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Dan Mullen talks new Florida transfers, shares notes on early enrollees

Zach Abolverdi
The Gainesville Sun
Former Lakeland Dreadnaughts running back Demarkcus Bowman is ready to contribute for Florida.

Dan Mullen discussed Florida’s trio of new transfers for the first time Monday when he opened his virtual spring speaking tour.

The Gators’ fourth-year coach held no news conference on National Signing Day, as the program officially announced the addition of running back Demarkcus Bowman (Clemson) and defensive tackles Daquan Newkirk (Auburn) and Antonio Shelton (Penn State).

“All three of them are on the team right now getting ready to start spring practice,” Mullen said. “So recruiting is a little bit different than it used to be with the whole transfer portal.”

Bowman was a consensus five-star recruit in the Class of 2020 and decided to transfer to Florida last October. Earlier during the 2021 recruiting cycle, Mullen apparently caught some heat from fans when the Gators didn’t have a running back committed. 

“I know what Bowman brings in,” Mullen said. “I see all the social media things that get blasted at me sometimes. I love it, I do. Like, ‘The running backs! The running backs!’ 

“Well, if you know you got a really good shot at Demarkcus Bowman transferring in, that kind of took the running back spot in this year’s recruiting class. So, uh, it is a little bit different.”

Newkirk and Shelton are both grad transfers and address a major need at defensive tackle, where Florida lost three seniors and had no upperclassmen left.

“They bring just experience on the D-line,” Mullen said of Newkirk and Shelton. “I’m really excited about some of our young D-linemen, then there’s kind of this gap and we have a couple older guys and a bunch of guys that left. So, they’re big guys that have a great amount of playing experience to be able to come in and help us out.”

UF has a half dozen underclassmen at the position behind the two transfers, including early enrollees Chris Thomas Jr. and Desmond Watson. Mullen called them “two just enormous D-linemen.” 

“Chris came in at 6-7 ½, I think a little over 300 pounds,” Mullen said. “Big Des is working with Coach (Nick) Savage getting in shape right now. He checked in at 6-5, 440, which thankfully we have the equipment to even weigh him right there up at 440. But he’s gotta lose, you know, probably about a 12- or 13-year-old right now. 

“You gotta peel off about my 12-year-old son and he’ll be ready to go. The amazing thing I think and we just told him, ‘When we get you down to 375, you’re going to be like an unbelievable athlete and feeling in great shape and feeling great moving around out there.’”

Thomas and Watson are two of 12 mid-year enrollees who will begin spring practice with the team Thursday. 

“On the offensive side of the ball we’ve got two quarterbacks (Carlos Del Rio-Wilson, Jalen Kitna), a tight end (Nick Elksnis) and a receiver (Daejon Reynolds) already here and going. Excited about them,” Mullen said. “As young guys they get this jump start of kind of learning an offseason and learning how to do things a little bit early. 

“Chief Borders comes in, a great athlete with a lot of flexibility at different positions on defense. We also got Justus Boone, who’s an electric defensive end on the outside. And then we got some young guys in the secondary with Donovan McMillon, Corey Collier, Jason Marshall, Jordan Young all enrolling early. So really excited about those guys coming in.”