Mullen Monday: Gators looking to ramp things up

Sep 14, 2020 | 0 comments

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Dan Mullen spoke with the media for the final time before game week on Monday afternoon. He discussed his team’s intensity in practice, the Gators’ latest virus testing numbers, Dak Prescott’s admission of mental health struggles, the fire in the Swamp, and more.

Here are the highlights.

  • Mullen said it was big for UF to be named the sixth-best public university by U.S. News & World Report on Monday. "It's a pretty special deal" to also be ranked No. 5 in football, and that is reflected in the quality of athletes that come to UF.
  • They had all of their meetings in the morning on Saturday, so nobody was there when the maintenance vehicle erupted in flames on the third floor of the stadium. He was at home scheduling practice for the next week when some kids stopped by their house and told them that the stadium was on fire. Once he found out that everything was fine, he decided to have fun with it on Twitter.
  • He saw a wide range of stuff when looking at other teams around the country and in the NFL. The one thing that stood out to him watching the NFL on Sunday was the amount of mental errors that aren't normally made. They’re emphasizing to their players that they need to avoid penalties and other critical mental mistakes.
  • They were a "little bit stale" in their last practice on Friday. They'll practice twice this week and have a mock game on Thursday. He wants to see the intensity pick up without the excitement of game week distracting them from what they need to get done this week.
  • The mock game will cover everything from entering the field, warmups, substitutions and singing the fight song after the game. They won’t wear helmets, and there will be no actual football played, however.
  • They've talked a lot about not allowing social justice protests to become a distraction from the task at hand, which is winning games, Mullen said. They had Dallas Cowboys quarterback and former Mullen protégé Dak Prescott speak with the team last week about the responsibility and power that comes with being a high-profile athlete. As far as social justice protests, Prescott said the most important things are to understand what your reason is for your decision and to respect others who make different decisions than you. Mullen’s players know they have a voice and to use it appropriately. He's talked with his team about how to promote meaningful messages that differ each week.
  • Mullen’s biggest concern is translating into game mode. In practice, if you make a mistake, you just put the ball back down where the play started and run the play again. They have to get into the flow of understanding the attention to detail and the sense of urgency that is needed in games.
  • Penn State transfer receiver Justin Shorter, who got his immediate eligibility waiver approved by the NCAA last week, is a very talented player who has worked hard and blocks well. As a veteran, he understands the importance of playing a complete game, and that a block is just as good as a 50-yard catch sometimes. He has a great work ethic. When you take a talented player with a great work ethic and a great position coach, you're going to see rapid progress.
  • They won't alter the practice schedule this week with the 11 a.m. CT kickoff at Ole Miss. They're working with the medical staff to start making plans for the trip. They'll have assigned seats on the bus, different arrangements on the plane, spaced out locker rooms, different roommate assignments and more single rooms at the hotel, among other safety protocols.
  • A couple of more players tested positive for COVID-19 over the last week, and he thinks they might have also experienced some false positives. UF will release the updated numbers tomorrow. He credited the medical staff for creating a safe environment for the players and the players for doing a good job of following the protocols.
  • The positive tests haven't impacted practice; it hurts individual growth more than anything else.
  • Many of his assistant coaches being with him for a long time helps them understand his expectations, how they practice, what their in-season schedule looks like, etc. He doesn't have to spend a lot of time getting them up to speed. They have a great group of coaches, and their camaraderie makes for a good work environment and keeps guys from leaving for other jobs. The challenge is that you can become complacent and stop looking for new ways to do things as you get comfortable. He’s pushing his coaches to always look for better ways to do things.
  • Wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales does a great job of developing players, Mullen said. When he came to Florida, some considered their receiving corps one of the worst groups in the country. Two years later, four of them are in the NFL. They recruit great players, run a pro-style offense and develop their fundamentals. Gonzales is very knowledgeable and understands the big picture of the game. He's good at motivating and getting the most out of his players.
  • Dante Lang's move to defensive end this fall was a combination of depth concerns at the strong-side end position and trying to find a better opportunity for him to get on the field. Shortly after Mullen took the UF job in 2017, he told Lang, then a recruit, that he loved his athleticism and pass-rushing ability, but Lang told him he was coming to Florida to play tight end. He thinks he has a bright future at defensive end. He's up to the mid-280-pound range now.
  • If you look at Washington Football Team backup quarterback Alex Smith's comeback from a gruesome leg injury as an outsider, it's very motivating. The Project 11 documentary that ESPN released was hard for him to watch, though, because he knows the family personally. He encourages everybody to watch it. The drive Smith showed to come back from that injury didn't surprise him, as he graduated college in two years.
  • Freshman punter Jeremy Crawshaw is doing great but has never played live football with the loss of the spring game. Walk-on redshirt senior Jacob Finn has also done a solid job, and he'll make the decision on who to start late next week.
  • Mullen’s proud of Prescott for detailing his bout with depression following his brother's suicide earlier this year. He thinks having a prominent voice like that is especially important given all of the mental health issues that will likely arise over the next couple of years following the pandemic and the quarantine. Prescott gives people someone they can look to. It’s important for people dealing with mental health struggles to understand that they're not alone and that they shouldn't be afraid to speak out about these issues. He added that you'd be hard-pressed to find somebody who hasn't dealt with depression or anxiety to some degree since March.
  • Miami transfer running back Lorenzo Lingard is behind the other running backs in picking up the offense. Mullen’s been most impressed by his attitude and work ethic. He works his tail off, plays hard and contributes on special teams. He's been very conscientious about picking up the offense.
Tags: Player

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