After coming up short on the defensive line, especially at tackle, in Dan Mullen’s first two Florida recruiting classes, the Gators took a different approach over the past year that paid off Wednesday, with UF adding three highly rated tackles.
Mullen said the biggest change was the addition of new defensive line coach David Turner, who replaced Sal Sunseri, who left for the same job at Alabama a year ago.
“Bringing David Turner in was a big part of that for me,” Mullen said. “To get a guy like David Turner here and you’ve seen the success we’ve had with him recruiting here and what he’s been able to do for us. And I think that was something that getting a guy that’s coaching the D-linemen that does a great job recruiting and building the character of those guys and building the relationship to get those guys.
“When guys come and see him, the relationship he builds with the players. They get to see the relationship not just that he builds during recruiting, but the relationship he has with our guys, and his ability to not just coach you as a football coach and coach you on the field, his ability to mentor you off the field.”
While working under Mullen at Mississippi State, Turner coached three defensive linemen who are now stars in the NFL.
“When you go around and ask a Fletcher Cox or Chris Jones or Jeffery Simmons, you’re talking about all-NFL superstars. This is the guy you want to go play for. He’s going to help develop you and help you become successful.”
Mullen said the defensive line aspect was not the only adjustment made in recruiting over the past year.
“We tweaked every aspect of our recruiting department, not just personnel but how the whole thing was set up and being run,” he said. “I am pleased with the job they did. And I think they did a great job and I think we have it headed in the direction we want.”
No more early departures?
There has been speculation that junior wide receivers Trevon Grimes and Kadarius Toney might follow junior cornerback CJ Henderson’s lead and declare for the NFL draft. Mullen said he’s talked to Grimes and Toney and he’s not anticipating any more early departures.
“We’ve had discussions with everybody,” he said. “I don’t expect anybody else to declare, but you never know at this point.”
Waiver being sought
There’s a chance that cornerback Jordan Pouncey, a Texas transfer and the brother of signee defensive back Ethan Pouncey, will be eligible for the 2020 season rather than have to sit out a year, per NCAA rules.
“We’re going to file the waiver to get him eligible for this season,” Mullen said. “Hopefully, that goes through for us — him maybe more than me. It’s about the student-athlete. We’ll be OK. But hopefully the NCAA does what’s right for the student-athlete.”
Class’s early statement
Mullen said he’s been impressed with the three members of the class who are already practicing with the team — quarterback Anthony Richardson and offensive linemen Joshua Braun and Richie Leonard.
“Those three have done a heck of a job,” Mullen said. “Anthony has got size, speed, athleticism, really quick release, really smart football person. A lot of football IQ. And out there just how comfortable he is picking everything up.
“And Richie and Josh on the O-line, they’re ready to buckle it up and go after it, which is the kind of mentality you want. They’re kind of swimming out there. We threw them right in and they got to go.
“But there’s no hesitation, no nervousness; they’re ready to go buckle it up and knock somebody off the ball. They have that right attitude. Plus they have size and athleticism, which is pretty good, too.”
No update on Wilson
Offensive lineman Wardrick Wilson, a four-star prospect in last year’s class is still not on campus and still in limbo. He lives in the Bahamas and after signing with the Gators was having problems getting a visa that would allow him to come here.
“Here’s my issue. I don’t know that I can comment on where he is because of his recruiting status. Is that fair?” Mullen said. “There’s a lot going on that I could sit here and talk a lot about, but I don’t think I’m allowed to comment on it just because where his status is.”
A true early signee
Punter signee Jeremy Crawshaw was the first player to sign and submit his national letter of intent. Not just on the team, but probably across the whole nation. He submitted his LOI at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, or 7 a.m. Wednesday in Australia, where he lives.
“I think we had the first signee of this year, no one beat us,” Mullen said. “Jeremy was the first one to sign this year, (Tuesday), our local time here at 3:00 yesterday afternoon, 7.00 a.m., legally, his time on Wednesday morning.”
No one on Mullen’s staff made the long recruiting trip to scout Crawshaw. The Gators relied on tape and feedback.
“They have great kicking academies there,” Mullen said. “So, you work with the people there. They get all the film. They get all the work. You do the work and the film study of what there are, the guys are. And you evaluate it like you evaluate all the other positions. Hard when you don’t get to do it in person, so you have to go in depth into extra film study on guys.”
Crawshaw is one of 10 signees on schedule to enroll in January and participate in spring practice. The others are Braun, Richardson, Leonard, defensive tackle Lamar Goods, defensive back Ethan Pouncey, linebacker Antwaun Powell, defensive back Jahari Rogers, defensive back Rashad Torrence and offensive lineman Issiah Walker Jr.