ATLANTA — Looking at Florida from afar the past several years, Dan Mullen has seen a program that has lost the consistency it once had when he was part of two national championships as the Gators’ offensive coordinator.
“That sticks out with the program,” he said earlier this week at SEC Media Days. “The last five years, Florida’s had two four-win seasons and played in two SEC Championship Games.
“That’s inconsistent. That shows me that individual teams at the university right now are playing at a high level, but the program itself is not performing consistently at the level it needs to be at.
“As I look at things and I look at us, I tell the guys on the team, ‘Hey, two years ago we played for an SEC Championship. So there has to be talent here. Okay? But the fact that you have a fall-off season is that there’s a lack of consistency in what’s going on within our performance.’ That speaks to the program as a whole.”
Coming off a 4-7 season, the Gators are hoping to experience a quick turnaround under Mullen and the new coaching staff.
But Mullen isn’t looking for a quick fix. He’s looking for a permanent one.
“I want us to have a great team this year,” he said. “I want us to have a great season. I want us to go compete for a championship with this year’s team. But I also want to build a program that’s going to do that every single year on a consistent basis. And that consistency really defines the program.
“When you’re consistent, you’re going to have an opportunity to go win that championship. Not just compete for it, you’re going to have the opportunity to win it. But you have to have consistency within the program to do that.
It hasn’t taken Mullen long to change the culture at Florida. He came in with a lot of energy, and that energy has quickly spread among the players
“This is a high-energy culture now,” senior defensive end/outside linebacker Cece Jefferson said. “There’s never a dull day with this coaching staff or these players. There’s always something new that keeps you on your toes.
“Very high energy is what Coach Mullen and his staff bring to the table.”
A fit for Cece
Jefferson has been viewed as a ’tweener — a little light for defensive end, a little big for linebacker — in his first three years at UF.
Now, he may have finally found a perfect fit as a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker in new defensive coordinator Todd Grantham’s scheme.
“Just want until September first,” he said. “I think this defense fits me pretty well. I did 3-4 in high school, so I’m familiar with standing up and coming off the edge, dropping here and there, making checks here and there.
“So, it’s not out of my comfort zone, definitely something I’m comfortable with. I enjoy it every day. (Defensive line coach Sal Sunseri) is a character. The way he coaches makes it easy to learn. Myself and all the other D-linemen are just embracing him and just having fun learning.”
A healthy hate?
Jefferson stirred things up earlier in the week with some comments he made about Georgia, including his prediction the Gators would win this year’s game.
Certainly, Florida-Georgia is an intense rivalry. But Mullen describes it as a healthy one.
“The rivalry is a fantastic rivalry,” he said. “It’s one of the most fun games you can be a part of down in Jacksonville. I think it’s a very healthy rivalry.
“A lot of times in college football and college sports sometimes you can get some rivalries that maybe are not as healthy. They’re tough, they’re nasty. They can become unhealthy.
“This is a healthy rivalry. Everybody enjoys the game. I think both programs know it’s such a critical game to accomplish the goals you have, which is to win the SEC East.”
One final take
Senior offensive tackle Martez Ivey apparently has grown weary of answering the question he always gets about whether the UF offense is going to be better.
“This is the only time I’m going to answer this question again,” he said. “This year, with Mullen and his staff, it’s different. You can tell. The energy. The players, they bought in to it. It’s not about me, me, me, me. You have all of these reads and options and stuff. It doesn’t matter who gets the ball, it matters about getting yards.
“There’s a big difference. We’re going to be better.”