The Back Nine: Mullen wants players to be like Hulk

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Is "The Incredible Hulk" on the Gators' roster? [Marvel Studios]

The Back Nine comes at you with another busy week ahead and the first road trip of the year looming. By my count, this will be my 17th trip to Knoxville to cover a Florida-UT sporting event. I should have voting rights.

10. So I was watching a little bit of SEC Nation before the carnage began Saturday and here is what Gator legend Tim Tebow said to his former team on the show — “I was at practice last week. You’re not good. You may be talented, but you’re not good.” And he is right. Florida’s roster is not up there with the better teams in college football, but it’s not as bad as the Gators have played so far this season. Three games in, Dan Mullen should have a better idea of which of his players love football and which ones love being football players. There’s a difference. And the ones who love playing the game are the ones who should be playing. It does feel like more and more guys are starting to understand what is expected of them. It’s a pretty simple game. You throw the ball, you run the ball, you catch the ball. And your coach wants to hear pads popping in practice. “We’ve gotta get a little Jekyll and Hyde,” Mullen said. “Actually, they understand the Incredible Hulk a little more. Around campus we should be Dr. Banner. When we go out to practice and we cross that line, we need to flip a little switch and be the Incredible Hulk.”

11. Of course, Mullen’s former boss used to take these rivalry games very seriously, going as far as to put the Tennessee logo on urinal cakes used during the week of the Vols game. “You don’t have to go overboard,” Mullen said Monday. “I do all kinds of different things. But we haven’t gone that far. We have a lot of rivalries. If you have one set rival you can go a little further with it, like not saying the name of the school. I have no problem saying Tennessee. With a couple of rivalries, if you do too much it can lose its sting.” I don’t think this team needs any real motivation other than it’s the first road game and it’s a conference game and they know that in the last three games Tennessee has missed a field goal to lose (2015), hammered UF in the second half (2016) and watched the Heave to Cleve to lose last year.

12. Mullen again repeated the information about Saturday’s game being the hottest ever at The Swamp. But the great former wideout and color commentator Lee McGriff pointed out Monday and on the broadcast that it might have been the highest temperature recorded, but nobody played hotter games than the teams that played on artificial turf. It might have been hotter in the stands Saturday, but the game is played on the field and those nasty artificial turf games were brutal for the players. “It was 96? We played some 1 p.m. games on the turf that were 196,” McGriff said. “You’d go into your stance and you’d want them to hurry up and snap the ball so your hand wouldn’t burn.” As it was then and is now, the press box is not a bad place to be on days like that.

13. There is not a more top-heavy league than the Big Ten right now, which may have the best team in Ohio State and a couple of other contenders in Penn State and Iowa, but also is coming off a weekend in which seven conference teams lost to unranked teams for the first time. Ever. Three of those teams were double-digit favorites at home. And Northwestern paid $1.2 million to Akron and Nebraska $1.15 million to Troy and then lost. All of the craziness of Saturday sure made a jumbled mess of my Associated Press ballot. I took about two hours to fill it out and even then I hate what I did with the bottom 10 teams. Can I have a do-over?

14. Two of the coolest things I saw Saturday happened in Fayetteville, Ark. First was the trick play on the punt return by North Texas player Keegan Brewer, which I’m sure you have all seen by now. He acted like it was a fair catch without signalling for it and then took off while the Arkansas players started walking away. The result was a 90-yard touchdown. North Texas had actually been practicing the play throughout camp. It was risky and took a lot of guts because Brewer could have been blasted by the Arkansas player. The second thing was senior receiver Jared Cornelius getting all over the team’s fans in the post-game presser for booing quarterback Cole Kelley at halftime. “When is that right? How is that right?” Cornelius said. Of course, there were a few boos in Gainesville on Saturday, too. Look, you pay for a ticket and you have a right to convey your displeasure. But how does that help anything?

15. This thought kept popping into my head while I was watching Jacksonville play New England on Sunday — “Jacksonville is better.” I know it’s the second week of the season, but we can’t forget that the Jags were in control of last year’s playoff game before Tom Brady took over (and there was a questionable call that still haunts Jax fans, but that was last year). This is a fan base that was ridiculed for lack of attendance and there was a lot of talk about them moving. It looked like a pretty healthy franchise Sunday. “I thought it was actually better than The Swamp,” said former Gator star Dante Fowler. “I honestly thought I’d never see another place like The Swamp. Just to see all the people having fun, dancing around, having a good time and winning. Perfect Sunday.” The key for the Jags was getting the right people in place — owner, general manager, Tom Coughlin, etc. — and those smart people have put together a powerful team. Gosh, even Blake Bortles — who looked like he might be sent packing last preseason — seems to have found his mojo.

16. It doesn’t get much better for recliner potatoes like me in the upcoming weeks with the Tour Championship (and my man Billy Horschel — who is in ninth place — has a shot at winning the FedEx Cup again although he needs to win at East Lake and get some help), then the Ryder Cup, playoff baseball around the corner and my Braves with a good shot at making it, college football and the NFL. What a time to be alive.

17. The Tweet of the Week comes from the great Brett McMurphy of The Stadium with this great stat — “Kansas now has more wins this season vs. FBS opponents than Florida State, Nebraska, North Carolina, Arizona & UCLA combined.” Great googly moogly.

18. These late nights of watching football are messing with my sleep patterns so you would think I’d just not stay up for those late games on Saturday night. Not a chance. Here’s a playlist to help me take a nap:

• “Watching Over” by Greta Van Fleet.

• “All That We Get” by First Aid Kit.

• “All My Friends” by The Revivalists.

• “Wish You Well” by Emma Louise.

• And for an old one, “Hard Headed Woman” by Cat Stevens.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

84 COMMENTS

  1. Good, honest feedback from Tebow. The players need to hear it and keep hearing it until they change their attitude. They were lied to for years and showered with false praise, as were the pathetic coaches — and the Sun was right here enabling it all, branding anyone who spoke the truth about those boobs as “spoiled fans.” Now I see Mullen has coached up the writers for the Sun who seem to have come around to understand the tyranny of low expectations and have realized that high expectations are a good thing, E world s as it should be once more.

    Thanks Coach Mullen and Tim Tebow for elevating the conversation.

    • Not sure you can blame the Sun for simply reporting what the coaches were saying. Dooley has mentioned many times that, since they were never allowed to be at practice, all they could do was ask and report the answer.

  2. Remember the “Junction Boys?” Time to find out who wants to play. While I applaud Tim Tebow and Steve Spurrier on their comments regarding the players and the coaches, one has to wonder if our coaching staff can bring the “Hulk” out of them. The bench is the coach’s best friend. There’s also the realization come this Thursday of, “no, there’s no ticket for you on this plane. Go back to your house and watch the team that wants to play go to Knoxville. And, if you decide you want to play next week, we’ll see you at practice Monday. If not, please go clean out your locker now.” That’ll kick start some hearts!

    On offense, route running, offensive line blocking, decision making, and running backs hitting the hole are all atrocious. (Dameon Pierce and Lamical Perine are excluded from that statement) Defense needs to stay at home, run your assignments, not over pursue and to the young secondary hang in there if you get one over your head.

    Let’s see who wants to play.

      • Scarlett. 19 carries for 105 yards and 1 TD with 5.5 YPC this year. Not bad for “dancing around” if you ask me. Maybe Scarlett is sometimes “dancing around” trying to find a hole he was looking to go through that the OL did not provide. And it is always easier to run the ball when your team is way ahead in the fourth quarter in 100 degree heat. Scarlett is an outstanding RB and has become an outstanding blocker to help protect Franks in the pocket. But I do wish he was a better receiver coming out of the backfield. And I also wish he was getting more carries earlier and longer in games. He is the type of back that wears a defense down because he gets stronger as the game goes along. He could be used better as a weapon in the offense in my opinion, and I hope to see that vs. the Vols.

        • I agree, Scarlett is a fine back. But I think Pierce is better at carrying the ball. I hope he gets some meaningful carries this week. He needs to get his shot against the A defense. Maybe though, as you suggest Pierce is not such a good blocker (yet). It is important, ‘specially with this OL.

        • I fully agree TampaGator. Also, there is more to being a back than running with the ball. My guess is that Pierce is still learning how to be an SEC back and will be in the game more as he learns. As for Scarlett’s role in the passing game, he seems to have poor hands, so I’m not sure that the Gators should use him in that capacity too often.

        • Fully agree Tampa, good points. People just see a Rb’s success and dont put any conditions to it. The starting tailback never gets the yards that the guy in the 4th qtr gets when the other defense is tired or losing and the OL doesnt get the holes that they will get in the 4th qtr when the defense is tired or losing! I guarantee you if he is dancing he is trying to find a crease thats not there!

      • It’s interesting to see the other side of that statement from Spurrier. Clueless Nole fans claim Jimbo left them void of talent. Hard to make that claim when they’ve consistently been in the top 5 of recruiting rankings since 2014. Over that same timeframe they signed 62- 4 star players and 11- 5 stars. There’s not too many teams in college football who possess that kind’ve talent who are stinking it up quite like they are. What’s happening there right now definitely proves recruiting only wins the preseason and great coaching takes it to a different level.

        • Helped franks! he changed from night to day! The fans were only booing Franks. It is a fact that competition causes players to get better, dont you understand why? It is because their job is in jeopardy and they know they must improve or the other guy may take their job! Well boos work just like that. The player knows that this mass of fans are unhappy with him and he knows the coach is hearing it and that may have an influence on the coach to replace him, so he has to improve to keep his job. Franks had a NEGATIVE qb rating in the 1st qtr and then , like jekyll and hyde made 8 of 9 passes with 1 he had to throw away. That is a HUGE change and dont think the motivation of the crowd booing him and the threat of losing his job didnt have anything to do with it, because it did! Plus, I believe they paid their ticket and have the right to show their displeasure!

          • Possibly Daz, although I take your point about having the right to boo. Regardless, I think it speaks less about the fans than it does about the players. This isn’t Rome during the times of the gladiators and Christian versus Lions!

      • The booing had nothing to do with any better performance. Better execution did. But I am sure the booing was not well received by any recruit sitting in the stands or watching the game on TV. But boo if you like. Just not helpful for anything at all. And for sure, harmful mostly.

    • I was complaining about the booing a few days ago. What I dislike most about it is when recruits see / hear that happening. You can’t tell me that isn’t a negative experience in their eyes. I’m sure they’d rather play for a team where the fans are cheering and have the team and coaches backs no matter what.

  3. It’s an even simpler game, Pat. Block and tackle. That’s what Saban’s teams routinely do better than every other team every year. And they’re always at the top. Keep it simple, Coach Dan. Get the boys to block and tackle.

    • Mark. Bama players HOLD better than everyone else as well,, and they get away with it more than anyone else. On one early TD Bama scored against Ole Miss, the Bama OL grabbed an Ole Miss defender that was attempting to make a tackle, put his arm around him and through him completely in the other direction, right in front of a ref, allowing the RB to break for a long TD run. The ref, looking right at the Bama player doing that, completely ignored it. And the kick off, the Ole Miss returned broke off a long run and the ref called holding on an Ole Miss player, negating the long return. Replay showed that the Ole Miss player barely touched the Bama player. All that type of ref crap has been going on for a long time in Bama’s favor. Bama is a great team, obviously, but they also get a lot of help from SEC refs during games and Bama players are allowed to get away with things that other team’s players are not allowed to do.

  4. Tackling has been a lost art at all levels of football for some time, and I blame ESPN. Once they began showing highlights of “BIG HITS” every night, it became the in thing rather than the basic element of tackling; put your shoulder on the man and wrap him up. Not sexy, just effective. Today, players want to make the Sports Center highlights by simply hitting the runner as hard as you can and listen to the crowd go crazy. Here’s to hoping that the new helmet rules will help reverse this trend. In the meantime Gators, grab ’em and wrap’em and get ’em on the ground. Simple as that.

    • Nassau. I agree about disrespecting the flag. There are better wants to protest. But I also agree that African Americans are targeted by some police more than other races. And one may say that they are targeted more because more African-Americans commit violent crimes, And yes, but it does not make it right…Go Gators.

        • I think kneeling during the National Anthem is a great way to make a statement. Peaceful, protected speech and it certainly gets attention. Got a request for you. When you comment on someone exercising their constitution right to free speech please also explain how you have served this country in your lifetime.

          Me? Veteran with an Honorable Discharge.

          • The thugs get to protest in front of many millions. ALL of the rest of don’t have that platform. ALL of the rest of would be fired for these actions. The only ones approving of the kneeling are (exceptions, of course) blacks, progressives and those that hate this country.

            Social injustice/police brutality/ whatever addressed by giving the middle finger to our flag?! Pitiful, disgraceful and it will eventually cease.

          • By the way, let me guess, you’re the “Kentucky University” David, am I right? If so, that goes a long way in explaining your post.

          • Let me guess bf, never served your country in any matter. That goes a long way in explaining your post. It is easy to see through your thin veneer of patriotism. Your use of the word “thugs” as a dog whistle. I for one applaud that those who have a platform and have enough awareness and moral fiber so as to speak out. The tragedy would be if they said nothing and just took the money. Or that that are ridiculed into submission by those of you with such a fondness for white linen.

          • David – acting out and disrespecting the national anthem at your place of work in front of your employer & coworkers is not protected by the Constitution.

          • bf. First, they are not thugs (most of them, anyway). Even CK is not a thug. He is just wrong, in my opinion, about kneeling during the anthem. Better and more honorable ways of expressing your constitutional right against injustice (and there has been plenty of it against the Black American race and is still ongoing). But one thing is for sure, he was willing to sacrifice his professional football career for something he believed in with all his heart and soul. Social and judicial justice for his race. What great thing have you given up, sir, or the greater good of others? I doubt much. And they do not hate anyone. They do hate violence and injustice, however. And none have ever used the middle finger. But I kind of believe you do a lot, and I base that on the content of your ongoing posts on here, which are mostly pitiful, disgraceful, and hopefully one day will cease on here.

          • David. Freedom is what America is about and that is protected by the Bill of Rights (at least for now). But, with all due respect to your own service, there are other ways to serve ones country and others than just being in the military. Personal sacrifice and service for others comes in many different forms.

          • Nick. Not sure about that concerning the kneeling thing. Being disrespectful at work is not protected. But kneeling, likely is. And I imagine that the courts will be addressing that issue fairly soon when someone does kneel at work and is fired for being disrespectful.

          • Tampa, I get that and agree. There are many ways to serve the nation and your fellow man. LEO, teachers even doctors and firemen and many other ways. I do guess “served this country” does have the specific connotation of military service however that is not the way I meant it. I’ll try to be clearer in whatever forum I next have to defend those who kneel.

            Nick, they are not “acting out” and if my employer raised the flag and played the national anthem every morning before work I would certainly be within my right to turn my back, kneel or through my peaceful actions speak out in whatever fashion I choose. I would bet my job on it. I have a constitutional right. I would not do this because my military service has ingrained in me a love of this US of A. But I would have the right to do so. When I pledged into the Army I swore an oath to defend the ENTIRE constitution, not just the parts I agreed with.

            My overriding point is, while you may not like what these players are saying, you should respect their right to peacefully speak out.

          • Isn’t commenting on someone else’s constitutional right also someone’s constitutional right? Just because someone doesn’t agree with someone else’s way of protesting doesn’t mean they are trying to take that right away.

            Also, serving in the military doesn’t give you any more right to the freedoms you served to protect. I’d say you have more respect from me (and gratitude) for doing it but again, just because you haven’t served doesn’t negate your right to comment in agreement or disagreement with someone else’s opinion.

  5. How many games can Florida Football win in the ”Villes?” Knoxville, Starkville, G’ville, Nashviille, J’ville?
    5 straight games, with one open weekend, with ”…ville.” So, the motto should be ”Victory in all the Villes!”
    ”I really believe that some of the problems Florida has experienced over the years are a result of our looking for reasons for failure instead of saying, hey, there are no excuses. …we made excuses and dwelled on the negative.” -Steve Spurrier 1992. No MORE EXCUSES! Just beat Tennessee, and then it’s another ”Ville” in the waiting. Strap ’em up!

    • GI where I came from there is a saying the maximum range of an FU is zero meters. PC says those words aren’t allowed here. But in training we were taught from our mistakes and moved on. I agree for years the players have been hyped by previous coaches and writers that they were great yet they were not. We as fans had grown to expect a certain level of play the coaches had no ability to produce. Years pass and we are clinging to the years of yore and hanging on the words of Muschamp and Mac hoping to see a team that is worthy of Gator Nation. Tebow is right we are not good and to think we are is to accept mediocrity. We are improving and yes to the post above about leaving players at home if they are not giving maximum effort. We have a lot of talented players who have yet to learn how to play talented football. The term in football of skilled positions is a misnomer as the OL/DL may not be the highlight reel players they are the heart of the team. Look at our last NC teams Pouncey’s, Phil Trautwein, Jason Watkins,Carl Johnson DL Jermaine Cunningham, Terron Sanders, Lawrence Marsh, Carlos Dunlap and their seconds. Without those guys Percy, Tim, Aaron , Riley don’t shine. As individuals we have some players that will likely be good maybe great at the next level but if they want to be great at this level they have to learn to be a team. I heard that from Grimes in his interview. Mullen is going to play the guys that worked to get there. There are some poster’s here that have stated that some players are not as good in practice as in live action and yes for some that is true. But coaches will get the desired results more consistently from those that do have max effort in practice. One example of teamwork was the trick play that smoked Arkansas. I really don’t like those but we have done this to teams too. But the discipline and teamwork it took to pull that off was textbook. So far…. We are a fit bunch of talented individuals that haven’t quite come together as a team yet. If they do. we will win some tough games. Tebow knows what good teams are and they are not one yet.

        • GI sometimes there is a event that brings teams together. Tebow’s Statement after the one loss is an example of leadership being that trigger, sometimes it’s a play, a bad call etc. Something that unites a group. When a group finally becomes a team and works as such successful outcomes happen more often. Alabama is a good example of a system that promotes team. Clemson as well. There are star players but because they are working within a system the whole body is more successful. Take away the system and some of those stars would put up better numbers but the team would likely not win as many games.

  6. I have to agree with CDM in that ” Rocky Top ” is a catchy tune. The first 1K times I heard it, but as a lifelong gator fan it made me want to blow grits by the time I was 6yo. In fact its only slightly behind the ” ay ya yayaya ” out west as the most annoying sounds ever made. Hopefully, we shut them out and don’t have to endure that crap much on Saturday. Shut up and go brush your tooth, or go put out the corncob pipe that you left burning in your tractors ashtray, you hillbillies! GO GATORS !

    • BCGator. And the Tennessee band played Rocky Top during the entire break of the 3rd quarter and the beginning of the 4th quarter in The Swamp last year. It was one of the most disrespectful things I have ever seen a visiting band ever do.

      • What else could you expect from folks that would run people over with their cars like road kill over a flipping football game? ( not that it’s not important to me, but hey, lets try to keep things in perspective, right? ) Full disclosure here, I have been in a couple of fisticuffs with FSU jerkwads over the years ( too old now for such ). Once at Choak when they were catcalling at our wives and later when they tried to take over the old ABC on 121 after a SOS era beat down in hogtown and they came in talking trash about us “cheating, etc”.. Actually have gotten along with most all of the Rocky Top fans I have encountered over the years other than them being tightwads that won’t pay up after they run that mouth and then lose the bet.

  7. TampaGator predicted Colorado State would score 48 last Saturday – this from the guy who knows every intricacy about any Gators game. Waiting for your Tennessee prediction, Einstein.

    I’ll take Tennessee plus the 4.5 points.

      • Can we all just agree to ignore people like this? I mean seriously. They weren’t hugged enough as children and thrive on getting negative attention. Unfortunately there isn’t even the smallest thing about them that would garner positive attention so they default to trying to get under people’s skin to get the only kind of attention they can. You’re only satisfying the single greatest need for the depraved by responding. Even if he never goes away you can have the satisfaction that he isn’t getting from you what he craves most.

    • bf. I also posted that I hoped I would be wrong. Which I was. I also posted that would be the score unless the Florida defensive players improved their fundamentals by tackling better, covering their gaps better, and holding the edge better on run plays. All of which Florida did in the game. But you, of course, conveniently left that part out. And I have never claimed to be Einstein. But I do claim, after every FSU loss, you come on here eventually and start posting deflections so you do not have to answer concerning all the total BS you post on here, bf.

  8. bf, give me your address and I will come over after the game and pay you if Florida does not cover. And I will bring a few of my Gator friends with me for a personal introduction to the bf’er. I promise, no matter how far from Tampa you live.

    • TampaGator, bf lives in a basement in his Mom’s house. The attention he feigns and garners here at Gatorsports.com just may very well be the only attention he gets in life. I wouldn’t normally be so rude about someone I don’t even know, but somehow bf is like all the other F.S.U. ‘Nole fans, it’s just real damn easy to dislike them. Take care TampaGator, and we, real Gator fans, have you 6!

  9. Guys we aren’t perfect. No one is. I’d bet that for those that have been away from our borders they came home with a new sense of appreciation for the USA. We have issues all countries do. Ours are huge to those affected. Tony Dungey talked about kneeling and said he thought there are better ways of getting ones message out than during the anthem. Our anthem is our should be a time to unite as one for our country with all it’s flaws. Still the best I’ve seen. I respect ones right to protest but i respect them more for taking action for their beliefs. No different than players trash talking. Put your money or actions where your mouth is.

  10. I find it hard to believe that Mr. Fowler thinks the game atmosphere at a Jags game was better than a game at the Swamp. No offense to him but he was not playing during the best of times in the Swamp. I’d take a Swamp atmosphere during Meyer’s or the HBC’s texture over a Jaguar home playoff game with a conference championship on the line. No contest.