Mullen, UF players expect to contend for title in 2018

Florida coach Dan Mullen meets the media earlier this month during day two of SEC Media Days in the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta. [Gary Cosby Jr./GateHouse Media Services]

Usually when a new football coach takes over a 4-7 program where the expectation is to play for championships, a lengthy building/rebuilding process is certain to follow to get back to where you hope to be.

Naturally, it takes time.

Well, let’s just say the Florida Gator fans are not a patient lot.

They expect to start winning again now, this season, in Year 1 under Dan Mullen.

That was the clear message coming from the three Florida players who attended SEC Media Days on Tuesday.

“Oh, yes, most definitely,” senior defensive end Cece Jefferson said when asked if the Gators are good enough to contend for a championship in Mullen’s first season. “This team is extremely capable of winning right now. Why wait? If you can do it now, why wait? That’s something that we talk about every day.

“Don’t wait for anybody to do it. If you see that you can do it then take the initiative and get it done. Yeah, man. I’m seeing it. I am. That’s pretty much the way we go about it.”

Similar sentiments were expressed by senior offensive tackle Martez Ivey and junior middle linebacker David Reese.

“Why Wait?” seems to be this team’s mantra.

“Definitely. Definitely,” Reese said. “My expectation for this team is to get to Atlanta (for the SEC Championship Game in December). Get right back to where we were. That’s the expectation.

“We’ve got the talent. We’ve got the experience. And we’ve got guys who have been there before.”

Since Mullen’s first day on the job in late November, he’s been stressing that the goal is to make Florida a championship program again, the way it was when he was the offensive coordinator and the Gators won two national titles under Urban Meyer.

Many of the current players can relate to that goal, and are embracing it, because the Gators did play for two SEC championships after winning the East in Jim McElwain’s first two seasons.

But, of course, then came the star-crossed season last fall. Player suspensions. Injuries. Close losses (and some not so close). McElwain forced out.

It all added up to a 4-7 season that definitely has taken some shine off the Florida brand.

But what happened last season doesn’t seem to have shattered anyone’s confidence, or lessened expectations. The Gators expect to win. Now.

“Oh, yeah, without a doubt,” Ivey said. “When I first game in, we were contenders. In the second year, we were contenders. Last year, we had incidents come in and we had a drop-off.

“This team is good enough to contend this season.”

Members of the media, and certainly many others, probably aren’t seeing it that way. Many are speculating that at the end of SEC Media Days, the Gators likely will be picked to finish fourth in the East, behind Georgia, South Carolina and Kentucky.

Yes, Kentucky.

“I don’t see that at all,” Ivey said. “I see us placing first in the East. That’s what I believe. I don’t care what anybody else has to say.”

What the Gators have to say is, “Why wait?”

Mullen is OK with that.

“That’s me,” he said. “That’s what I’m here for, to win championships. I would certainly hope we are (a contender this season). That’s the plan every single year, find a way to get right back here in the first week in December.

“That will be my goal this year and that will be my goal five years from now. That’s always the goal, and so realistically to me, yes, that’s what we’re fighting for every day.

“I want to see how they come off of summer conditioning, all the extra work that they’ve put in. Certainly our goal is to find a way to compete for a championship and get back here in December.”


  1. I’d much faster rather hear that we are just focused on working hard every day, every play to be the best we can be. Then we will let our performance speak fo itself! Talk about winning the East is pretty hollow and filled with hubris!

  2. The only goal worth having is to win titles! That’s what these guys are doing. They are going for the gold, and that’s as it should be. I am happy for them, and even if they fall short, if they give their all, they will be able to look in the mirror with pride and know they have pursued GLORY!!!

    There is no shame in striving for greatness!!!!!! Look at the comments from the other top teams and you will see their players saying that exact same thing– Atlanta is the destination, and not the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, either!

    The world will TREMBLE before these mighty warriors!!!!!!!!!

  3. I enjoy the positive, trivial stories that have come out in recent weeks. Sure beats stories about injuries, arrests, or lackadaisical coaching. But this…a bit thin even by June and July standards. I trust these young men to be the kind of leaders the team needs desperately. And I already assumed that Jefferson and Ivey returned, you know, to win. So…good.

  4. The only that matters at UF is big time titles—SEC and national championships, the SEC east is just the starting point–the incompetent mcelwain never figured that out. Mullen needs to get it done in 2-3 years.

  5. Are the players goals too lofty? Hell, no!!! Do they have the talent to compete in their conference? Hell, yes!!! I hate that Gator Nation once again faces the fact that this team will only be as good as the QB. Obviously, last year was an anomaly. If Van Jefferson plays this year (and it’s highly likely), then I am way more optimistic about Franks being successful. It is troubling that Mullen is unsure about who will start at QB. Here’s the question: Is Mullen not clear because Franks is not developing, or is Jones showing some development over the summer? I am afraid that it’s the former–Franks isn’t separating from the other two. However, I hope Franks makes converts of us all!!! Go Gators!!!

    • DrG8r – I believe Mullen is being sly to keep the QB’s working hard until one is the obvious starter. I’m sure he has some sort of an idea who will come out ahead, but wants to keep it a competition to the end. If he were to choose one now it is nothing but detrimental to the other QB’s in my opinion. I feel that Franks will start, but at the first sign of last years Franks showing up, it will be Jones in a snap. I do believe we will be better than the Gator haters think we will. We are going to have a run game from Hell as long as the O-line can hold up their part of the equation. GO GATORS!!!

      • So the hidden take-away is that Dan Mullen and Sly Sylvester are the same person. I guess they could be at that, I mean, it is a fact that we’ve never seen them in public together. Of course, we don’t know what Sly looks like, actually…..or do we?

        My apologies; I thought Media Days would help but they really haven’t. I am more rapidly losing my mind than ever before, waiting impatiently for Sep 1st to get here!

        • Gator-6, great pun. Media days are pretty much the same year to year. As I continue to live longer than I have expected to, moments like this that occur every year become cliche’. I tire of the off season banter, and like you, get impatient waiting for September to arrive. I watch other Gator sports, and especially enjoy women’s gymnastics. I was pretty good when I was in school. Another issue is as you age, once football season gets here, it is gone just as fast and you are waiting all over again. I don’t know your age, but this is part of what you have to look forward to…lmao. GO GATORS!!!

          • My pal Leland notwithstanding, I am not 92 nor am I dating a 19 year old centerfold, nor for that matter, am I using my WWII GI Bill to buy a home near a good elementary school for when she finally bears my schizophrenic children.

            Actually, I’m 71 — which is hard to believe since chicks still dig me and I’ve still got most of my hair plus 6 pack abs and buns of steel. OK, OK…..they dig me only so much as pertains to curiosity, and I’m really 165 pounds of rippling blubber. And before Leland tells you different, I’m still married to the same 71 year old woman who is too nice to ever be a centerfold. A guy can dream tho, can’t he?

          • Ed, Spot on! Every season comes with anticipation and in the blink of an eye I am waiting for… Signing day(s). Spring training, Orange and Blue Game and the torturous months before Sep. I am sure the self induced stress has taken some years off the back side. Can’t wait to see what the team does.
            Gator-6 19 year old centerfold. That’s a good one. Sounds like you’ve got the right woman.
            Go Gators!

          • She’s one of a kind, 65, and I kid her that she is the only broad who can make me laugh all the time. Which she is; besides, I don’t know what to talk about with a 19 year old anyway. I guess I’d think of something after a while, but I’d rather not!

            I think we all hit a point where we’ve done it before, season after season, but it never gets old, does it?
            Go Gators back at ya’, bud.

    • Ben Bennett. Who cares what the media at SEC Media predicts. Means nothing, and they are never correct anyway. You cannot predict much about college football in July because no one knows who has worked really hard over the offseason to improve and who has not, which freshman will live up to hype and which ones will bomb or not even see the field, or what changes coaches have made externally and internally to change things for the positive. And much more. Florida has a lot of talent and if it performs at a high level, and especially on the OL and at QB, the Gators are more than capable of winning the East. But they are also capable of finishing fourth behind Kentucky if that does not happen. And who knows, Georgia could lose both of their TWO QBs and lose 6 games as a result. Or they could mostly remain healthy and go undefeated and win the national title. That is why they play games in the fall, not in the summer. Right now, all is talk and more talk.

      • Tampa Gator,
        To be clear, I don’t care what the media thinks either. Especially the M. S. M. More specifically, it seems ridiculous that Kentucky would be picked ahead of Florida since they have lost 31 games in a row to them! I think Robbie has some bad info. Most predictions I have seen have been for the Gators to finish second or third. I agree with you that their are a ton of variables that will affect the outcome.

      • Totally agree also. The Gators have the talent and coaching to win the East this year. They also have the ability, if they haven’t been working hard this summer (or don’t in the fall) to finish 4th. You can’t mail it in and expect to win anything. We were lucky to win 4 games last year…it could’ve been worse. The talent was there (to do better than 4-7) but the effort and coaching were not.

        On paper and based on recent history, the pick is UGA in the East. But let’s have this discussion in November and see what really happened.

      • Your line of reasoning also applies to recruiting rankings. In July they mean nothing as a lot of things can change between now and NSD. Throw in the fact that
        your average 5* can be a bust while your average 3* can be a stud and they mean even less

  6. Exactly tampa! Well said. I dont even think we should have preseason polls, hell, id be ok with the 1st poll coming out after the 2nd or 3rd game. Like you said, its just talk, but that talk gives some teams a head start.

  7. Adrian. Franks does, but he has not been as good as Driskel so far. And that is a scary thought. But I do think Franks has more potential at Florida than Driskel, mainly because Franks is now being coached by Mullen and Johnson and Driskel was coached by coaches who had absolutely no clue. Driskel definitely got a lot better after he transferred from Florida. Maybe Franks will get a lot better under Mullen.

  8. Yeah, let them have lofty aspirations. Pushing them to hope for goals that may be a little too high to reach and thinking they have got a shot, is better than the pep talk they got from Knute Rockne several hours before last year’s Georgia game. They’ve got a chance to be a solid team and be competitive in every game they play this year. Conditioning and strength means a lot, and this team will be better this year, just based on that factor alone – even before you factor in better coaching, and a dangerous backfield. Doesn’t mean they will win them all, but I highly doubt we will be cringing midway through the 3rd quarter hoping the clock will continue to run. Should be fun. Go Gators.

  9. Charley Pell, when UF hired him, said he wants his team, whether they are talented enough or not, to have the confidence of an 80 year old man who marries a girl in her twenties and buys a 5 bedroom house near an elementary school. So I hope our players ARE confident, though we have issues no doubt.

  10. Steve, I am a gator to my soul. BSJM 71. Walk on from 64 to 69. I relate to Coach Pell’s statement. I am 71 and dating a 35 year old. When he said it, I laughed. But have stayed in shape, had a great life and here I am. Not looking for elementary schools or a 5 bedroom house, but love my gators win or lose, and look forward with great anticipation to a very solid first year for coach Mullen and our gators.

    EXPECTATIONS AT FLORIDA ARE “ALWAYS” at the top during Media Days. Question marks are at QB, OL. Defense SHOULD BE good. I agree that Jones would give defenses fits in the spread. I think Mullen will recognize that. Look what he did at Miss. St. with half the talent the Gators have. Let us wait for the season–just 6 weeks and 3 days to go.

  12. Any thing less, any thing other than we are in it to win it, is really not consistent with what the University of Florida is all about. At times I have skepticism about some things, but the purpose of skepticism as a gator is to go back and tighten up, find a way, ok this is not where we wanted to be but lets get busy. Every sport, all of the time. I only get mad at what looks to me like not the full effort like I saw a few times in the last few years, and admittedly I am probably a little harsh, but I come by it honest, as my mom and dad had the bedroom painted orange growing up. I am convinced under coach Mullen these guys give it their all, and when that happens, they will be competing for championships, and if someone beats them it will have taken everything to go right for that opponent on that day, but never over time. the only living creature of any size on this earth that’s been around longer than the alligator is the horseshoe crab and I don’t see them on the schedule, so it starts with the best mascot ever, the best colors, Gatorade, great people in the past. Go Gators

  13. We’re gonna surprise everyone and take the East… right players, right coach…. I was a skeptic, but the more I hear about this change in culture, I’m buying in…. 2017 was such a fluke. Move over UGA, you’ve had your 9 months to shine….