Since those early struggles in the loss to Kentucky in the second week of the season, Florida has steadily grown more productive on offense and defense over the past five games,
Head coach Dan Mullen said the Gators are making a natural progression on both sides of the ball. The more they play in a new system, the better they’re getting.
“We execute much cleaner,” Mullen said Monday. “You’ve seen us throughout the year just execute everything much cleaner. And with that comes confidence of call plays, whether it’s offense or defense. You call a play and from the beginning of the year to now you see guys a lot more confident in what they’re doing out there on the field, which allows you to play faster, allows you to execute better and it gives you more opportunities to go make plays.
“Because you’re more confident about what’s going on. That’s just something that comes with time. They’ve been running this offense and defense now for seven games. So, they’re running it more confidently and at a higher level than they did earlier in the year.”
In the top 10 again
The 6-1 Gators have cracked the top 10, quite an achievement for a team that seemed barely in the top 50 after the early loss to UK.
Mullen seems pleased with where the Gators are sitting, in the No. 9 spot of The Associated Press rankings heading into Saturday’s game against Georgia.
“It’s pretty cool,” he said. “Yeah, it’s good. We’re as good as your last game, so hopefully we’ll be ranked in the top 10 after this week. If we are, then that’s a good thing. When you win games, the next one becomes bigger.
“The rankings, to me, are fun. More important to me is where you are at the end of the season. You really find out what type of team you are at the end of the year, where your rankings are at the end of the year.”
Mullen was asked what type of team the Gators are near the midpoint of the season.
“I think we’re a team that is really learning how to play hard and play together as a team and finding ways to win,” he said. “I don’t think we’re a team you point at and say, ‘Wow, they are just this smothering, dominating defense or this explosive, high-scoring offense. They’re a team that plays together as a team and does what they need to do to win.’ And we play that way.”
Learning from the loss
Mullen said there was a definite upside to the Gators’ loss to Kentucky.
“Their understanding of how to prepare for a game and play in different games,” he said. “That your performance on Saturday is a reflection of how you practiced during the week. That just because you have a Gator helmet on, doesn’t mean everything is going to work out fine and we’ll be OK.
“If we don’t put in the time, if we don’t put in the work, in every phase of the game, we can’t expect to be successful. I think that’s the biggest thing that our guys have really bought into. That it’s not about one thing or another; it’s about everyone on the team living up to do their part and live up to the standard.”
Mullen’s bye weekend
Mullen used the weekend off to watch some football and spend time with his family. He didn’t let himself do that earlier in his head coaching career.
“I’ve gotten a lot better at it,” he said. “I enjoy time with the family, with my wife and kids, having dinner with the family. I’ve learned through the years to be able to turn it off and how to become a dad every once in a while, too.”
Prepping for two QBs
Even though true freshman Georgia quarterback Justin Fields did not play in the Bulldogs’ loss to LSU two weeks ago, the Gators are preparing to face two quarterbacks Saturday — Fields and starter Jake Fromm.
“I’m sure we’ll see (Fields),” Mullen said. “I think he’s played in a bunch of games this year. They’ve used him primarily as a runner. You have the opportunity to create some new wrinkles within your scheme, within your system.
“We’ll see. If we get more of him in the game, obviously it’s a little different player than Fromm in what he does with his skill set. Obviously, being a little more of a runner in how they utilize him. But we’ve got to be ready for both of them.”
What’s up with Slaton?
Sophomore defensive tackle T.J. Slaton did not see any playing time in the last two games after starting the first two games of the season and seeing extensive playing time in the three games after that.
Mullen said there’s nothing unusual going on with Slaton.
“No, just practice, execution,” he said. “He’s got to continue to work and develop to get reps.”
Slaton said before the start of the season that his goal was to break the UF single-season record for sacks. He has none so far.