Mullen Monday: Here to stay

Dec 16, 2019 | 0 comments

Dan Mullen spoke with the media on Monday afternoon for the first time since the regular season ended 16 days ago. He previewed the Orange Bowl match-up with Virginia, updated injuries, addressed the NFL rumors, discussed Feleipe Franks’ departure and more.

Here are the highlights.

  • Mullen said some guys have been held out of practice with bumps and bruises, but he doesn’t expect anyone to miss the game other than the players that were previously ruled out for the season. Up to this point, practices have been used primarily for developing younger players, and they’ve used these practices to get the banged-up veterans some rest. On Tuesday, practices will become more Virginia-specific, and he expects everyone to participate with the possible exception of safety Shawn Davis, who’s nursing a hamstring injury. Defensive end Jabari Zuniga is practicing and is expected to play.
  • There are still a few players waiting on their NFL Draft grades, but he expects everyone to play in the bowl game, he said. As a follow-up, Jonathan Greenard later said that he was playing for sure.
  • He joked that balancing recruiting, game-planning, practicing and Christmas shopping is like “juggling chainsaws.”
  • Playing in a second straight New Year’s Six bowl is a testament to how the older players have bought in to the coaching staff. They've faced a lot of adversity over the past two years, but they've exhibited good leadership. The 16 guys who graduated and the effort they play with shows how much they've bought in.
  • They’ll have 12 total bowl practices: four developmental practices in Gainesville, four game-preparation practices in Gainesville, three practices in South Florida and a walkthrough the day before the game.
  • Three members of the 2020 signing class – quarterback Anthony Richardson and offensive linemen Richie Leonard and Joshua Braun – completed their high school course work and arrived at UF on Friday to practice with the team. Mullen said these practices will provide a nice "jump start" for them, as they'll be more familiar with how practices are run once spring comes around. "It's an interesting, unique learning experience for them."
  • He met with Feleipe Franks before the FSU game and learned of Franks’ decision, and they decided to wait until after the game to announce his decision to keep the focus on the game. Franks told him that he loved being at Florida, but he only has one year of college football left and wanted to explore his opportunities to be "the guy" somewhere next year or go pro.
  • Mullen added that the other quarterbacks have stepped up as leaders, but he loves Franks' smile, personality, team-first attitude and humor. They want what's best for him. They'll help him find a landing spot by offering advice, and they've given glowing reviews to everyone who's called about him.
  • He was asked about why he’s been able to close strongly in each of his recruiting classes at UF. He said part of it is the way the Gators have exceeded outside expectations each of the past two seasons by making a marquee bowl game and winning 10 games. Those wins, combined with UF’s academic prowess, make UF a very attractive destination for top prospects.
  • He doesn’t anticipate any changes to his coaching staff after the bowl game. He said some of his assistant coaches have worked for him for a long time, Florida is a destination job and the weather is great. He thinks they enjoy being here. He added that the biggest disappointment is that several of his assistants got calls about possibly being a head coach, but nothing ever materialized. He thinks some programs are missing out on great coaches.
  • On the rumors that have surfaced over the past week linking Mullen to the Dallas Cowboys, he said, "I think our guys know I plan on being here for a long time.”
  • He takes the rumors as a compliment of his coaching abilities, he said. He hasn't spent a second to even consider what a jump to the NFL would entail. He said it's something he might ideally want to do at some point in his life, but he's happy here now. He likes having full control of the program in college.
  • He's had very brief discussions with athletic director Scott Stricklin about a contract decision, Mullen said. He said Stricklin has told him he's doing a great job, so he feels good about his job security. He's been too busy to worry about that stuff too much. They'll evaluate the program's direction after the season.
  • He said Virginia quarterback Bryce Perkins has always been a dynamic runner, but he’s improved a lot over the season as a passer, and they have good weapons on the outside. The improvement of their passing game makes them a dangerous offense.
  • The Cavaliers have some lengthy edge rushers and physical, downhill linebackers, he said. The secondary has suffered some injuries but has settled in as the season has gone on.
  • He pointed out that while UVA is ranked just No. 24, they played for a conference championship. So, he doesn't anticipate his team overlooking them. If anything, he's concerned about how they'll respond mentally and physically to the long layoff.
  • While the early signing period was implemented two years ago by request of the athletes, it’s also benefited the coaches, Mullen said. The early signing period allows them to lock up a majority of their class and see what their weaknesses are heading into the February signing day.
  • He reiterated that he plans on being at UF for "a long time." It’s all cyclical, he said. One year, NFL teams want the hot college coach. The next year, it might be coaches with NFL head coaching experience or defensive guys that are coveted.

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