Inside the Gators asked former Florida football players for their thoughts on the loss to Kentucky, where the Gators go from here, and if they believe Dan Mullen can build an elite program in Gainesville based on what he has done to this point.
- Defensive tackle Ed Chester
We made a ton of mental mistakes, way too many penalties. We can be elite, but we must get more disciplined and also cut down on the turnovers. The losing streak at the end of last year was largely because of a poor defense. Now our defense is playing better but our offense has more turnovers and is less explosive. So he fixed one problem only to have another. I still like Coach Mullen but he has a lot of work to do to become elite.
- Tight end Ben Troupe
Mullen and the Gators have to win out, and find a way to beat Georgia. Mullen has to get the offense going and be more creative with play calling. Yes UF can be elite, but recruiting has to be better and consistency has to be a focal point. Play the best players. Stop playing down to lesser competition. Take accountability as the head coach and stop looking to just hold the players accountable.
- Anonymous former offensive skill position player
I wasn't happy with the performance from Saturday night. I honestly believe that our offense was too basic, but I think that can be attributed to Emory Jones not being able to pass downfield. I would have liked to have seen Anthony Richardson get more than just three plays, because normally when he goes in, he sparks the team. I keep hearing people say he is being a good teammate, but honestly, he is just doing what most players need to do. Deep down inside we all know he wants to play, especially when he plays he makes big plays for us. I think we can still possibly win the East, but we need help. We need Kentucky to take a few losses and we have to beat Georgia and have them take some losses.
I definitely think we can be an elite team, but Coach Mullen has to play the best players at each position, which I don't think we are doing. We are trying to play everyone, like Pop Warner, and keep people happy. This is college, the best players need to play. I have lots of faith in Coach Mullen, but he has to dig deep and stop thinking about how players will feel if they aren't playing.
- Offensive lineman Shannon Snell
I think Florida still has a few goals left to play for. I think a trip to the College Football Playoffs is out of the question as is the SEC Championship Game, unless numerous teams above them have a complete meltdown. Even then, we’re five games into the season, there’s not enough time in my opinion. Even if Florida beat Georgia, they would still need Kentucky to lose three and Georgia to lose one more. I’ve seen stranger things happen, but it's really unlikely.
Another 10 win season would be good as would a victory over Georgia. As long as games still have to be played, the goal is still to try to win those football games.
Do I think Florida can be elite under Mullen? Well, that depends on how you define elite. Consistently in the top 10? Absolutely. In contention for the SEC? In my opinion, yes in most years. Will he be in the true Nick Saban/Kirby Smart/Ryan Day “elite” category, where he’s competing for championships and winning recruiting battles year after year? That is undecided. This is year four and we don’t have any championships or playoff appearances.
Dan has proven to be an elite coach, by taking the talent he has and getting the most out of them. However, In my opinion, we have some work to do. Such as, at some point, there are certain positions in recruiting that we will need to start hitting home runs on and upgrade for us to be CONSISTENTLY competitive. Losing games to a team that we should not lose to should not happen. That’s just a small sample. Until then I think there is somewhat of a glass ceiling. It has the ability to be broken, but the tools are going to have to be much sharper to break through it.
- Anonymous former offensive lineman
I think Kentucky has a great underdog mentality, especially against us. We did not match their energy at any point during the game.
I’m not a fan of the offensive line coach and how they’re producing, even though I think Coach Mullen is a great play designer and caller. I think Mullen is a great fit, he just has to make tough decisions to elevate his staff because John Hevesy and Billy Gonzales are average at best. They also need to recruit meaner offensive linemen.
- Defensive lineman Damien Jacobs
That one definitely hurt. We had good momentum despite the loss to Alabama. I believe we still have a chance. We have to be motivated and prepared for all opponents. I still believe we are close to being elite under Coach Mullen. I believe in him. It was a frustrating loss to say the least though.
- Receiver Roger Dixon
Where do they go from here? Continue to take it one game at a time. The loss to Kentucky hurt, but we still need to fight each game. Winning from here out is still a good season, especially beating Georgia and fsu (notice fsu doesn’t even get the respect of all caps from me). Yes, the team can be elite with Coach Mullen. He showed that last year and against Alabama this year. Granted, we have a lot to improve on, but this season is not completely lost.
- Linebacker Darrin Kitchens
Building a program takes time and establishing a program's identity can be even more of an arduous task. In this process, mistakes will be made. There will be some bad decisions and choices being made. Sometimes that may look like having the wrong personnel on the field, sometimes that may look like calling the wrong plays. It's all a part of the learning process as you key in on exactly what you want to do and how you want to do it.
As for the specifics of that, it's for coach Mullen and the Gators staff to figure out.
In deciding whether or not the current coach is the right person for the job, ask yourself two questions. Is there anyone that you think could coach at Florida and in the matter of a few seasons, produce dominant wins and championships on a consistent basis? If so, then who? If not, then how much time are we fans willing to give a coach and staff to tackle this challenge?
One criteria that I use when formulating my opinion on the matter is, has the team moved in a direction of progress or regression.
In my opinion, the Gators with Mullen at the helm are improving.
- Anonymous former defensive lineman
I’m very disappointed in the performance last night. I feel like we went in there expecting Kentucky to roll over and that it was going to be an easy win. We looked undisciplined and ill-prepared. I still don’t understand why Anthony Richardson didn't see more playing time if he was healthy, and the comments Coach Mullen made about how he didn’t feel as though he was outcoached, because we had more yards than them, is very disturbing. That is a game where he should have taken responsibility for the loss and shown more emotion, not smiling as he walks across the field to shake hands. If he doesn’t start taking things like this more serious, then he will never be the coach to bring a title back to Gainesville! We've got to turn it around and get back to the dominant team we’ve been known to be.