By Brady Fredericksen,
The Lakeland Ledger
LAKELAND — It’s been 11 years since the “Gatornaughts” arrived in Gainesville.
Dan Mullen hasn’t forgotten about them.
That group of seven Lakeland High standouts — Ahmad Black, John Brown, Mike Pouncey, Maurkice Pouncey, Chris Rainey, Steve Wilks and Paul Wilson — came to the University of Florida together in 2007.
Back then, Mullen was the offensive coordinator under Urban Meyer.
Nowadays, he is, of course, in his first year as the Gators’ head coach.
Sitting in the back of the Lake Mirror Center on Monday before speaking to nearly 500 fans at the Polk County Gator Club’s Gator Gathering event, a smile crept onto Mullen’s face when he was asked about that vaunted group.
“I loved having the Pouncey brothers and Rainey,” Mullen said. “One of the funny ones that people forget is the Pouncey brothers weren’t like the highest-recruited kids. They were kind of the three-star, afterthought type guys. I do remember them coming to camp and I said, ‘My, those guys love to compete. They love ball.’ I loved their personality, their demeanor.”
Mullen spoke plenty about Polk County during his evening in Lakeland.
He said that he spent some time with Chris Rainey, currently a special teams standout in the CFL, earlier this month. Ahmad Black, who retired from the NFL a few years back, graduated from Florida this year after working as a student assistant last year.
Mullen acknowledged that the football talent in the area spans beyond Bryant Stadium and the Dreadnaughts. And he made sure to point out that, with only linebacker Ventrell Miller of Kathleen on the roster, his program needs to get more kids from the county.
“Lakeland’s changed. Some things have changed. Some things haven’t,” he said. “Well, one thing is we don’t have all the superstar players that we need from Lakeland to make sure we get back to go build a championship roster.”
Looking for a QB?
Fans hoping the Gators would dive into the graduate transfer quarterback market for a third-straight year may be in for some disappointment.
Mullen said, right now, he did not expect to add another quarterback to a room featuring rising sophomores Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask as well as early-enrollee Emory Jones.
Florida has been linked to Ohio State’s graduating quarterback Joe Burrow in recent days.
“I don’t think that’s a spot we would look to take anyone,” Mullen said. “I feel pretty good about the guys we have and the depth we’re creating at that position and the competition at that position.”
Not worried about CeCe
CeCe Jefferson spurned the NFL Draft to return to Florida for his senior season.
After undergoing surgery on his right shoulder — injured during the spring game on April 14 — Mullen said he wasn’t worried about the injury having an impact on Jefferson this season.
“I don’t even really check with our trainers until it hits mid-July,” Mullen said. “They feel pretty confident having him back in some nature in training camp.”
Waiting on Jefferson
Former Ole Miss quarterback Shea Patterson was granted immediate eligibility at Michigan last week, but Mullen and the Gators are still unsure of the status of Van Jefferson.
The former Rebels receiver left Ole Miss for Florida after last season. Unlike Patterson, whether the NCAA will allow him to play immediately in 2018 is still up in the air.
“I never try to guess what outcomes are going to be on that,” Mullen said. “We’re going to diligently work to get everything done and have all the information that’s needed and then we’ll wait on (the NCAA’s) decision.”