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Florida Football

Mullen: Gators building a consistent winner

February 5, 2020
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FLORIDA FOOTBALL & RECRUITING COVERAGE
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Dan Mullen met with the media on National Signing Day for the first time since the Orange Bowl more than a month ago. He discussed the additions of Xzavier Henderson and Justin Shorter, the disappointment of losing Avantae Williams to Miami, how they identify transfer prospects, how he evaluates his assistant coaches and more.

Here are the highlights.

  • Mullen said they needed to sign one running back in this class, and they landed on Miami transfer Lorenzo Lingard fairly early in the process. They looked for a special guy to pair with him, but nothing worked out.
  • According to 247Sports, the Gators had the top defensive back class in the country entering Wednesday, so missing on Williams “is not that big a deal,” he said.
  • He’s happy for former tight ends coach Larry Scott, who was hired as Howard University’s new head coach over the weekend. He doesn’t think his departure hurt them much on Wednesday even though tight end Demarcus Beckwith chose Tennessee over Florida.
  • They’ll start the process of applying for waivers for Lingard and Justin Shorter to play immediately shortly because it’s a long process, he said.
  • “You've got to be able to dominate the line of scrimmage,” Mullen said. He thinks he has a pretty good reputation with defensive linemen and singled out Chris Jones, who just won the Super Bowl with Kansas City. He hopes five-star tackle Gervon Dexter becomes another one of those game-changers.
  • He said locking down the top players in the state is a priority because that's how things were back in the mid-2000s when they competed for championships regularly. Dexter was rated as the best player in the state.
  • Xzavier Henderson is bigger than his brother, CJ, already, and has better physical tools, he said. He thinks Xzavier might be the better player once they get him coached up a little bit.
  • He said recruiting isn't about quantity; it's about quality. They felt confident in a couple of receivers after the early signing period, and they ended up getting them. Despite losing four seniors, he thinks there will be some more household names at the position after this season.
  • He thinks there's more trust between the coaches and players in year two, which led to more players coming back for their senior seasons than after the 2018 season.
  • They have "some solid young guys" along the offensive line, Mullen said. Now, it's a matter of building depth of guys who are prepared to play. He thinks having them enroll early will give them an advantage at that.
  • They've tried to get the balance back within the roster, he said. They want to get to the point where they're recruiting a full team each year instead of loading up at certain positions.
  • He said there's "absolutely" a chance that they add more high school players to the class, which probably refers to defensive end Princely Umanmielen, athlete Marc Britt and receiver Leonard Manuel.
  • Shorter's a mismatch because of his size, speed and route-running, but he's excited to get him here because of his work ethic and the kind of person he is, he said.
  • When evaluating transfer candidates, they watch their high school film and compare them to the high school prospects they are recruiting. Then they look at what they’ve done in college.
  • This year, they focused on signing big-bodied receivers who present mismatches with size, Mullen said. Next year, they’ll focus on landing some dynamic slot receivers.
  • When he evaluates his staff as far as recruiting, he asks, "Did we do everything we could to get this guy?" If the answer is yes and they still went elsewhere, he can live with that.
  • He singled out safety Tre’Vez Johnson and defensive tackle Lamar Goods as a couple of under-the-radar signees that he’s excited about.
  • He's gotten on helicopters a lot in recruiting out of necessity, he said. A lot of the coaches and wives aren't a big fan of it. They were in a staff meeting when they heard of Kobe Bryant’s passing, and his son was a little nervous when they flew to the Super Bowl. He thinks Bryant lived a very successful life because of the amount of lives he touched.
  • They'll look for gaps in the roster and decide what spots they might be looking for a transfer, he said. He thinks they do a good job of vetting guys and bringing in quality guys instead of just filling spots. He thinks their selectivity might appeal to guys in the portal.
  • Despite reports linking Charlie Strong and Kerwin Bell to analyst jobs at UF, Mullen said they haven’t hired anybody yet. They have a list of candidates for off-field positions, and he expects to hire a couple of them in the next couple of weeks.
  • He said they might shift certain duties around, but he anticipates hiring a tight ends coach to replace Scott.
  • He doesn't know how good of a fit Feleipe Franks is at Arkansas because of the new coaching staff, he said. He wanted him to go to a place where he would play, enjoy himself and improve his draft stock. He thinks he will elevate their program.
  • He said he's pleased with the 15 early-enrollees, and they're all in good shape. They've been positive in their development and haven't been held back at all in the workouts.
  • Mullen said they want to develop a consistent winner, which will provide the opportunity to win championships. The SEC is always very challenging because of how well the teams recruit. Having great leadership and health is extremely important. Being a consistent winner plus having things align for you equals winning championships.

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