Notebook: Mullen’s Gators striving for consistency

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Florida coach Dan Mullen shows off his shoe game with SEC Network analysts Tuesday during day two of SEC Media Days in the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta. [Gary Cosby Jr./GateHouse Media Services]

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.

Energized Gators

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.”

7 COMMENTS

  1. we got annihilated in 2 sec championship games, we lost to teams like Georgia southern, had gam after games where some other team showed up wearing our uniforms, none of our recruiting classes in recent years were up to typical gator standards, and what leaders we had couldn’t stop other teammates from committing crimes. this program has been fragile.
    Can a leader player reassemble it and reinforce it in a year? two years? wouldn’t seem logical, but its happened before, in fact in has happened in Gainesville a couple of times. it takes more than a coach, it takes a quarterback too and a lot of things no one ever sees. win lose or draw I am enthused about seeing next years team.

  2. mveal, you mean ”this year’s team”, not ”next year’s team”, right?
    It’s 2018, brother. And ”Game day in Gainesville” is only 43 days away.
    ”HEEEEERRRREEE… COME THE GATORS!”
    As for the article, ”the consistency” needs to be NOW, and in all phases of the team, too. Special teams, as they will literally start off the season. The offense has to improve if U.F. will compete for the East this year (and I think they will). And lastly, the ”high standards” on the Gator ‘D’ have to return immediately.
    But other than that…
    Go Gators!

  3. Good info. Under Mac the players supposedly were onboard though they didn’t seem that way in their carriage and definitely on the field. Thanks Mveal for reminding me of the SEC championship games I sat through in great seats I might add. The team has needed some leaders you are right there too. I think they have some now. Looks like they are acting as a team now. If they compete as one we will do well. The 80’s movie Heartbreak Ridge (Clint Eastwood as a Marine) was about building a team. The story was about an Army squad but the Army wouldn’t lend advisors and the MC did.

    • That’s because at the time, the Army was “all hands on deck” trying to figure out what to do about all the midgets demanding a right to enlist too, without lowering standards for BCT and Infantry AIT. I’m not sure what the outcome was, just that the Army stands willing and able to support Hollywood again with technical advisors for all manner of films.

  4. Having graduated from UF in 1985 (my father did this in 1958), having attended my first home game in 1968 (season opener against Houston), having watched all the ups and downs, having born the disappointments with the ecstatic triumphs and glory, all I can say is that I am proud to be a Florida Gator and am confident in Coach Mullen and his staff’s ability to help turn this program around. I became a Gator fan when I watched John Reaves and Carlos Alvarez decimate Houston 59-34. The stands were half empty, as the Gators were preseason picked last in the SEC. Houston was preseason ranked #4 in the nation due to a hot shot tailback. The score was 35-0 in favor of the Gators at halftime, and 59-34 when the final whistle blew. I was 13 and completed captivated by the Gator football team – this is when I became a Florida Gator.

  5. Players generally are always enthusiastic about their current crop of coaches. With Mac you saw a team that really was not properly prepared for every game. Hopefully new coaches and better team leadership will make a massive and quick difference. i don’t believe coaches should be the players friends, but rather their partners to get them both the education and athletic achievements they want.