Mullen continues Florida’s rebuild

Florida coach Dan Mullen. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
As Dan Mullen walked across the “Abbey Road”-like walkway on Gale Lemerand Drive to another Signing Day news conference, his current team walked behind him toward the locker room, laughing and joking with another practice in the books.
It hit me, and Mullen agreed as we rode up in the elevator, that it’s all about cycles. One group of players cycles out, another cycles in.
This latest group, the players who signed on the New Signing Day (the old Signing Day is obsolete for everyone not immersed in recruiting), cannot be evaluated any more than any previous class could be.
But it’s a top-10 class, according to the websites.
At a top-10 school, according to U.S. News.
With a top-10 football team, according to The Associated Press, the SID’s poll and the College Football Playoff committee.
What’s not to like?
Oh, I know there were the pipe dreams of possibly getting some players to flip and I’m sure there was some disappointment among the Gator staffers.
Florida fans, of course, fall into two groups — those who have to be told how UF did in recruiting (“Top 10? Nice”) and those who believe the only perfect recruiting class is to sign the top-25 players in the country.
It’s a bit of a concern that no running backs were signed, but, as Mullen said, “It’s not the end of new Gators.”
The bottom line is that Florida’s Signing Day wasn’t sexy, but its class certainly is.
If you are down in the dumps because an Alabama commit didn’t flip, you’re missing the point that Florida signed a heckuva defensive line class.
If you are incredulous that Emmitt Smith’s son chose Stanford over his alma mater, put yourself in his place where the best he could do was get his name next to his father’s on the wall.
If you are looking at the players Florida didn’t get or the players the rest of the SEC did get, this must be your first year paying attention.
I remember many years ago when the coach was named Steve Spurrier and the Gators signed a top-10 class, but didn’t have any surprises on signing day (this was back in the old days when the first Wednesday in February was a national holiday). And I wrote a column about how Florida fans should try to imagine that the top three rated players in the class flipped at the last minute to Florida.
So let’s say on Wednesday, that Gervon Dexter, Derek Wingo and Ethan Pouncey were all question marks and they all pulled out Gator hats on national TV. Some Florida fans would be ecstatic. (The rest would be wondering who the heck is Derek Wingo.)
The point is that it’s all about timing when it comes to the impact of a recruiting class on the public’s mindset. We have no idea if any of these kids can play and this isn’t the annual snubbing of the nose at how much people care about recruiting.
Instead, it just feels like Florida got a lot deeper Wednesday. And we all know how important depth can be. Florida survived a depleted roster that was down to the mid-60s this season. But you can’t do that year after year.
“We’re getting there,” Mullen said. “We’re heading in the right direction.”
And later he said, “We’re not very far off.”
And, “We’ve started to build that consistency of winning.”
That’s the key. Mullen has always said he’s trying to build something special here and he’s trying to do it without a level playing field (facilities-wise).
Building takes time. Wednesday was another brick in the wall.
“We have what multiple people think have a bunch of good players coming in,” Mullen said of the recruiting rankings.
They are paper rankings, but this much we know — Mullen and his staff have shown year after year how they can develop players. It will be fascinating to see what they can do with all of these four-stars, some who should be five-stars.
And we haven’t even delved into the NCAA transfer portal.
— Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at And follow at


  1. The main issue that affected, literally, the Gators’ shot at an SEC East title (gotta’ win the East 1st, right HBC?) this season was the line of scrimmage. Because UGA and LSU man-handled the Gators on both lines of scrimmage in 2019. That has to change for a shot at any titles.
    But other than that, well, they’re 18 yr. old kids. They have a lot to prove, in my opinion. They’re Gators now, and I’m glad these fellas chose U.F. However, the last time I got real, real excited about a ”single recruit” was a guy named, ”Emmitt Smith.” And there was that class Urban brought in with Tebow & Spikes, that was pretty decent, too. Ultimately, Gators are back on track & I can dig it! Go Gators!

  2. OK, I’m one who pays attention to recruitment. It appears to be a “nice” class, but people are right in making the point that LSU and Bama have no problem getting FL 5/4 stars, PERIOD. We currently do have trouble retaining FL 5/4s OR is staff judging individual FL player character and trying to get only those guys who will not make news getting into trouble or don’t care about education. Time will tell. If you know a 5 is trouble or can’t read, then let him go on down the line to FSU where there are plenty of crab legs for the taking! UF doesn’t need to waste our school’s reputation on those.

    We are very close to the SEC big three. This year proves it.

    Pat makes some good points, but we all need to remember, historically, Pat is a UF regime cheer leader. He’s “not a Gator Fan” (I always laugh when he says that), BUT doesn’t hesitate to mention Foley, Musschamp and “what could have been with his “personal friends” (he seems to claim a lot of them), etc. Staying neutral for media reasons is a fine line to follow.

  3. EJ Smith going to Stanford. Sounds sexy, but reality its no where near his family’s home (especially Pensacola) or the SEC. Heck, I thought Jimbo (best Conference) would have been a good choice if your staying away from UF? But Stanford? Playing Washington State, USC and ND. CA people will be way the heck different than TX or FL. Hope it works out.

  4. Recruiting success in 2020 and beyond is about three things in the following order of importance:

    1) Long-term relationships
    2) Adequate qualified staff
    3) State-of-the-art facilities

    CDM has all three going in the right direction now, but none have come about easily, or quickly.

    On #1, CDM was gone from Florida and from realistically recruiting “highly rated” players for nearly 10 years. He and his staff have now put in two solid years of recruiting highly rated high school freshmen and sophomores in the State of Florida. The 2021 recruiting class will be the first where he’s had a record and relationships with most recruits and their families since they joined their varsity squads in high school. Future recruiting classes will have known him since they were in pee-wee league. That will improve overall Gator recruiting class rankings from 2021 forward.

    On #2, read Robbie’s Notebook column today. In it, CDM is quoted as saying, “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.” To this “ignorant” Gator fan, THAT means he was recruiting short-handed the 1st full year after he got to Hogtown in late 2017.

    On #3, we all know about the new football facility to begin construction in mid 2020. The 2022 recruiting class will be the 1st that can be promised to be housed there for their full Gator career and the 2023 class will be the 1st to be able to tour it as high school recruits.

    So, as I said elsewhere on this site, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither will a Gator NC.

  5. I honestly believe that in order to sign 5 star recruits in the SEC, you have to have boosters paying them. I hope that our lack of 5 stars is because we don’t want to play by those rules. And I’m fine with that.

    • That hypothesis has floated for a while, Dorf. It would be hard to disguise or hide in this contemporary blood-in-the-water media, but the very fact that they haven’t even thought to make up a story about it is probably proof positive that there’s nothing to it. There’s only 32 of those suckers to go around 5 conferences, which defies logic on the ability to evaluate them on that finite level — pretty thin air if you aks me. That’s one reason why I don’t put any faith to speak of in that system. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ Make it Top-100 for 5*, keep it next 300 for 4*, and so on.

  6. I like Dooley’s commentary about this year’s recruiting class. There is not one slouch in the bunch – they are all proven worthy to be entry-level Gators. Coach Savage will put them to work ASAP on building their bodies to physically perform at the level expected by OC Mullen and his coaching staff. They need to study their playbooks and watch lots of film to see how to perform their new jobs. They need to take their new jobs seriously, study hard in college, and stay out of trouble. With all of this comes maturity – from boys to men. GO GATORS!!!

  7. For all of you whiners out there, please realize the Gators’ best and most consistent player, a first team All SEC selection in 2019 was a THREE star player coming out of high school.

    Ladies (who knows with screen names… lol) and gentlemen, I give you Jon Greenard.

    So please, ST*U about the number of stars.

    Grumpy Albert rant over…

  8. Oh! And while I’m at it, David Reese, second team All SEC 2019 and captain of the defense, was a three star player as well.

    Roll that up in a joint (sorry Joe, couldn’t resist… 😉 ) and smoke it!

    • And I’ll second and third that comment because today as it turns out I identify as three people. 🙄

      All seriousness aside, it just goes to my point that the Star rankings only mean something after the player has begun development at the college level…..until then, it remains an assumption coaches are betting on. As I’ve always said, the only thing worse than over-relying on them is ignoring then all together.