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Dan Mullen met with the media on Monday afternoon, exactly one week ahead of the Gators’ first practice of the spring. In his nearly 35 minutes at the podium, he discussed their roster balance, the early stages of the off-season program, the addition of Tim Brewster to the coaching staff, the quarterback position and much more.
Here are the highlights.
- Everything he has heard about the off-season has been positive so far, both on and off the field. However, he hasn't been surprised by any one player this off-season because he expects everyone to improve. Those who don't impress him would stand out more than those who do.
- They’ll have 15 scholarship offensive linemen this spring, a far cry from where they were at a few years ago. He said that depth will allow them to finally be able to "practice the right way.” They'll be able to spread out repetitions. "It's good that we're starting to create depth on the line of scrimmage."
- When Alabama strength and conditioning coach Scott Cochran left to coach special teams at Georgia, some Gator fans began to worry that Alabama would target Nick Savage as his replacement. Mullen said Savage is the best strength and conditioning coach in the country, so other schools come after him frequently. He thinks Savage likes working at Florida, and they’re lucky to have him.
- Mullen said he would like to see a more black-and-white policy on transfer waivers to provide more consistency. He mentioned the proposed rule that would give all football players the right to transfer once without penalty as a possibility. He’s clearly still agitated at Brenton Cox’s waiver being denied last season.
- He said Kyle Trask knows he better push himself every day this spring because Emory Jones and Anthony Richardson expect to play this year. He thinks Jones and Richardson understand that they're going to get opportunities to play with the 'ones' some this spring, and they know what they have to do to be the starter.
- This is their best roster balance in the spring, he said. They like to be at least three-deep at every position plus a couple of guys so they can handle injuries. He thinks they have that at every spot this spring.
- He said his players will never transfer due to a lack of reps in the spring because they get them all some reps. Their older players have bought into rotating at most positions because it keeps them healthy, helps special teams and provides motivation for the younger guys.
- Mullen said understanding the offense, making faster decisions and good decisions will be keys for Trask this spring. Checking protections and knowing when to take deep shots are the next steps in his development.
- Every position on the team is open this spring, he said, and kicker Evan McPherson is the only one who is close to securing a starting job.
- Brewster has a great personality and is a great tight ends coach, he said. He brings a "wealth of knowledge and experience as a position coach." Mullen worked with him previously, so he knew he would fit into the culture of the staff. Mullen said he keeps a list of guys to call should positions come open, and Brewster was on his list. "It was pretty easy."
- He said Brewster's personality makes him a great recruiter. "I don't think he's ever walked into a room and not walked out with more friends."
- While the expectations from fans and the media might be greater this season than in prior years, he said they don't need to deal with the heightened expectations this season because the expectations within the program haven't changed. The outside expectations are merely catching up to an internal expectation that has been there from day one.
- Mullen said Lamical Perine was such a big factor in the passing game in 2019, and that versatility will be tough to replace. His job is to put the returning running backs into positions where they can succeed. He's excited to see Malik Davis at 100 percent this spring. While he was 100 percent healthy physically last season, he doesn't think he was 100 percent mentally. He thinks he's confident now.
- Mullen mentioned Ventrell Miller, James Houston and Mohamoud Diabate as some options to replace David Reese at middle linebacker. They haven't settled on one guy yet. They have several guys playing both linebacker spots, including Diabate.
- They're not changing spring practices at all despite the rash of injuries last year because he thinks he's always cared deeply about the health of his players and therefore has no need to change. Cutting back would only make things worse, in his opinion. "If I don't do certain things, I put them at even higher risk of injury."
- He thinks they have more guys that are willing to be leaders than they did a couple of years ago.
- He said it's all about getting their five best players on the field in the secondary and not so much worrying about corners and safeties. That's why they tried Trey Dean at nickel to start last year. They'll try to figure out who's comfortable at which positions this spring. He wouldn’t rule out the possibility of Dean returning to nickel.
- Mullen also said they'll move some guys around on the offensive line and see which combinations work together best.
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