Anonymous Player Q&A III: Thoughts on the 2020 season, Mullen & More

Mar 5, 2021 | 1 comment


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Here are 25 ITG Must See features FREE for all to read. From some of our Anonymous Player Q&A sessions to our Behind-the-Scenes look at Florida football. All FREE!

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This marks the tenth off-season in which Inside the Gators has interviewed an anonymous departing player in order for him to share his thoughts on an array of topics regarding Florida Gators football.

In the past we have conducted these far-reaching interviews in late summer, however, last year we began them in the spring. That set-up seemed to work best, so that's how we'll begin in 2021.

Over the next couple of weeks, and then months, we'll be conducting shorter interviews with a couple of anonymous players in order to give our readers a better understanding of what happened last season, what is currently going on, and some players they should be on the lookout for this spring.

Today we asked a second player the exact same questions we asked the player in Part I of this series. We start off with a general overview of the season.

As an aside, allowing a player to comment anonymously obviously has its benefits and downside. The goal of this feature is to give our readers an honest and freely expressive look at the Florida football team, but we also acknowledge the nature of anonymous comments and the stigma that can come with them.

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Going back to last spring, who were some of the players who were really killing it during mat and conditioning drills?

Two players that really killed it during mat drills and conditioning drills had to be Trey Dean and Ventrell Miller. Those are two guys that always attacked the workouts and made sure to give everything they had in the weight room and on the field during the offseason. Then, Brett Heggie and Kadarius Toney were extremely impressive with their work ethic and performances throughout the offseason. Heggie has always been a hard worker, but he couldn't always show it because he was hurt so much. Probably because it was his last season, but last year was the first year Toney took everything seriously.  All four of these guys were leaders for not only their position groups but the team as well. Another player that has always wowed me throughout the offseason workouts is Jeremiah Moon. A guy of his size with the ability to beat skill players in agility drills is remarkable. 

Obviously, the offseason was like none we have ever experienced before. Talk about what it was like during conditioning and mat drills last spring and then finding out there would be no spring practices.

The offseason was very different and a lot more lax than normal. It was difficult to have the same structure and schedule as a normal offseason with the Covid-19 protocols. Also, anytime a player tested positive there was immediate contract-tracing and people with exposure to that player were forced to quarantine for 10-14 days. Pretty much any form of team meeting or position group meeting was held over video call via Zoom. There were also plenty of protocols implemented by the training staff to ensure player safety and minimize the risk of contracting covid-19.

How much do you think a lack of face-to-face, in-person time with Nick Savage and staff impacted the team?

Coach Savage is a complete professional at what he does. Even when we weren’t allowed to meet for lifts due to quarantining, he made sure to mail us all equipment to wherever we were located. He made several modified workouts and reached out to all of us to make sure we were maintaining our workout regimen. I think Coach Mullen also did a solid job in adjusting practices and meetings to meet the Covid-19 protocols. That's his strong point, adjusting on the fly.

Dan Mullen seemed a bit different this year as well – especially in some of his post-game comments. And he is taking some heat from a certain segment of the fanbase – have your feelings of him as a coach changed at all over the last three years?

Yes, my feelings have changed about Mullen. Not over his three years but last year. I still believe that he is a great coach in terms of the logistics and knowledge of the game, coaching offense, calling plays, and developing players. However, I feel that he isn’t the ideal player’s coach that I thought he was before last year. I feel that a lot of his actions are made to look good for the fans and former alumni. Who he was on tv and to the media last year, wasn’t the same as who he is in the team meeting room. It was very disappointing to see how he handled the Oklahoma game. His message has always been to ‘hold the rope’ but then he was the one to let it go. He without a doubt gave up on the senior class and was more worried about giving younger guys the opportunity to play. 

What do you mean by who he was on TV and the media isn't the same as he was in the meeting room?

Things like kneeling down for solidarity before the Ole Miss game and the weekly message on the t-shirts were made for TV publicity stunts more than they were how he truly was. I feel like he thought things were shifting too fast last year, that players were getting too much of a voice. It went from the head coach having total control over everything on the field and in a player's personal life to players getting to have a voice and he wasn't ready for that. During camp there was a protest in town that Kyree [Campbell], Zach [Carter], and James [Houston] were planning and organizing for us to go to as a team, and Mullen didn't come out and say no, but he was hinting that the scrimmage we were having that day was more important. That was an issue because of everything going on and he had the wrong response and it came down to some players, a lot of them, having the attitude that if you are saying the choice is between the scrimmage and going to the protest, we're going to the protest and if that means we aren't Florida football players anymore, we can live with that. It was one of those things where you could tell he didn’t know what was going on or really what he should say but he found some right words and eventually agreed to go with the team and we came back that night and scrimmaged. The same thing with what he said about election day. The NCAA made it an off day for players to make sure that coaches didn't tell players you have to do this, this, this, and that before you can go vote. Mullen got upset with that because he didn't want it to be an off day because it interfered with the practice schedule. I still love him as a person and coach, and probably a lot of the players would say the same thing, but last year did change him. I think coaches have lost some control over their players' lives and he hasn't found out how to deal with it yet.

The defense struggled all season. What do you believe the main reason was for that? 

It was hard to tell what exactly went wrong with the defense. I feel that it was a mix of lack of preparation and game management. It was both on the players and the coaches as it seemed like all the teams, we faced were able to have their way with us. Lack of communication during the games seemed to be the biggest issue. It was tough seeing the offense perform so well throughout the year and not getting as many wins as we should’ve because of the other side of the ball. 

Florida finally got the Georgia monkey off of its back this season. What was the mindset of the team entering that game and what was it like to finally win one against one of the Gators biggest rivals?

The mindset going into the UGA was that we needed to win this game since we already lost to Texas A&M early in the year. We were motivated to finally get the monkey off of our back against the Bulldogs. After the win the team was extremely fired up and ready to get back to Atlanta with a shot to win the SEC. It was probably the best feeling throughout the entire year after we beat UGA and took the sole lead of the SEC East. 

Then you have the LSU game. The Tigers were barely over the NCAA minimum to even play the game, had a losing record, and were heavy underdogs, but won. What was practice like that week leading up to the game? Did it feel like the coaches and/or players were taking the game for granted? What was the feeling like in the locker room after Wilson's shoe throw? Did anything say anything supportive or negative to him? What about the decision to hold out Pitts, was that seen as looking ahead to Alabama?

There didn’t seem to be much difference in terms of the preparation and how we practiced throughout the week. However, I do feel that the team was a little complacent because we, me included, were looking ahead to the Alabama game. It did seem like we took the game a little for granted and should’ve been more ready for the Tigers. They obviously didn’t have much to play for and wanted to play the role of the spoilers for our playoff hopes. The feeling in the locker-room after the Wilson shoe throw was hard to describe. We were all disappointed in the loss, and some of the plays leading up to the finish. However, we weren’t going to blame it on one play regardless of how boneheaded it may have been. We needed to perform way better as a team to win that game. I don’t understand the decision to hold out Kyle Pitts for the game. I feel that having him would’ve made a huge difference in our offensive performance as well as our redzone scoring.

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As we roll out the first Anonymous Player Q&A session of the offseason, click  RIGHT HERE for the newsfeed to all of our past Q&A sessions. Several of them are free for anyone to read. 

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The three-game losing streak to end the season. What was the feeling like during that time?

The three-game losing streak was disappointing especially with how close we were to achieving our goal of making the college football playoff. The feeling after the Oklahoma game was dull and disappointing. We felt like we weren’t given the full chance to actually win the game. The seniors were all devastated by the way the game went and the second-half adjustments that were made. We were shorted the opportunity to finish our careers with a win in a big-time game. The decision to play a lot of younger and inexperienced players in the second half played a huge role in the game getting out of hand. 

What are your thoughts and your take on the feeling around the team over the Cotton Bowl opt-outs?

I don’t have any particular feeling about the opt-outs in the Cotton Bowl. I feel that the players that opted out had every right to do so. They gave their all for the team and this program. They deserve the decision to choose whether or not they play in the game. Especially with their futures on the line. It is a business decision at that point, and I respect whatever decision my teammates made for that situation. The funniest thing I saw was the parents of two players who were the most pissed off about it after the game. I don't know if any alcohol was involved, but they were going off about the players who opted-out.

What about Mullen's comments after the game that he treated it like a scrimmage. That doesn't sound like the same man who after the loss to Missouri in 2019 said that he considers everything a competition and he wants to beat your ass at it.

It was apparent at halftime and throughout the second half that Mullen did not have the same mindset that he had in the past in which he stated that he “wants to beat your ass in anything you do”. If anything, I feel that he threw in the towel on the game and decided to start preparing for the next season by allowing the younger players to get a lot of playing time in the second half. That went against everything he preached for the first two and a half years. I don't know what happened to him there at the end of the season. It's like he lost his drive, but some of my friends still on the team said that he is back to being his old self this year. Maybe he had something going on or was going through some things last year? I don't know but it sounds like he is back to who he was.

Kyle Trask had one of the better seasons in college football history. What was it like to be part of that?

It was great to be able to see Kyle have such a tremendous season. He is someone who has been patient and resilient throughout his time at UF. Once he got his opportunity, he made the most of it. Kyle is someone who took a lot of pride in his preparation for the game. When you combine his preparation for each game with his natural talent as a quarterback you can see why the results were so impressive. 

Looking ahead, pick out a player or two on offense and a player or two on defense that hasn't played a lot to this point, but the Gator Nation should be aware of for next season?

Offensive player to look out for – Emory Jones. Emory has been patient and is ready to seize the moment as the starting quarterback for this upcoming season. He is someone that hasn’t been able to show his complete skill set yet and I believe he is going to have a great season this year. He is going to put up some big-time numbers both through the air and on the ground. He gives the UF offense a new dynamic with his ability to run the ball.

Defensive player to look out for – Jeremiah Moon. Jeremiah is someone that has God-given ability with his natural athleticism. He is someone that deserves a full season of play without injury. He is as athletic a guy for his size can be and someone that can put up ridiculous stats for the defense this upcoming season. I hope to see him have a great year as he has been resilient for many years while battling injuries. 

Along those same lines pick out a player most fans are expecting big things from, but he might not deliver and a player fans may not be expecting anything from but could have a big season?

[Jacob] Copeland could go either way. Fans are expecting a lot out of him and they should because he has a world of talent and he is a hard worker. He has to keep his eye on the prize. If things don't go his way or he doesn't get the ball as much as he thinks he should his head wanders. He is probably the biggest 'me' player on the team, but he has the talent to back it up. I don't know how fans feel about [Mohamoud] Diabate but either this year or next he will break out as one of the best linebackers in the SEC. He's still learning, but he can do it all.

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