By now, much of Florida’s 42-7 loss to Georgia in 2017 has been covered ad nauseum — although new details continue to emerge in the year since Jim McElwain’s departure.
The revelation Monday that McElwain addressed the team to discuss his job security just prior to last season’s loss to the Dawgs came as a shock to many, but it did fit the narrative surrounding McElwain’s tenure.
In preparation for Saturday’s top-10 showdown in Jacksonville, the Gators are singing a wildly different tune: this season, the coaching staff has frequently put Florida in position to be successful.
The Gators need to score just more than three points to exceed their total points scored in the entire 2017 season, and the offensive resurgence has the skill position players singing the praises of Dan Mullen and his coaching staff.
“That guy there is a genius,” junior wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland said of Mullen. “He knows when to the call plays at the right time.”
Prior to the much-needed bye week, the Gators racked up 576 yards of offense at Vanderbilt in a 37-27 comeback win, giving Florida its third-highest total amount of yards since the 2010 season in the process. The Gators also recorded their fifth game this season of 200 or more rushing yards after having just eight such games in the three seasons prior to Mullen’s arrival. While the early 18-point deficit at Vanderbilt may have shaken the confidence of the Florida faithful, the team gained confidence in turning the tide and capturing a win on the backs of the offense. Those who have seen Mullen’s arrival pay immediate dividends haven’t shied away from discussing his nearly immediate impact, while also throwing some slight shade at the previous regime in the process.
“He’s an offensive guru, man, that’s what I call him. He’s a great guy calling plays. I mean, he always has us ready. Last year there was a couple times, like, defenses were calling out our plays,” junior running back Lamical Perine said. “So they can’t really do that now because we have them so off balance, and it’s something that we added to our game with Dan Mullen coming in.”
The redshirt junior in UF’s backfield, Jordan Scarlett, concurred that the production has instilled confidence in a team that had more than a fair share of doubters heading into the season.
And if that confidence helped spark the Gators to 290 rushing yards against Vanderbilt — the program’s most since racking up a whopping 414 rushing yards against Georgia in 2014 — then Florida is striving to do anything it can to say confident.
“I think we’re starting, as a whole team now, just the whole offense, just believing in what we can do. The offensive line is sticking together, working together and we’re working together with them in sync,” Scarlett said. “I told them as long as we keep that same energy, we will keep doing good things.”
Coming off an offensive exhibit, and with reliable personnel on the sideline, the Gators appear as confident as they’ve been in recent memory heading into a must-win battle with Georgia.
“It (boosted) our confidence up a lot,” Cleveland said of the offensive display against the Commodores. “Hopefully we can just turn that on going into Georgia.”