Gators emphasize improving physicality

Kentucky running back Benny Snell Jr. (26) is stopped by Florida defenders Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [Lauren Bacho/Gainesville Sun]

Coach Dan Mullen didn’t need to admit Florida got dominated on both sides of the line. It was likely apparent to even a casual observer.

UF’s 27-16 defeat at the hands of Kentucky reeked of a team overmatched and underprepared, but Mullen stressed it came down to a pillar of the game: physicality.

The offensive line struggled to get push against Kentucky’s front seven, resulting in a run game that looked vastly different from Florida’s 47-point win in the season opener.

The Gators mustered just 128 rushing yards on 28 attempts Saturday as opposed to the Wildcats’ 303 yards on the ground, and UK would need only 13 more carries to do it, too.

Mullen didn’t mince words after the game when addressing Florida’s weaknesses in the early going.

Unable to go back to the drawing board, Mullen said the Gators will continue harping on practicing with a similar effort level, with the intention of undergoing gradual improvement.

I think our physicality is going to be something this team – and we’ve talked about it constantly – they have to continue to work on. And it starts in practice,” Mullen said. “I think guys are kind of used to – like practices are a lot more like a walk-through, and they’re not. That shows you. You don’t end up being a really good physical team when you do that.”

Regardless if that’s a dig at former coach Jim McElwain and his regime or not, the 10 months Mullen has been Florida’s coach have yet to result in a transformation inside the program, despite the noticeable physical changes the team has undergone.

Saturday’s contest showed that Florida’s emphasis on physical improvement in the offseason has yet to translate to physicality on the field.

Senior offensive lineman Martez Ivey, a former five-star prospect who has received criticism for his play in Florida’s first two contests, concurred with Mullen that success on the field starts at practice.

“Have a better week of practice. That’s where it starts at, you know. Practice how you play,” Ivey said. “I know what it takes to win. I just feel as a unit, as a team, we need to take the right steps to compete the way we should have. We’re going to move on to next week, move forward. And we’re gonna define who we are as a team on Monday. You know, in practice, how hard we go.”

With a Colorado State program fresh off of a win against Arkansas — an SEC program that, like Florida, is under new management following a four-win season — the Gators don’t have much time if they hope to further erase the bad habits instituted by the previous program.

“You’ve got to thud. You’ve got to wrap up. You’ve got to drive back. Scout teams have got to perform better and be a little bit more physical. It’s a mind-set of how you practice and how you treat every day,” Mullen said. “We don’t practice very long. We’re not on the field for like three hours. We’re up and down, pretty up-tempo. During that time, we’ve got to make sure we’re practicing at an intensity level that’s going to allow us to perform on Saturday.”



    • Gator-6, you are such an eternal optimist. Don’t think physicality can be teached….it must come from that individual player, and if he doesn’t have it or he doesn’t want to have, no amount of coaching or practicing will change him. It’s an internal drive that makes an athlete play physical.

      • I’m far from it, Jasper — been thru too many missions not to automatically look for problems too — but I would have to say that you’re right about drive or motivation being on or off, either or. I agree that you’d fail if you tried to teach it, but I would suggest that it can be acquired thru two things: (1) strong leadership and, (2) modeling secondary to cohesion. I haven’t really seen leaders emerge, there’s little cohesion, and very little modeling going on within the team right now…..which is subject to change even if we have to take a whole season for it to happen. That would be a crying shame, but if the right spark occurs at the right time……..oh well, as we’re getting used to saying, there’s always next year!

      • Jadper

        I don’t know your experience but mental and physical toughness are learned traits. I agree that you must have the internal desire to achieve but it can be taught. No Army Ranger, Navy Seal, Green Beret, or Delta Operator was ever born. They were selected and developed. Now we could argue the Gator’s selection process.

  1. If you are a strong person with decent technique you should not be dominated as we were. Bad technique might improve with practice of good technique, strength should have been improved already and could be better. What I don’t see it the mental portion of the game. After all our defensive line got little to no pressure allowing that long TD pass, long runs, and if they played at a championship level would have prevented the loss as well.

  2. It’s ridiculous that the coaching staff and players are just realizing this now. Please remove the pudding bar from the weight room. If our experienced linemen want to get physically dominated by 2-3 star athletes of smaller schools, bench them and put some hungry kids in there. They couldn’t do any worse than that joke of a performance we saw Saturday night from both of our “experienced” lines. This isn’t rocket science.

      • Pretty sure you’re the only one I see putting most of the blame on Mullen. Maybe he should put on the pads and go out and play every position on the field? He can only do so much. At some point the players have to go out and execute. Obviously this team has a mindset that was ingrained in them by the previous regime that isn’t going to be quickly corrected. You really have it out for Mullen for some reason and the guy’s only coached 2 games. The expectations you have are totally mind boggling. Most of these offensive coaches were here during the championship heyday. Gonzalez coached some of the best WR’s this program has ever seen. Hevesy coached some of the best offensive lines this program has ever seen, so clearly they know what they’re doing, but again the players have to execute what they’re being taught and they’re obviously not doing that.

    • And seeing how hard and well Jimbo had Texas A&M playing did not help these other coaches. I agree that it may be time to move some younger guys in there. It doesn’t mean a lot when someone has experience only at doing a terrible job and keeps doing a terrible job.

    • The QB is not going to move the chains if there is no running game. KY could rush 4 and drop 7 making it tough on the passing game. KY was getting pressure on the QB while only rushing 4 guys. 5 against 4 and we still get beat at the LOS. This OL is terrible. It is not a phyiscal problem but a mental one. No mental toughness. All the talk about recruiting 5*. The OL has one 5* and he is one of the poorest lineman on the team. He can not play left tackle and has shown that over 4 years.

  3. Obviously we aren’t at practice and don’t know the exact talent the team has but I would consider playing some Freshman on the OL over some of these Juniors/Seniors who have been getting manhandled for the last several years. Maybe this is as good as they are going to get so let’s get the new guys some experience. We also miss Heggie he is the one OL with a mean streak. Ivey looks terrible, 5 star talent who continues to underachieve.

  4. guys …. RELAX…. it was one game, and the reason it made the headlines was the streak. everything is in front of us …. we can still go to JAX as a one-loss team. Then, we will upset the doggies and be RIGHT WHERE we are supposed to be. TOP 15, and controlling our trip to atlanta …. Mullen will get it right…. PATIENCE ….

    • Dave, I’m completely with you on being patient. But you’re living in a dream world if you think that coaching is going to fix all that we saw wrong on Saturday night in just a few days or even weeks. At this point it will take great coaching to get us to 8-4 on the season, and even a bowl eligible season is far from guaranteed. Go Gators!!

      • I appreciate Dave having confidence because that’s what it is going to take, to keep trying, keep picking up the pieces, and having patience in the sense of not giving up. we all know the blocking and the tackling are not where it needs to be. I still think this team can teach itself to do both, and can do it by the end of the year or next offseason. we do have a lot of work to do, I admit. but in the end, we are gators, our culture, in every sport, every thing we do, is to fight, stay with it, and excel. even going backwards is temporary. I feel the anguish, I know there have been changes out there, but we are poised to have a great run in the coming years, lets not go haywire because mac and champ couldn’t get things the way they should be and there is still a little mess to clean up.

  5. I just don’t know if some of these guys have the mental make-up to be successful. They just seem to lack aggression and the willingness to go out and dominate. Further, some of them don’t look like they even want to play football, and it is pretty hard for someone to go out there and brawl play after play when they would rather be at home playing Madden.

    One of the guards repeatedly chose to block no one rather than even just get in the way of the guy streaking through his gap. What can you do with someone who won’t even try to do his job? And could there be a more obvious way for someone to cry “No Mas?” When people show you who they are, believe them, and a lineman who is willing to just stand around and let his QB get hammered is showing me he doesn’t want to be out there.

    Well, it’s going to a long season, so hopefully some of these guys will realize they are in it and need to find it somewhere in themselves to actually go out there and perform not for the fans or the coaches, but for each other.

  6. I would never have thought especially with all the comments over the summer about our S & C, that we would be so dominated by of all people UK. I mean flat out dominated. Every member of the OL and DL should be utterly embarrassed. While I like DM, and think he will do well, I do not consider him an elite coach. I was very impressed with Jimbo Fisher’s team that almost beat Clemson. DM seems like a nice guy, maybe it’s time to crack the whip. UF can’t afford a 6-6 season and expect top recruits to jump aboard. So far, this team is looking much like last years team. I believe fans are running out of patience. how long before seats are empty?

    • “I believe fans are running out of patience. how long before seats are empty?”

      Really?! After TWO games? If that be the case, those that choose to bail can stay gone, and not come back once Mullen rights the ship.

      Some of you folks really, and I mean REALLY, need to get a life.


  7. Matez Ivey is horrible period. He constantly gets beat by Faster, Quicker DE’s 5Star my butt. It’s ridiculous considering their size OL Push is not existent.

    PS Worse 2OLinemen Fred Johnson, and Martez Ivey

    Plus, losing Marco Wilson is going to expose and cripple our Secondary. Our DLINE got no push

  8. so perhaps its time to stop blaming the coaches (Muschamp, Mclwain, now Mullen) and start questioning the character, heart, ant talent level of the players. NO EXCUSES for not tackling (should be taught in Pee Wee football). Their is NO aspect of the game we did well (except the receivers who caught pass after poorly thrown pass, mostly behind them)….please I’ve seen ENOUGH of this QB! He just doesn’t have the mental capability (how could he miss a wide open back in the flat for a TD!). Last criticism, you CAN’T win passing on every down, if you can’t run the ball you are going to lose….for Mullen to pass, pass, pass for 2 games straight is ridiculous. You have to stick with the run, until you get it right or die trying! We have the backs, we don’t have the OL! Where the F was Damien Pierce? Scarlett….no way!

    • That’s my criticism of Mullen…the only one…we did not run enough, and we need to allow for a couple to get a rhythm . This is a strength…

      I do stand by Coach and I know he knows the work he has to do…especially now.

      • Smith, I agree with what I think you said… that we need to pick one RB (or maybe two) and give him enough carries to get warmed up and get a feel for the game. Right now, I think that RB is Perine. He’s not as fast as Davis, but he appears to be much stronger running inside, and I think he has more wiggle than Scarlett.

        That said, if you can’t throw the football, you won’t be able to run it against a good defense either. You’ll notice, I said “good” defense, because I realize both CSU and UK ran all over the Gators, despite the fact that CSU only threw for 3 yards in the game, and the UK QB had a QBR of only 9.3 against Central Michigan. I’m sure Clarabell could’ve done that. UF should’ve been able to load the box against UK, stuff the run, and force Wilson to beat them with his arm, which I’m still convinced he can’t do against a good defense. After watching the UF D make Wilson look like DeShaun Watson last Saturday night, I’m not sure they can stop anybody.

    • I only blame two of the three coaches you mentioned. Muschamp concentrated on the defense and expected them to win games. He seemed to have no idea that a team needed an efficient offense to excel. McElwain couldn’t recruit or coach, period. Mullen is having to go with the players that weren’t successful in the past and probably won’t be very successful in the future. We have to give him a chance to get a roster of his own players.
      As I and others have posted in the past you can’t play cupcakes and gain any idea what kind of team you will have when you play the teams that wear big boy pants.

  9. The Florida o-line is a bunch of panzies! They couldn’t hold a block long enough for anyone of our talented running backs to make an impact! if you can’t block, you can’t run. If you can’t run, you can’t set-up the passing game. Feliepe was under constant pressure. As for our receivers, if you can touch the ball, there is no excuse to drop the ball It looked like they were playing “air ball”. On defense, our line is a bunch of weak panzies as well. They looked like a roll of wet toilet paper … no strength whats so ever. Kentucky’s running game faced little resistance. Tackleing was a joke. Our defensive backs were basically ineffective and an embarassment. At the rate they looked and played, they might not go bowling for a second year in a row! This team was as ill-prepared as I have ever seen a Gator team before. The seniors and juniors better take control and show leadership. If I were Coach Mullen, I’d strip the “Gators” off their helement and take the Gator head logo off their jersey until team can play and identify like the Gators of the past.

  10. It’s clear that the Gators’ did not have the right mentality in practice leading up to the UK game. They prepared for the streak. The streak says that UK never beats Florida, and when you believe that, you don’t worry too much in practice. Why practice hard, when you’re going to win anyway? Chauncey-Gardner’s mouth made their practice mentality crystal clear when he guaranteed a win. So, now what? Hopefully the team realizes that was a HUGE mental mistake, and hopefully the student leaders make sure they never make that mistake again. Go practice hard this week, and do not take Colorado State lightly! GO GATORS!

  11. Agree. the 4th quarter body language from Franks says it all. He’s too busy talking trash to other team about cramping up rather than getting his guys focused in the huddle.

    He’s got A LOT of growing up to do. I just hope it’s not in Gainesville.

  12. This team is not that good. We can blame Mullen all we want but he has to play with what he was dealt. The front 7 was awful. They over-pursued and did a terrible job with containment. They were shoved around and lacked any sort of motivation. I’m sure Mullen was frustrated with their play and wanted to pull every single one of them. The problem is that there are no back-ups. There are no quality players to put in there. You can coach players to stay in their gaps and contain and come up with the perfect scheme, but if they won’t do it or can’t do it, a coach’s hands are tied.

    The OL has been bad for years and this year is no different. The play calling was suspect but Mullen knew this OL was bad. He left 7 men in to block in the first series because he knew that they were going to struggle. Sure, I think he abandoned the running game, but he also knew that the running backs were getting hit 7 yards in the backfield, so an incompletion actually saved yards.

    We should not be surprised at this. Muschamp left the program with 7 scholarship linemen so Mac recruited this entire line. All of these players are a reflection of the coach that recruited them. Mac was lazy, flippant and seemed to lack understanding and heart. He recruited these guys. He was the type of man these players wanted to commit to and play for at UF. The players with want-to and self-motivation went to other schools. Recruiting is the key because right now our players are the ones who looked at Coach Mac and said, “This is the guy I relate to and want to play for.”

    Currently our two “leaders” in the trenches are Ivey and CeCe Jefferson. Ivey is just not that good and Jefferson can’t even get himself on the field to show if he is good or not.

    This is a program that has averaged 5+ losses over the last 10 years. Foley hired two duds as coaches and ignored the facilities. This program has been sent back to the mid to late 80s, and I’d argue the teams were tougher then.

    I think we are in good shape for the future with Mullen and Strickland but this is not an easy hole to crawl out of quickly. Recruiting is hard when you have soft players on your team and average 5+ losses a year. In addition, the facilities are light years behind so there is no draw there either. Strickland is already putting plans together to improve the facilities but it takes time when there were no plans in the first place. Mullen is a good coach and you can already see small improvements with the players that want to improve or have transferred from other programs. He needs time to get his own guys in here, who are committed to his way of thinking. Until then he will try to make lemons into lemonade, but the taste is still sour.

    • Great point about these players reflecting the sloth and flippant attitude of Captain Yellow Teeth. He was always talking about the players being “fn to be around” as if that was all that mattered, and I think he attracted players who reflected his own mentally weak character. Can Mullen change them and turn them from lazy little boys who don’t care about their team mates into men? I am starting to doubt it, but we’ll see.

  13. They are going to have to do something. The offensive line is weak as evidenced by our rushing numbers for the first two games, and the missed tackles or poor pass coverage on defense shows a weakness there as well. Not sure if its coaching, the players’ physical talent or both. In any case unless these guys improve or we bring in better skilled players in the future, we will be looking up from the SEC cellar for a while.

  14. I too believe DM chooses to pass more knowing this OL cannot run block. Heck, UK’s DL was there to meet our rb’s after the hand off. It’s clear, the OL once again is a dud and will limit the offense. The jury is still out on Franks. Yes he missed some open receivers but often times he was getting hammered because Johnson had no idea what he was doing. Listen, when you can’t open holes and run, you become one dimensional. That’s hard enough for a good qb, but its even tougher on a suspect qb. Until UF gets a good to average OL, this offense is going to suffer.

    I had hoped that the D would be the strength of this team, but after watching them, we are below average. I had hoped that a 9-3 season or 8-4 season was possible this year. Not now. We will be fortunate to go 6-6. I’m afraid, it’s going to take several years to right this ship meanwhile, UGA is becoming Alabama of the east. By the time we get our act together, UGA will be so far ahead of us, it may be impossible to catch up. (Its also possible that Kirby has learned from Bama’s money handlers, how to entice top recruits and not get caught. How else can you explain multiple 5 star recruits at the same position? I believe it is possible and it is being done to cheat and not get caught. Some schools do it and some don’t. It’s a shame college sports has come to that.)

  15. OL is a problem. Franks wasn’t horrible, there were more than a few drops. I think he can get the job done. Despite being dominated we still could have won that game. Kentucky really wanted it and yes, they were long overdue in having things go their way. The sky isn’t falling, at least not yet. What is most concerning is the DL; they were dominated, couldn’t finish tackles and got no pressure on the QB. In general, the D couldn’t make enough stops in critical situations. The loss of Marco Wilson is a big blow and will likely cost us a game or two down the line. Remember, y’all; in all kinds of weather… Let’s just win Saturday.

  16. I agree also that Coach is passing because he knows the offensive line can not block an open up holes for the running backs. He really does not have much of a choice in his game plan, also he doesn’t have the second string offensive line players to put in. He is stuck with what he has, and what we have seen for the past 3 years with these players. They are just not that good. You don’t and won’t win the Kentucky Derby with a mule.

  17. Mental intensity, and desire. The will to win starts well prior to the season. Blown gap assignments, failures to recognize stunts/twists et all are part of mental intensity. I have not witnessed extreme focus or intensity from this group of linemen. Last year the penalties were a red flag on mental focus. If the O-line can’t run block, we will not have a winning season. I believe they are big enough, strong enough. Not sure they are intense enough. We will find out against Colorado State, they just beat Arkansas, and now believe they can beat another SEC team. I hope our O-Line “paves the road” for our backs. Go Gators!

  18. I’m not going write a volume, we got whipped in the trenches on BOTH sides of the ball…we failed to wrap up on tackles that should have stopped drives! Franks had a decent game, he missed a few open receivers, but had 5-6 drops. If we can’t tackle? We are going to lose to UT, MSU, LSU, USC, and UGA will embarrass us again…plain and simple!

  19. When the Gator defense was great, the players worked as a cohesive unit and you saw a lot of gang tackles. The middle linebacker was a head hunter and a leader. The corners and the safeties were both territorial, flying all over for the ball, and they were punishing hitters. Not seeing much of that. Wonder why? Maybe because right now these guys are in a new scheme and leaders haven’t really emerged. It won’t happen overnight, but it would be nice to see it start budding soon. Meanwhile, all of us fans should consider showing more discretion with all the harsh comments simply because everybody knows that if you keep telling a person how sorry he is it will get in his head and he will start to believe it. Have some faith and positive energy and people can surprise you. These guys need to hear that they can still find the drive and toughness that everybody expects of them as long as they don’t lose heart. They have a great strength program, good coaching, and the best fans in the SEC and the season is still young. I just hope they’ll start investing all they can muster–and then some–to give it their best shot every day until it pays off. To go out and set an example as a team to attract recruits who will want to join them in getting the Gators back on top. No matter how long it takes.