Gators notebook: Transfer defensive back Elijah Blades dismissed from team, Mullen says

Graham Hall
Special to The Sun
Florida dismissed senior transfer defensive back Elijah Blades (19) from the team Sunday, coach Dan Mullen said Monday.

Graduate transfer defensive back Elijah Blades is no longer with the team, Florida coach Dan Mullen said Monday.

“He was dismissed from the program, so he’s no longer part of the team,” Mullen said. “I met with him and dismissed him from the program yesterday.” 

The cause of Blades’ dismissal is due to academic reasons, per a source close to the situation. 

After joining the program in August, Blades appeared in just two contests with the Gators, recording three tackles. The former Texas A&M transfer was slowed by a hamstring injury suffered in the season-opener, and Blades wasn’t dressed out Saturday to face the Commodores.

Early kickoff at Baton Rouge

When the network and kick-off time for UF’s road trip to Baton Rouge to take on LSU were made public, the consensus was the Gators escaped having to play under the lights in Death Valley by drawing an 11 a.m. CT kick off. 

More:LSU scouting report

He may not agree with the use of the word “escape”, but Mullen is partial to an early kick off, too. 

As UF prepares for its second SEC road trip of the season, Mullen is awaiting some late-morning football – though he’s not keen on saying it gives the Gators any sort of advantage. Not in a place as highly regarded as Tiger Stadium. 

“I love waking up and going to play. Right? But we’ll see. You never know how that plays out. You gotta wake up – I love waking up, going to play, getting to the game and getting home and not have to sit in a hotel all day waiting to go play a game.”

However, depending on Saturday’s outcome, he does reserve the right to change his mind, Mullen said facetiously.

“I guess if we win maybe we can say we caught a break,” he said, “and if we didn’t, boy I wish we would have played later.” 

No specifics on OL snap-count changes

Considering the Gators have accrued a staggering 23 penalties across the team’s last two contests – including 13 on the offensive line – interest is piqued when it comes to how Florida’s protection will fare Saturday. 

More:Abolverdi's Answers: Gators improve red-zone efficiency, cut down on penalties vs. Vandy

The Gators struggled up front in the team’s 20-13 loss at Kentucky, and the offensive line finished the contest with eight false starts and a pair of holding penalties. 

Florida players and coaches alike were confident heading into Monday’s practice after the loss to the Wildcats that the issues had been corrected. 

As for what the group plans on doing differently? For competitive reasons, Mullen isn’t exactly eager to publicly broadcast the plan. 

“I’m not going to get into what we’re going to do specifically. We discussed it. We’ll have some things,” he said. “There’s tons of things you can do. We’ll get under center, use a verbal count.”

When it comes to the variety of snap counts the team can use, graduate transfer Stewart Reese said after the loss to the Wildcats that there’s no shortage of possibilities. 

Ultimately, the decision, like most, comes down to Florida’s personnel. 

“There’s so many things you could do,” Mullen said. “We gotta do what works best for our guys and make sure all of them can function and be efficient.” 

Gators should be near full strength

Since arriving at Mississippi State in 2009, Mullen hasn’t exactly been enthusiastic to discuss the various ailments of players, preferring to give either vague or strategic answers when pressed on the health of his team. 

But Mullen was far more forthcoming about the status of several key playmakers than he was about Florida’s snap-count alterations. 

“Injury-wise, we should get some guys back, which is a good thing,” he said. “Probably (the) big ones (are) Kaiir (Elam), Richard Gouraige.”

Elam, UF’s starting cornerback, has missed the previous three contests after suffering a knee sprain in the team’s 31-29 loss to Alabama, while Gouraige missed the 42-0 win over Vanderbilt with an undisclosed injury. With how Dameon Pierce and Nay’Quan Wright ran the ball against the Commodores, it’s hard to fault Mullen for forgetting to provide an update on redshirt senior running back Malik Davis – though Davis’ omission may indicate he’s less likely to make his return than Gouraige and Elam. 

Mullen assuaged any concern Davis’ absence could extend further into the season, however. 

“He should be back this week,” Mullen said of Davis. “I haven’t gotten a report yet, but he was on the report expected to be back to practice this week.”