Umanmielen Q&A: An in-depth look at Florida football from a player perspective

by Inside the Gators Staff

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Princely Umanmielen signed with Florida in the Class of 2020 as a four-star defensive end. Four seasons, 44 games, 23 starts, 25 TFL, 15 sacks, An All SEC selection, and two head coaches later, he is transferring to Ole Miss for his final season.

Umanmielen shared his thoughts on Florida football with Inside the Gators in this exclusive interview.

When you signed with Florida in the Class of 2020, the Gators were coming off of two NY6 Bowl wins and back-to-back top 10 finishes in Dan Mullen’s first two seasons. During your freshman year, UF was off to an 8-1 start before the wheels fell off. The LSU ‘shoe toss’ loss, losing to No. 1 Alabama by less than a touchdown and getting blown out by Oklahoma in the ‘opt-out’ Cotton Bowl. Looking back on it, did it start to feel like the beginning of the end or were you too young to realize what was going on?

So, as for the Oklahoma bowl game, Mullen told us before the game that it was an opportunity for a lot of younger guys to play. I was a freshman and I think the most snaps I received in any game that year was like four or five, and I had like 20 or 30 snaps in that game. He built the game up as a chance for us younger guys to put some stuff on film. The two New Year’s Six bowls before that, if I’m not mistaken, he didn’t have a lot of guys opting out. I don’t think he really gave up, but he knew the situation when a lot of those guys decided not to play. I feel like if a lot of those starters had played we would have had a different outcome. We were stuck playing a lot of young guys.

Did the three-game losing streak to close out the 2020 season have a lasting impact to open the 2021 season?

I was feeling good about it. I felt good about the team. We lost a lot of good guys, but our roster was still very talented. It didn’t feel like we were on a downslide at all. The next season, I’m pretty sure it was the third game, we lost to No. 1 Alabama by two points. The one thing I can say about that time, those two years under Coach Mullen, we went into that game, and every game, thinking, or knowing, we were going to win. I don’t know what you remember about that game, but the refs did a terrible job. We really should have beaten them. After that game, we still felt like it was going to be our year. After the early two losses (Alabama and Kentucky), Mullen was still fired up after the games in the locker room and at practice, but later in the season, it did seem like maybe he checked out a little bit.  It didn’t feel like we were going downhill, and I wouldn’t say for the program, just downhill for that specific year, was when we lost to South Carolina. I think after we lost to Missouri, the look on Mullen’s face when we were getting on the plane, and how things started spreading around, I feel like after that game we all knew what was going to happen.

How did the team find out the news that Mullen was being fired?

After the [Missouri] game, we all assumed it was going to happen. I even think that Mullen’s son said something to Big G (Gervon Dexter), that implied it, but how we officially found out is we have this app called Team Works where they show us what we have to do for the day, and the week, and we all got a text on Team Works, or maybe our position coaches text us, saying there was a team meeting right now, be on the way to the stadium. We knew at that time it was over.

Are you surprised he hasn’t gotten another job?

I don’t think he wants one. I mean, I don’t know his situation, but I feel like if he wanted a head coaching job he could have one. He is a great head coach. You look at his record and how he coaches during a game, and he could coach somewhere if he wanted to.

Along with Mullen, out goes every position coach on that team, and in comes Billy Napier and an entirely new staff. What was your early impressions of Napier and the staff?

When he first came in, he seemed like a good guy. I liked him a lot. I still do. I feel like the difference between Mullen and Napier, and I feel like if Mullen had this as a person, he would have made an even better head coach. He was a good head coach, but he would have been a great head coach if he cared about the player’s experience as much as Napier does. I mean, Mullen cared about the players, but Napier puts more into it when it comes to outside of football, if that makes sense. As an example, when we used to complain about parking, Mullen would say, ‘Just don’t park there’ and do nothing about it. And I don’t know if they, the UAA or whatever, fixed it so fast because they got a new head coach and wanted to fix things fast, but when Napier came in, he listened to the issues and made some changes. Just the fact that Napier immediately fixed things like parking and food, showed that he cared more than about playing football.

What are some differences between Mullen and Napier from a personality standpoint?

Mullen it felt like you could play around with, joke around with him a little easier. I would say, it’s not that you can’t talk to him, but Napier does feel more like he’s focused on business. Like I’d try to start to joke with him, like I’d see him wearing some shoes and say, ‘What do you know about those?’ and it doesn’t go anywhere with him. One thing with Napier, he’ll acknowledge every player every time he sees them. Ask them what’s up or how’s their day. That means something. Sometimes Mullen would walk right by you like he didn’t see you. So they both had different personality styles. Both are good guys in different ways. Mullen was a little more loose around the players. Napier is more straightforward but cares. Mullen felt like he had a little more personality. More human, if that makes sense.

What have these last two years been like for a player?

It’s been tough. I feel like there are two different outlooks from players on the team when it comes to the new guys and the players that were left over from Mullen. Look at J-Hill [Jaydon Hill) who played in those NY6 bowl games and I played in an SEC Championship Game my freshman year and you go from that success to going down to back-to-back losing seasons and not even playing in a bowl game. I think that’s harder than it is for the young players who haven’t been part of that kind of success and went down. So, they still have hope and see the bright side.

One thing that seems to be coming out now with Napier saying he is making a change is the differences in the S&C program. How did what Nick Savage did compare to how Mark Hocke does things?

I feel like there are differences between how you train by what conference you are in. So like, whenever we trained in the offseason under Savage, we were working out to be as strong as we could be. You’re going against 300-pounders trying to run the ball down your throat. You better be rocked up. The SEC is ‘bully’ football if that makes sense. You better be able to go heads up with that or you’re going to get bullied. With them [the new staff] coming from Louisana Lafayette, I’m not trying to put anyone down, I don’t know, it felt like we were training to be in the Pac12 instead of the SEC. The last two years it felt like we focused more on conditioning and running than lifting weights. I was getting so small in the off-season because we weren’t lifting enough heavy weights. No joking, if you looked at our offseason workouts, you would think we were a track team. That isn’t going to work in the SEC. As far as the weight room goes, Coach Savage’s program was to make us big and strong and we’re going to have endurance too, but I don’t feel like that was the emphasis with this strength program. With Coach Savage the focus was on deadlifts, bench, squats, all the core lifts, and then focus on shoulders and neck on the side so we didn’t have many concussions, or shoulder injuries. This program was focused more on snatches, power cleans, and stuff like that, and in my opinion, that didn’t really revert to helping you dominate the guy in front of you who has been pushing heavy weight all off-season. Doing a snatch is going to help with explosiveness, but it isn’t doing me a lot of good against a 350-pound lineman putting his hands on me in the run game.

Did you apply to get your draft feedback from the NFL? If so, what was the reply?

Yes, I did get some feedback. It came back some as high as the second round, to the fourth round and a couple maybe going back as far as the sixth round. I could have gone anywhere from two to six depending on how the Combine and Pro Day went. I could have left this year, but I’m not satisfied with the type of season I had. I feel like I can be a dominating player.

You decide to bypass the NFL Draft and return to college for another year. Immediately, the rumors (who knows how) get started that you were seeking $1 million a year. Is there any truth behind that? I just did an anonymous player Q&A about 10 days ago and he said that players aren’t allowed to talk about what they paid, not even to each other. But how accurate or far off is that number?

I haven’t even seen that [laughing]. To be honest, I had some talks about what I could expect to get if I came back to Florida and it’s nowhere close to a million, but it was good money for me. My leaving Florida had zero to do with money. I’m getting the exact same amount from Ole Miss that I would have gotten if I returned to Florida. At the end of the day money in college isn’t the most important thing to me. I’m looking to get developed for the NFL. If money was the biggest factor, I had teams hitting me up and I could have played them off each other. Texas hit up my high school coach and coach [Kareem] Reid, who was here before going to be a high school coach, but I think I was their second choice behind the UTSA player [Trey Moore]. Georgia hit me up. I wasn’t looking for the highest bidder, I felt like Ole Miss was the best fit for my future.

After entering the Transfer Portal, you tweeted or retweeted that you could possibly return to Florida. What are those exit interviews with Napier like?

He told me that they would definitely like me back. He didn’t try to pressure me, but he expressed that they would like for me to return. After I put in my papers I had a couple of conversations with Nap and [Austin] Armstrong, but I was already pretty much set on leaving.

Okay, putting money aside, you wanted to return to college, but not as a Gator. Why Ole Miss?

[Ole Miss defensive coordinator] Pete Golding was at Alabama when Will Anderson was there and the setup they showed me is that I will be used a lot in the same ways that he was used. I watched them beat Penn State and I got excited. I’ve been near success in college football and I’ve seen the bottom of the bottom, so to go to a team that is on the verge of having their best season in program history. That’s another reason to go to Ole Miss. Why go to Georgia where it’s been established for so long or Texas when they’re already up there when you have a chance to help push a team over the top?

You are vocal on social media. Describe your relationship with the Gator Nation.

Overall I think I have a great relationship with the Gator Nation. My experience with the fans, and the 90,000 fans in the Swamp, was great. It’s crazy how you really can’t tell the difference on TV, but when you go to these other stadiums, the Swamp is the loudest stadium in college football. Only LSU is close. The fans around town, around campus, I loved it. The fans on Twitter I’d say it’s more of a love-hate relationship. What you see on Twitter are the fans who want to say something negative. The fans who are positive, especially during a game, are into the game cheering, they aren’t tweeting that. If it makes sense, negativity gets tweeted immediately. That’s fine. I don’t get on there to argue, but if I see something where they are wrong, I’ll correct them. There was a play earlier this year against South Carolina where Twitter fans were on me for going inside, but they don’t know that is what I was coached to do. Someone on the back end was supposed to come down and take the outside. I did what my coach coached me to do. If you weren’t at practice or in the meeting room, you don’t know what’s going on, so I’m going to set you straight. Things like that are what’s frustrating because I know I’m nowhere near perfect out there, but don’t complain about something you don’t know anything about. I think one of the things that makes me a target on there is wearing the #1 jersey. I had all eyes on me. If I had to go back and change anything, I wouldn’t have changed numbers. Wearing that number makes you an automatic target. Besides some freshmen making freshmen teams, I was the only player on defense to make [Coaches] All-SEC, All USA Today SEC, and All-SEC on PFF. Things like that. We didn’t have a great season and I didn’t have a great year, but I wasn’t the only reason. You get on Twitter and in some crazy way, somehow, I would be the only problem and the one that is being talked down about. That’s frustrating to be the scapegoat for every game no matter what.

Go to discussion...

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  1. Great interview. He seems to have his head on level. Smart observation by him about wearing the #1 jersey. I wish him well at Ole Miss and wish we had him back here with Kiffin as the HBC.
  2. This is why I hate the transfer portal.

    If there's going to be transfers they should have to at least sit out one year. If you had to sit out he probably wouldn't leave and would still be here.

    I wish I'm good luck over there. But I wish he would have ended his career in orange and blue.
  3. This is why I hate the transfer portal.

    If there's going to be transfers they should have to at least sit out one year. If you had to sit out he probably wouldn't leave and would still be here.

    I wish I'm good luck over there. But I wish he would have ended his career in orange and blue.
    If he didn’t feel like he was being developed properly nor trained properly in strength and conditioning it seems unfair to make him sit. According to the article at least, he wasn’t getting what he needed out of the staff at UF.
  4. I feel bad for players who have realistic NFL dreams and they wasted two years of potential development because Billy boy made a bad hire.

    How does he say sorry to them for that?

    His bad choices could cost them millions while if he fails he gets paid millions to go away.
  5. Always liked Princley. He’s well spoken and seems like a genuinely good person. Hate to hear all this about our S&C, but it’s no surprise. We all saw it on the field. I wish Princely the best! Hopeful our new S&C coach can get this turned around.
  6. That was interesting, because I often wondered why certain players wasn’t looking any bigger or stronger year after year.
    Watson and McClellan looked worse their second year under Hocke.
  7. Great interview. He seems to have his head on level. Smart observation by him about wearing the #1 jersey. I wish him well at Ole Miss and wish we had him back here with Kiffin as the HBC.
    He came off better on here then he does on X.

    On there he acts like he lets every little thing bother him.

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