or management. He thought all of the offense's penalties stemmed from correctable mistakes, mainly jumping offside. He also attributed one of the false starts, by Tevin Westbrook, to the fact the sophomore tight end is in his first season on offense. Last season, Westbrook played at defensive end.

"A couple of (the penalties), we're going to deal with," Pease said. "That's just the ref's call and that's what they make of it. We have to understand to be cleaner with our hands or cleaner with our blocks and do that. We'll get better at those."

Junior defensive back Jaylen Watkins categorized the penalties as more of an individual struggle for players.

"I mean it was the first game, so we knew we're going to have a few penalties," Watkins said. "The penalties that we did have, most of them were errors on the players, something that they have to control within themselves — being too aggressive at times."

Watkins also said the team this year is mature enough to hold itself accountable – something he said the Gators lacked last year. He shared how the defense deals with penalties internally.

"I know, personally, when we go offside on defense, that person comes straight out of the game," he said. "Obviously that affects the person and lets him know that he has to get his stuff together or he won't play."

The junior attributed penalties to over aggressiveness, a characteristic teammate Evans acknowledged as well.

"Sometimes our front, they get a little anxious," Evans said. "They get a quick jump on the ball, which is good sometimes, but could hurt us in the long run, too. Just staying focused, everybody keeping an eye on the ball is something we can work on."

Offensive guard James Wilson was quick to acknowledge his penalty in his performance over the weekend and said the team holds each other accountable.

"We don't want any penalties, obviously," Wilson said. "That really goes against our production as a team and I've got to do better. I had one. I know I had a chop-blocking penalty. We've just got to be smarter about what we do."

However, Jelani Jenkins maintained the penalties are something the entire team – including the coaching staff – takes responsibility for.

"It's on everybody," Jenkins said. "We're all together. We all share the same blame for it. I'm not blaming one or the other."

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