Anonymous Player In-Season Q&A Part I

Oct 19, 2021 | 0 comments

Inside the Gators has taken its most anticipated off-season feature – Anonymous Player Q&A – to the next level with this in-season two-part question and answer session covering the 2021 football season to date with those who are actually part of the action.

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.

As for the questions, of course, after losing two out of the last three, the tone is going to be a bit different. It was made clear to the player beforehand not to take the tone of the questions as though we were seeking a negative response. That wasn't the case at all. We made it clear that we weren’t looking for something positive or negative, just their true feelings.


Q: Did you get a feeling that this year's fall camp was different than last year's?
A: The practices were about the same, but the days were longer. We had an actual camp compared to last year. We finally stayed in the hotel and practiced at the Southwest Rec Fields. A lot was different from last year from the feeling, we were closer than last year and there was more energy and the schedule was different.

Q: Even after losing to Alabama, Florida was still fairly highly ranked in the polls. What was the general feeling among the team after that game? What was the message from Mullen?
A: We felt how close it was. Coach [Dan] Mullen talked about how we are closing the gap each time we play them. We should take some pride in that, but still be disappointed because we know we should’ve won that game. 

Q: Then there's Kentucky. Florida goes in as a double-digit favorite and lays an egg. What was the mood like among the players after that loss? What was the message from Mullen after that game all but realistically took UF out of the running to win the East?
A: We all felt like “What the hell just happened”. Kentucky storming the field just rubbed more salt in the wound. In the lockerroom Mullen kept everything short to get us on the bus and out of there. No one wanted to be there that long after that game. There are games you lose and you feel it slipping away from you at some time during the game. I can tell you to a man until it was over there was never a time I felt like we weren’t going to win the game. If we played them 10 more times this year I think we would beat them 10 times. I don’t mean that as a disrespect to them, but even with them winning that game, I don’t feel like they are in our league. Thinking about it that’s probably why we get in trouble against teams like that. I’m sorry if it comes off as disrespect but we shouldn't lose to Kentucky. 

Q: Mullen was obviously pissed going into the half against Vanderbilt and the team played well in the second half. What did he say or do at halftime of that game that fired the team up?
A: You could tell that he was upset, but mostly he said that he was disappointed about the missed opportunities we had and he expected us to take control of the game in the second half. He didn’t go off on us or anything like that. That isn't the way he does things. Besides, he keeps it to a minimum because our position coaches really are the ones we deal with at halftime. 

Q: Things have gone a bit off track at 4-3 heading into the bye week. What are your overall thoughts on where things stand? What's gone wrong?
A: I think where we’re at is because of overlooking some opponents. It seems that we can play up to the competition of teams like Alabama but when it’s teams we know we are better than we play down to them. It is clearly frustrating for guys on the team knowing that all of these games could've gone the other way.

Q: Why is that?
A: I don’t know. We’ve all talked about it in our little groups. We just feel that even when we get punched in the mouth early and we still have what it takes to come back and win no matter the score. Sometimes it takes us a couple of drives to get comfortable. I think we just don't prepare as much as we should. Every game is a battle and we need to be ready for anything. That was how it was against Kentucky. For LSU, really, we seemed lost. All week was about us preparing more for them to pass since they haven't run the ball well all season. In practice and in meetings we were preparing to stop them from passing and really didn’t focus on the run and it hurt us on Saturday. I know fans talk about how many starters they had out, but I don't think we took that for granted, it's we weren't ready for what they did.  

Q: Going back to Florida playing up to or down to the competition level. Is there any sign of that during the week of practice?
A: There isn’t really anything different during practice, just the vibe you can feel around the team. Everyone is still going hard, no one is not giving their all, but you can feel a different intensity level the week when we are playing a good team and for games that we feel like we know we’re going to win. I haven’t been around any other coaches or teams on this level, but we just seem too normal, there’s not as much energy unless it's the week of a big game, when we seem to be more energetic and ready to practice that week. We really don’t do anything different from week to week in the way we hold meetings or practice-wise. Every week is the same but it’s the feeling you get in the building each week that either was pumped up for the game or we’re just having a routine day at work. Coach Mullen is steady. I don't see him going overboard for big games or taking other teams for granted. I think he has different emotions depending on what he thinks the team needs in a reaction but players react in different ways because he isn’t the kind of coach to give a big pre-game pump them up kind of speech. In the last two years, you can tell that something's not working and we need to change it. Last year it was the defense, this year it's the offense. We do a great job moving the ball at times and can't finish. Other times we go three and out and wonder what we're doing calling these plays.

Q: Players are going to stand in front of the media and say that they don't hear the outside noise, but the truth is, if you are on social media at all, you have to see all of the negativity surrounding Dan Mullen and Todd Grantham. What is said about that among the players? 
It's disappointing. It really hurts when you see the tweets from former Gator players and how disappointed they are. It hurts because you don't want to be the team that’s letting those guys down and because they've been where we are. They wouldn't like to read some of the things they are saying about us. It can take a mental toll for sure. If it's a fan or two you try to block it out because you've heard it plenty of times but when it's that many disappointed fans, reporters, and former players you're going to feel it.

Q: What was the team meeting like after the LSU loss?
A: We got Monday off so we had our team meeting on Sunday. Coach Mullen did mention the noise and rumors, but he didn't touch on it too much. He talked about how we're in control of our own destiny.  We can improve as a team and change the season around on the back end or put our heads down and be the same team. You see a lot of guys in the room that want to win. We have a big opportunity coming up to upset a rival that's ranked No. 1. We can change the whole tone of this season with a win in Jacksonville. 

Q: What is he like in those meetings? Fire and Brimstone or more subdued?
A: Coach Mullen is a one-week at a time coach. You can tell he's frustrated and that he cares about what's happening but he isn't the kind of coach to get up there and jump around and rile everyone up or yell at anyone. 

Q: You say that Mullen is a one-week at a time coach, you would think that would mean that he and the team would be fired up each week. Is there any looking ahead ever or overlooking opponents?
A: I mean he is one week at a time in game planning and focusing on the task at hand for each week. For him personally and to himself, I really don't know if he overlooks opponents or peeks ahead because he is the same from week to week. It seems at times during the week or during games when we need a little juice it doesn't seem to come from him or the other coaches, but from players, like when Mohmoud [Diabate] and Kingsley [Eguakun] step up and try to fire us up when we're down.

Q: An NFL scout told a reporter [Matt Hayes] during Saturday's first half that the UF players didn't look like they even wanted to be there. When the season was basically 'over' last year, many players opted out of the Cotton Bowl. Could we see a repeat of that this season, where players begin mailing it in?
A: We have some guy's on the team that can be too focused on the wrong thing. It's comforting that the scouts can see that because we all want to be in the NFL one day. If a scout can realize that you seem that you don't even want to be on the field it's only going to hurt your draft stock. I can promise you though a lot of these guys are focused and want to change this season around. If they aren't bought in I don't want them around me. 

Q: You say some guys on the team can be too focused on the wrong thing. What is it that they are focused on? Who are some names?
A: I’m not going to say any exact names but you can tell guys who are trying and the ones that truly just want to be in the NFL already. They aren't focused on winning but just want to improve their draft stock. As long as they have a decent game they don't care about the score. It was the same last year.  

Q: No one wants to say it publicly, but is there a sense among the players as to who should be playing between Emory Jones and Anthony Richardson.
Yes and no. We love both guys and we want to win with both. No one is going to say anything bad about Emory because there's nothing bad to say about him as a teammate or person, but it's obvious on the tape about how special Anthony can be. Long term for the team my wish is he gets more comfortable and has a full game under his belt to see what he can truly do.

Q: Is there anyone on the team who has been an absolute surprise?
A: On offense, [Josh] Braun has been getting praised for how he’s playing. Nay’Quan [Wright] goes out and does his job and goes hard no matter what. Defensively, Mohamoud [Diabate] and [Ty’Ron] Hopper have really stepped up to be the heart of this defense. When they get more in-sync, those two on the field at the same time is going to be dangerous for offenses.

Q: On the other hand, is there anyone who has been an absolute disappointment?
A: Us as a team is a disappointment. I know fans don't want to hear it, but we really do have so much talent on both sides of the ball and are close to doing something very special. For players, Brenton Cox and [Jacob] Copeland. They are two great guys that have so much talent but I feel like they haven't made a huge impact when we need them. I think one cares more than the other. You can figure that one out. 

Q: Other than Jason Marshall, none of the true freshmen have really shown anything on game day, who are some of the standouts in practice though out of the true freshmen?
A: Nick Elkins is a stand-out guy. He's a hard worker and comes to grind every day. He's really going to be something special. He's redshirting this year which honestly can be huge for him if he takes advantage of the extra year that comes with it. Defensively Scooby [Jeremiah Williams] is a freak athlete who's so big and raw that he could eventually be the heart of our defense. Real quiet kid but leads by example.  He's so young and C Rob [Christian Robinson] is gonna do something special with a kid that has that much talent.

Q: What do you expect to happen from this point forward?
A: Change. It needs to happen. Something is not right and needs to be fixed all around the team from the coaches to the players. No one thought we would be here. We were talking about the playoffs in camp and we haven't been able to respond to getting punched in the mouth. That has to change. 

Q: Do you believe Dan Mullen can turn it around or is it the beginning of the end for him at Florida?
A: For our sake and his and the other coaches and their families, I hope he does. We all want to win. He is the head coach of the team and I hope he can make some changes so that we can get back to where we were last year when we were so close that we felt like this was going to be our year. Losing sucks.

Tags: Sport

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