Mullen: Gators have worked all year for championship opportunity

Dec 14, 2020 | 0 comments

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Florida coach Dan Mullen and Alabama coach Nick Saban held a joint teleconference with the media on Sunday evening to preview their matchup in Saturday’s SEC Championship Game in Atlanta.

Here are the highlights from Mullen’s 20 minutes on the call.

  • They're excited about this game. Their goal every year is to play in this game, and there is no bigger championship game than this one. Most of his players have never played for a championship before, so he knows they’ll be excited to play.
  • Alabama has talent at every position and doesn’t have a lot of weaknesses. They can run the ball, get their athletes the ball in space or take deep shots. They protect quarterback Mac Jones well. They have great athletes on defense, and there's a reason why they're the No. 1 team in the country. “[Saban’s] got a lot of talent.”
  • Jones is similar to Kyle Trask. He distributes the ball to their playmakers, takes what the defense gives them and gets them in the right plays. He’s a good game-manager.
  • Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian utilizes his personnel well. He gets their best athletes in one-on-one matchups, whether that's underneath or deep down the field. Then they have a physical offensive line that they can lean on.
  • The LSU game is over, and they have a chance to compete for a championship now, Mullen said. This game is what you work for all year, so he doesn't think the loss will have much of an effect on them.
  • Tight end Kyle Pitts should be cleared to play this week after he missed the LSU game with an undisclosed injury. He thinks they'll get safety Shawn Davis, defensive end Jeremiah Moon and running back Nay'Quan Wright back this week. Reserve linebacker Ty’Ron Hopper and defensive tackle Marlon Dunlap are also expected back. Reserve edge-rusher David Reese will still be out.
  • His players have played a tough schedule, had a three-week layoff, had to deal with reduced numbers, etc. He thinks they've responded well all season long, so he's hopeful that they'll be able to clean some things up from Saturday and handle this latest adversity well.
  • Alabama has a big and physical defensive line. Their linebackers can cover, and they have playmakers in the secondary. They have a veteran group that knows their system.
  • The red-zone struggles against LSU were caused by missed reads on a couple of key plays, not getting push on a fourth-and-goal and a fluky interception. It wasn't just one thing; it was a combination of things that went wrong.
  • Crimson Tide receiver Devanta Smith has game-breaking speed and is a great route-runner. He's very disciplined in his routes and has great hands to make the spectacular catches. That combination makes him a great receiver.
  • Mullen has high standards for his quarterback, and their offense is very quarterback-based. They ask Kyle Trask to do a lot. He thinks Trask has had a great year, and he knows that excites the fans.
  • He talked to Marco Wilson after the game last night. Wilson is disappointed. The unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for throwing an opponent’s shoe was a shame because he did it out of excitement for a big play made by his team; he didn't have the intent of taunting the other team. He thinks it was just a mistake and not an attempt to disrespect the game. That wasn't the reason they lost the game, and he thinks he'll learn from it.
  • They’ve gotten some guys back healthy on the offensive line in recent weeks, which has allowed them to experiment with different lineups. He wanted to see how those various lineups played out. The numerous rotations against LSU were more of a product of having some more players available than anything performance-based.
  • He likes the resiliency his team has shown this year. It's been a very difficult year for everybody, and making it to the championship game after playing seven weeks in a row shows you how resilient they are.
  • Playing seven weeks in a row takes a toll. With injuries and COVID, it makes it a challenge in all three phases. Mullen thinks his players have done a good job of taking advantage of their opportunities throughout the year.
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