Notebook: Gators committed to freshman no longer playing because of heart ailment

Florida coach Dan Mullen. [Cyndi Chambers/Correspondent]

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.”

Mullen underrated

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.”

Impressive walk-on

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.’ ”



  1. Jaylin Jackson will likely play and play a lot when he is up to around 195 to 200 lbs. of lean muscle. Currently, he likely would go down earlier to injury than Toney did last year in SEC play, and Toney was bigger last season than Jackson is now. But Jackson is a juke, speed machine, and I can see him becoming a dynamic kick returner and slot receiver option in a year or two. Go Gators.

      • TJ.
        Naturally built genes on the Florida roster:
        Brandon Ackerman 5’9″ 224
        Qualin Crum 5’9″ 220
        Dre Massey 5’9″ 190
        Damian Pierce 5’9″ 216
        Issac Ricks 5’8″ 225
        and Kadarius Toney is now up to 190 on his 5’10” frame and is still skinny. But at 5’8″, 200 lbs might be too much for a slot receiver. Probably best to be 190 to 195 lbs to play that position in the SEC. He can’t play it at 172 lbs., that is for sure.

        • I wouldn’t say he can’t play at that size in the SEC. Look no further than Isaiah Mackenzie who played WR for Georgia at 5′-7″ 173 lbs. He had 44 rec for 633 yds and 7 tds and actually declared for the NFL early and was drafted in the 5th rd in 2017.

          • Joe. MacKenzie was repeatedly injured while playing for Georgia, due mostly to his size. That now has been repeated in the NFL.

    • I thought the same thing, that UF was not going to play freshmen. Surprised all the grammar police and “professors” on these boards have not roasted the author for such a poorly written and misleading headline

  2. nat moore was pretty much the same size, 5 foot nine and 185 pounds, walked on, but I think he was a year or two older. what a player, id love to see jaylin Jackson do the same things. exciting just to think about it.

    • Jaylin is barely over 170 lbs. right now. I think he came to Florida barely over 160 lbs. He needs to add about 15 to 25 lbs to play now in the SEC. Nat Moore would as well if he played today. Toney found that out last year.

    • Mveal, good memory. Since Moore later had such great success as a wide receiver with the Miami Dolphins, not many remember that he was a running back at UF and darn good one at that. He ran out of the I formation as a tailback and was quick as lightning and could run inside when needed. One of the all-time Gators!

  3. Nice story regarding how Randy Russell is being included and developed. Jaylin Jackson is a PLAYER and Gator Nation is proud to have this superb athlete on the team! Great to have such a great coaching staff working with these exceptional players! Go Gators!

  4. TE Raymond and OC Villano were awarded scholarships today. The video is on 247Sports/Florida if you want to watch the fun of it all at practice. Nice to see hard work and dedication pay off for those two players and their parents. Both will be key players on special teams this year and likely on goal line situations as well. Go Gators.

  5. I think Mullen’s continued investment in Russell’s life is a strong statement to all the recruit’s parents. CDM cares about your boys and not JUST because they’re good football players. Your boys are in good hands on and off the field with CDM. Go Gators!