Mullen comfortable with both quarterbacks, Florida's backfield

Zach Abolverdi
Gator Sports
Florida coach Dan Mullen praised the play Monday of Gators quarterback Emory Jones (5) and Anthony Richardson during Sunday night's scrimmage at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

The buzz coming out of The Swamp on Sunday night was that Florida’s defense outperformed the offense in the first scrimmage of preseason camp.

Zachary Carter, Jeremiah Moon and the Gators’ front-seven had several sacks, while their secondary made multiple interceptions and pass breakups. However, UF coach Dan Mullen said there wasn’t a unit that “won” the scrimmage.

“Overall, scrimmage went pretty well,” he said Monday. “I don’t view anybody winning. I know people get into that. … I’m less concerned about the offense and defense winning a scrimmage and more are we getting what we need out of it and the evaluation of the players, the coaches and within our execution and what did we want to see, what did we want to work on? 

“If you sit there and say, ‘Hey, we’re going to run the quarterback to make sure we’re going to win the scrimmage.’ Or, ‘We’re going to run this blitz and we’re going to blitz and do this and do that.’ That’s just to try to win a scrimmage. That’s not what it’s about. It’s about the complete development and evaluation of the team.” 

Mullen evaluated the state of his offense Monday, indicating he’s comfortable with his starting lineup across all 11 positions. He particularly likes his depth in the backfield. 

“You have a couple running backs that have shown they're going to be ready to play. Both quarterbacks have shown they're ready to go play,” Mullen said. “Building up that number of receivers, that there’s a group we feel comfortable with and a group that are still right on the edge. 

“Same at tight end. The two we feel pretty comfortable with, a couple on the edge. And offensive line, you know, probably six, seven. Seven-ish we're getting comfortable with. Couple more right on the edge to get it there.”

Quarterback Emory Jones threw a touchdown pass to Jacob Copeland, and Florida receivers Xzavier Henderson, Justin Shorter and Ja’Markis Weston also caught scores. Mullen credited Jones for improved timing with his receiving corps, and also singled out backup QB Anthony Richardson for his play in the scrimmage.

“If you go through the scrimmage last night, I thought his decision making was really good. I think he made some really good decisions,” Mullen said of Jones. “Obviously, I feel like his timing with the guys has gotten better. His control and understanding of the offense, his reads I think have gotten much better of where to go with the ball. And his ability to create and make plays is pretty special.

“Nobody asked about Anthony. Anthony is doing an unbelievable job. Anthony had a huge night last night. Did really well, made a lot of great decisions. Very accurate. I think he threw three touchdown passes. Obviously is a dynamic runner as well, making good decisions. I feel very comfortable with both guys, which is a good thing.”

Mullen had no new injuries to report, though some players did sit out the scrimmage. He said offensive tackle Michael Tarquin has missed the last couple days, but will “hopefully” return to practice Tuesday. 

“I think overall, they're doing pretty good,” Mullen said of his offensive line. “I think that's starting to come along and you're seeing the consistency from some of the older guys and guys getting comfortable working together, you know, as well as the younger guys taking steps forward of getting themselves ready to get on the field and go play.”

Mullen also held out starting outside linebacker Brenton Cox Jr. from the scrimmage as he recovers from offseason foot surgery (Jones fracture). His absence gave some younger players more reps at the BUCK position. 

“He’s doing pretty good, he’s getting his work in, getting ready to go play,” Mullen said of Cox. “Obviously he's played a lot of football, so it's not like a big deal. I didn't have him take any reps in the scrimmage last night. I’ve seen him play in the Swamp before, so that's not a necessary step for us with where we’re at right now. 

“With that though, it gives other guys opportunities out there. Where you see Antwaun Powell really stepped up and Lloyd Summerall, some of these young guys now get an opportunity to take that next step to get themselves working into a rotation and earning reps.” 

With the first scrimmage in the books, Mullen said his team has wrapped up the installation phase of camp. The Gators will now start working on situational football in practice before scrimmaging again Sunday. 

“This week we get into a lot of situational football, a lot more situational football where we get to go apply everything, through all the installs, get to apply it into situations, watch guys make plays, see how they continue to grow, see continue to develop,” Mullen said. “Moving along, excited where we're at, excited about the attitude, the mindset, the team has. I think we're in a pretty good spot, and guys are working hard. I know we still got a lot of work to do, but we have a couple of weeks left before we gotta kick it off so we’ll get there.”