Notebook: Gators executing much cleaner, Mullen says of progress

Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks (13) hugs wide receiver Freddie Swain (16) after they combined for an 11-yard touchdown pass against Vanderbilt in the second half of the Oct. 13 game in Nashville, Tenn. Florida won 37-27. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

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.



  1. I knew when I read that quote that the kid had been reading too many of his own clippings. Hopefully he will refrain from pouting, humble himself and accept good coaching and fulfill the tons ( no pun intended ) of potential that he has. The whole ” bam bam twins ” thing was just another example of macelnuss’s ineptitude at player development. Anyone can look at a 6’6″ , 350 lb guy that can dunk and run with agility and see the potential there but it doesn’t just magically develop into an all sec, record setting player without a lot of hard work and good coaching. I am hoping that he and Conliffe both come on strong starting with this weekend and finish this season grading out as champions on a championship team. GO TJ , GO Gators !

    • At what point do you switch Slaton back to his natural position in which he was the #3 overall recruit in the nation coming out of high school? I understand wanting to play defense, but damn, you can’t even get on the field. I have a feeling he’d be on his way to all american if he were playing guard right now. It’s crazy the coaches aren’t making that move.

      • Good question Joe. It seems the young man has his heart set on playing defense which I can understand due to the recognition factor that he seems to have a craving for. Seems like I remember reading an article about him being adopted by another family in high school sort of like the ” blind side ” story and so he probably has not had very much positive recognition or re-enforcement in his life which would make it very understandable. Hopefully he is now getting sound advice and with maturity will begin to realize that wherever his God given talents and skillset allow him to have the most success is where he needs to be playing at. Also thinking long term in his case, he has all the tools in the box to play on Sundays and if I’m not mistaken, the only player on the field making more cabbage than the left tackle is the QB or possibly a rush end which he is never going to become..

  2. “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.”

    Good one to point out, Robbie. Whenever I hear a player make predictions on their stats for the upcoming season I question if they are going to have any impact at all. I hope that this helps Slaton mature and become a great player for the Gators.

    On the other hand, when Mullen says that the team is executing much cleaner, I take him at his word. Regardless of what happens against that other team on Saturday, this will be a great way for the Gators to learn about who they are. If we win, GREAT. If we don’t, it will provide an excellent barometer for moving forward. Based on what the season has showed us so far, Mullen really does seem to have the coaching ability to develop these guys into a high level team. Time will only tell how high that ceiling can be. Go Gators!

    • Good analysis Brian, and ignore comments about not understanding what this rivalry game is about — if we win out a win the National Championship, that would fantastic, but each game this season is really about diagnostics and progression, with the ultimate goal of a recruiting bonanza. This is Year One. In Year Two we should be much more dominant, and in Year Three we should really be sniffing an SEC or NC.

      (I think we beat Georgia this year regardless)

  3. I have a good feeling about slaton this week. It’s a little cooler, he’s had a break and I think he may not play a lot but will do well in the plays he is on the field for. If we can keep it close I like our chances. Georgia games are harder to predict and there is usually something crazy but this one is quiet so far.

    This game is a proxy of the urban vs saban battles. Urban has done better in that series than most. Although Georgia has been playing well the last year and a half we are a much stronger brand so this is Georgia’s last chance to take us for a while imo.

  4. I agree with you Brian. We will know more about our Gators after the game on Saturday. I’m full of hope they will grade out as “Champions” in every phase of the game. Can we match their physicality and intensity for 60 minutes? Do we want to tackle and block unlike any game we have seen this season. I believe our effort has to be the best of the season and we will win Saturday and have our version of respect, rat poison, whatever…
    They will be talking about Florida on Sunday as where we belong in the discussion.
    Work ‘em silly Gators!!

  5. I always wondered how Slaton was a high 4* prospect considering he was switching positions. He was a 4* O-lineman, and either he, or McElwain or Strong or whoever, all thought he should play defense in college. But he was certainly not gonna be on the level of other 4* guys who had camped and played their entire careers on the D-line. Big, athletic, freak of nature type guy, one more off-season with Savage and I could see him coming out like a bat out of hell next year, as long as he puts in the time.

  6. I hope the Dawgs keep fields on the sideline for this game like they did with LSU. We had a hard time with the Kentucky QB and if we do not stay in our lanes he will be running all day. Fields is the X-Factor for them against us. We just have a hard time keeping a running QB in the box this year. Luckily, Kentucky is the only team that has that so far and it did not go well.

  7. My concern of this game is stopping UGA’s offense. Any good coach will try to take advantage of our DE pass rushing abilities. I think we will see a lot of rushes in between the DE and DT. There will be a huge hole especially on rushing downs where there will be a gaping hole because the DE’s will rush wide. I think we will get a lot of screen passes run against us. I think we will see both UGA qb’s take off and run more than they have so far this year. UGA will often pass on running downs and run on passing downs to keep us off balance.

    On offense, there is no question that UGA will try their best to get us into a lot of third and long situations. If we have a lot of 3 and outs, or third and long, we will not win this game imo. UGA imo will force us to beat them by throwing deep (which we haven’t done so well this year) and they will seek to throttle our running game and play tight on short passes. Why? To force a lot of third and long which will result in interceptions and short field opportunities.

  8. Execution has steadily improved from game to game. The offense is still behind the defense but the gap is closing.

    We’re going to need some breaks to go our way to pull this off against the Puppies. We’ll also need a bit of scoring from special teams. Georgia has an edge on offense, Florida on defense to offset.

    How mistake-free can each team play? I think this game is going to be close.