Florida Gators Safety coach Ron English returns three of his starters from 2019. He also receives a talented veteran who's moving back to an old position. On Thursday, he met with local media (virtually) to give insight into the safety rotation, detail what he wants out of his unit in the future, and brag on the strides made by Trey Dean.
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Looks at Zoom
"This is pretty cool. In 30 years, this is a first now."
How different is this year for you?
"You know how it is, life is about attitude really, you know that. So, if you look at it that way, it's going to be hard for you. If you can kinda understand it's just going to be constant change then it's not as hard. But, the mask takes getting used to, but I've got a big mouth so I can navigate the mask. And then, you know, I just think the players are doing a really good job of handling all the curveballs."
How much do you anticipate using the same rotation, how will it look without Jeawon Taylor?
"I think it'll be, you know, it's still playing itself out. But, it may be a little bit different simply because we're in a situation where we have some older guys who are ahead of some of the younger guys. So it may not be quite the same, but again we'll try to keep the players as fresh as we can. So, I'm looking forward to see how it plays out. I think we have to be conscious of how guys are playing a little bit more, as opposed to, you know, when guys are kind of playing evenly you can play them that way, but when they're not, you might have to react a little differently."
On safety rotation last year and guys returning:
“Yeah, there were obviously some things that you guys didn’t know that happened that we haven’t put out there. I think whenever you look back and evaluate yourself you might see some things that you wish you did a little bit differently. You might see other things or you might want to do this a little more or that a little more. But I feel good about going into this season with these players because they’ve played a lot of football and they’re mature, they’re physically mature. You watch them practice, I mean, they’re pretty physical players right now and they’re smart and they’ve been around. I’m excited.”
Mullen raving about young safeties, how are they coming along?
“Rashad Torrence has been here the longest. He came to us in January. He got a 4.0 his first semester here, but he wasn’t able to go through spring ball, so that was kind of a little bit of a downer. But he’s probably the furthest along in the sense that he’s been around the longest. He just flashes; he makes plays. We certainly didn’t miss on him. He’s a really good football player. He’s mature, he’s smart, he’s conscientious, he’s everything you would want. I think our evaluation was right on there. With Mordecai (McDaniel), he is probably more athletic than I thought he would be. He’s a big guy. He’s going to be a big man, but he’s fast and athletic and explosive – even more so than I thought he would be, even with all the track times and all the things he did in that arena. And he’ll hit you, he’ll hit you. So I’m happy with him. Tre’Vez (Johnson) is coming along. He’s playing the star, so he’s had it the toughest because that position entails a lot of technique and a lot of learning. He’s so gifted in terms of his speed. I know you have heard the stories. We never got him over a 4.45 on any clock, any day that we timed him, not only here but on the road. And he’s got some toughness. So I like the guys and I just feel like we did a nice job of evaluation and we took the right guys.”
How do you address social unrest with your guys?
“Well I think you have to listen. You can’t assume you know how they feel or what they want to say or any of that. So I ask questions. I ask them questions and I try to listen and keep my mouth shut and let them fully answer. If there’s a debate or a conversation that takes place in that room, I let it play out. And I’m really supportive of the young people, because when you get older you may have different feelings. By that, I mean you might not react the same as they do. It’s like I was talking to of our young assistants today, and you know, when you’re young you kind of react to everything. Everything’s like the end of the world and it’s the biggest problem in the history of mankind and all that stuff. So, I just think I’m very sensitive to that and I want to be as supportive as I can while also trying to lend a little bit of guidance.”
Changes seen in Stiner, Davis, how physical you expect them to be?
“Well, they just, they just surprised me. They’re really physical. I don’t know, I told them because my background has been I like physicality, I preach it. They’re striking linemen and knocking them around. It’s just, they’re finally getting it - the technique of striking. Once you understand the technique and what leverage really is and what power really is and what force really is and you can apply it, it works for you. So I just think they’re going to be really, really physical. I just talk to them all the time about lowering their targets. I really do because you’re going to get kicked out, so you got to be smart, you got to lower your target, especially when violent and you start knocking guys around and officials respond to that, what they think they see.”
Trey Dean’s reps at safety?
“He’s getting more comfortable. He had his best scrimmage in the last scrimmage. I was really pleased with it. His tackling has improved, his physicality has improved, his technique has improved, so I’m pleased. He’ll help us this year both those spots. You know what really has improved about Trey Dean is managing his ego. He finally has learned and matured in the sense that he is really not arrogant like he was before. I think we all know when your arrogant you miss stuff and you don’t grow as quickly as you should if you were more humble. That’s one of the biggest thing he’s doing. He’s growing exponentially because he’s listening, which he didn’t always do that. And he’s matured and he’s humble. So I’m really proud of him and I’m really pleased.”
Brad Stewart Jr had the least amount of snaps of your safeties last year. What have you seen from him?
“Well you know, he missed four games, and so that’s kind of where the disparity of snaps was. All my—those three seniors that have played for me, they act like seniors. They act like guys who have been around, like guys who understand the system. Brad’s still out there, still making plays. I mean, he’s making plays, and we’re gonna move him around a little bit and I think it’s gonna be huge for our defense and I’m pleased with him.”
Reports were that Trey Dean was hesitant to move to safety. Is that what you were referring to when talking about his ego?
“No, no, that’s not what I’m talking about. But I can’t speak to his hesitancy or anything like that. I mean, these guys pretty much do what we ask them to do in terms of position switches and stuff like that and I think they know that we’ve had a track record of success with cross-training guys. Not only here, but certainly coach Grantham and other places, and in Mississippi State when we were all there together. So, you know, you look at John Abram, Abram played STAR for me, played free and strong all in the same games all the time. So yeah, we’re talking about a first-round draft pick, but we’re also talking about a guy who was looked at more favorably because he played multiple positions. So it’s not a hard sell for our guys. I mean, it’s not, because they see the value. But like I said, Trey’s gonna have a big year. I really think that, I really believe that in my heart and I really like the way he’s coming on.”
A guy like Tre’Vez Johnson, not as much publicity but how much confidence in a freshman, what is his football IQ to get reps at that STAR position?
"Well, like I was saying I don't think we missed on any of those evaluations, I think we were spot on. I think we got what we thought we were gonna get, I think those guys are gonna be really good players, all three of them. And then what he brings, his explosiveness, he can run. You know, he and he's tough, you know his you know his, his dad is a minor league baseball coach, you know, and is an instructor you know in professional baseball and his mom's a tough lady. So, um, you know, I like not only his speed but I like his toughness and he's gonna be, you know, you kind of recruit stars that, you know, it's kind of like a Chauncey [Garnder-Johnson] type of deal who could cover and do some things physically out there in space and I think he'll be able to do that.”
The biggest responsibilities out there for a young player at the STAR position?
"Well, let’s put it like this. Way back in Michigan, we always put our best player there so who played there? Well it was [Charles] Woodson, Ty Law and Marlin Jackson and Leon Hall and all all those guys are first round draft picks. So the position is not one to be taken lightly, A. And B, you know, there's multiple techniques to the position. And it's one of those things where you cannot allow yourself to get frustrated as you're learning it, you can't allow yourself to get down. And so, you know, the first couple days, he really struggled, I mean he struggled, because you know the other thing, you know, it's not only knowing what to do but then it’s being able to get your eyes to see the right things. Right. I mean, so the eye progression part of it, the thought process part of it, the disguise part of it, you know where are you supposed to be when you're supposed to be. There's a lot to that position. And that's probably why we call it the STAR. We call it the STAR because A, you're going to have a chance to be a star if you can play it well but B, it's a, it's a tough position.”
Images floating around of how much Trey Dean has bulked up; how much will that help him play the safety spot?
"Yeah, Trey you know he's cut up now. He's cut up. These guys, I mean these guys—for not having a spring and not being around Savage for very long, I mean they look pretty good, they're pretty stout looking dudes. I'm always on them about you know if you go look at a pro guy, those pro guys don’t, you know they're lean. That was when I first started having a bunch of NFL DB’s, I was all, when they come back from the NFL, they don't look the same. They look skinny man, they look lean. Because there it’s about the ability to run and stuff like that. So I always talk to the guys about make sure you’re lean, body fat wise and stuff like that. But no, Trey, he’s jacked up, he looks pretty good. And Shawn, I was looking at him and I’m like ‘geez.’ He’s got a bit ole back on him, arms and all that stuff. Now DB’s don’t use all that stuff but I guess it’s good.”
Who convinced you to get in the car with Hova and your hat game?
“Well, first off, let’s start with the hat game. The hat game’s here because of the loss of my hair, which I hate. I hate not having hair, so I got to be clean shaven because I don’t have any hair, so, the next best thing is what? Hats. I don’t even really like the bald head look really but, so I got my hat game going, and secondly I was just driving in my car –– well it’s my wife’s car actually, which is a whole ‘nother story, but it’s a ‘69 Mercury Marquis –– and then our graphic design guy, Kevin (Camps), was like ‘I’m gonna take some pictures, get here so we can take some pictures’ and of course we’re taking pictures, and Hova’s got to jump in and get in the pictures, so he jumps in and there we go. And then people were like ‘I thought that was Photoshop, man!’ and I’m like ‘Nah, man, this is –– you look at the license plate, this is the ‘69 hooptie she calls it. And if I didn’t drive it, it would probably not start, because she never drives the darn thing. But it’s fun to drive.”
Well, you made it go viral
“Well, Kevin made it go viral. But I appreciate that. Hey, we got to get one more to fill it up, then it will really go viral.”
That Mercury Marquis doesn’t fit in the garage, does it?
“It fits, man. Barely. I mean barely. I’ve gotta be careful in the front and in the back.”
This game will humble you in a hurry, what do you think humbled Trey Dean?
“I think it’s maturity and age and believe it or not, it’s confidence. Some people, they get arrogant or cocky because deep down they’re not confident. You see that in all walks of life all the time. I think it’s maturity. I keep telling him, I’ve been in this game for 30 years and I see when you think you have all the answers, good luck with that. It’s like that (Rudyard) Kipling poem, treat those two imposters just the same. Victory, defeat, or whatever it’s just a perception and an illusion cause it's all short-lived. If you want to play in the NFL you better get better all the time or you’re not going to have a job. Now we see that all the time. That’s why I was saying the other day the players were like, whatever, LeBron James is insane because he’s 35 — I won money on that bet. Everyone was like, ah he’s 31, no, he’s 35. His hand is still at the top of the square and his head is still at the rim. I don’t care what you say, 35 years old man, and plus he’s been playing, what since he’s 18 or something crazy. I just try to always tell these players, look, you gotta always get better if you want to keep your job. That’s my coaching for them.”
Challenges of cross-training players?
“You know what, they have to really receive it and they have to really see the value in it. I don’t think it’s hard to sell. I think you have to, first off, if you’re doing that with a guy he’s probably pretty bright. He’s probably a guy who can handle it because you’ve made that decision that, ok I can teach this guy at multiple spots, which means you think he can handle it. What I try to do is and a guy, Lloyd Carr gave me the greatest compliment one time; he said Ron can make the complex simple. That’s really what I’m trying to do when I’m teaching a guy. I’m trying to make the complex as simple as I can.”