The Gators are still a young team. Florida is counting on multiple freshmen and players that don’t have much experience to be impact players this year. That makes Saturday’s trip to Alabama even more difficult because the freshmen have never played on the road.
The 101,821 fans that pack the seats of Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday will be a new experience on the road for the Florida freshmen, especially the ones that will be heavily counted on in the secondary.
"Embrace the moment,” safety Marcus Maye said on what he’ll tell the young players. “It's what we do, it's what we came here to do, week in and week out. Nothing is going to be different in how it is playing at home and then how it is there. It's the same ball game, it's just in a different stadium."
The secondary struggled to communicate in a home game in The Swamp, but defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin was quick to point out that communication can be easier on the road. The home crowd in Tuscaloosa will be quiet when the Crimson Tide has the ball, allowing quarterback Jacob Coker or Blake Sims to make changes at the line of scrimmage.
There are still challenges to being on the road. The routine is different on a game day, and while the coaches do their best to keep the routine the same, there are smaller aspects that are new. When players have gone on the road at least once, it’s not much of an issue. But many Florida players talked about their first experience on the road this week and agreed there are some unique challenges the first time.
"There's some tough parts, now,” Dante Fowler said. “You're not used to different environments. Sometimes it's players' first time out of state or on a plane, just being in different states. It’s just the environment. As long as you have your composure, you'll be fine."
And the veterans play a big part in making sure those freshmen have their composure. Warmups can be overwhelming in a new setting, especially one as big as Bryant-Denny Stadium. Players can get lost in the size of the stadium or the crowd, but it’s the good ones that are able to put that behind them and play the game without issues.
The toughest adjustment comes on the offensive side of the ball. The Gators move to a silent cadence this week, which could cause problems for the offensive line if they aren’t ready.
“Being the first game on the road, it’s going to be challenging,” Florida center Max Garcia said. “It’s going to be loud. Offensively, we’ve got to get on routine with the snap and get it going. It’s going to be our first challenge. I think we’ll have some struggles, but it’s part of the game and we’re all ready for it, excited.”
Asked about the young players going on the road for the first time, Will Muschamp didn’t think it would be much of a problem. The main reason is the Gators have an experienced quarterback. That’s the most important part of playing on the road in Muschamp’s mind, and Florida has it.
Jeff Driskel didn’t play in any of Florida’s tough road venues last season, but he was under center when the Gators hit the road in 2012. He’s looking forward to playing in a difficult atmosphere again this Saturday.
“It's going to be pretty cool going into Alabama's stadium,” Driskel said. “We haven't been on the road yet and that's a good way to start. I bet some of the guys will be a little wide-eyed at first, but at the end of the day, it's playing football and that's what we're going to have to do. If some young guys are called upon, they're going to be expected to play well. At the end of the day, it's just football."