The Stock Report: Mullen trending upwards

Sep 28, 2021 | 0 comments


During its first four games of the season, Florida beat two outmanned in-state programs, played the No. 1 team in the nation down to the wire, and then had a second-half explosion that lead to a blowout against a floundering SEC East rival.

What does all of that tell us?

With one-third of the regular season in the books, Inside the Gators takes a look at the team's current trends.

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(On a smartphone, for the best view, turn your phone horizontally)

CommodityCommentTrending
Emory JonesThere’s no reason to overstate this by trying to convince anyone that Emory Jones is currently a top-tier quarterback. He isn’t. What he is though is – because of the improvement he has shown over the last five quarters – a young man who is becoming a true dual-threat quarterback, equally as capable as making plays with his arm as he is his legs. He has played much better as of late, but as a player who doesn’t always seem to be up to the occasion from a mental standpoint, we’re waiting to see how he responds to his first true road test this weekend, and how he reacts to Anthony Richardson once again being available. Does he in turn start to play tight again?""
Defense

There was a tweet yesterday pointing out that until five years ago, in 11 of the 12 previous seasons, Florida featured a top 10 defense in the nation. In his fourth season at Florida, Todd Grantham's defense has finished 10th once and has been outside the top 25 every other year, including currently being ranked 62nd overall. While Florida is solid against the run, their poor play defending the pass is what has hurt them the most. In the 14 team SEC, Florida is 11th in passing efficiency defense, 13th in first downs allowed, passing yards allowed, and dead last, 14th in interceptions. Florida hasn't been able to make big plays in the secondary, though too many times, they have given up explosive plays.

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Recruiting

Speaking of recruiting, though Florida still has its ups-and-downs, and the current 14th place ranking in the 247 Sports Composite Team Recruiting Rankings is nothing to write home about, after a bit of a lull over the summer, we're starting to see an uptick with Florida when it comes to some of the top remaining targets on the board. The plan to eschew official visits during the Alabama weekend to concentrate on the game and load up on, and be able to pay particular attention to, unofficial visitors, should start to pay dividends in this class, but really helped UF in the Class of 2023. At the end of the day, recruiting is mostly about relationships, and UF still has some work to do there (and in organizational structure), but you have to feel better about the Gators recruiting today than you did a couple of months ago.

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Wide Outs

Yes, you can attribute some of their poor showing on Emory Jone's struggles in the first two-and-a-half games of the season, but even after taking that into consideration, Florida's wide receiver group as a whole, and Jacob Copeland and Justin Shorter, in particular, have been underwhelming to this point. Rick Wells leads the group with 11 catches, which is only good enough to be tied for 31st place in the SEC. Copeland is 2nd on the team with 10 catches, but half of them came in the USF game. In his other three games combined, he has 5 catches for 57-yards. Then there's Shorter, who has a 'big play' skillset, but is averaging under 10 yards per catch. Some falloff could be expected considering what UF lost to the NFL, but to this point, the bottom has fallen out. 

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Offensive Line

It's taken some time, but here in his fourth season in Gainesville, John Hevesy has Florida's offensive line playing at the top of their game. Florida is No. 3 in the nation, averaging 322.5 yards rushing per game. Their 7.46 yards per rush average leads the nation. While the linemen have been praised for their run blocking ability, the Gators have only given up three sacks on the season, good for 6th best in the nation. Just as good of news is that Florida goes seven deep across the line and has been able to mix in some youngsters in order to help build depth for this season and the future.

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Dan Mullen

By the end of last season, there was a real reason to be concerned as to whether or not Dan Mullen was the perfect fit for Florida. Coming off of a four-loss season that included a three-game losing streak to end the season along with some of his off-putting behavior, including his antics during the Missouri game and how he admittingly mailed it in against Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl – his popularity among the fan base was at an all-time low. However, it appears as though he has gotten things back on track. Off the field, he comes off as a bit more fiery – and relaxed – during his media opportunities. On the field, to put it simply, he has been amazing as a play-caller, and just go ahead and say it, he outcoached Nick Saban in the Gators’ two-point loss to the Tide. To this point, he has established himself as a top-five college football coach. If he can get the recruiting side of it down pat, Florida has a bright future under Mullen.

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Trey Dean

Some in the Gator Nation choose to remember Trey Dean as the often picked on cornerback from two years ago, but the truth is, those days are in the past and what remains is one of the better safeties in the SEC. If you are Dean, you have to have some regret about 'wasting' those first years at cornerback, when he could have been learning, growing, and gaining experience at his more natural position of safety. After recording 11 tackles this past weekend, Dean was named Florida's Defensive Player of the Game, but even those statistics and that honor don't tell the entire story as he has become a leader in the secondary, and unfortunately for Florida, one of the only 'sure' tacklers back there.

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Defensive Tackling

Though Tre'Vez Johnson is hardly the only defensive player who has missed a tackle this season, he is getting the nod here to be the 'face' of the issue because as I'm writing this, what stands out the most is his nonchalant tackle attempt during Tiyon Evans' 47-yard catch and run touchdown on Saturday – a play in itself that featured four missed tackles by the Gators' defense. There of course have been numerous instances, including four missed tackles on Alabama's first three scoring drives, that helped put Florida in a hole they couldn't recover from, but that play more than any other helped to define what has been Florida's biggest issue to date. Yes, you have to have good form, but more than anything, tackling is an attitude. I want to put you on the ground more than you want to stay upright. Florida hasn't shown that fire this season.

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