[Updated: 11-5-19, 8:24 p.m.] After Saturday’s 24-17 loss to Georgia, Florida coach Dan Mullen was asked how big he thinks the gap is between his program and Kirby Smart’s. He offered the obvious answer: seven points.
He stuck with that seven-point stance when he was questioned again Monday about the perceived gap between UF and UGA, which many seem to think is wide.
“How is it closer than seven points or further than seven points?” he said. “The gap is determined on the field and that’s what it is. You can look, ‘Oh, we have some pretty talented players, they have some pretty talented players.’
“There’s positions they have more talent than we do and there’s positions we have more talent than they do. It’s just our job to highlight our strengths and try to defend against our weaknesses as best as possible. That’s always kind of the matchup.
“We go into that game, we expect to win the game. We expected to win last year’s game, and thought a couple of things here and there (and we could have). That’s the way I see.”
Redshirt freshman Chris Bleich, who has started eight games at left guard this season, is no longer with the team and has entered the NCAA transfer portal.
Gators offensive line coach John Hevesy confirmed the redshirt freshman’s exit following practice, saying “we support Chris and everything he’s doing.”
The 6-foot-6, 330-pound Bleich has seen his playing time diminish over the last five or six games. In the loss to Georgia on Saturday, he was benched and replaced by redshirt freshman Richard Gouraige, who has seen playing time at both guard and tackle.
“He did a pretty good job (against Georgia),” Mullen said Monday. “I think Richard’s doing a really nice job because we ask him to play multiple positions for depth purposes. I think it’s going to really help him out long term.”
With Gouraige now a starter, the primary backups are true freshmen Ethan White and Michael Tarquin.
In defense of Dean
When a player in the secondary is struggling, it’s out there in the open and obvious for everyone to see. That’s kind of where star defensive back Trey Dean is at the moment. He’s been struggling, and people have noticed. He’s been taking some heat on social media.
But his teammates and coaches have his back.
“The star is probably the hardest position on the field for our defense,” junior safety Donovan Stiner said. “And Trey is a young player, so he’s growing into it and he’s getting better every week. I see he’s getting a lot of heat, but I think as time goes by he’s just going to continue to mature and get better. He’s the type of player that he’s a competitor, so he won’t allow himself to get down. He’ll keep getting better.”
Last season, Dean started nine of the last 10 games at cornerback, filling in for the injured Marco Wilson, and more than held his own. He made the move to the nickel, or star, position in the spring. He has recorded an interception and just one pass breakup this season. He also has three tackles for loss and two sacks.
“When you look at Trey, Trey’s a very competitive guy, very passionate guy,” defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “He’s a guy that we were able to win 10 games with as an outside player. This year we’re actually 7-2 with him as an inside player. We’ve won seven games with him this year. We’ll continue to work and develop him and kind of get him in the right spot.”
Stiner said Dean, and his teammates, need to ignore any criticism directed Dean’s way.
“We just encourage him,” Stiner said. “We shouldn’t be paying attention to stuff like that anyway, we should be focused on getting better. So a lot of different people give heat all the time, so we should tune all of that out and just focus on our coaching, listen to our coaches and get better.”
Diabate rising fast
True freshman Mohamoud Diabate, who has played in all nine games this season, likely will see an increase in playing time at rush end now that junior Jeremiah Moon is expected to miss the rest of the regular season with an injured foot. He saw considerable playing time in the second half against Georgia.
“Mohamoud did a good job in the game, came in there, really played more in our base stuff, played in the run defense,” Grantham said. “Mohamoud’s really fast. Right now he is playing because of our situation. He’s a talented guy, but a year from now he’s going to be a much bigger, stronger guy when he gets in a year with the strength and conditioning program.
“You combine that with the speed he already has and his athletic ability, he can be a special guy.”
Diabate hasn’t been playing like, or carrying himself, like a true freshman, Grantham said.
“(Saturday’s game) wasn’t too big for him,” he said. “I look at, can you tell me what’s happening on the field, can you communicate with me. When you’re not in the ballpark with that, that’s when I have trouble.
“But when you can communicate and verse with me, ‘Here’s what I saw, here’s what happened,’ I can work with that. He did a really good job with that. I thought he understood what was going on, how he needed to play, the things he needed to correct and he made a few plays. I’m pleased with his progress and I think he’ll obviously get some snaps.”