The bye week is in the books and now the Gators turn their attention on preparing for the annual showdown with Georgia in Jacksonville. Dan Mullen held his weekly press conference on Monday afternoon where he discussed the bye week, the Bulldogs, and the Gators top ten status.
After a grueling and emotional seven game stretch, Florida finally got to exhale. The players and staff used the bye week to regroup and spend time with family. However, the team still managed to get a few lifts in with strength coach Nick Savage and spent some time working on technique.
Mullen quipped about some of the common questions surrounding a bye week, “Does the bye help? Or not help? I don’t know. I’ll tell you on Saturday at about 7:15.”
While Mullen can be a fun and lively guy to spend time around, he is more than just a charismatic personality. His focus is always centered intensely on the betterment of his football program. In response to a query about how a bye week can impact the team’s preparation, he had this to say, “We’ll see. I wanna see how they respond today, to that. Because we did give them a bunch of time. I don’t want us to come out and be kinda, take a while to get going. Hopefully, they come out kinda refreshed and ready to attack the day.”
Mullen has won 6 of his last 7 games following a bye week. When this fact was brought up, he simply shrugged it off and replied, “Well, I don’t know. Maybe our bye schedule’s pretty good. You know, how we do things. I think there is a part of it of how you set up the schedule for the players. I’d probably wanna look at some of those match ups that maybe sometimes we had a good match up, coming off the bye.”
One of the strengths of this year’s team has been it’s running game and the rushing attack has improved week after week since the loss to Kentucky. Mullen thinks it is a combination of things, including coaches recognizing the skill sets of their players and putting them in good positions to succeed. He also credits the line and the backs, themselves.
“It’s the line being comfortable with the schemes we’re blocking and the backs being comfortable with how the plays are supposed to hit.”
At one point, Mullen was pressed with the question of how important it is to stop explosive plays on the defensive side of the ball. Mullen responded by explaining the significance of explosive plays in all phases of the game and especially in the SEC.
“Well, it’s huge. I think in this league, it’s hard to put together twelve, fifteen play drives and come away with points. Explosive plays usually lead to points. You know, so it’s a big thing we look at on both sides of the ball is if you look and we hit a bunch of explosive plays, we probably were able to put some points on the board. If we did not give up explosive plays, you know we probably held them to a low scoring output.”
Georgia has a very talented quarterback leading their offense but they also have another talented quarterback that provides another look. Justin Fields is a dual threat and will likely see the field against Florida. Mullen was asked about the type of guy Fields is and whether or not they will prepare for him.
“I’m sure we’ll see him. You know, he’s played in a bunch of games this year and they’ve used him primarily as a runner in that aspect. But you know, coming off of a bye week, sometimes you have the opportunity to create some new wrinkles within your scheme and within your system. We’ll see if we get a little more of him in the game.”
Following the blowout loss to LSU, it has been suggested that Georgia’s run defense is not as strong as it was last year. Mullen disagreed with that assertion.
“I still think they’re an excellent run defense. You know what I mean? I don’t view it of them being down. I think, you know, LSU made some explosive runs in the game and I don’t know that it was just them. They didn’t just run the ball at will on them. They hit some explosive runs to put up numbers and backs breaking tackles making some pretty good runs and some pretty good individual efforts.”
This weekend’s Cocktail Party will play host to both College Gameday and SEC Nation, something that has never been done before. With Florida entering the top 10 this week, the stage has been set for what may be the biggest game of the season until playoff time. Coach Mullen, just as expected, was relatively cavalier about the news.
“The rankings, to me, I think are fun. They kinda make games maybe, you know it’s great for the promotion and sales of games and making it a neat deal that way. More important to me, is where you are at the end of the season.”