HOOVER, Ala. — By all accounts, the Gators expect to make a major leap forward in Year Two of the Dan Mullen era.
But there’s no point in speculating when tangible evidence can come straight from the horse’s mouth.
The three Mississippi State representatives in attendance at SEC Media Days all committed to Mullen while the head coach was in Starkville, and each player dished on the improvements they experienced after more than a year of Mullen’s tutelage.
“A huge jump. That’s one thing about Coach Mullen, he develops guys to an extreme,” said fifth-year Bulldogs tight end Farrod Green. “I came in skinny, a lanky guy, underrated. After my redshirt year, I was able to perform at the highest level. I’m thankful for Coach Mullen.”
In the age of the transfer portal, multiple highly rated prospects opt not to stick around if the reality of college football doesn’t immediately match their expectations.
But Mullen doesn’t do that, said Green; instead, he’s a straight-shooter on the recruiting trail and in the locker room.
“Tough love. Tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. Those guys keep it honest and real with you from Day 1 and they push you to the extreme. That’s become more rare in college football today,” he added. “They get the best out of you and it’s for your best benefit.”
And that tough love Green speaks of? Much of it comes in the weight room under the guidance of Nick Savage. The strength and conditioning coordinator who made the transition with Mullen to Gainesville, Savage was mentioned by senior offensive lineman Darryl Williams as part of the reason he started all 13 games at left guard as a sophomore.
“I think Coach Mullen does an excellent job in developing guys, he developed me a lot,” Williams said. “Coach Savage as well, those guys do a phenomenal job developing guys in Year Two, so I feel like (Florida) will be a team to be reckoned with come fall.”
For fourth-year junior linebacker Erroll Thompson, Year Two under Mullen was his first season of collegiate action after redshirting in 2016.
And when the start of the 2017 campaign rolled around, Mullen’s final year in Starkville, Thompson was more than ready to simply contribute. The Florence, Alabama, native, who had a career-high 14 tackles against UF in 2018, received SEC All-Freshman honors after recording 46 tackles, good for first among all freshman SEC linebackers. That improvement has only continued as Thompson is now considered the SEC’s best linebacker in coverage.
The three were in consensus — Mullen’s impact was noticeable more so in Year Two than in their inaugural seasons. That should reassure any fans fearing a drop-off in Gainesville.
“Once you go into the second year of their program, the way you train, everything, the whole mindset is different,” Thompson said. “You get comfortable within it.”