Florida Gators Head Coach Dan Mullen spoke to local media on Tuesday afternoon. He spent time recapping the Gators Monday night scrimmage, looking at the upcoming schedule and breaking down the progress of individual players. The press conference was over half an hour long, covering the variety of subjects. As part of your exclusive access as a Gator Bait subscriber, you can read the full transcript below:
“Scrimmage was good. Seeing some of the football, which I haven’t got a lot to watch. I haven’t been able to watch a lot, I’m sorry. But just little things that I’ve seen. Still some sloppiness that we’ve got to get corrected. You can just see it, the sloppiness on the field of lack of playing football. Those are kind of the things you see: like some errors, some mistakes. I did see some good football, you know, where obviously we’re improving. I’m excited about how we’re improving that way. Obviously, you’d like to be further along a little bit as a whole with some of the sloppy, little mistakes right now. But we’re all pleased with our guys. I really like some of our guys’ effort that we have out there on the field, how our guys are playing hard and trying to figure out how to play the game. Now we’ve just got to start putting it all together at this point right now. That’s your last scrimmage. We’re going to have a little bit lighter of a week to let guys recover this week and then one more stretch of padded practices until we get into game week.”
Does the sloppiness change approach the next two weeks?
“No, we only have 25 practices we’re allowed anyone and I’ve got to keep the guys healthy and safe. That’s obviously a big priority of mine. So we’re kind of under the limitations that have been given to us, so we’re going to stick to our schedule and keep going. Like I said, physically I’m OK with some things. It’s going to be a big mental grind for our guys over the last couple of weeks to get themselves prepared to play.”
Have you reached out to anyone who played over the weekend?
“Not yet. We’re going to do that over the next week because you have some more games being played. I want to talk to some NFL people as well. They’re starting up this week and get a feel for every different aspect of it with the stadiums, the lack of crowd noise, how the pumping in music affects, just the overall game-day feeling, the difference of game-day deals. Over the next week we absolutely will. I haven’t done it yet.”
Any standout performances in the scrimmage?
“Yeah, I don’t know if anybody really jumped out. Obviously, we limit reps of certain guys and play some other guys more. I think the biggest improvement, I thought it was better football played. So I do think we’re headed in the right direction. When guys are flying around, executing and popping pads it looked more like, you know, better football, and probably cleaner football, if you will that way. When I talk about the errors, the critical errors that you see how out there, the little things you can’t do. But overall, the sense of the 22 guys on the field playing at a higher level was much higher than it was in scrimmage one on a more consistent basis. But the mistakes, a lot of little mental things. It was much more consistent, but not consistent of where you want to be to go play an SEC game.”
Conditioning of team, are they ready to go four quarters?
“Yeah, I think we are. Within the plan, we’re going to do a little bit of that. We kind of planned it out that we’ve been pretty physical up to this point. We’re going to get into a little bit more of lighter, but that’s going to involve a little bit more conditioning, running, lifting and some of the stuff that we’ve missed. With all the limitations put on us, some of the conditioning and lifting is one of the biggest things they eliminated by going to the 20-hour week and all that stuff. When the SEC came out with whatever their rules were, the things that got eliminated were some of the conditioning and lifting. So we’re trying to catch up on some of that over the next two weeks and just make sure we’re ready for four quarters, but a lot of that also too is round depth and make sure we’re creating the proper depth for four quarters.
“In a normal training camp you’re probably, you’ve got about half of what you normally would do. You had to really look at where you’re going to cut. I didn’t, one thing, I could go back and do all the research of every little thing that I lost and give you the time but I haven’t done that. I just went to, this is the new rule, I’ve gotta figure out how to do it this way of what we need instead of giving the details of what we’ve lost. You’re looking at a normal day, maybe you practice in the morning and you have a recovery lift in the afternoon while you’re watching some film. All that time, a bunch of walkthrough times gets eliminated. A lot of little teaching and all that stuff. You went from having a training camp to basically have an in-season schedule. In season we’re 20 hours a week. Training camp you’re not. It essentially eliminated training camp altogether. That’s the easiest way to put it.”
What was the weirdest thing that happened to you during COVID offseason?
“Not working. You know what I mean? Being told to stay home and not go to work. That’s probably the first time since I was 15 years old, maybe younger than that. Stay at home and figure out how to work from home and now you’re not going to work in the morning, staying in your home office. Homeschooling. That was a little different for me. That was really weird. Lack of this whole deal, a lack of personal interaction between human beings. That’s weird. It’s like a sci-fi movie. There’s a couple of them for you.”
Thoughts on watching games with no crowd noise?
“Well, by the time we finished meeting and watching the film late last night it was long over, so I didn’t really watch much of it. I saw the score that way. But as you said, that’s some of those things –– I think Mark was asking what we’re going to call the other coaches about, is that, is what is that feeling to play like in those stadiums, you know what I mean? And BYU usually plays in front of a pretty big stadium, huge home crowds and all that, so, you know, we’re going to probably give a shot to Kalani (Sitake) and some of these other guys as they keep playing and saying ‘hey, what, did the atmosphere have effect on your team’ you know, and what that’s like feeling like that in the stadium.”
Have you talked to your team about finding opportunity amidst chaos this season?
“I don’t know about that, I mean we always know what our opportunity is, which is to go win football games. And whoever handles the adversity the best is going to go win, you know what I mean? Our opportunity is we get to go play football games, so hopefully we’ll handle the adversity better than most other people and we go handle the adversity on Saturdays.”
Injuries in the scrimmage?
“We’ll see, got a couple guys banged up, but we’ll see how that’s going to affect us moving forward here. You know, over the next couple weeks when I get the final reports on some things, you know like I said it’s a lighter week so I want to see at the end of the week where we’re at, who’s ready to go by the end of the week.”
Starting center decided or still working through it?
“We’re getting there. We’re getting there with it. You know what i mean, you’ve got to have a couple of them, like I said. I love that you guys get so caught up in who the starters are. I really don’t, because I’m one play away from having to play a back-up, I’m two plays away from having to play the third-string guy, and how to move guys all around, so I don’t really get caught up in that stuff. I’m really caught up into what are our combinations of players at every different position for every scenario that’s going to happen during the course of the game. So I’m getting to a point where I have good ideas on all the combinations of who can go into games at different times, but it’s not really based on who starts.”
How do you feel Kadarius Toney’s role will be with the team moving forward?
“One of the things I’m really pleased with him is that what I’ve seen from him is just a real development as a wide receiver. He’s a guy who was a high school quarterback, started to learn the position. You look, everybody knows he’s a playmaker. He’s a great playmaker with the ball in his hands. He’s taken such a huge step forward in becoming a wide receiver now. Not just kind of a get-it-to guy, which he’ll still continue to be a get-it-to guy for us. But every down being a wide receiver, he’s taken some huge steps forward. I’m really excited about that. That’s what you want from those guys. It’s one thing, this utility athlete, get-it-go guy, but when you can become disciplined and a great technician at your position, that takes you to a whole other level.”
You talked about him playing in the slot. Do you see somebody like Jordan Pouncey playing in the slot?
“Yeah, he’s missed a little bit with some injuries and is probably a little bit behind that way. He could, we’ll see. I don’t know who’s eligible, so if he is eligible, possibly. If not, I would highly doubt it it would seem.”
On Pouncey, how does the NCAA figure these things out?
“Call the NCAA. Great question for them. There you go. They don’t consult me on such things. They have their deal. I’m talking about our team right now. I love it. I think it’s a great question. I think you should call. I encourage you to call up there and see what they say.”
The Navy coach said they purposely didn’t do any tackling or face-to-face football stuff and they looked like it. Is that what you mean about how each individual team has prepared and how you’re trying to get your team as ready as possible given all the uncertainty?
“Well, I saw the score. He’s a great coach. I didn’t see the game, so I don’t know what happened. You would guess what their plan was didn’t work real well. I’m not saying. … you know what I mean. Everybody right now is dealing with different scenarios now trying to figure it out. Maybe BYU is that good of a team. I don’t know. I just saw the score and it was in last night’s game. I don’t know a whole lot about it. We were scrimmaging and watching our film. I didn’t see it really.”
How much better will you guys be in week four after a lot of action?
"Certainly hope we're always -- not just this year, every year -- you always hope you're better in week four than week one, but we're trying to do this throughout the course of the season. So, you always hope you're better as the year moves on and what the extent of those games from week one to week four, we'll wee, with where we're at. Like I said, I think our guys have had a great attitude, I think our guys have taken care of their business, they've tried to put themselves in a good position to be successful. I think for the most part, we've worked hard. I think probably some guys probably are ahead of others. I'm not gonna say if nothing happened we wouldn't be further along. We would be, that's gonna be quite obvious, but we've also only gone against each other. So, we'll see when we go line it up against somebody else, how it looks and what we do, and we'll find that out here in a couple [of] weeks - about two-and-a-half weeks. I'm not trying to be evasive about it, you know what I mean? It's so uncertain in where we're at with that stuff.”
Do you still see the team as a pass-heavy team to start the season?
"Well, every year I see us as a 50-50 team, we'll see. Like I said, when you're going against each other you don't always know, you know what I mean? We got into last year, and I thought going into last year we'd run the ball really well coming out of training camp. I thought we'd be a little more run-heavy team than a pass-heavy team. So, that obviously flipped once we got into the season, so you gotta be able to adjust in that way. That's why we like to be 50 - our plan is to be 50-50, and then we'll see how the year plays out. Where we're at health-wise, injury-wise, what goes on, who's playing, who develops, whether we change from one week - how we're growing throughout the course of the year. All of those will become factors."
Given the sloppiness you talked about, and that other teams are dealing with the same issues, how does that affect play-calling or give you an advantage as more run-happy or pass-happy team?
“No, I think it’ll be an advantage as far as trying to be a good execution team and making sure you put your guys in position to do what they do well — and execute. Execute throwing the ball, execute running the ball, I think whatever you execute better is going to be to your advantage, more than saying … We’re never going to sit there and take a square peg and there’s a round hole there and say we’re just going to slam it in there for an entire season. We’re going to be able to adapt and adjust and put our guys in position to go be successful. If we have to throw it 90 times a game, we’ll throw it 90 times a game. If we have to run it 90 times a game, we’ll do that. If we’re able to stay balanced, we’ll stay balanced. We’ll see how the year goes on how that plays out."
Kick returner or punt returner rotation?
"Sure, let’s see. I’d have to go get the depth chart. There’s about 15 guys in the rotation. I don’t have my practice schedule with me. About 15 guys. A lot of running backs, receivers, some DBs. … About 15 of them are."
Versatility all over the field, is that a product of how the game is evolving and do you target that during recruiting?
“When recruiting, we want to go out and get the best players we can, and that fit the profile, obviously. Florida is a pretty unique school, with the academic profile we have here being one of the top-10 academic [public] schools in the country. Highest-ranked [public] SEC academic school. In recruiting terms, right there, you are recruiting and getting players that fit the Gator standard. You’re looking not only for the best players, but also the top students and people who want to get a premier education, as well. And then our job and our flexibility, we run … You talk about matchups and creating matchups on the field, I think that’s why our guys have so much success in the NFL. Look at Van Jefferson. I was reading his quote yesterday. All our receivers … We had four receivers sign NFL contracts off of last year’s team. We run a pro-style offense. I think the ability to adapt and create different matchups out there on the field, of what we do, and by using utility players at different spots, those guys are able to go on to the next level and have so much success. That’s just the style we run. Not everyone runs the same offense. We run an NFL offense, which is why, for our guys, it’s easy to adapt. That’s why we do like to have multiple players who are mismatches; multiple players all over the field, and who can do multiple things.”
How is the defensive line coming along and has anyone emerged as a leader?
“Yeah, they’re coming nicely. I’m really pleased with the young guys, the young freshmen that are in this class. You just look at some of those guys and their ability level I’m really excited about. Obviously, there’s a learning curve and some of them missed some time. We missed time in everything that we had in missing spring and then a couple of bumps and bruises here or there to miss a practice or two, but when you’re a young guy and your time’s limited, those become bigger issues. But I’m really excited about the future on the defensive line and building a premiere D-line with those guys. You have the two Jalens, Jalen Lee and Jaelin Humphries. He’s back now. I put him in that almost young freshman [group] because he missed almost the whole year with his injury, with his knee coming in here. He’s coming along. Gervon [Dexter] is doing a really good job learning the game, obviously big and physical in there. Antwuan [Powell] and Princely [Umanmielen] are doing a really good job on the edge. Some of those newcomers along the D-line, I’m really excited about how they’re coming along.”
What do you feel best overall about your team right now after two scrimmages?
“What I’m excited about is that we keep taking steps forward. I’m seeing little improvements. I’m seeing improvement from guys we need to create depth to get through this season. Obviously, this is going to be a unique season, not just dealing with injuries as they come along like a normal season, but you’re also going to have to deal with potentially guys missing games for quarantine or other reasons. What I’m really pleased with that we continue to take steps forward in creating depth across the board. And the next-guy-up mentality. Everything we’re trying to do in practice and scrimmage is r0lling. You guys have watched our practices before, it’s not like, ‘hey, the ones get all the reps and the twos and threes get no reps.’ Everybody gets a lot of reps and a lot of that is for these scenarios, to get as many guys ready to play as possible. And that could be a huge factor this season. I can’t tell you how many guys are going to have to play this year for us. And so, I am pleased after two scrimmages to see that you do see some young guys coming along. We talk a lot about that. Are we making sure we’re continuing to accelerate these guys because you don’t know when we might have to call on their number to get them into a game. Your travel squad for Week 1 and your travel squad for Week 5 could be a completely different roster, so we have to get as many guys ready as possible.”
David Turner facing negative recruiting? What kind of job has he done?
"I don't know. I don't think we do a whole lot of negative recruiting because we have so much to sell. Only school in America that's both top 10 in football and top 10 in academics. We're the only school to say that. I don't have to put a spin on it or create negative things. We're the Florida Gators. But the thing about David that's so special is, it's not just he's a great football coach and a really good recruiter, but it's the mentor and the man that he is and the effect he's able to have on these guys' lives beyond football I think is really special. And I think that's one of the things. Obviously if you look at his track record and all these NFL superstars that he's been able to coach and develop through the years. I mean, just go look at the guys he's coached in college and add up their contracts and it's a pretty good lump sum of money right there that these guys are getting. But not just that; the relationships that he's been able to build with them, how he's been able to help all of these young guys grow as men. Not just going on to big-time NFL contracts, but grow as men. I think that's the thing that is his best trait."
"I'm really excited. I think Tre'Vez is playing STAR for us right now. With some of these young guys, that's one of the hard things. You want them to learn a lot, but you're trying to get them ready because they might have to play. So you try to simplify it and pick a position and leave them there so they can try to learn it and create some depth at positions. And I'll tell you what, watching the scrimmage last night, he plays hard. He's still learning what to do, still learning the techniques and the defense as a whole. But he really showed out to me in his effort, strain and physicality, how he tries to get to the ball running to the football, which is what I want to see as a coach. The rest of it we're going to teach and he's going to learn as he continues, but he has great athleticism and gave great effort and I thought played really hard in the scrimmage last night."
What do you look for in recruiting STAR with guys who have to develop a lot of different things?
“I think one of the things that makes him unique is that he has great physicality and he plays a very physical game, but he has corner cover skills. You’ve got to be able — that’s the thing that makes it different. You’re really a combination of all of safety and corner and a combination of everything. You’ve got to be able to tackle and be physical as a safety, and then you’ve got to have the cover skills of a corner. So you combine that. I guess that’s why we call it the star position. I think he’s a guy that when you watched him in high school, all the different physical traits he has, he kind of fits that mold with a really physical guy that has the athleticism to be a corner.”
Trask – he said he wants to improve footwork, accuracy and in-play progression. Those the three things you’ve seen him grow the most? How’d he do in the scrimmage?
“He was OK. I don’t think yesterday was his best day, but I think he has improved a lot at that, of those things. You’re always going to have little off days here and there. I thought he was a little crisper in scrimmage 1. We gave him a little bit more work yesterday than we did in scrimmage 1 as we continue to build up and get ready to go. But I have seen him —his decision making, his leadership, and we’re putting a lot more on him right now, you know? The one thing when you get to this, you’re going to start, which is going to help him… You’re going to start to simplify things. Instead of going from this massive installation of hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of play calls going against every defense known to mankind, you’re going to kind of get into, this is our specific game plan of how we want to attack this team. And that’ll make it even easier on him and allow him even more comfort with a little bit smaller packages going forward with the details of how we want to check it to these plays, what we want to do, where we want to go with the ball. But I think he has really improved the speed of how he decides things and just, obviously, which is a big one, his knowledge of the game.”
Does he get any say in picking the plays for the opponent at all?
“Well, we’re getting there. One of the things is he comes and spends extra time in game plan meetings. He wants to sit in knowing we’re meeting. He wants to sit around. As a grad student, it helps he has a little more time on his hands. He’s always around the office. He’ll have input just because of his experience and he’s played and he knows he has input on the game plan. On top f that he has a lot of control at the line of scrimmage. He has a lot of freedom to call his own calls, call plays and check in to plays at the line of scrimmage.”
Did Kyle Pitts sit out again?
“Yeah, you know, he’s had a great training camp. You know and I mean he hadn’t missed a snap in training camp. He gets a lot of reps to him and we have a lot of depth at the tight end position. So you know, I didn’t see a need for him to go play in the scrimmage when I’ve seen what I’ve seen of him and what he’s been able to do so far every day on a consistent basis at practice.”
Do you have a day for the release of the media guide?
“I didn’t even think we did media guides. I thought they eliminated them in the budget a couple of years ago.
“Oh, I have to go do the family picture with my wife. That used to be a big deal for all the families, the family picture in the media guide. I have a bunch of them, I have to release them. I have like the 2006 and 2008 one sitting in my office right now. No, we’ll get everything game week for you. We’ll have the depth chart and roster and all that stuff on game week.”
How has Keon Zipperer looked with Pitts out?
“Good. He’s working, learning. Him and Gamble, I thought Gamble probably did a really good job for us in the last two scrimmages, Zips doing a really good job. Still learning, you know a lot of the intricacies of the route running and all of that stuff. Really physical guy, really athletic. Both guys are getting tons of reps, you know Kemore and Zip. So those guys you want to see them grow and develop and get ready to go play for us and create that depth at that position.
“You know (Jonathan) Odom actually did pretty well last night too. Coming off of an injury last year he’s still trying to get his strength back. You watch and he had a couple of nice catches, he put his face on people blocking. He was not afraid to be physical. He’s just got to get bigger and stronger. He’s got some range catching the ball.”