During his tenure at Mississippi State, Dan Mullen became known for his ability to identify talent and then develop it.
Lamical Perine has turned out to be another example.
A three-star prospect out of Mobile, Ala., Perine’s first scholarship offer came from Mullen. Perine’s homestate schools had a different evaluation of him.
Auburn thought he was too slow and never offered him a scholarship.
Alabama did not come through with an offer until the 11th hour in recruiting.
Perine grew up a big Gator fan, and when he was offered by Jim McElwain’s staff he committed to UF.
Two years later he found himself playing for Mullen, the coach who gave him his first major offer.
Mullen was asked earlier this week what he saw in Perine that others didn’t during the recruiting process.
“Hopefully I saw what we’re seeing now — that he’s a really good football player,” Mullen said. “We spent a lot of time there just trying to find guys that would fit us and guys that are all-around, some secret gems.
“I think a guy like Perine, you watch him play and there might not be one thing that jumps out at you and you say, ‘Wow, put on the highlight film and that’s special.’ But you watch and the consistency of play and his complete game.”
Perine was a productive player in his first two seasons. He had a breakout season in his first year under Mullen and running backs coach Greg Knox, leading the Gators in rushing.
“He’s got great vision. He can play physical. He’s got good speed. He catches the ball well,” Mullen said. “I think all of us, even back then, there’s some guys that have things that maybe pop out on film, ‘Hey, this guy runs a 4.2 40.’ So everybody in the country offers him. (Perine) was a guy that kind of did everything really well and that’s how we used to evaluate and try to get those guys. I’m glad he came there though. Now. It worked out good for me.”
Now, you can add one more attribute to Perine’s impressive resume: leader. He’s become one heading into his senior season.
“Perine, with the absence of Jordan Scarlett, has filled those shoes very nicely in terms of leadership, leading by example,” sophomore running back Dameon Pierce said. “With the workouts, he comes in and busts his tail every day. He’s just a great leader. I’m proud to be behind him and learn from him.”
Leading the way
For the second year in a row, the UF players have voted on their teammates to serve on the leadership counsel.
Quarterback Feleipe Franks was on last year’s counsel, but Mullen isn’t naming names for this one, only to mention that sophomore Randy Russell is serving on it and he is the youngest. Russell, a member of last year’s recruiting class, has had to give up football due to a heart condition, but obviously has stayed connected to the team.
“I think it’s 11 right now (on the counsel),” Mullen said. “Sometimes it tweaks, anywhere from eight to 12 depending on the time of year and the guys we feel good about it and how it breaks down by class and who needs to be on there.”
The counsel is a conduit between the team and the coaching staff.
“You always want to know what’s going on with the team,” Mullen said. “But there’s a lot people I check with on all that stuff because I want to find out all different angles of what’s going on with the team.
“You’ve got to know because I’m going to base our schedule off a lot of that stuff, where’s the attitude of the team at, where’s the feeling of the team at, where’s everybody at. Because ultimately their job is to maximize everybody’s performance. To do that you’ve got to know where their mindset is, as well as where they are physically and with their attitude.”
Reshaped running back
Nick Savage and the strength and conditioning staff have changed a lot of body types over the past five or six months. One of the most noticeable is Dameon Pierce. The true sophomore running back looks much thinner than last season, but actually is carrying the same weight.
“Right now I’m leaned up, but I’m at 220 still,” he said. “So still the same weight. Coach Savage is going to reshape it for you, most definitely.
“He’s going to make sure you get the most out of every workout and if it’s not up to standard you’re going to do it again. Our standard is a high-intensity workout, every day full speed. After doing that for six months, you’re going to see a difference in your body, man.”
Pierce said he feels a difference on the field.
“Oh, yeah, I feel a whole lot more agile in terms of making cuts, seeing holes and everything,” he said. “Overall Coach Savage did a great job getting us prepared for this fall and moving forward toward the season.”