Notebook: Bleich left Gators because of ‘family issues,’ Mullen says

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Florida offensive lineman Christopher Bleich (67) left the program Tuesday. [Doug Engle/Gainesville Sun]

 UF coach Dan Mullen said starting offensive guard Chris Bleich’s decision to leave the team and enter the NCAA transfer portal this week caught him by surprise.

 “Yeah,” he said. “He has family issues at home and I think it sort of came from that.”

 Bleich, who is from Hanover Township, Pa., started eight games at guard this season. But he was benched in the Georgia game and did not return. He was replaced by redshirt freshman Richard Gouraige, who is now the starter.

 True freshman Evan White now becomes the first offensive lineman to come off the bench, offensive line coach John Hevesy said.

 “He’s the next one coming in to play,” Hevesy said. “It’s opportunities. I told him today, ‘Opportunities come. That’s what you came here for. You didn’t come here to sit next to me on the sidelines. So your opportunity is here; go play.’ ”

Injury update

 Starting defensive end Jabari Zuniga tweaked his injured ankle against Georgia and his status for Saturday’s game is uncertain. Before returning last week, he missed six games with a high ankle sprain.

 “He’s working to get back. We’ll see,” Mullen said.

 Mullen said rush end Jon Greenard, who missed the LSU and South Carolina games with a high ankle sprain, has practiced all week. He returned for the Georgia game last Saturday and had a team-high nine tackles.

Commodores at quarterback

 Vanderbilt’s top two quarterbacks — Mo Hasan and Riley Neal — are both in concussion protocol and are not expected to play in Saturday’s game against Florida.

 Neal, a graduate transfer from Ball State, started the first six games of the season, but was benched in favor of Hasan going into the Missouri game three weeks ago. Hasan sustained a concussion in that game and Neal took back over as the starter.

 Neal left last Saturday’s game at South Carolina after he took a blow to the head and was replaced by redshirt junior Deuce Wallace, who completed eight of 17 passes for 30 yards in the Commodores 24-7 loss.

 Either Wallace or redshirt freshman Allan Walters will start against the Gators.

 “I’m pretty sure in my mind who’s playing quarterback,” Vandy coach Derek Mason said on Wednesday’s SEC coaches teleconference. “It’s just a matter of making sure we get the reps and we get that guy comfortable with what we’re doing.

 “I’ve got a couple of guys. I’m pretty sure I know in my mind who is going to have the first crack in this game. I’m pretty sure of where I’m at.”

 Wallace has played in six games this season, completing just 33 of 76 passes for 217 yards with three interceptions. Walters has not played.

 UF is preparing for both quarterbacks.

 “You just have to have an awareness of the running style of the quarterbacks,” defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “You have to have awareness of which guy could have really good athletic ability and have speed on the edge as opposed to maybe another guy that doesn’t.

  “They can obviously pull the ball on the read zone stuff because they still run all the quarterback run plays. It’s just some guys can be a little more dangerous than others. And then in the pass rush, some guys have to account for a little bit more because they can take off and create double-digit plays and things like that. 

 “I don’t think you really change how you play them, it’s just you have to have awareness of who that guy is to understand his athletic ability.”

23 COMMENTS

  1. The attrition on the Gator OL is so bad that only six McElwayne recruits remain on the team. And only four of them are starters.

    As things stand right now, we have one RS freshman starting, two RS freshmen as backups and two true freshmen as backups.

    I’d say the Gator OL is a bit thin.

      • I agree with you Galvez. The coaching job this season, given the lack of experience at many key position, OL being the most obvious, has been fantastic.

        However, there are voices posting on this website who’ve assumed the losses to LSU and UGA to be reflective of poor coaching, poor recruiting, or both. THAT’s just ignorant and ungrateful!

        Give CDM a couple of more seasons and that new football facility and we’ll see how things go. My bet is that Gator fans won’t be disappointed.

        • Sorry but Both of those games, the soft coverage in the secondary IS bad coaching because its Granthams call on how we play that.(its also NOT the DBU standard, we break up passes, not tackle after the fact and then miss some tackles because we are playing so far off), In addition, the beginning of the Ga game, having too many men on the field and then immediately having too few men on the field is ALSO bad coaching, that is their job, and that destroyed the momentum on that critical drive! Granthams soft coverage was the most serious cause of failure, but Not having our 2 best defenders in the 1st game and having them back at way less then 100% in the 2nd was also a huge contributing factor than no one can do anything about. Having said all that, i wouldnt trade our coach for anyone else in the NCAAF! but I also dont wear rose colored glasses!

          • UF first became DBU when Bob Stoops changed the Gator D from zone to man coverage back in 1996 and helped us win our first NC with it. Since then, I’ve never been a fan of zone coverage.

            That said, NO coverage scheme will work against talented QBs and receivers that get all day to find each other because there is ZERO pass rush. ZERO pass rush against UGA and LSU, from a DL that has terrorized every other QB they’ve faced this season, goes to lack of size, lack of athleticism and lack of depth across the board. THAT is mainly because they’re too young, mainly because most McElwayne DL recruits have washed out, mainly because they weren’t SEC caliber in the first place.

            That will change, but it will take a couple of more years of SEC level DL recruiting and “Savage treatment.” In the meantime, expect more zone coverage schemes that allow safeties to read and react to running plays between the tackles, which have also been an Achilles heel of this year’s Gator D.

    • Now that makes me think, Sly. Maybe it’s a natural reflex, maybe it’s another agenda, maybe it’s the truth. Hope I’m not guilty of knee jerk reflexes myself……I don’t think StL is infected with the hatred bug either, I just think it’s the truth as he sees it. It’s commendable that you stick to your guns tho, when you see it another way.

    • Sly, I try to deal in facts because they tend to lead to defensible opinions.

      First, I’ll be kind and say that “past regime’s” recruiting was, at best, deficient, particularly along the line of scrimmage. The number of remaining LOS recruits from those 3 classes speak for themselves.

      Second, the “past regime’s” S&C program was a joke. Those are AD Stricklin’s words, not mine. THAT S&C program drove away ANY blue chip LOS prospect as far away from Hogtown as he could get for those 3 years. It’s still hurting us today!!!

      Third, you need top notch big uglies to beat the UGAs, LSUs and Bamas of the SEC with consistency. The Gators have lost the vast majority of games vs. those 3 programs over the past decade, which coincides with the time frame in which they couldn’t assemble top notch OLs and DLs together in the same season.

      All THAT is now changing, but it will take time to convince blue chip OL and DL prospects to commit to UF. In the meantime, the Gators are probably an excellent ACC, Big 12 or Pac 12 team right now. Too bad for us impatient Gator fans that they happen to play in the SEC, huh?

      • BTW, CDM and staff have 4 OL verbal commits so far in the 2020 class, 1-4* and 3-3*. They’ve been working hard on turning Marcus Dumervil, a 4* OT, away from LSU. With Bleich now leaving, the Gators will be redoubling efforts to gain a commitment from Marcus Henderson, a 4* OG out of Memphis, TN. If they land those two, this will be the 2nd year in a row CDM lands more than a full OL (5) in his recruiting class.

        THAT is how you properly stock the LOS on the offensive side. The “past regime” didn’t accomplish THAT even once in 3 tries and it wasn’t for lack of desperate need!

        • In an ideal roster, it has both enough bodies by position for depth AND year group balance for development of the future. Coaches always strive for both but it doesn’t always work out like they want. Teams can get out of balance due to transfers, medical, dismissal, and early draft that can’t always be solved by just recruiting high school players. It’s a juggling act. This is not to criticize any coach but I present the following data for your consideration (source Wikipedia):

          Year Coach # OL on roster
          2014 Muschamp 18
          2015 McElwain 20
          2016 McElwain 19
          2017 McElwain 18
          2018 Mullen 17
          2019 Mullen 15

          I suppose one could argue that McElwain didn’t recruit enough of certain year groups to set Mullen up to fail or one could argue Mullen didn’t do a good enough job of recruiting enough bodies regardless of year group to set himself up with depth. I prefer not to place blame. It is what it is.

          • Those totals from Wikipedia include walk-ons, which we all know rarely see the field in games, let alone vs. UGA while the outcome is in doubt.

            Let’s start in 2015, McElwayne’s 1st season. He inherited exactly 6 scholarship OL’s from his “past regime” and he wasn’t shy in whining publically about it (Mac was real good at whining.) According to 247sports.com, he landed 5 OL recruits in that class, including 5* Martez Ivey. That was Mac’s highwater mark for OL recruits.

            Mac’s 2016 and 2017 classes included 4 OLs each. That brings his total number of OL scholarship recruits for 3 classes to 13. The minimum healthy number should have been 15.

            It now gets worse. Assuming normal attrition, we should expect those 15 to be cut in half to 8 (I rounded up.) There are only 5 left and as we might expect 4 of them are starters.

            Mullen’s 2018 transition class had 4 OL recruits. Not bad, considering the conditions he inherited, including the S&C program debacle. His 2019 class had 7 OL recruits. His 2020 class already has 4 commits and he’s working on landing 2 more. Note that averages more than 5 per class, which is healthy.

            BTW, one of Mac’s 2016 walk-ons (Tanner Rowell) made the 2-deep Vandy depth chart. So, we can credit Mac with 6 of the 14 scholarship OLs that will be left on the roster against Vandy Saturday (4 Sr, 2 Jr.)

            Two of CDM’s 2018 OL recruits (Banks and Bleich) are now gone and 2 of his 2019 recruits didn’t qualify academically (Hammond and Wilson,) but he picked up a late signee (Thomas.) So, that’s how we get from 11 original signees to his current 8 on the roster.

            Let’s hope CDM comes through with the 6 signees he’s chasing for 2020 because, with Buchanon graduating, that should give the Gators a fairly healthy 19 next summer.

      • While facts and data are great and necessary, they can be misinterpreted based on one’s preconceived notions. I sense a high level of hate towards McElwain and everything about his regime but I could be wrong. If someone hates McElwain or whatever issues whether in sports, politics, personalities, etc., that they have chosen a side, that person will likely cherry pick the data or approach every new set of data with their preconceived notions to prove their point of view while ignoring other data that argues to the contrary. Some people are more biased than others. I admit that I am not immune to biases either although I do try to see all sides. While many Gator fans hate McElwain, which I get, my hatred is stronger against hatred itself. Perhaps “hatred” is too strong a word; maybe “dislike” is a better choice. In any case, I really dislike seeing negative posts against coaches (past and present), players, other forum members, and Gatorsports staff so I am inclined to weigh in on their defense. I am truly a sucker for underdogs. The reason I enjoy this site so much compared to others is that most of the regulars do not exhibit those blame and hate tendencies. Guys like Doc, Shivers, Mtn2top, Gatorgi and some others make this site great. It’s enjoyable hanging around those positive guys in particular compared to the negativity surrounding the other sites full of callous, irreverent, and hateful remarks.

        You may see McElwain’s recruiting as “deficient”, which I agree wasn’t as good as I wanted it be. Be that as it may, I see it as the hand that he was dealt with the state of the program he inherited, the lack of established relationships with Florida high schools coming from out west, and the poor facilities which he immediately made a high priority to correct. I don’t see Mullen much better at recruiting or retention as he faces many of the same challenges but I do believe it will get better. If McElwain is criticized for the lack of depth on the OL, Mullen should also be equally criticized. After all, last year’s OL was pretty good but they have since left the program and Mullen didn’t restock adequately. Further, look at the current depth at safety. Last I looked, we don’t have any underclassmen safeties left on the roster. That doesn’t bode well for the future. So if McElwain is criticized, Mullen should also be equally criticized, which I’m not advocating. Better yet, criticize neither because it is what it is. It’s the hand they were both dealt. Don’t get me wrong. I do believe that Mullen is an upgrade over McElwain. But we are also paying Mullen $6M vs $4M for McElwain.

        You claim that the last S&C was a joke, which I agree wasn’t as good as it is now under Savage, but “a joke” is too strong a characterization in my view. I think that’s more of a preconceived notion and group think getting piled on because it sounds good. I have never read that Stricklin characterize it as a joke. Though just because I haven’t seen it in print doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. However, if he did, he would have contractually violated a condition he and McElwain signed to not disparage the other party. I don’t think McElwain could have won as many games as he did against SEC opponents if the S&C was a total joke. He couldn’t get over the hump of beating the elites like Alabama and FSU at the time more because of lesser talent than the S&C. I know there were reports from anonymous sources within the program that gave the story to hungry reporters looking to make a name for themselves by breaking and exposing a news story but in my experience, anonymous sources always have an ulterior motive and not to be trusted. I have not read one single story quoting a player characterizing it as a joke. The only person willing to have his name quoted was one parent, at least that is all I have seen, and I can only speculate on his motive. If the program was that bad, I submit that many players would have came forward willingly to cry foul and they wouldn’t have won as many games. But fans will believe whatever they want to believe to reinforce their beliefs based on preconceived notions. It’s what they want to hear. Again, don’t get me wrong. I do believe Savage’s program is better but that doesn’t make the last program a joke.

        I do agree (and hope) that program as a whole is getting better. But I think that has more to do with the program rising while FSU and Miami is in decline. It’s cyclic. I trust in Mullen and believe he was the best hire although he was the 3rd choice.

        • Sly, I understand where you’re coming from, but I was more or less a McElwayne supporter UNTIL he made up that story about Gator fans threatening him and his family and couldn’t prove it. He lost my respect that day and with it my patience.

          The awful S&C program issue came out in the open at a Stricklin presser after he let McElwayne go. Here’s a link to a sample story on the topic: https://sports.yahoo.com/body-florida-strength-coach-key-turnaround-194922743–ncaaf.html

          Note that McElwayne dumped the problem right at his S&C coach Kent’s feet. THAT is a sign of an awful boss. You NEVER dump on subordinates in public because that about guarantees nobody will ever want to work for you!

        • “I had a preconceived notion once, but it turned out just to be something I had already thought of”.
          — The late Jim “Earnest” Varney
          😜😜🤪🤪🤓🤓

          Seriously, both of you are right. It’s all a matter of perception.

          I defended Mac myself up to the point of the death threats story. The only reason, though, that I don’t come down harder on him, despite my profound disappointment in him and perceived damage done to the program, is because of Sly’s lead to take the high road. Which only history will fully sort out, my thoughts notwithstanding.

          I became a Christian, inadvertently at first, by an inborn drive to stand up for under-dogs. Ironic, if I do say so myself.

          • You know 6, I wouldn’t get as worked up about this if we hadn’t had posters on this site dumping all over Mullen and his staff for losing a game to UGA by 7 that the Gators were picked to lose by 7 just a week earlier by people who put their money on it.

            CDM and his staff have done remarkably well in just 2 years, considering the hand they were dealt walking in. What Gator fans need to show now, as Galvez wrote near the top of this thread is “patience.” CDM is building a program that competes for championships EVERY season. Given where he started, that’s going to take a few years… and A LOT of Gator booster $$$.

          • Myself, StL, myself. In fact, if I’m losing patience with anything, it’s the crowd coming out of the wood work now that would love to see CDM gone. I’ll guarantee you that our pal Sly is not one of those — but when we take the inevitable step backward, even if for only one season, they’ll be calling for his head. I swear to God, two jobs I wouldn’t take for all the money in the world: Vice President of the United States, and Head Coach at Florida (and that’s from a guy who loves our current V/POTUS and bleeds orange & Blue). Now, I don’t mind it when Mullen comes under criticism — occasionally Daz Wazzle will do that when he’s calling a spade a spade, but he’ll be the first one to tell you that he thinks Mullen may well be the best coach we ever had. Sly is the same way — he only wants what’s best for the Gators and doesn’t shy away from telling you his opinion; but nobody should ever confuse him with a fair weather Gator by any stretch.

            I think some guys still think we should have hired a glamour puss, big shot like Kelly — or a young hot shot like Frost. Not me, I’ll stick with slow and steady…..which will get us to elite again and national championships once more before you know it. So sayeth NealBob anyway.