Gators notebook: Football team dealing with injuries

Graham Hall
Special to The Sun

Florida football coach Dan Mullen recounted Monday the program’s injury issues throughout the first half of the 2021 season, saying the Gators have been “decimated with a bunch of injuries throughout the year" in the build-up to the team's long-awaited match-up with No. 1-ranked Georgia in Jacksonville.

“Some are season-ending, some are week to week. So at every position, you’ve got to make sure you get guys ready and continue to grow and develop, because you’re a snap away from having (back-up) guys on the field,” Mullen said. “We had to play a lot of different combinations on the offensive line. We had a game without a full stable of (running) backs. We’ve had some receivers miss a bunch of games. Obviously the linebacker and secondary ones are huge so far this year. And then quarterbacks missing games.”

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The amount of ailments is another reason why the Florida coaching staff puts an emphasis on training players at multiple positions; having experienced players capable of starting at several spots on defense allows the team to avoid inserting an inexperienced player when someone goes down. It’s the SEC, meaning injuries will unfortunately occur – the objective is to not let them upend the season. 

“We’ve had issues. It depends on who’s healthy or not. We got to have multiple guys ready to play. We’ve already gone through games where one of the quarterbacks was out a couple of games,” Mullen said. “So for us, it’s just making sure we get all the reps so we have enough guys ready to go play Saturday.”

UF ranked 7th in SEC in recruiting spending

The Southeastern Conference leads all other Power Five conferences when it comes to spending on the recruiting trail, according to NCAA financial records acquired by AthleticDirectorU following a public records request.

That shouldn’t come as any surprise, considering the conference consistently ranks at or near the top when it comes to the amount of players selected in the annual NFL draft. 

But what goes into making that happen, and what exactly is “recruiting spending?” The NCAA defines it as “input transportation, lodging and meals for prospective student-athletes and institutional personnel on official and unofficial visits, telephone call charges, postage and such. Include value of use of institution’s own vehicles or airplanes as well as in-kind value of loaned or contributed transportation.”

Georgia ranked No. 1 on the list, spending more than $3.6 million on recruiting in 2019. Alabama is No. 2, having spent just over $2.6 million, with Tennessee coming in at No. 3 with $2.24 million. 

The Bulldogs’ athletic director, Greg McGarity, attributed the lofty figure to the program’s lack of private transportation. 

“I think those numbers are skewed a bit because we don’t have our own airplane or our jet,” he said. “Some schools calculate it differently. If we had a jet, we’d certainly cover other expenses in a different category. Right now when we lease an aircraft we just pay the going rate. We just pay straight out for any charter services it would use as opposed to having an aircraft which some schools do… Cost may be hidden in another category as far as how it’s accounted for. Having gone through that at Florida, which had two aircraft at the time, I know how the expenses are accounted for with aircraft. It’s a little bit different. It’s never really apples and apples, but it kind of is what it is to be able to recruit nationally.”

Perhaps it’s a testament to the two planes McGarity referenced, but the Gators checked in at No. 7 in the SEC in the report and behind future conference members Oklahoma and Texas, which raised the question: does UF have a smaller recruiting budget than its conference rivals? 

When asked about the report, Mullen couldn’t answer in specifics, saying he would discuss the budget with the administration. 

But he did note the Florida program has shown a willingness to spend – hence the in-progress standalone football complex and planned renovations to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – while refraining from getting in the business of being careless with money. 

“Obviously, that's a much bigger question than even just beyond me. It gets into budget with the whole administration, too. That is something that we'll discuss with them and look at it,” he said. “I think one thing we know: we're not very wasteful here that way. I've never believed that the solution to every problem is just throw as much money at it as possible. It’s ‘are we doing what we need to do for our program? And are we doing it as best as possible?’ If we got to put more money in, then we need to go do that. We're working on that with facilities right now, of trying to get caught up facility-wise and raising money to get facilities caught up to where they need to be within the league. And our facility’s coming along great and should really catch us up in that area, so we'll continue to evaluate where we are and what we need.”

Mullen won’t get into recruiting particulars, however

During the season, Florida’s coaching staff is routinely traveling the country visiting high school prospects on the team’s recruiting board. For example, UF defensive line coach David Turner was in Tennessee on Oct. 21 to see No. 2 overall prospect Walter Nolen, while running backs coach Greg Knox and tight ends coach Tim Brewster were seen Friday at St. Thomas Aquinas’ 23-13 win over Dillard. 

But that information doesn’t come from the horse’s mouth – the media is tasked with providing the public with the program’s plans on the recruiting trail. 

Mullen, who previously received a one-year show-cause for impermissible contact with a recruit, isn’t about to divulge any details. 

“We had our coaches all out on the road. I can’t go into where everyone went specifically. We had coaches on the road,” Mullen said. “I’m not even going to comment on any of that stuff, who was where, when, why and how.”

Night game in Williams-Brice

After taking on the ‘Dawgs in Jacksonville at 3:30 p.m., the Gators will once again play a night game. Florida’s Nov. 6 contest against the Gamecocks in Columbia, South Carolina, has been scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on the SEC Network.