UF storylines entering Mullen’s first preseason camp

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Florida coach Dan Mullen and the Gators are entering another phase of his rebuilding project. [Brad McClenny/Staff photographer]

Florida begins preseason football camp Friday, season 1 in new head coach Dan Mullen’s administration in Gainesville.

A look at some camp storylines:

Mission impossible — or possible?

Dan Mullen’s mission, if he chooses to accept it (and he has), is to identify and develop a quarterback, or quarterbacks, who can effectively and consistently run the offense and get the Gators headed back in the right direction on that side of the ball. It’s on Mullen, because he’s the QB whisperer, and this is one of the main reasons he was brought back to Florida, where he coached the school’s last elite quarterback — Tim Tebow. Based on the spring, it’s going to be a tough mission, but doable. Although there was no separation in the spring, Mullen has expressed his belief that he has the necessary talent in the QB room to make it work. Time to find out.

Refind that focus

The players have been talking for weeks, months, that they’ve come together as a team and have developed great chemistry toiling together in Nick Savage’s demanding strength and conditioning program. Now, like a year ago, a potential major distraction has to be dealt with.

Last year, it was the credit card scandal and subsequent player suspensions.

This year, it’s the air-gun scandal and all the potential mess surrounding it.

The distraction a year ago turned out to be deflating — and season changing.

The Gators need to put this latest distraction behind them. Now. Regardless of how many players end up having to miss a game or two (or more) to start the season.

Head, shoulders, knees and toes

Well, maybe not head and toes, but definitely shoulders and knees.

We’re talking about four key players who are coming back from significant injuries that required surgery: defensive end/outside linebacker Cece Jefferson (shoulder), safety Jeawon Taylor (shoulder), running back Malik Davis (knee) and offensive guard Brett Heggie (knee).

The Gators need to get these guys back and playing at 100 percent.

At SEC Media Days two weeks ago, Jefferson said he was still rehabbing from his labrum surgery, but planned to be 100 percent by the start of the season. How much work he’ll get early in camp is probably still to be determined.

Taylor, who emerged as a playmaker at safety the second half of last season before injuring his shoulder, participated in non-contact drills in the spring. Now, is he ready to take the next crucial step and hit someone (or be hit)?

Davis and Heggie both underwent season-ending knee surgery last fall. Both Tweeted earlier this summer that they’ve been cleared. But, again, how limited, if at all, will they be.

These are four important players to keep an eye one.

Develop depth

This is a must, especially on defense, where there is little playing experience behind the starters at linebacker and cornerback.

Not only do the Gators need to stay healthy and on their feet at those two critical spots, they have to develop some of the young players, including some true freshmen, ready to not only play, but hold their own in the demanding SEC.

Like the quarterback mission, it’s a tough one — and a very important one.


Up next

Thursday: UF football media day. Click to Gatorsports.com for coverage starting at 11 a.m.

Friday: First day of practice

Aug. 19: Fan Day at the Indoor Practice Facility from 2-4 p.m. Admission is free.

Sept. 1: Charleston Southern, 7:30 p.m. at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. SEC Network will carry the season-opener.

Tickets: Visit FloridaGators.com. Fans may also call the Gator Ticket Office at 375-4683 or visit it on the west side of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

17 COMMENTS

  1. Good article, Robbie! And it’s good to ”turn the page” on the pre-season negativity that has unbelievably happened 2 years in a row. Now it’s time to talk ”Florida Football”, and I’m very excited to see how Coach Mullen will revitalize Florida’s ‘O’. Lastly, it’s past time for the NCAA to approve Grimes and Jefferson’s request for eligibility. Go Gators! Just do it!

  2. Why so much focus on who the quarterback will be? Or running backs? I’ say it again, and again, and again! The Achilles heal has always, always been the O-Line for the last 8 years! No o-Line, no offense! Florida has always, always been talented. Savage is a savage. He will be the biggest factor in Florida’s offensive success!.
    Whether or not players get suspended or run off, the Gators are loaded with talent. Whether they be from Coach Mac or Coach BOOM! they are talented. Man Down, Man Up! What a great mantra! Keep Going! Despite the idiocy of all the “distinctive” players, Florida will have a stellar season. Mark my words. The O-Line will lead the way to success this season. The big names of last year will be a fleeting thought with the success Florida will have this season. Callaway who? Cleveland can be the next who. Scarlett won’t become the next “who?’. Toney, the next Harvin can become the next “who?”. Don’t mattter. Florida is loaded and getting re-loaded. Say bye-bye to the punks and move on. Florida is ready and will get stronger in the future. Go Gators!!!!

  3. Lets face it. Mullen doesn’t not have any quality QBs with the exception of Jones, and that remains debatable. Without quality, there is nothing to develop. Franks and Trask are at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to talent and athleticism. Perhaps Jones can develop into something above and beyond serviceable by mid season but don’t count onit. He will score a O for the QB development because ther is nothing to work with. Throw in the fact that Jones was involved in a recent altercation with several other players, and you can see why his development could be stunted. I am surprised tha players are still on the team. They should have been removed from the team immediately, just like Urban Meyer at Ohio State.

  4. Mr. Nick Savage and plenty of oversight in that room will be the difference maker. Finally…..we seem to have a legitimate weight room with a real plan. The facilities is the second part of the equation, and the wheels are in motion for that. Recruiting is ongoing, but needs an infusion of confidence in the program. Maybe….just maybe….the program has the formula.