Gators experienced, young talent awaits Mullen

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Florida running back Lamical Perine gains yards Saturday against Florida State at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [Alan Youngblood/Staff photographer]

The Florida Gators know what their new coach, Dan Mullen, is going to get when he arrives in Gainesville — a young team with some talent that wants to work, wants to be coached, wants to be successful.

“It’s Florida,” sophomore middle linebacker David Reese said after Saturday’s loss to Florida State. “We’re going to be back. We’re the Gators and we’re going to get somebody to come in and be great for us.”

Mullen will be inheriting a team that is coming off a 4-7 season that was defined by multiple injuries, suspensions and more offensive ineptness.

On the positive side, it was an opportunity for many young players, including numerous true freshmen, to play significant roles and gain valuable experience.

By the end of the season, the Gators had only two senior starters, one on offense (wide receiver Brandon Powell) and one on defense (cornerback Duke Dawson), so most of the starters and many of the backups will be returning.

Mullen will have experienced talent to work with at all position groups.

“The new coach has to come in here and just get us in position to win,” sophomore wide receiver Josh Hammond said. “I think that will be the biggest thing. I think guys here are ready to play. Everybody came here to Florida so that they can play. The biggest thing is just putting us in the right position for us to be able to make those plays that we know we can make.

“The majority of our offense is going to come back, a majority of the defense is going to come back. So we’re a young team, we’ve got a lot to grow on, and this offseason I think our mentality is just going to be to grind.”

Interim head coach Randy Shannon said the new coach is stepping into a good situation.

“This is a talented team,” Shannon said. “It’s a very talented team when you look at this young talent. You have an opportunity to have this young talented football team, and the sky is the limit. There are some things that you have to add on, like every year you add on some additions, which is depth.

“But you have a very talented skill set here as far as the defensive backs and running backs. You’ve got young defensive linemen, the linebackers are all coming back. You’ve got two tight ends coming back. And you’ve got your offensive line coming back. It’s a talented team and whoever inherits this team is going to be really excited about it.”

The biggest issue facing Mullen will be the offense in general and the poor play at quarterback in particular.

The offense made little or no progress over the course of the season, and redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks struggled throughout. His final performance was his worst — a four-turnover game against Florida State that led to 28 points for the Seminoles in Saturday’s 38-22 loss.

Franks seemed undaunted by his performance, saying he will continue to strive to get better in the offense

“It’s very motivating,” he said. “It’s obviously not the way you want to end it. The guys fought hard, man, and we didn’t send them out the right way. A big part of that was me, the turnovers. I wish I could go back, but you can’t, That’s not my personality. I’m never going to look back.

“I’m always looking at how I can get better in everything in life. Not just in football, but everything in life, just trying to get better. Just look forward. You can’t go back. I’m looking forward to improving.”

Until Mullen officially takes over the program, Shannon and the rest of the coaching staff will remain in place, recruiting and making sure the players take care of their academics.

“Our job is to make sure the guys are doing all the right things on and off the field,” Shannon said. “Academics is a really big key, and that’s our job. We’re not going to slack off just because the season is over with.”

The players say they are hoping Shannon and other members of the staff are retained, but there are no guarantees there, of course.

“I wish all our defensive staff could stay,” Reese said. “We love those guys. We played hard for those guys and you know they’ve been doing a great job of putting us in the right position to win games. From the defensive standpoint, I feel like we have been in a lot of games.

“Just know that those guys mean more to us than football does. Those guys have been father figures to us. Those guys, they’re great recruiters. They do what they do to win. They put us in the right position. They teach us about life and things that really matter.”

NOTE: Redshirt sophomore tight end Kalif Jackson announced on Twitter on Sunday that he is going to transfer to another school.

21 COMMENTS

  1. Experience doesn’t necessarily mean much. Hopefully DM with new assistants can develop these players and all I expect for next year is improvement. This team is 2 to 3 recruiting cycles away from being competitive with the big boys. His first priority is to develop a qb. Hope the fan base will be patient, Mac left DM a not so talented team, void of LB’s and DT’s. He did to those position groups what WM did to the OL. Glad DM is aboard.

    • I think the experience factor does count, John. Sadly, all that experience was in the wrong direction this season (on the main, anyway), but the base talent is there to be coached properly and that + game time this year should make a difference next year. As Ludimeister points out below, expect a lot of true freshmen and sophs to be playing….we just hope the 2018 recruiting class holds because it was actually better than the “middle SEC” class we’re used to under the last two coaches. We’ve basically finished pretty much at the SEC level we’ve recruited to thus far, c a couple of awful deviations. So where do we finish next year under Mullen? I’m thinking above average SEC, which would mean 8-4 and a decent bowl would be a good sign, as would a final ranking somewhere in the Top-25. Better would be better of course, but as you accurately pointed out, it’s reasonable to figure on 2 or 3 improved recruiting cycles to realistically get there. 2019 might see 10-2……might not…..but I’m expecting better than 8-4 and by 2020, hopefully Katie-Bar-The-Door. How does that square c your excellent assessment?

  2. Gator Nation can expect many Freshman and Sophomores to be playing next year. We will be young. If a Junior or Senior is not a starter, he probably will not be playing. This is the nature of rebuilding a bankrupt program.
    The legacy of Jeremy Foley.

    • Foley did destroy the program, and yet he is still hanging around in the hallways like some creepy wraith, meddling and trying to continue his legacy of ineptitude. Why would they want this skeletal ghost of failure lurking in the shadows, whispering “Zook …Zook… Zook …?” Maybe just as a reminder to everyone what failure looks like.

  3. Shannon says there is a lot of talent, so why did he get defeated so easily? There is a lot less talent than people want to accept. Fans want to blame the coaching and say their is plenty of talent. I think we should blame the coaches for poor recruiting along with poor coaching. If Toney is healthy I think he will get a long look at QB from Mullen. The offensive line is not talented, neither is the DL There is a lack of linebackers and a couple of those seem to slow for the SEC. Safeties, where is the talent there? Most of the players would not start for Georgia, and Georgia could not win the west. As we have seen winning the east is not so tough, Mac did it twice

    • So George, what if Georgia beats Auburn next week in the rematch SEC championship game? I for one think they’re good enough to, and that would certainly be a start to the much vaunted “take down of the west”. You certainly did a good job of pointing out our vulnerabilities going in to next season, not going to even try to argue your points there. But I do think proper coaching can cure a lot of that, and proper motivation (which to me really seemed lacking this year) might just do the rest to get us back on a consistent track to where we need to be.

  4. Shannon did not do a great job this year in terms of coaching. For those who didn’t watch on TV, game after game announcers pointed out blunders– two players shooting the same gap, leaving a wide open lane for a rushing touchdown, linebackers out of place, screening each other from covering receivers…etc… I watch many games where teams give up 40 points and the announcers never feel moved to comment on the ineptitude of the defensive schemes and alignments, so it says a lot that they couldn’t help but comment on our team’s inability to play fundamentally sound defense. it’s pretty sad when 3rd and 20 is a gimme for opposing offenses. I can still hear Michigan’s players laughing.

    • If he gets coached up the right way, and if the O-line can improve to at least “decent” or better…..I also think that youngster can apply his native skills to be a fine QB. If those things happen, and he still doesn’t improve, then we all know for sure that he won’t ever. Competition for the job will be much better next year, that’s for sure.

  5. The safe pick for Stricklin…unfortunately not the best! Mullen is not a very good recruiter (several commits now backing off) and certainly not an offensive guru. His modus operandi is to run the QB into the line. That’s what he did with Tebow, with Dak Prescott, and with current Miss State QB Fitzgerald…and used none as a passer! Matt Correl , a pocket passer commit is certainly reviewing his options. Stricklin panicked a bit after the turn down by Kelly….He was afraid to wait for Frost to finish his season and then lose him to Nebraska, so he went the safe route instead of finding the real offensive guru we need!

    • The most important recruit, Matt Corral, immediately tweeted, “Done deal!” RB Iverson Clement is still tweeting with an alligator emoji. I see no indication that Dameon Pierce is leaving the class. OL Richard Gouraige is all in.

      And the recently de-committed Jacob Copeland is now apparently reconsidering.

      Where do you get these bull cookies, you friggin’ troll?

    • Ol’time….we all pray this class holds together and actually gets even better. Let’s wait and see what Mullen does c it. Last I heard, Correl is still coming. If he doesn’t, well, as an old platoon sergeant once told me years ago when I was a young grunt, “Son, sometimes shit just be that way”. Wise man, he. I think Mullen will recognize the talent he already has, and use it.

  6. We have in my opinion massive issues. As follows:

    Both of our kickers are most likely to be replaced.

    We are very thin at Linebacker.

    Our offensive line that was to be a strength was not, and some may leave.

    Our receivers have for years had trouble getting open, perhaps coaching and scheme will improve this.

    Our special teams are attrocious, perhaps due to the injuries and the idiot 9.

    We have some bodies at QB, most are either injured or not very good mentally.

    We have a team that lacks leadership in its players, they have a history of issues that no great team can allow.

    We have injury issues and poor strength and conditioning.

    These won’t go away in a short time.

    • Vulcan… Actually, our kicking game will be very good next year…Johnny Townsend younger will be our kicker next year, he kicks just like his brother…he was red shirted this year…the kid has just as good a leg has Jonny…maybe even stronger…the kid really booms the ball…I’ve seen this guy kick in practice…you certainly won’t be disappointed…everything I hear is Pineiro WILL be back…all of the LB’s this year were all Freshmen and Sophomores and a couple of them banged up most of the year. They were a very inexperienced group…this year they will be young but experienced…if Nick Smith who is a stud along with Huston are allowed to come back and play this year along with the 2 LB’s committed this year…the LB’s may be a strength of the defense this year … The special team player you are talking about is no. 4 Brandon Powell not no. 9 Massey…Powell is the guy who fumbled 2 punt returns…The RW’s are having trouble getting open for sure…when they are open Franks never see them…It’s really hard to get open when you are running mostly bubble screens and 3 yard crossing patterns…UF passing scheme both under Muschamp and Mac…were awful… 85-90% of all the players on the field are with in 5 yards beyond or behind the line of scrimmage…it makes it awfully hard to complete a pass with so many players ig that general area…you are just asking for an interception …I think with Mullen our QB situation will be much better …we just have to move Franks out to RW at 6′-5″ and athletic he will make a great receiver…Agree 100% on the Strength and conditioning …this must be addressed immediately… but, I think this will all come together in a relatively short time with Mullen as the head coach…and hopefully he can retain the majority of this recruiting class.

  7. Mullen was not my first choice, mainly because his personality and his comment about his DC when he left MSU to become the DC at UF, why would he take a lateral move to UF…that still burns with me….but I am not uncomfortable with his hire…He’s not a bad hire, by any means…although he would have been my third choice, behind Kelly, Campbell and then Mullen…I was never that high on Frost, Oh sure, the guy finished 11-0 in the regular season… and hat’s off to him for that accomplishment…but, in reality so would the Gators had, had they played that same schedule…the schedule means everything…the only 3 coaches who have played power 5 schedules are Kelly, Campbell and Mullen. Frost would have been a big gamble and we certainly don’t need to take anymore gambles, like with Frost…even though Mullen has a personality problem…he is a good coach and I think he’ll do well at UF…and one thing he can do for sure is develop QB’s…Whether Mullen was your first or last choice …We need to all get behind and support him…he certainly can’t be worst than the last two…I hope the first thing Mullen does…is to move Franks over to WR…I like the kid a lot…but he lacks the innate characteristics of a great QB…just because you throw the ball a mile doesn’t mean you are going to be a great QB…Franks has too many flaws in his game as QB to fix…Mullen will have plenty of talent on this young but experienced team just like Shannon says…our RB’s, will be as good of a group, as we’ve had at UF in a very, very long time … the offensive line will be much improved …under Mullen the RW’s will leaner how to run downfield pass routes not Nuss’s typical bubble screens 3=5 crossing patterns…The biggest improvement will be NO MORE NUSS as the OC…the offensive scheme will be completely different and less predictable …the defense will be young but experienced …the secondary should be one of the best in the country next year…actually Mac wasn’t that bad of a recruiter in his first two year…his first year after a very late start he did bring in two 5 star recruits in Ivey and Jefferson in a very limited class…last year he had a pretty successful top 15 class and this year had a top 10 class …and the 2019 class was headed for a top 10 class…all this noise about him not being a good recruiter and will take 2-3 cycles before we have good players is sheer non-sense …too many people get hung up on the number of stars a player has…UF in most years pasted only brought in one or two 5 star players the rest were 3 and 4 star players…a 3 star player from Florida would be a 4 star player in any other state, with the exception of Texas and California simply because of the population of those states…some of our best instate players were 3 star guys…I trust the coaches ability to evaluate players rather than some sports journalist…Let’s give Mullen a chance ,,,he is a winner!