Mullen Monday: Gators look to take another step forward

Nov 16, 2020 | 0 comments

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Dan Mullen met with the media on Monday afternoon to discuss how he’s keeping his team motivated against winless Vanderbilt, his philosophy on quarterback development, the injury report, and more. 

Here are the highlights. 

  • Tight end Kyle Pitts will be out again this week following a concussion and a nose surgery. Wide receiver Trent Whittemore suffered a broken rib and a punctured lung against Arkansas and is out. Linebacker James Houston is questionable with an unspecified injury.
  • Their focus has to be on Vanderbilt this week and on getting better in various ways.
  • Defensively, they can't give up those big, explosive plays. He thought they did a better job of getting lined up against Arkansas, though. Offensively, he thinks it's important to continue to be efficient against various defensive looks. There are a lot of little things that they need to focus on. That's how you get better from week-to-week as championship teams do.
  • The late Paul Hornung was the only Heisman winner on a losing team, which illustrates that the best player on the best team combination is what decides individual awards. No matter how well you perform as an individual, you'll get more opportunities to win awards if the team wins more. He says Tim Tebow won the Heisman Trophy despite only winning nine games because he did some things that hadn't been done before. He put up seven touchdowns late in the year against South Carolina, and that really got people excited.
  • Playing this game in front of less than 1,000 fans is something they've addressed with the team. As of Sunday night, they didn't even think the Gators' parents would be allowed to watch the game, but that policy has since been changed. The crowd size combined with the morning kickoff will make this game a bit challenging.
  • He's addressed the team about the game two years ago where they fell behind 21-3 at Vandy. They can't come out slow; they have to play to their standard from the start.
  • It's not easy for quarterbacks to take what the defense gives them, Mullen said. How fast you can process information about the defense and the matchups is key. Kyle Trask has done a really good job of understanding how a defense is playing them and where their routes work best and deciding where to go with the ball quickly. He does a good job of moving around in the pocket to find throwing angles, and he's very accurate. All of that makes him a really good quarterback.
  • You look for physical and mental toughness, leadership, intelligence, and decision-making in a quarterback in recruiting. Then they tell quarterbacks that the first things they need to know are protections. Then they get into reading every type of defense and how to attack them. A lot of guys just coach guys on what to do, but teaching them why they're doing it is the key to developing them long term. Mullen thinks he and offensive coordinator Brian Johnson do a pretty good job of coaching those guys. They set up practice to maximize their development.
  • Reserve tight end Kemore Gamble showed his maturity and understanding of the offense by the way he blocked hard despite not catching a pass against Arkansas. Coach Tim Brewster has done a really good job with those guys, and you see that with how Gamble and Keon Zipperer have performed. You see his coaching acumen more with them than you do with Pitts. He's prepared quality depth in that room.
  • They'll call multiple plays for Trask sometimes and give him the ability to select the best one. He also has the ability to kill a play and completely change it to something else. There'll be times when he and Johnson don't know what he's doing. Sometimes, he'll act likes he's changing the play just for show. He lets his quarterbacks have great freedom, and all he asks is that they tell him if they're not comfortable with something so they can take it out of the game plan.
  • They're an aggressive-style defense, and they're going to make life difficult for quarterbacks, Mullen said. He thinks defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and the defensive staff do a good job of making adjustments within games. They're growing into who they are. Grantham has answers to the problems offenses are going to present. They only gave up 21 points to the Razorbacks when the first unit was in the game and 14 with the backups, which is a great teaching moment for the second unit.
  • Vanderbilt has continued to improve. They almost beat Texas A&M, outgained Mississippi State and only lost by three to Kentucky last week. The Gators have to get better as a team this week. They only get 10 games this year, so he hopes his guys are motivated to make plays every chance they get. Playing an 0-6 team is a challenge, and he's been a part of teams before that have lost games like this because they took them for granted.
  • They've put a bunch of different things in place for this road game since it's their first since the COVID outbreak. They're going to make sure everybody always wears their mask and limit the snacks on the plane. They'll change their entire pregame routine to limit the amount of time they'll spend in the small visitor's locker room.


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