Mullen, Gators make gains against SEC’s elite teams

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UF football coach Dan Mullen. [Lauren Bacho/Gainesville Sun/File]

In his quest to return Florida football to a championship program, Dan Mullen knows he has to raise the Gators to the level of the two teams that are currently residing at the top of the SEC.

We’re talking about Alabama and Georgia, of course.

To compete with those schools for championships on the field, he’s going to have to beat them some times on the recruiting trail for elite prospects.

And that’s exactly what Mullen and his staff pulled off Wednesday on National Signing Day.

The Gators won two critical battles — one against Alabama, the other against Georgia — that helped vault Florida’s 2019 recruiting class into the top 10 nationally.

Florida flipped four-star outside linebacker Khris Bogle, an Alabama commitment, in the morning, then outdueled Georgia and Kirby Smart for four-star cornerback Kaiir Elam in the afternoon to put an exclamation point on UF’s National Signing Day.

“That’s huge for the program and shows the direction we’re headed,” Mullen said of the recruiting wins over the Tide and Bulldogs. “Right now, those are the teams that played for the SEC championship this year. That’s the level we want to be on.

“Being able to win those recruiting battles is going to help hopefully beat them on the field as well.”

Signing Bogle and Elam was the highlight of a positive day for the Gators. UF also added two other four-star prospects who had previously committed to the Gators — linebacker Diwun Black and wide receiver Arjei Henderson.

The addition of the four players brings the UF recruiting class to 25 prospects and helped move the Gators into the top 10 in the national recruiting rankings. It also continued the momentum the Gators have been riding coming off a win over Michigan in the Chick-fil-A Bowl and a No. 6 ranking in the final coaches poll.

“Exciting day for us,” Mullen said. “A lot of good things happened today. A really great day for us when you look at some of the additions we had today. They are huge for us, huge for the program, big pieces for the future of how we continue to build this program. Really talented players.

“And not just in guys on the field, but the character of guys off the field. Really excited for our future, for the guys that are joining the Gator family.”

Mullen’s main goal is to return Florida to a national championship program, something the Gators were when Mullen was the offensive coordinator under Urban Meyer and UF won two national titles (2006-08).

It all starts with recruiting. Given the class Mullen and his staff have put together, the Gators have possibly taken another step in that direction.

“What we’re trying to build here is a program that can compete regularly for championships,” Mullen said. “You have to have good players to do that. If you go back and look at the championships in the mid-2000s here, there was an awful lot of talent on those rosters.

“Recruiting is a major part of it. Developing, coaching, all of that. Having the talent. A lot of that comes into recruiting.”

Mullen attributes much of the recruiting success in this cycle to the family atmosphere that has been created in the program by the coaches, families and players.

“You talk about character off the field and you talk about the family and how important it is,” Mullen said. “Guys talk about what a family program we have and how the families are very involved in the decision. I’m really excited about that.

“Parents come up here and see what our program is about, how their sons are going to be treated and taken care of, treat as part of a family. And see beyond the field and what the University of Florida means.

“It’s not just about playing football on Saturday in The Swamp, but the education you are going to get, which is the best education in the Southeastern Conference.”

NOTE: Trey Dean, who started nine games at cornerback as a true freshman last fall, is moving to the star position this spring, Mullen said. The position is the same one Chauncey Gardner-Johnson excelled in last season. “Trey’s a guy we’re going to be looking to move to the star position potentially to fill that void (left by Gardner-Johnson’s early departure to the NFL).” Mullen said.

With Dean making the move and Marco Wilson still recovering from knee surgery, true freshman and early enrollee Chris Steele likely will get some reps with the No. 1 defense at corner, Mullen said.

“He’s going to have an opportunity to very much run with the ones,” Mullen said. “Chris is going to have that opportunity to get reps that are going to prepare him to be ready to go play (in the fall).”


2019 Football Team Rankings

247Sports

1. Alabama

2. Georgia

3. Texas

4. Texas A&M

5. LSU

6. Oklahoma

7. Oregon

8. Michigan

9. Florida

10. Clemson

Rivals

1. Georgia

2. Alabama

3. LSU

4. Texas

5. Oklahoma

6. Texas A&M

7. Oregon

8. Florida

9. Clemson

10. Michigan

ESPN

1. Alabama

2. Georgia

3. Texas A&M

4. Oklahoma

5. Texas

6. Oregon

7. LSU

8. Michigan

9. Florida

10. Clemson

30 COMMENTS

  1. In Bogle Florida went toe-to-toe with Alabama… and WON! In Elam the Gators went toe-to-toe with Kirby Smart… and WON!

    CDM: “Being able to win those recruiting battles is going to help hopefully beat them on the field as well.”

    The turnaround in Gator football is almost complete. I can’t wait for August 31st!

    Go Gators!!!

  2. First let me say that Dan and Co. did a trendous job closing out this year’s recruiting class. I know everyone is pumped about Bogle and Elam because they are great talents AND we beat UGAly and Bama to get them. However, we will remember and celebrate them because they were the last battles of the class. We also need to remember we lost some key recruits (some Florida boys too) to those same two schools (Neal, Sanders, Stephenson, Cine, Battle, etc). The good guys are starting to win more of these and it’s exciting but we are still losing more than winning. We need to get back to the point where we win the majority of those battles, ESPECIALLY for in state Florida boys.

    DanCo. absolutely has us in the right direction but we still have some significant hurdles to climb to catch and overtake the incumbents. Until then, I’ll happily take all the victories DanCo. will bestow upon us such as today. Today was definitely a great day to be a Gator and I’m excited about the future!

      • Totally agree but I’m feeling like this next class is going to be like the kids say, “Lit”.

        Oh, and can someone PLEASE tell me why our players do that dance on one leg, leaning back and pretending to ride a bike or motorcycle? I gotta start watching something other than Daniel Tigers Neighborhood…

    • Valid points Dallas, the only thing I can tell you is have patience my man we have only just begun and Rome wasn’t built in a day or in a couple of recruiting classes. Unless of course you are Kirby The Master and build a dynasty in 2 short years.

      • CO – don’t forget that we did play GA. tough for about 3 quarters. The defense held us in that game until the offensive side of the ball was just too ineffective. I say we have just as good a chance to go to the SEC Championship game as any of the other 6 do. Hey – Savage will begin the S & C program to allow these young men to have SEC type bodies. On a show I was watching during NSD, a coach told another coach in California NOT to schedule Bama because they were too thick and too big and too strong. That is the reflection of how the SEC players are built compared to all other programs. Look at the SEC right now and there are going to be 6 or 7 schools that will be very good. Bama may not even be the West champion. LSU and TA&M will be very good as well. Us, Ga., and Missouri are going to be tough. Then take the remaining SEC teams and who knows which might have a great year. The next football season can’t get here quick enough…lol. GO GATORS!!!

        • You know what’s funny is reading what UGA fans have to say about us on SaturdayDownSouth. Talk about delusional, they get offended with a story about how Mullen is closing the gap with Georgia. In their minds UGA is as far ahead as Bama and we have no chance to compete not only this year but for the forseable future.

          • CO – that is awesome as that is when the left hook comes out of nowhere and knocks them the F-out…LOL. Let them all take us for granted. As long as the QB play is upper echelon than we will be in every game this year. We are going to be good against the run and very good in pass coverage. I rather like our chances. GO GATORS!!!

          • CO they have some nice players. When Mac was here they started kicking our ass. But here is the thing about UGA. they have beat us in recruiting classes yet lose to us on the field. Mack and Muschamp let the ball slip on the W/L but My gut tells me that has stopped and the field isn’t as far apart as most and stats would think. Come outdoor cocktail party we will know.

  3. After the best transition class in school history last year and a top 10 recruiting class this year I think it’s safe to say CDM’s reputation /perception of being an average recruiter is disproved. The results certainly warrant him to be considered a great recruiter. If he gets the 2020 or 2021 classes into the top 5, he’ll be considered an elite recruiter in my mind. Which, I’m sure my opinion is very important to him and is what dives him daily to be the best recruiter he can be.

    Gator Nation, you are welcome.

  4. When you have a good head coach and a solid staff of assistants, you can…

    1) regularly win 9 – 10 games a year with top 20 classes,
    2) win 10 – 11 games regularly with top 10 classes, and
    3) compete for and/or win titles with top 5 classes.

    One more year away and we’ll be in Category #3.

  5. TO ALL YOU DAWGS WHO HAUNT GATOR WEB SITES. Please tell me how many national championships UGA has won in football (1), basketball, baseball and softball? Uh, just a hint. I know you DAWGs can’t count past 1 cause that’s all you got. PS: Gators have 8 national titles in those sports. Gonna take a few centuries to catch up. It’s tough to swallow that figure if you are an UGA.