Former Gators safety Black envisions a bright future for Florida football

Jan 7, 2019 | 0 comments

Following an impressive first season with Dan Mullen at the helm, the Florida Gators enter the 2019 offseason riding a four-game win streak.  

Inside the Gators had the opportunity to speak with former Florida safety Ahmad Black to discuss the future of Gators’ football, Nick Savage and plenty more. Black was an All-American in 2010, a National Champion in 2008 and has been around the football program the last two seasons while completing his Bachelor's degree. 

Black’s 2018 expectations 

Florida football was a disaster just 13 months ago. Coming off a four-win season and firing the previous staff, the job Mullen inherited wasn’t pretty. Plenty of doubters questioned how he would do in his first season in Gainesville. It is safe to say Mullen exceeded expectations, accumulating 10 wins.

Did you see Mullen having this much success in 2018?

“Not this much. I definitely knew this season would head in a positive direction, but I didn’t think it would be that good. The guys went out there, played hard and showed people they really bought into what Mullen instilled in them.” 

What can fans expect during year two under Mullen? 

When Mullen was the offensive coordinator, Florida won a national title in his second season and in Black’s sophomore season, Florida claimed another national title.  

Following Florida’s 41-15 thrashing of then No. 7 Michigan, Mullen had a message for his team.  

“I know what it will be like. Start it on Jan. 7, 2019," he said. "We'll enjoy this until then, and we'll get back to work. It's going to be the hardest off-season anybody's been through. We've got to take it to another step this off-season. Another level." 

Black had the same message for Gator nation, stating, “It begins in the offseason.” 

“Dan showed what he can do in turning this program around. However, the hardest workout I ever went through as a player came in the offseason before our 2008 championship. That could be a good sign. First time I met Nick Savage, he reminded me a lot of Mickey Marotti and come to find out he even worked under Marotti. I like how he handles his business. The workouts are intense.” 

There will be nine months before Florida plays another football game and they have plenty of time to gel together to become physically and mentally prepared to win a championship. Black discusses what went through the 2008 teams mind in order to achieve greatness in the offseason. 

“We just wanted to play for each other. We wanted to play for the offense and the offense wanted to play for the defense. We loved going into the locker room and brag about our statistics, while the offense had the same mentality and wanted to be superior to the defense. We took the mentality of not letting our brothers down.” 

It appeared this team began to equip that mentality as the season moved forward and it’ll be interesting to see Florida take the next step this offseason to become a championship caliber team.  

How close is Florida to closing the gap between themselves and Georgia and Alabama? 

Georgia and Alabama have dominated the SEC over recent years, but with Florida trending in the right direction, the Gators are close to being one of the top dogs again.  

I asked Black how close Florida is to closing that cap between the SEC elites after the Gators’ 10-win season. 

“It’s not Bama, UGA, then Florida. There isn’t a gap. We play the same kind of ball they play. You have to think about it, Georgia only beat us a few times in a row. It is what it is. We win a couple of years and they win a few years. There isn’t a gap.” 

Black mentioned it just takes the right guy to lead Florida back to the national spotlight and believes Mullen is the answer. Despite what recruiting rankings say, Black believes come Saturday’s and once the ball is snapped, Florida can play with any team in the country.  

What is it like playing for a coach that is fully invested in the program? 

Florida had plenty of highlights on the field, but there were several instances where Mullen brought the intensity to fire up his team.  First, it was running out of the tunnel against LSU.  

As fans prepared for the Gators to take the field, Mullen could be seen jumping up and down pumping his arms encouraging the fans to be as loud as possible. Later in the game, before a kickoff in the fourth quarter, the Gators led by one point and needed a defensive stop. 

Prior to the kick, Mullen faced the crowd and began simulating the same motions as he did in the tunnel. He lost his visor, but Mullen didn’t care and neither did the fans, sending the stadium into a frenzy. 

Black discussed what it means playing for a coach that is so heavily invested into the team. 

“It makes you want to play hard for him. He shows he’s invested and that’s someone you want to play for. He makes you want to run through a brick wall, and he’ll be right there with you trying to run through that wall. His energy is incredible. There’s a lot of intensity.” 

Florida regains control over Polk County 

When Black signed to become a Gator in 2007, the Lakeland High School product wasn’t the only Dreadnaught to become a Gator. In fact, a total of seven Dreadnaughts came to Gainesville that year to help bring Florida another title. 

This recruiting cycle, Mullen and his staff were able to hold off Alabama, Miami and several other schools for their three highest ranked prospects, rebuilding that once prominent pipeline. 

Black talks about what it meant to him that the Gators re-own Central Florida’s best recruiting area.  

“Man, it’s awesome. There’s still a few more guys Florida can land in these future classes. I hope they keep the ball rolling and certainly the three Lakeland guys this year help that cause. There are some really good players in that area.“ 

How much has Mullen grown as a play-caller? 

While Black was at Florida, he and the defense had the opportunity to go against Mullen’s offense each day in practice. While several pundits across football have acknowledged the growth of Mullen’s play-calling abilities, I asked Black how much he think’s Mullen has improved over the last nine years. 

“A lot, man. He’s way more mature now than he was nine years ago. He’s headed in a great direction and he’s a heck of a play-caller. He’s more mature in life and how he handles the game as a coach.”

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