True freshman safety Randy Russell’s playing career may have been ended by a heart condition, but he still remains very much a part of the Florida football team.
“When Randy made the decision to come to the University of Florida, I sat down with him and his mom and I made a promise that I’m here to develop him to not just become a champion in football but a champion in life,” UF coach Dan Mullen said Monday. “My responsibility is to help develop him to have a foundation to be successful for the rest of his life.”
Russell attends practices, meetings and workouts. He’ll be on the sideline for Florida’s home games for the next four years, wearing a Gator jersey.
“Our commitment to him hasn’t changed,” Mullen said. “What he is able to do on the field is different, but our commitment to his development hasn’t changed.
“I love having him be part of of the program because I want him around, I want him around us. I want him learning from us all the time. I know it’s a really hard deal for a young guy because he’s out there and he’s in a different role than he wants to be in, obviously. But he’s still part of the program.”
Camp closure coming
Coming off Sunday night’s scrimmage, the Gators held a relatively light practice in helmets only Monday. They will end preseason camp after Thursday’s practice. Classes start Wednesday.
“We have three big days on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday that really wraps up training camp,” Mullen said. “These are going to be big days for us mentally to keep our focus in that preparation (for the opener).
“That we’re developing ourselves, making sure we’re very comfortable in what we’re doing within the program as compared to when we’re going to compete against somebody else. They’re ready to get to game week.”
The Gators will hold a mock game in The Swamp on Friday, where they will basically be going through a dress rehearsal for the opener.
“How we walk out, how we come out of the tunnel for stretch,” Mullen said. “Guys have got to know how to stretch and how to get lined up and where they stand on the sidelines and how they run on and off the field, what happens between series, how we substitute.
“We’ll run through any situation that can happen during the course of the game so they’ve seen the procedure and how it’s done from the sidelines.”
CBS has come up with anonymous college coaches poll ranking the most overrated and underrated coaches in college football.
Mullen is among the underrated coaches. His counterpart to the north, FSU’s Willie Taggart, is among the overrated.
“I’ve probably got to go write a couple of checks to somebody or something,” Mullen said. “No, it’s awesome, thanks. I was fortunate.
“If anything, it shows maybe people have respect for what I was able to accomplish with our staff and the players at Mississippi State, and where it was before we got there and the consistency of the program while we were there.”
Former high school quarterback Jaylin Jackson, a preferred walk-on true freshman, continues to make some plays at wide receiver. He caught a touchdown in Sunday’s scrimmage.
“He’s an athlete,” Mullen said. “He’s done a good job. A good young player … a freshman trying to figure it out.”
Jackson is undersized (5-foot-8, 171 pounds) and likely won’t play this season.
“This year, probably not,” Mullen said. “As a freshman I don’t know this year. But in the future he might have an opportunity.”
New redshirt rule
Mullen said multiple true freshmen could end up playing this season — either early or late — due to the new NCAA redshirt rule that allows players to redshirt even if they’ve played in four games.
“More freshmen to have the opportunity to get on the field, guys that have worked their tail off,” he said. “Guys that have worked hard, if there’s an opportunity, I love playing a lot of players and I have no problem putting them in the game.
“The rule helps in a lot of different ways with an opportunity to get somebody on the field and get some game experience. It keeps them much more engaged when they know they can still get into a game at some point, instead of, ‘Hey, I’m redshirting and I just shut it down.’ ”