Notebook: Gators not far from title run, Mullen says

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Lakeland Dreadnaught football player Fenley Graham does the Gator Chomp during a signing ceremony at Lakeland High School in Lakeland on Wednesday. ERNST PETERS/THE LEDGER
Pulling in back-to-back top-10 college football recruiting classes, Dan Mullen and his staff have clearly strengthened the Florida roster. But has it reached the status of a championship roster?
The question was posed to Mullen on Wednesday.
“We’re certainly getting there,” he said. “None of these guys have even had a college practice, so it’s hard to say about the guys we signed today, how that affects things. We’ll see how they develop.
“I certainly think we expect to go compete for championships, and we’re building the roster to be able to go do that. And we want to do that on a consistent basis, not just one year to the next.
“We’re building the program. We’re going to our second straight New Year’s Six game. We have an opportunity to finish two straight top-10 seasons. We’re not very far off. We’re not quite there yet, but we’re not very far off. We’re headed in the right direction to start being right there to compete for championships.”
Don’t sleep on this guy
Mullen has come up with a new signing day tradition, naming a sleeper in the recruiting class. Last year, it was Ja’Markis Weston, a big, fast receiver from Clewiston. This year, it’s Tre’Vez Johnson, a speedy defensive back from Jacksonville.
Johnson is rated a low three-star prospect by Rivals and 247. But Mullen and his staff don’t pay attention to the recruiting service rankings. In their evaluation of Johnson, the Gators think they’ve pick up a potential future standout.
“Let’s see how that plays out,” Mullen said with a smile.
Mullen’s first sleeper, Weston, played in two games and redshirted this season. He’s expected to be a major contributor in the 2020 season, a potential playmaker.
Some Texas talent
One defensive back in the class who won’t be considered a sleeper is Jahari Rogers, a four-star cornerback from Arlington, Texas. An early enrollee, he could push for immediate playing time at the depth-shy corner spots.
“He’s really interesting,” Mullen said. “He was a high school quarterback up until this year. Really athletic, playmaker with the ball in his hands on offense. He played defense this year for the first time, had a lot of success. And you saw him continue to grow and get better doing that.
“He’s just a phenomenal athlete, all-around athlete, plus a high-character guy. So you get excited about guys like him. I’ve had a lot of success with guys that are just great athletes. They do everything for their team. I love guys who do everything for their team. That means the coaches trust them. The teammates trust them. They’re great football players, and they usually end up having a lot of success in college.”
The Gators signed two defensive backs from Texas. The other is three-star prospect Avery Helm from Missouri City, Texas.
The new Freak?
Lake Wales defensive tackle Gervon Dexter is the highest-rated player in the class and somewhat of a physical freak at 6-foot-6, 294 pounds.
In his senior season, he recorded more than 100 tackles, which is almost unheard of for a defensive tackle.
“He’s a really good player,” Mullen said. “He has size and athleticism. He walks in a room and you can see this guy has been blessed with certain athletic skills.
“But he reminds me a lot of (Kansas City Chiefs’ standout DT) Chris Jones, who I had at Mississippi State. I hate comparing guys to each other until we go see how they work. But just as a physical, just as tall, long and really athletic, (that’s who he reminds me of).”
Bleich to Syracuse
Former UF offensive guard Chris Bleich did not spend much time in the NCAA transfer portal before finding a new school. He’s enrolling at Syracuse, he announced on Twitter on Wednesday night.
Bleich started eight games as a redshirt freshman this season. But, due to a family issue back home in Pennsylvania, he entered the transfer portal after the Georgia game, looking to move to a school closer to his family.

32 COMMENTS

    • It won’t be me! I agree with CDM. The Gators are one functional offensive line short of competing for a spot in the CFP next season.

      The Ugly Dawgs without their big, experienced OL next season, are NOT scary. Neither is the SEC West without Tua and Joe.

      • Exactly! The depth at D-line and weak O-line did us end on both our loses. CDM knows he has enough fire power to score if he get the help up front from the line of scrimmage. Once the O-line can open up holes the running backs will show up. Really, if you were a five star running back where would you play, Bama, UGA, or UF? No response needed, lol.

    • OK, since you asked… I won’t attack Coach Mullen, or the only college football team I have rooted for 51 years straight, (yes, even as a baby). No, I will speak the obvious and historic truth. ”SHOW ME, COACH MULLEN! Talking and stats are for LOSERS!
      I love the improvements since Mac and Champ, no doubt. But show me against U.G.A., & L.S.U., who BOTH MAN-HANDLED U.F. Football on the line of scrimmages. Facts, not opinions. The Gators got ”DAWGED” by both schools on the lines of scrimmage. 9-2 is awesome, but it ain’t the SECCG. But like another ”born and raised Gator,” like myself once sang, ”The waiting is the hardest part!”
      GO GATORS!

      • I agree and seeing is believing. I am just tired of all the Chicken Littles who are trashing CDM when we are improving and moving in the right direction. However, I will make a prediction. The Gators will beat LSU next year in the Swamp because without Joe Burrow the Coon Ass will look like a bunch of donkeys. UGA I am not sure about until we see how the redshirts and the 2020 class shapes up but if the O-Line can protect Trask and open up some holes for a change it will be close. PS been a Gator since 1960 and only seen two good head coaches but I believe CDM will be number three. Merry Christmas.

          • G-6 Yea Graves was good with a winning record and some outstanding players and bowl games. Left him off the list because no SEC or National Championships. However he did help build the program when UF was a dog, lol. Glad we have those years behind us again.

          • True. But sometimes I think of the old Jax Gator Bowl, and a wave of nostalgia overwhelms me………

            Larry Libatore, Bobby Dodd Jr, Lindy Infante…..Vic Miranda….Richard Skelly……seems like just yesterday.

      • Gatorgi…I get your Missouri mentality–but let’s not forget that the Gators didn’t get “DAWGED” by Auburn who had great O- and D-lines. And it was not insignificant that the Gators’ outstanding bookends were pretty banged up when they played LSU and UGA. What CDM needs is depth up front on both sides of the ball and he’s doing a pretty impressive job building that. It’s pretty #+%! hard to develop freshmen to play on the O-line but there was a world of difference in protection the past two seasons compared to the decade before he and his staff took over. Remember how downright embarrassing it was back then, how they got outplayed and pushed around? Talking about getting “dawged”. I think we’re already witnessing that the Gators are becoming mighty again–with them having lost only two games to top-five teams even when beset by injuries and depth issues. CDM has made a believer out of me and I expect that when the recruits mature, which may not take forever with excellent coaching in place, the Dawgs will be Gator bait.

      • I wouldn’t say the LSU D-line man-handled our O-line in the least.

        We had 457 yards of offense. We had the ball for 38+ mins. We rushed for 146 yards. We turned the ball over in the end zone or we tie the game up if not for that INT on a 3rd and 1 (Trask could have fell forward and converted the 1st) …ohhh and Cleveland was getting held on that same play.

        And most importantly it was played at LSU at Night, top 3 or 4 hardest places and times to play in the country.

        A couple BS calls in the GA game and they have way less yards. Both the BS calls came on 3rd down plays both of which ended up being long drives.

  1. I agree there was a world of difference with Mullen’s last 2 years, compared from 2010 to 2017. I loved beating Auburn this year, but they lost to LSU and UGA too. So….
    And I may not be as old and as experienced as many here. And I truly respect them all, St.Lous Gator, 6, etc…
    I love their comments here, too. But I know enough about football to know we had ZERO run game, borderline embarrassing if not for a couple home run hits by Perine and Pierce. But the overall offense was 1 dimensional. But much thanks to the padsing of Trask and the great receivers this season, as they carried the offense. But I know in football you must have some semblance of a run game. And that is where we lost the 2 games that kept out us out of the SECCG. I hope it is better on both lines next season, especially for the running game, or I fear another 9-3 or 10-2 season with another New Year 6 Bowl game. And that is great compared to Mac and ‘Champ. But it ain’t quite 1993 thru 1996. Or the awesome 2006 and ’08 years. And we are very close. Just do it Gators! We’ll love you either way, but winning the East and beating UGA pisses off UGA fans. And that makes me smile for an entire year! Go Gators!

      • GI, 6 not saying I ma back but I have been following most of the comments. GI from some of your posts above I am with you partly in the show me comments. But while two years is a small sample the feel is different in Gator Nation, When Meyer left the hype around Mac and Muschamp. Was that but while I celebrated victories I also felt there was much more going on there that wasn’t good in all aspects. Not discussing them here. I have mentioned this to others elsewhere that what CDM did year one with what was left was great but in sports could have been a fluke and that year two would “show” some things and it did. What was done in year 2 with some of his recruits is was again in my opinion a sign of great potential. He faced the same things most big program coaches face in in attrition to guys leaving for the NFL. Yet some who could have stayed. While they didn’t hit record numbers in all aspects the gaps are closing and there are more of his payers on the team this yea we also faced some challenges all other coaches face in injuries particularly in areas we had issues in depth. Yes we lost to LSU definitely one of the best in the country as proven over the weekend. I am not denying our OL was a boat anchor. But what I am saying is we didn’t take a dip that some first year coaches do and while we were unquestionably a one dimensional team out coaches competed with the cards they were dealt and did so at a level I am not sure the 4 coaches in the CFP could have done given the same cards. Last year we lost a lot of OL talent to the NFL and incoming talent wasn’t quite ready. And while teams are subject to injuries they hit us were our depth was not as good. Ultimately we didn’t have enough tools in the shed to cover when needed. The ESPN/SI guys picked us to be one most likely team to finish out of the top 25. Texas was the darling (something I never want be) and OK was exposed as what I thought. Hasn’t happened often where a coach comes in to 2 consecutive 10 win seasons. When it has for the Gators it has been good. I diverged from where I was going in trends. The trend though short on sample size appears in the right direction with variables of injuries, decisions of young men, the juggernaut of the SEC. While like yo guys I am a life long Gator fan had we gone this year it might have been more of a fluke or luck. The goal should always be win the next game and win the championships. Even if we finish 1- wins next year and miss I am not going to be upset if we don’t we the ultimate NC yet. The intangible I have is my gut which tells me something is really right about the situation in Hog town, Gator Nation that while right now would be good might transcend generations if it is what I feel. The beginning of a new era that runs through Gainesville. The transition players who all want title will have one thing to say about their time here.. I was a part of that beginning.
        My time in group efforts was as a infantryman. I would have loved to have leadership like what I am seeing there.

  2. We will be fine. The Gators are competitive and Mullen is getting his players into the line up now. Florida needs depth and they are building that. As far as Florida getting “dawged”, I certainly would not use a K-9 term to describe my Gators, but LSU wiped out everybody they played this year. We threw an interception in the end zone and failed to make a 1st down very close to the goal line. Otherwise we hung in there pretty well. I think the season went well and Mullen has shown me that he can recruit, develop, call plays, and get his team ready. Once the team consists of only his players, there will be even more consistency. Go Gators!

  3. Lest everyone forget, we had a MAJOR QB mid stream change this year! We didn’t start with our best QB (as it turned out in actual battle). CDM and staff are the real thing. They are fine total Major College system football managers, very important (reference, just look at the Holes, a total mess). This Spring, will we have a Tua that takes over? Amazing both UGA and Bama both trashed really good QBs for even better Freshmen! Especially, Tua for Hurts. Saban had the judgement and guts to make the change for the better. Are we next? Not referencing Jones (nope).

    • Several things for sure, Richardson has wanted to be a Gator all his life, now he IS 110% a Gator, he’s a genuine 4-Star, and he’s about as talented as they come based on the films. He will probably play his guts out too — there seems to be a lot of Chris Leak in him (if you know what I mean).

      I think he will make Trask even better this year, just based on knowing how good he is. I would be surprised, though, if CDM lets him get too far ahead of himself. I don’t know, but you’ve brought something up that a lot of us have been wondering about too, Dewayne. I’d be interested in knowing what others think.

      • Richardson is a very good prospect and he certainly has jumped right in and shown some leadership. That said, true freshmen who make meaningful contributions are exceedingly rare. With both Trask and Jones being very talented AND experienced, I doubt Richardson will get the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution in 2020, unless an injury forces CDM’s hand, as it did in 2019.

        Focus this spring and summer will be on developing that OL and a functional running game to complement the Trask & Co. aerial circus. Should CDM and staff succeed in that endeavor, the Gator O could be next year’s SEC juggernaut.

        That dysfunctional OL is the main reason CDM hasn’t sold a talented RB recruit on playing for the Gators this year.

        • All true, of course — and it’s more of a hypothetical question. But I’ve thought about it in that context for a couple of days…….. including yesterday while grandchildren were attacking my home with reckless abandon akin to storming Normandy Beach and just as loud, during which I was forced to place my thoughts elsewhere — anywhere — lest I go totally off the chains insane or worse…….and I think now that the only thing that may cause that scenario is an injury to Trask. Now, think of Trask’s history: He does appear somewhat fragile and prone to injuries that most wouldn’t get. But for that, who knows? He might have replaced Franks a lot earlier than he did.

          So thinking of it that way, while by no means a probability, it sure seems like a fair to middling possibility. Who does CDM go to? Jones? Dewayne already eliminated him in the hypothetical. So lets evaluate Richardson in that context, maybe just for shytes and giggles. What say you?

          • As you wrote above, Trask would have to be injured to lose the starting job next season. Should that happen, Jones will be his backup for the same reason Franks didn’t lose his job this season until he got hurt, experience. Jones would have to play very poorly in real games for CDM to bench him in favor of a true freshman.

            Richardson needs to learn the playbook, get in his practice reps and wait his turn, just as Jones has.

    • OK, if you two vagrants are referring to me (or am I just paranoid in my very old age?), I would hasten to remind y’all that I said Jones was eliminated in the H-Y-P-O-T-H-E-T-I-C-A-L. I was going to save my one smarmy response for StL three posts above, per the rules set out by BSCE, but I’ll make it here instead!

      Personally, I think Jones has a lot on the ball since he got here, and his skill sets are untapped on the main. I’ve been high on this youngster ever since he first set foot on campus. He WILL be the starter at some point, on his own merits, and I would say he’ll make a damn fine one and probably lead us to a championship. Based on what little we do know about Richardson so far, he may well eclipse the trifecta of Franks-Trask-Jones, I think.

      Jeesh.

      But let’s say Jones sits on the wrong toilet seat and catches schizophrenia or something. How do you think Richardson would do if he gets thrown into the role, or selected for it, right out of high school, before he’s fully prepared? That’s what Dewayne was alluding to in his post, and which I amplifed.

      • Tricky question to answer 6, as there’s simply no Richardson playing experience at this level to base an answer on. So, my answer will be based on past CDM performance preparing offenses to play around inexperienced QBs and fixing the obvious OL issues the Gators had in 2019.

        2018 is a good example of a season that ended well for the Gators in spite of Franks’ occasional meltdowns at QB. CDM shifted emphasis to the running game and limited Franks to throwing passes he was comfortable completing. The Gator passing game was generally underwhelming, but functional and the Gators won most SEC games by running the ball and playing defense.

        If the Gators DO fix their OL run blocking issues, Franks’ 2018 performance would be what I expect a Richardson true freshman season to look like. Good performance running the spread option with limited passing results, especially early in the season.

        If the Gators DON’T fix their OL run blocking issues, Franks’ 2017 performance would be what I expect a Richardson true freshman season to look like. Passable performance running the spread option vs. weak teams with absolute disasters vs. the better SEC teams and a struggle to reach 500 and qualify for a bowl game, no matter how well the defense plays.

        Richardson with zero practice experience will NEVER match Trask with 3 years practice experience! And it would be grossly unfair to the kid to expect him to carry an offense with no serious running game straight out if high school vs. SEC defenses.

        • Thanks for letting us pick your brain on this very hypothetical scenario!

          Lets hope that Richardson experiences normal freshman development in 2020. I suspect he will progress rapidly in his redshirt year. I was called out off line for thinking that Trask may very well be on fire in 2020, in that he’s already been on fire — poor choice of words on my part — tho my intention was to convey that I really expect a banner year out of him with Jones, who I think will also really shine, just a step behind him. We’re in a very good position, assuming that the OL steps it up, meaning that we have in my opinion a very excellent quarterback room. Spring ball will prove that to be the case, I’m confident.

          • BTW, barring injury, Kyle Trask will be the 2020 Joe Burrow IF the Gators develop an SEC OL and running game to force DLs and safeties to look for running plays on running downs. If THAT is what you meant when you said he will be “on fire,” then he will most certainly be “on fire” in 2020!

      • Six,

        I was not referring to you, in spite of your old age and paranoia…;-) .

        Rather it seems (at least to me) that BSCE thinks Jones has no place in the equation, i.e. Richardson has supplanted Jones as the #2 QB, and perhaps should be considered for the starting position over Trask based on what he (Richardson) has done in a few post season practices.

        I am for whichever QB gives us the best chance to win. It is certainly great for CDM to have this problem as opposed to the hot mess Musclecramp and Ol’ Butterteeth created in the QB room.

        • I really want to see if you were awake, or sleeping off some of that fine Japanese whiskey!

          I think BSCE was setting up a hypothetical based on what Bama and Georgia did…..not really discounting Jones (who is a stud muffin in his own right). I thought it was an interesting scenario, so I tried to keep it going since the off season is almost upon us as hard is that is to believe. Seems like it was just August 24th!

          I’m for going c the QB who gives us the best chance to win too, and in that regard, to be honest I never thought it was Franks…..not deep down, although I wouldn’t presume to know what CDM knows. The spring competition is gonna be something to behold tho.