FOOTBALL

Gators notebook: Mullen, Smart not tipping hand on their QB plans

Zach Abolverdi
Gator Sports
Florida coach Dan Mullen, left, calls out instructions in front of quarterback Emory Jones (5) during the second half against Vanderbilt earlier this month in The Swamp.

Neither Florida coach Dan Mullen nor Georgia’s Kirby Smart will tip their hand on their quarterback plan for Saturday’s game. 

Gators backup Anthony Richardson is challenging starter Emory Jones for his job after he was benched in the loss at LSU. Stetson Bennett IV has started the last three games for UGA, but season-opening starter JT Daniels is back from injury (lat strain). 

“We will play a quarterback on Saturday. We’ll have a quarterback on the field,” Mullen said Wednesday on the SEC coaches teleconference.

Mullen was then jokingly asked if he’s starting a running back at the QB position. 

“You never know. We’re coming off a bye week right here, so we could come out in the wishbone, you know, and just play all of those guys,” Mullen said. “You never know how that’s going to play out.”

That’s the second time Mullen has teased about the wishbone formation this week, FYI. Smart continued playing coy when asked how Daniels has looked in practice and where things stand between him and Bennett. 

“They both looked good and they are both doing a good job, so we’ll go into Wednesday and see how the day goes,” Smart said. 

Smart repeated the same answer when asked whether both quarterbacks will get on the field against the Gators. 

Mutual respect between Mullen, Smart

Saturday’s game will be the fifth meeting between Mullen and Smart as head coaches. 

Florida’s 44-28 win over UGA last season marked the first loss for Smart, who holds a 3-1 record against Mullen. 

“It’s always challenging,” Smart said of facing Mullen. “It goes all the way back to the years at Mississippi State, you felt like they were always so much to prepare for. You felt like there’s this encyclopedia of offense and you’ve got to figure out what you’re going to prepare. 

“Because within the game, he has a lot of different packages you have to prepare and you don’t know what one you’re going to get. A lot of it boils down to how quick you can adjust within the game and really pivot your plan to his plan.”

Mullen and Smart have met a total of 12 times, counting their games as coordinators. Mullen has averaged just 14.3 points per game, with Smart holding him to 17 points or fewer nine times. 

However, Mullen has averaged 26.0 points per game in the three UF-UGA meetings.

“I think one thing Kirby really does a good job of is they tweak around the strengths of their players. They play a little bit different style defensively than they did last year,” Mullen said. “You see the carryover of the things they’ve stuck to. But I think that they’ve done a good job of looking at their personnel, looking at the players and making changes that are going to fit their guys to make sure they’re putting them in a situation where they can be successful. 

“And you look at that, they’re doing that with their front, helping out in the secondary. And they have newer faces and some younger players back there if you look from last year’s team, but certainly not a drop-off in the play-making abilities that those guys have and the confidence that they play with and how hard they play.” 

Gators lose another top commit

Florida’s 2022 recruiting class took another hit Monday night with top-100 overall prospect Julian Humphrey backing off his pledge from the Gators. 

UF has now lost its highest-rated recruit for the second straight week following Shemar James’ decommitment Oct. 20. 

Humphrey, a four-star cornerback from Houston, joined the class in late May despite never visiting Florida. He finally checked out the school June 11 and attended Friday Night Lights and the Alabama game, but has taken multiple trips to Texas A&M this fall and officially visited Georgia on Oct. 1. 

The Gators are now down to 13 verbal commitments in their 2022 class, which is ranked No. 22 nationally and No. 9 in the SEC according to the 247Sports Composite. 

Noon kickoff

Florida and Samford are scheduled for a noon kickoff on Nov. 13 and airing on SEC Network+/ESPN+.

SEC Network+ is complementary to the SEC Network and accessible at no additional charge to SEC Network subscribers with a customer's TV provider credentials.  It can be accessed through the ESPN App on smartphones, tablets, connected streaming devices or via espn.com/watch. 

The Florida Gators and South Carolina Gamecocks are set for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff on Nov. 6, airing on the SEC Network, the Southeastern Conference announced Monday.