Mullen: QBs struggling with consistency, grasping managing offense concept

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Coach Dan Mullen watches quarterback Kyle Trask throw a pass at practice Saturday. [Brad McClenny/Staff photographer]

Now that renowned quarterback whisperer Dan Mullen is in charge of the Florida offense, the expectation is the Gators will get elite quarterback play at some point.

But it may not be this season. Or even next.

This was the take from Mullen’s post-practice news conference Monday.

Listening to Mullen, it sounds like the Gators might have to settle for functional QB play in 2018, which they and their fans would have gladly embraced in any of the last eight seasons.

“This year, we’ll get them right,” Mullen said. “We’ll keep putting them in situations, finding out what they’re most comfortable with right now as we go through installation. Each guy what they’re comfortable with and have that package ready for them because you don’t know who’s going to be playing.

“Even if one guy is the starter, you’re a play away from the next guy, so you better know what he’s going to be able to do, too, and put him in positions to be successful.”

Mullen has said he likes the arm talent in the quarterback room. And he likes the potential of his three quarterbacks — Feleipe Franks, Kyle Trask and true freshman Emory Jones.

Early in preseason camp, though, the three continue to struggle with consistency and grasping the concept of managing the offense and going through their progressions to find the open receiver.

“I’m seeing flashes here and there, but it’s really about consistency of performance,” Mullen said. “One of the things that is hard is how much work you have to put in at the QB position to be successful.

“They are young guys and they’re still learning that. That just takes time because there are so many little intricacies of it. You can’t coach everything at one time, so they’ve got to put in the extra work.”

After Saturday’s practice, Franks and Trask talked about all the work they put in this summer with the receivers and in the film room in preparation for preseason camp and the season.

But Mullen said it’s evident the QBs did not show enough initiative over the summer to take the next step on their own toward becoming a potential elite quarterback.

“No, to be a big-time quarterback, I don’t think they even know how hard that is,” Mullen said. “They should understand it by hopefully next summer. I was hoping maybe with just one of them it would really click, but I didn’t see that happen.

“But that doesn’t shock me. It might not even be next summer, it might be the summer after that. A lot of guys it takes two or three years of really working.”

Mullen has a history of developing elite quarterbacks, starting with Alex Smith at Utah, followed by Tim Tebow at Florida and most recently, Dak Prescott and Nick Fitzgerald at Mississippi State.

Transitioning from functional to elite is a process, and it’s different for every quarterback. It happens quick for some. For others, the development can take some time.

Right now, the UF quarterbacks are early in the process of being coached and developed by Mullen.

“I watch each guy, and that looks really good, and then the next play and that looks really bad,” Mullen said. “They’ve got to understand the why we’re doing what we’re doing in the big picture of things, also be able to manage the offense.

“That’s the one thing that I see from them that I’m harping on all the time. Not just understand their position, but understanding the offense. Their attitude is all really good. They just have a lot of work to do.”

55 COMMENTS

  1. I give Coach Mullen a LOT of credit for his honest evaluation. It’s not what he wanted to see and it’s not what we fans were hoping to hear, but I’d rather know the truth and set my expectations now rather than figure out during the Kentucky game that Coach was feeding us a load a bull. And yet……. I’m still excited 🙂

    • I understand your feelings, Jasper….but it’s early in fall camp and I still say that if the OL comes up to speed AND if the QB (whoever it is) can just learn NOT to make dumb mistakes, we’ll be fine. Not great, but fine. It’s a work in progress.

    • Should anyone NOT get a pass? This team has an organizational commitment problem. It shows in the ridiculous off-field issues. When you decide to associate with shady or criminal individuals, get in altercations on and off campus, show up with a weapon (fake or real) in said altercations, etc., it’s obvious that honing your football craft is not the priority. If it was one or two guys, it’s a problem with individuals. But when it’s a dozen kids at a time (including seniors), it’s an institutional problem.

      These kids simply have not been taught how to work for too many years. There is barely any senior leadership to learn good habits from. I am an NCO in the Army and have been through a handful of military units. Sometimes I join an organization that has an established routine and culture of hard and efficient work — and other times, not so much. I can tell you it is a hell of a lot easier to get established in units where the culture is already there then it is to help establish the culture myself.

      Unfortunately, the culture is just not there yet at UF and Mullen has to establish it. He has to instill it in a class or two so that when the next recruiting classes come in, they know nothing other then the winning way of doing things. It is going to take some time.

      • Something told me, Sergeant, that you knew what you were talking about, and now you have removed any doubt. Hard in training, Easier on the battlefield. Unit cohesion is probably the biggest combat multiplier of all, and it doesn’t happen overnight!

      • You are 100% correct. That’s why I say it’ll be 2-3 years before the entire culture of this program has changed. This program has rotted to its core the past 9 years and while Coach Mullen will get it turned around, it won’t be overnight. Look at who these freshmen kids have to “look up to” in terms of upper classmen. The change starts now but we won’t see the total effect for a few years. At this point my hope is that we just have a better and more entertaining team than we’ve had the past few years. I can be patient for excellence and national relevance.

      • Very wise words TJ and you hit on Mullen’s point exactly, a culture of winning.
        Finally an article that brings everything back down to earth. I was beginning to believe that we were going to win the NC this year, from the articles! The senior leadership really is important and from the coaches words I can see that it will take time to instill that! I guess that means we will lose to MsSt this year!

      • T-J Gators said it all and said it well. There has been a cancer growing in this program and it still lurks despite the fresh blood. The kids that are being recruited today, never saw a Florida football team excel on the field since they were 7 years old and just don’t look back that far. Where it started is anyone’s guess, but there is an absolute lack of commitment and discipline that will take years to establish. Dan Mullen was visibly upset and disappointed because he was certainly hoping to see summertime development. That is exactly what he asked Dak Prescott and Nick Fitzgerald to do and they both delivered. This culture needs a rebuild.

  2. I’m excited for the season as well!!! It sounds to me we are in the exact same situation at QB as we were Midway through the season last year, which was horrible.. My only hope is that Trask gets the start, and the running backs bail us out.. I think Trask can grow as a QB much better than Frank’s will ever do. If it’s neck and neck for the starting position even after Trask hasn’t played since high school, that should tell you something about both the QBs..
    But bad football is still better than no football if thats how it ends up.. And like always, Go Gators!!

  3. comment was with Rog. Jasper I don’t think you are reading what I am. But that is what opinions are for. CDM is pushing these guys. He just didn’t see the Ah Hah moment in any of them they are the guy. QB has to be a leader, have confidence, have talent, ability to use that talent, ability to use that talent correctly. Wanting to be in charge and leadership are two different things. A leader if there is one leads by example and if they are natural people just want to follow by the actions the leader exhibits not because they are the leader. The second confidence is difficult with young guys. Talent they have or they wouldn’t be here. Ability and correctly are the boxes I think the coaches are searching for here and who has that in them that the team at least the offense will get behind and follow over the top. Tebow had it Wuerffel had it etc.

  4. Two full years in the program is sufficient time to demonstrate whether you have the “it” factor. Franks and Trask apparently don’t. This was obvious again at the spring game, and we’re hearing nothing more as practice starts. Jones showed more promise than the other two at the Spring game. Hopefully he can get ready quick. I believe that as Jones goes – so will the Gators this year. If we can’t establish a passing game – the great runners will not be able to bail us out.

    • Gator Steve they didn’t have a fishing staff that knew how to bring them along. They need a little time. Coach said they are all learning his system when they didn’t even have a system/coaching before they need a little time before judgement can be made.

  5. Guys, its early, relax….. This team is gonna be lightening in a bottle…. Just wait, CDM is saying these things because he has HIGH EXPECTATIONS OF THE OFFENSE. When is the last time we had that ?? Is this the first time CDM coached up raw QB’s ?? Patience…. UGA, Vols, USC and LSU are going to straight up SHOCKED when we start dropping 40 a game…. mark it down….

  6. Mullen, unlike Captain Yellow Teeth, will not shower people with empty praise and set them up for failure. He has stated his philosophy is that, “you are either getting better or worse, there is no standing still” so you can be sure he is pushing these guys to get better.

    It will take time for these players to unlearn the lazy mental habits Suckmeiser and Yellow Teeth instilled in them, but they all have a chance. Hopefully, it will click, as Mullen says, and they will be able to help the team win this year. I think we could do pretty well with a competent game manager, but whatever the case may be, I believe these coaches will find a way. The last staff was composed of quitters and whiners, finger pointers who refused to take responsibility for the pitiful results they achieved. Mullen owns his responsibility, and he will find a way. Count on it.

  7. Coach Mullen might stop being HONEST with us fans, after reading some of the ”doom and gloom” here on Gatorsports.com. The truth is it’s only the 2nd and 3rd practice. And to those projecting negativity, have you even played tackle-football?
    The high expectations are better than Mullen saying, ”Well, we’ll be fine!” Knowing all along the Gators won’t be fine. So I am STILL EXCITED, as these 2-3 Q.B.s , at the very least, can HAND-OFF to Perine, Scarlett, Davis, Lemons, etc… and that will open some EASY PASSES for any Q.B. Heck, a HIGH SCHOOL Q.B. can hand-off, so… ”Come on Gators, get up and go!”

    • GI sometimes being honest is still not telling everything. We could be good just not as good as he wants. Keeping them pushing to Excel means being honest to a fault. If the players are reading this they should get mad and work harder.

  8. Functional will be fine as long as the other aspects of football are good to great. In HS you generally can get by with your physical ability, not at the college level. It really is the same in every position, just more at QB.

  9. There is no question that the QB position is by far the most difficult and challenging position in football. Not only does it require tremendous athleticism – it also requires enormous mental discipline. Timing and rhythm, acute awareness of immediate surroundings and all potential receivers – where they are, the routes they are running. Pocket presence – know when to throw the ball (even if it is out of bounds to avoid an interception), when to run the ball (rarely, but probably a few times each game) and when to dump it off to your safety valve even if this is your running back. I wonder if daily meditation to gain heightened awareness and focus – say 10 to 15 minutes before each practice – would this help? Watch Danny Wuerffel (spelling?) film where he shows how to manage the ball. Watch other Dan Mullen QB proteges.

    • Loved your comment, Glen Kemp. And while I was reading it, I started singing, ”You gotta’ know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, and know when to run…” LOL!
      Giving away my age, so… as someone who only played high school football (against the likes of Lake City-Columbia, personally, my favorite and best win EVER, as we (G.H.S.) beat Lake City at Citizen’s Field in 1985, played against Forrest, and Vanguard, Buchholz, etc…) But my point is, while my experiences are limited, I think you’re right in your overall assessment above. Go Gators!

  10. Hey guys, I’m kind of with Rog on this one, at least for this early point in time. While its great that CDM likes to shoot straight with Gator Nation, his true target audience for his comments might just well be his 3 QB’s. I played QB in high school and played for a coach who liked to make similar comments to help light a fire under our team. If that didn’t work, he would grab you by the face mask to make sure we heard him. Since that’s no longer acceptable these days, maybe the coach has to find another way. Better to try this now than in 3 weeks when opening kickoff is imminent.

  11. What’s doom and gloom about saying that we have good talent at QB but the guys may need a while if ever to be elite.
    Not everyone becomes elite because it cannot just be handed to you. I wish the guys well.

  12. Here’s my take, right now they’re just ok, nothing special. If I were DM, I wouldn’t come out and say, wow, they are really good, that can lead to some complacency. They all need to know that the coach isn’t happy with current progress so they had better put the work in. It’s a good call by DM, first year HC here. IF he said they look really good and then bomb, we’d be angry at him. We’ve seen this before with Mac. And if the qb’s blossom, DM gets a lot of credit because we’ll all remember what he said today. I think most of us were pretty much expecting so so play from our qbs, hopefully our D and running game will be stellar. (If Franks can’t find any semblance of consistency at this stage, personally, I don’t think he will. Bad habits are hard to break.

  13. CDM is using the same media tactics that Spurrier and other coaches used to motivate their players. The old HBC was always hard on his QBs. The QBs started the off-season without separation. With the open competition, all three QBs probably put in about the same work this summer. There is still not much separation. It would be an easier decision for CDM if one would separate from the others early in camp. But that was an unlkely scenario. It’s going to be game a couple of games into the season before you see separation. All three are likely to see early playing time. Instead of focusing on the QB battle, the focus should be on the O-line. How far they have come this summer will dictate the success of the Gators on offense. Can the Gators run it when they need too run it against a stacked box?

  14. Mullen sounds like the best QB coach ever here in Spurrier. He’s absolutely honest with the boys, and if they have a thin skin, they’re probably not going get very far. He’ll give them a little bit of leeway with learning a new offense, but very little. I remember MacElwain saying he could coach his dog to play QB, but Mullen has shown that he can make his offense fit his QB, and not the QB fit the offense. He just wants good decision making, which they haven’t been taught at all here at UF, with of course the exception of Jones, who just got here this year. Let’s hope they all have very thick skin, and are ready to learn. It’s the only way they’ll succeed here.

  15. “But Mullen said it’s evident the QBs did not show enough initiative over the summer to take the next step on their own toward becoming a potential elite quarterback.” – wow, what a statement! I almost bought 4 tickets to Kentucky today at $75 a pop – glad I didn’t.

    While I am also optimistic that we’ll have a great QB again, I think I’ll watch us whip the Wildcats for the 32nd straight time on my TV.

  16. As I listened to Coach’s comments again and reading through this thread it seems to me that the answer is obvious. Not easy, but obvious. In my opinion, coach is not necessarily looking for a “vocal” leader or someone that the team likes and responds to. He is looking for a QB that exudes confidence. And that confidence comes not from personality but rather from knowing how to run an offense.

    Dan expects his QB to walk up the the line, instantly recognize the defense (much film study), instantly calculate the play call vs the defense (practice reps and playbook study), know instantly what he’s going to do with the ball and then physically be able to perform the play (arm, agility, quick feet). My thought at this point after 4 practices is that the QB’s just don’t yet grasp the mental part of the position to a level needed to win at this level. It doesn’t mean they can’t get there, just that they aren’t there yet.

    And that isn’t bashing anyone. Considering the coaching and leadership Franks and Trask have received before Coach Mullen arrived and considering that they’ve only had a Spring Practice and Strength & Conditioning training for 7 months, its no wonder they are not “there” yet. Coach will get good play out of the QB position this year….it just might not be great. But it will sure as heck be progress!!!

      • I’m with you “6”. Rog has posted some very good insights throughout. With that in mind, here is my take. I think the coach is looking for someone with the leadership qualities that Tim Tebow showed after that loss to Ole Miss, when he called his team together and they collectively resolved that they would not lose another game the rest of that season. Tebow personally guaranteed that, and they delivered on that promise. Notice that I am NOT saying he’s looking for another Tim Tebow the QB, but he IS looking for a Tim Tebow type leader, a guy who “owns the huddle”. A leader who instills confidence and commitment from his team no matter the score or game situation. That may be a very difficult task, maybe impossible, but that I believe it is the standard that he is striving for and saying so with these comments.

        • Agree 100% Dan F! And why was Tim able to do that???? Because he knew that he “would” and “could” do whatever it took to make it happen. He had the physical and mental abilities and he knew he had those abilities that when he broke the huddle, he could lead the offense…not as a “rah rah” guy (and yes he did that very well) but as an execution guy.

          At this point, we need execution of the offense, not a cheerleader. Plenty of QB’s can sling it down the field. Very few QB’s can take what the defense gives you and carve out a drive. The last few years our QB’s have been playing a game of football chess with a checkers approach.

          • I hear both of you, a Tebow-like leader, not necessarily a Tebow-skilled leader (altho we’d sure take that too). In other words, what we used to call in days gone by, in a different setting, an “emergent leader”. The guy who isn’t really more skilled than anyone else, but has the balls to step up and take charge. Sometimes he may be the bug, and sometimes he may be the windshield — but his confidence influences the action about him at all times. A game leader, who can also “manage”.

            The playing chess with checkers analogy is a perfect description, by the way, of what we’ve been doing for the past 8 years. I plan to repeat it three times and thereby make it my own!

          • I also have little use for the “rah rah” players, and that should not be confused with leadership. In fact, I think a lot of these players get overly emotional, jumping around, pounding team mates on the head to the point of losing the focus and discipline needed to succeed. They are like eating a Snickers bar and getting that 5 minute sugar rush, before crashing to the floor. Leadership comes from the example that you set for others by keeping your emotions in check, playing both hard and smart at the same time, and executing your assignment as coached on every play without the gyrations many players use to call attention to themselves. You know, “old school’ style! Like the great Dolphin receiver in the 70’s, Paul Warfield, who would race into the end zone with a 50 yard TD catch and simply handed the ball to the official before jogging to the bench. That’s leading by example.

  17. Screw it. Bring on the Single Wing! I did like the honesty of Coach Mullen. At least he is not peeing in our face and telling us it’s raining like Mac did. If we run 90 percent of the time and play great defense maybe it can work. I just want to see us win.