Gators notebook: Mullen defends defense's performance against Vandy

Robbie Andreu
Gator Sports
Vanderbilt wide receiver Chris Pierce Jr. (19) scores a touchdown past Florida defensive back Jaydon Hill (23) during the third quarter Saturday at Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville, Tenn.

 Upon further review, Florida’s defensive performance against Vanderbilt wasn’t as bad as many have perceived it to be Saturday. At least that’s the word from UF head coach Dan Mullen.

 “Defensively, we gave up a couple of explosive plays,” he said. “A couple of them were really good offense, not bad defense. There were a couple plays we didn’t execute very well.

 “But their final eight drives of the game, they had seven points, so I thought overall we played pretty good defensively. Couple of their explosives were really good offense and their guys made plays. That’s going to happen. You’ve got to just go play the next play.”

 The defense surrendered touchdown passes of 16 and 58 yards and gave up 406 total yards, 319 through the air.

 “You want to eliminate the bad defensive plays and there were a couple we gave up on bad explosive plays that we didn’t,” Mullen said. “That wasn’t great defense. That’s the stuff you have to eliminate. But, the majority of the game, I thought we were pretty solid.”

 Mullen said after the game he wished defensive coordinator Todd Grantham had rotated into the game more of the young players. Two young guys who did see significant playing time in the second half were redshirt freshmen linebackers Ty’Ron Hopper and Jesiah Pierre.

 “They’ve prepared. Prepared for their moment,” Mullen said of Hopper and Pierre. “There were a lot of things they could do better. I mean a lot. I don’t think either of them graded out as a champion, but they’re gaining experience and have mistakes that are made that they can go learn through.”

 The plan is to play more of the young players on defense.

  “Absolutely,” Mullen said. “I've always been a big believer in, we like to play a lot of players. It keeps everybody fresh during all four quarters of a game so that people aren't exhausted come the fourth quarter. So early in the game, we roll guys through. So if I'm a starter and I've only played 27 plays and it's the fourth quarter, I'm still fresh and ready to go make plays.”

Injury update

 Along with tight end Kyle Pitts, starting inside linebacker James Houston (unspecified) is expected to play in Saturday’s game against Kentucky. Redshirt freshman wide receiver Trent Whittemore (broken ribs and punctured lung) remains out.

 “We expect to have (Houston) back this week,” Mullen said. “(Whittemore) will be a couple more weeks. It’s pretty much a rib injury, the ribs and lungs. That’s just when we get the X-rays, when the ribs heal. It should be another week, possibly two.”

SEC honors Campbell, Toney

 Defensive tackle Kyree Campbell and wide receiver/returner Kadarius Toney have been recognized by the SEC for their performances in UF’s win at Vanderbilt.

 Campbell was named SEC co-defensive lineman of the week, while Toney was named to the Paul Hornung Award honor roll for the second time this season.

 Campbell, a senior leader on the defensive line, played a key role in the Gators holding Vanderbilt to 87 yards rushing, while Toney had 191 all-purpose yards, a team-high 107 in receptions.

TV time

There was no announcement Monday of kickoff times and TV networks for SEC games of Dec. 5. Those selections will be made on a 6-day selection process and will be announced Sunday.