Mullen Monday: Gators seek quick turnaround on defense

Sep 28, 2020 | 0 comments


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Dan Mullen held his weekly press conference on Monday. He discussed the historic performances turned in by Kyle Trask and Kyle Pitts, the debacle on defense, the challenges South Carolina will present on Saturday, and more.

Here are the highlights.

  • Mullen is excited to get back in the Swamp. It'll be great to play in an environment like no other. He thinks you've seen that fans can still make a difference this year despite smaller crowds, so he challenges Gator fans to buy the available tickets and create a great environment. To be in the Swamp on a Saturday in October will feel normal.
  • He thinks they'll be a lot better on defense on Saturday. There were a lot of teachable moments that led to the breakdowns against Ole Miss. They were down a few marquee players, and the Rebels did a great job of getting their playmakers the ball. He thinks eliminating spring ball and limiting the tackling in the fall is an advantage for the offense early on this season. He expects better communication, technique and tackling as the season goes on. He thinks there are explosive players and good quarterbacks in this league, but the limited offseason contributed to the league-wide passing explosion this weekend.
  • They know Pitts is a mismatch, and they feel comfortable with some of their other tight ends as well. They're going to utilize the parts of the offense that involve them maybe more than other years.
  • There are a lot of things that Trask can get better at. He's worked really hard to put himself in this position, and it's not too big for him. He doesn't take this starting job for granted. He's making good decisions, being accurate and managing the game. He expects him to continue focusing on getting better. A lot of the credit goes to his quickness making decisions and getting the ball to the right players.
  • Mullen joked that he's biased to the tight ends as a former tight end himself. He's always tried to create advantageous matchups. It's about having enough in your offensive system to highlight different types of players.
  • He doesn't know who will be available from week to week this season, so there's even more of a next-man-up mentality this year. Every rep they can give to young players is important. It was great to play a few of them against Ole Miss.
  • He just wants to see them execute and get better every week. They have explosive players, which gives them a chance to be an explosive offense from week to week. However, he expects defenses to start catching up here soon.
  •  Steve Spurrier comes by his office and gives his thoughts on some different things from time to time. It's always good to have a non-judgmental and helpful guy like that around. He's drawn up some plays for them before during the offseason. They put one in last year called "Spurrier” that they ran several times. It was a passing play, obviously.
  • Linebacker Ventrell Miller plays very hard and is a leader of the defense. He does that every day in practice, and it's a great lesson for the other players. Everything he does in practice translates into games.
  • Having veteran players that were still able to throw and catch this summer helped them some, but he still expects them to get better offensively throughout the season.
  • Mullen said penalties can kill or extend drives, and they put a lot of emphasis on it last week. Other than safety Shawn Davis’ targeting penalty, they did a good job of it against Ole Miss. They handled that transition into game week well.
  • Brett Heggie played really well, as did the whole offensive line. He gives Heggie a lot of credit for jumping in at center for them, and he did a great job of it. He was happy to see him get recognized as SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week. There weren't a lot of mistakes made upfront, and they got better in the running game as the game went on. He saw a couple of ups and downs from right guard Stewart Reese, but he graded out as a Champion and should get better as the season goes on.
  • South Carolina has some long corners, and they like to play a lot of man coverage. They have a lot of talented and veteran players upfront, so it'll be a big challenge. This game the last two years has gone down to the wire, so they have to be ready for a four-quarter fight.
  • Pitts has the size to go over the top of defensive backs and the speed to run away from linebackers. He's also developed as a blocker. When you combine those things, who are you supposed to put on him defensively? He's like a unicorn. You have to either have a 6-foot-4, 240-pound linebacker that can run with him or a defensive back who can be physical with him. If putting him out wide creates a better matchup than lining him up on the line on a certain play, they’ll continue to do it.
  • Trask does a good job of putting the ball where the defense isn't. The receivers have the ability to slide into the right windows to create targets for him to throw to.
  • Mullen said they have guys on the scout team who also have to take reps with the offense or defense because their numbers are down. For them to have a successful year, it's going to take a lot of unselfish people.
  • The Gamecocks have a veteran quarterback who knows the system, they have a couple of good running backs and they create matchup issues with their receivers.
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