Gators accept Mullen’s challenge

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Florida coach Dan Mullen works the sideline Saturday against Kentucky on Florida Field. Gators lost 27-16 [Alan Youngblood/Gainesville Sun]

After Saturday night’s humbling loss to Kentucky, Florida coach Dan Mullen called out his players, challenging them to come back to work Monday focusing on becoming tougher and playing harder.

They’ve apparently accepted the challenge. At least they have so far, Mullen said Wednesday.

“I think our guys have had a very positive attitude toward practicing this week,” Mullen said. “They’ve come out with some energy and are trying to take a step forward to continue to grow and get us up to the level we expect to play at.

“The attitude part is really good. We’ve just got a lot of work to do to get better. I haven’t seen a whole lot of resistance from the guys. We try to show them the things we need to do, show them the things we need to improve on.”

It became evident in the 27-16 loss to Kentucky that the Gators lack toughness and are not playing with the relentless effort Mullen is demanding of them. They were physically dominated on both sides of the ball, especially on the lines of scrimmage.

In the postgame locker room, Mullen addressed the issues with his players and told them things were going to change starting with Monday’s practice, saying there is going to be a focus on getting tougher and playing harder, meaning practices are going to be much more demanding physically and mentally.

So far, the players have been willing participants in the new, get-tough plan, Mullen said.

“It takes time,” Mullen said. “Just watching film, you’re constantly asking guys, ‘Is that as hard as you can go?’ When the answer is no, you question why, and they say, ‘Well, I thought I was going hard?’

“They’re learning how to push themselves to a new level. The attitude has been positive and that’s what you can build off of. If the attitude comes out as negative, ‘Woe is me,’ that’s really hard to build off of.

“If the attitude is positive and they want to look at, ‘How can I get better, what’s the solution to the problem?,’ then you have an opportunity to improve. That’s been their attitude.”

As promised, practices this week have been more physically demanding and more intense. The players seem fine with that.

“I feel like we’ve just stepped up to the plate and had a great week of practice so far,” junior offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor said. “I feel like we’re stepping up to the plate a lot more in physicality, and I feel like it’s going to show up on Saturday.

“There’s a lot more sense of urgency in practice. I feel like we’re practicing a lot harder and stepping up to the challenge, and it’s showing.”

Based on preseason camp, the coaches came into the UK game feeling the Gators were physically ready to hold their own in SEC play. The Wildcats showed them they’re not, so there’s been a change in attitude, a change in practice approach.

Looking back pre-Kentucky, rush end Jachai Polite said the Gators were not practicing hard enough or competing the way they should have.

“We have to practice harder and take it more seriously,” he said. “We’ve been laid back, not going hard, but that’s all out the window now. I know it’s getting fixed now.

“Everything is more like intense, everything. Every little detail. It was just the energy, competition and that’s really it.”

Polite said the energy level on the practice field has increased dramatically this week. He said it had been way too low before the Gators were awakened by the loss Saturday night.

“I just know it was not enough (before),” he said. “It wasn’t enough.”

The loss to Kentucky revealed a lot about this Florida football team. What it showed the most is the Gators have got to become tougher and more physical if they hope to have success in the SEC this season — and beyond.

It’s started on the practice field this week.

“It’s the only way you can get tougher, through practice,” Mullen said. “I can’t just wave a wand over them and all of a sudden they become tougher. You have to practice it.”

88 COMMENTS

  1. I really like Coach Mullen, but I hate to say this team looks terrible. They made UK look like world beaters. Unfortunately, I watched Central Michigan take it UK the week before they played the gators. I am afraid UF has not bottomed out yet, perhaps a 3-9 or 4-8 team before Mullin turns it around in year two or three. It is going to be a long season.

    • It’s very easy to assume UK was looking ahead to the Gator game and weren’t quite as focused as they should’ve been against CM. You can’t really look at that game as an indictment for how the Gators played them. They’re a much better team than most people give them credit for and they’ll win a lot of games this season. Don’t underestimate the motivation the streak brought them as well.

      • Not true, I bleed gator orange and blue, but you can’t deny this team is just not very good. You knew it when they could not effectively run against a bad FCS squad. In a line of scrimmage league like the SEC, we are terrible on both sides of the ball. It will take Mullin some time to right the ship, too bad instead of just taking all the MSU coaches, Mullin should have brought the offensive and defensive lines with him when he joined team. Again, I am a hater, just a realistic guy who has been a fan for more than 50 years.

    • The OL played better too against an over matched CS team too. Franks ran around more against KU because he had to! He had all kind of time to toss the ball around against CS, definitely not so much against KU. Franks was better against KU considering he had 1-2 sec to get rid of the ball compared to 4-5 seconds against CS. You are just looking at it as if CS is the same as KU and there is a HUGE difference. pathetic comparison IMO. Who’s to say that KU will be the only team in the east to challenge UGA? Does that change your thinking then? Compare Franks to last season, has there been improvement? Stop the old McElwain negative talk and get with the new Mullen positive talk. We as fans have to make the change too not just the Gators and from what I can see by most posts, that’s not changing!

        • Oh so if a person isnt all wine and roses they arent a Gator, they cant express what they see as wrong with the program according to u 2! Screw that, everyone has the right to say their piece whether you agree with it or not and they are just as much a Gator as you’ll ever be, who died and made u 2 the judge of what makes a true gator fan? Arrogant jerks!

          • daz. Where in Pure’s post did he analyze anything? I do not call out posts that provide insightful and intelligent analysis regardless of its nature. I do call out unsupported posts and “pure” negativity, however. And intelligent and positive thinking is never arrogant, but it certainly can be assumed to be by those who call others “jerks”.

  2. This was a pitiful tackling exhibition. The players were in position but could not execute, there is no blame on the coaches for preparation. They were in the right spot to make plays, the players did NOT execute. My two complaints with coaching was, (and I know Mullen wants to open up the offense,but) we kept throwing long balls when you only needed to move the sticks. The play in the REDZONE 2nd and one and we roll out deep to pass (with that WEAK o-line and got sacked). That changed the attitude of the players and they could not shake it off. From that point on, they really showed NO energy and confidence that they felt like they could come back and win that game. Lastly, short passes across the middle (where is that TIGHT END OFFENSE we were going to showcase). It was a long ride back to SC for me!

        • I think the disappointment ranged from minor to major, depending on where each of us were at in perspective. Some regulars have taken a break from posting, not sure what that means, but glad you’re back in the mix, Creek.

          • Creek, Last time I checked blocking and tackling are coached and if they arent being done right its the coaches fault! These guys dont suddenly do it different in a game; that should have been corrected in practice, awhile back!

          • daz. It is sometimes hard to teach an old dog new tricks. The dog has to be open to being retrained to do new and better tricks. And sometimes the dog just reverts back to old tricks that do not work well anymore or never did. Havesty did not suddenly become a bad OL coach. But the Florida line needs to listen to him and suddenly become a better OL. And nothing I just posted is “arrogant” or “jerky” Just the truth.

  3. If the Gator fans would stop with the Toxic negativity and get behind their program. Stop with the Soap Opera this isn’t General Hospital. In all kinds of weather doesn’t mean when your just on top. Let the clown from the Orlando sentinel Bianchi bash the team. Don’t stoop to his level of unprofessional journalism. Along with others in the media.

        • I don’t think oldman precluded that at all, but at the present moment no amount of wishful thinking will change the present. Now, tomorrow may be different, and hell, by this Saturday we may indeed come up smelling like roses! I sure hope so.

          • Yea , I hope for a difference by saturday, but realistically you dont turn that around in 1 week! Guys learning how to block and tackle and play with intensity takes time to develop!

          • daz. I thought you posted it was the coaching, not the players, above. What is it? Again, not meant to be “arrogant” or “jerky”. Just prefer consistent thinking.

        • Very true Tampa Gator we are heading in the right direction. For some fans it’s that millenial mindset; if I don’t get my way now. They cry and whine about it. This is going to take some time; but Mullen will have us back on top.

  4. This all sounds good, but we’ll see what transpires this Saturday. Surprisingly, Colorado St. could present a real challenge for the Gators . Arkansas may be this year’s weak sister in the SEC, but CSU beat them last week with a strong comeback in Q4. Based on the Gator performance last week, this game will be no cupcake especially if Robbie’s column here shows up as all talk and no action. Let’s go “Fight’n” Gators!!

    • Mullen has spoken, Dan, so I’m listening. I don’t care what any player said, and for that matter, as much as I respect them both, I don’t care what Pat and Robbie say (or said) either. I didn’t take away from Mullen’s comments that things have changed, just that he is addressing it. Fair enough, but I won’t know which Gator team will show up this Saturday until the game is over. I kind of get the impression that’s where you’re at too.

      • Yep. How many times in the past few years have we read and heard it said that the OL was going to be vastly improved or the QB has finally grasped the need to study the playbooks? I’m still waiting to actually see it on the field.

      • Gator-6, don’t get me wrong, I remain firmly behind Mullen, and I also trust what he says. It’s the players that I question. I just feel that the real response from the players will be known from what they bring to the playing field Saturday and not just a final score. We are in synch in needing to see which team shows up Saturday, and if whatever improvement they may show from last week can be carried forward with further effort and improvement next week in Knoxville.

        • I’m with you pal……beat Colorado State soundly like any SEC team should, then (and only then), go into Knoxville with an improved attitude, play that game like
          Gators should, and come back with a good victory. The way forward; one game at a time. I hope, in retrospect, Kentucky was the best thing that ever happened to us.

  5. JUST WORDS…..I need to see it in Action. How we play against Colorado St. and Tennessee will show if these players just say what you want to hear. I’m tired of the BS Player talk show GATOR NATION on the Field…… or else this will be a long season

  6. The O-line continues the pattern of failure to monitor their assigned gaps. Several times on a delayed blitz, the guards were double blocking and let the linebacker in untouched. One or two missed assignments kill all offenses. And get the QB hit hard.
    Likewise our defense failed to maintain their assigned lanes or edges and we got torched
    Both of these are mental mistakes. Situational awareness is critical, and thus far we have displayed very little. I hope and believe these are fixable. Go Gators

  7. September has ‘5’ Saturdays in it, and my question is ”can Florida Football go 3-2 for the month of Sept.?”
    I hope its 4-1, but I know that’s unlikely given the U.K. game’s outcome. Only time will tell, but ‘IF’ Florida loses to Tennessee, then this season could go south fast. Perhaps it’s a 2-3 month? Just not sure anymore about my hometown team, Florida. And Coach Mullen and his staff are probably ”not sure”, either.

    • GI, the Gators will destroy the Vols something along the lines of 65-0. Franks will have at least 5 TDs by the air and at least 3 of our RBs will be over 100 yards each, while the Gator defense holds ’em to at least 100 negative yards. Our total offensive production will be in excess of 600 yards.

      Ahhh, that was a nice nap. What time is it?

      I’m not making anymore predictions unless Dan Mullen says so himself.

  8. If I am not mistaken, Urban Meyer went 8-5 in his 1st season as head coach of the Gators and Kirby Smart went 8-5 in his first season with Georgia. You know their stories after that.

    It is 1 game. RELAX. Relentless Effort is taught not inherited.

  9. Mullen and Graham have to demand more from coaches and players. Run them into the ground and what’s left will play and coach to win. This is not a gentlemen’s club. Only the really tough survive…just do it with respect. Go Gators!

  10. Please don’t confuse the talent Urban Meyer inherited with our “talent”.

    In addition to the new physicality rules – I would add these:

    1. Until UF wins a bowl game AND beats FSU – NO PREGAME SMACK!
    2. Until UF wins a bowl game and beats FSU – NO HOTDOGGING OR SMACK DURING THE GAMES.

    Since Tennessee 2 years ago, Georgia last year, and Kentucky last week, Florida players’ smack talk has been an embarrassment. Hotdogging during the game WHEN YOU ARE LOSING – is pathetic.

    • Steve, I am so with you brother on this. Both the hot dogging and smack talk have become endemic in all levels of football and I am sick of it. A couple weeks ago I watched my old HS team play on ESPN, as they are ranked in top 5 nationally. They won handily, but the constant displays of prancing around and thumping their chest after catching a 5 yard pass or making a tackle after a 20 run by the other guys made me ill. The way the Gators pranced and celebrated last week after scoring their first touchdown, you’d think they had won the game. Go win the game first; prance then if you need to.. This “hey look at me” stuff needs to go, but I’m old school so I know that won’t happen. But I have hope. The only encouraging words I read from Lemmons statement after saying he was transferring was describing how Mullen has been much sterner with his discipline than Mac, so I am hoping that over time we have a coach that will get this fixed.

      • Dan, you and Steve both have it right as far as I’m concerned. I’ve posted a little about what I call “quiet confidence”, but not much. That’s based on a football game my Dad took me to at Ft Lee, Va back in 1958. I think it was my first football game ever, I was just a kid, and two years away from my first Florida game and life-long love affair with the Gators. Ray Graves made the same impression on me later as did the team from Bolling AFB, but they were first. (This was back when the military played big league football between bases, posts, and stations–which I wish they still did)

        Bolling’s players were each introduced by name, followed by which NFL team they were property of for their two years of military service. Ft Lee’s players, not so much as far as the latter, so the 4,000 or so in attendance knew it was going to be a slaughter, and it was, by the merciful score of 38-0 when it could have easily been 3 times that much. But Bolling’s conduct was what got me. While Ft Lee was jumping and pumping all over the place, taunting and so forth, Bolling remained calm, helped opposing players to their feet, walked away from trouble and let the refs handle it, and as far as celebrations, just calmly handed the ball back to the ref after each touchdown.

        I asked my Dad to explain the difference — he just said, “Because they’re professionals, but even if they weren’t, they know they’re better than that anyway and don’t have to”.

        That was 60 years ago and I’ve never forgotten it. Like I said, Ray Graves was the same kind of quiet professional, with the same kind of “quiet confidence”.

      • Dan F. Couldn’t have said it better myself! It’s so boring to continually watch someone celebrate even after a short catch or point for a first down. Like we can’t tell it’s a first down. Go back to huddle and play football. After a touchdown – sure but keep it to a minimum and save your celebrating until after the game – if we win!

        • And how about the ones where an opposing offensive receiver drops a catchable ball, and our DB starts jumping up and down, beating his chest and giving the incomplete hand signals like HE did something!! That’s the worst. I had to leave at the beginning of the 4th quarter, I just couldn’t watch that line play any longer. The tape shows what they need to do. Here’s to hoping we get Cece and DReese back this week.

    • And embarrassing (at least it should be). This behavior is one of the many things I don’t get about this team. When a player makes a tackle (not very often in our case) it is because 10 other guys also did their jobs. When a good run or pass reception is made, the other 10 guys did their jobs. I don’t get the chest thumping, show boating, and trash talking even win winning. Make a good play, and get your ass back to the huddle and back to work! Behave as if you have actually made a play before. I remember the old TV commercial where the remark was made to a show boater – “Their is no I in TEAM.” The guy replied – “Their ain’t no WE either.” Well, there ain’t much WIN in a team without WE. Time will tell. Go Gators!

    • I agree with you too. If you look at the current standard bearers, Bama and UGA, those guys carry themselves differently than our guys do. (they look different too, as in chiseled football players). They just come out from the first play and smack guys in the mouth and play tough football for 60 minutes, without any of the show crap. That…. is where we need to get to.

      • All of you gentlemen have it right. While watching the game I was dismayed at the smack/trash talking/acting being done the whole game. Both teams displayed this disturbing trend but coming from my Gators (more often than not) while losing was sad……I can only hope that they get it together, redirect this energy into actually playing good football and win games…otherwise it will be another long season. Until then, Go Gators!

  11. Coch Mullen , I have complete with in you and that you are the right man for the Job, but please change the quarterback , we do need aa due that sane quarterback. Franks will never mature and he will not find he open receiver. Now days Freshmen are ready to start and the guy has been learning for three years , he should go live with his mama.
    Have mercy on us and start the quarterback from Ohio stat Please, Please, pretty please

  12. Coch Mullen , I have complete faith in you and that you are the right man for the Job, but please change the quarterback , we do need a duel sane quarterback. Franks will never mature and he will not find he open receiver. Now adays Freshmen are ready to start and the guy has been learning for three years , he should go live with his mama.
    Have mercy on us and start the quarterback from Ohio stat Please, Please, pretty please

  13. It’s not the loss, it’s how they looked loosing. Kentucky whooped off and def lines like children. The biggest concern should have been Frank’s improvement, and he is not really in the discussion at this point. How do you get stronger in a week, even McElwaine lines didn’t get bullied that bad.

    • Wishful thinking most likely. The ’08 team didn’t get dominated by Ole Miss the way UK dominated last Saturday despite having a QB who’s basically another running back. The current Gators don’t have Tebow and Harvin, either. Still, I’m hopeful that Coach Mullen & Co. can right the ship get the team moving in the right direction. Go Gators!

  14. Great coaches get players to achieve, and sometimes, exceed their potential. But when your roster is comprised of mostly 3-4 star talent, the upside is capped. Yeah yeah there are a few great 3-star examples out there, but it’s the exception not the rule. This project will take time…

  15. There is something called “tackling” in football. There is also something about cornerbacks using peripheral vision when they are covering the sidelines. At this point, I do not see a lot of physicality in this team, both on the O and the D. Please prove me wrong.

  16. Boy how incriminating to hear players say “yeah, we weren’t practicing with energy and we were laid back, etc. but now we are awake…” I guess they thought 4-7 last season was ok and there is magic in the helmet they are wearing. How do they think you can get a scholarship to college and not give it your all? The culture is awful and Mullen needs time to get the right kind of players into the system. I am really disappointed in the players attitude and have grown tired of all the players speak. Show your “more awake” attitude on the field so I don’t have to stand during the game with my hand on my forehead asking what the heck we did during the off season,

  17. It all boils down to pride and manliness. These guys have confused arrogance with pride, and gangsta attitudes with manliness. It seems they are more willing to fight with air soft guns and frying pans than they are in pads and helmets. One can explore the nature/nurture aspects for answers, but it results from a sense of entitlement and (false) superiority because they have been the better athletes in a much smaller universe since childhood, and have been pampered and idolized because of it. A sad example of this is all the ridiculous self-serving hype on signing day after recruiting. It takes coaches like SOS, Saban, and let’s hope Mullen, to deflate the overblown egos and make a team from toe-dancing prima donnas. I think the upper classmen are a lost cause based on their amazing admissions of half-assed effort and their embarrassing display of smack and swagger while getting their butts kicked. This will take at least 3 years to sort-out. We have to be patient. Certainly we can offer our opinions here and among each other, but once the Gators put on the Orange & Blue and take the field, we need to be chompin’ away and loud and proud until the last whistle blows.

  18. It mostly boils down to an administration that has not committed itself to football. We have been told to let the latest regime to clean up the previous regime since Ron Zook left and that has been 9 years. The AD has talked ad nauseum about a stand alone facility for football, and announced it in April. Now there are no shovels in the ground and seemingly off the radar. The coaching staff was obviously told NOT to recruit against Kirby because after Fields, they have not brought in any talent that Kirby is going after.
    The SEC produced a lot of revenue, but the administration is not prepared to compete and maybe don’t care to if they cannot recruit, or the staff is handcuffed. We should be happy to maybe get to 7 and 5 in a few years.

    • Gary, I fear you may be right! Why else would you hire a coach with a losing record to turn you program around? You need 5 star players to win in the SEC. You do not need criminals they are not worth the effort.
      Give the players a reason to choose UF.

  19. Not really sure why everyone is so up in arms about this loss to Kentucky. Other than being dominated on both lines of scrimmage, receivers dropping numerous passes, a quarterback who throws a football with the finesse of a flame thrower, players challenging the coaches in the locker room after the game, senior “leaders” being suspended for failure to attend classes and numerous players getting into trouble during the off season…we are looking great.

  20. Please excuse me because I have to LOL. 🙂 If there’s any player that did not accept the challenge, that would mean they’s accepted another challenge which is to see how warm they can keep the benches. Of course, they have to accept the challenge! What other choice to they have? But It remain to be seen on Saturday who really did accept the challenge and who acted like they did. But, I am not going to be sweating it because it’s hard not to be focused after a tough loss. Who ever doesn’t buy into the Mullen way should start drafting their transfer request letter rather wasting a scholly. That said, Florida wins by 13 but I am guessing they don’t score 30. I have a score in mind but I’d rather keep it to myself.

    Go Gators!!