On Monday afternoon, Dan Mullen held his first game week press conference of the 2019 season. With Florida playing in the first game of the season, the eyes of the nation are fixed firmly on the Gators. Mullen addressed the unique situation, calling it an honor to kick off college football’s 150th season.
Indeed, it is an honor and a large stage for the Gators to show just how far they have come in so little time under Mullen. When asked how he is preparing his team for such a stage, Mullen stated that he poses a question to them.
“Everybody’s watching. What do you want them to think about you?” He hammers this notion home by simply telling his team to, “Embrace it.”
Apart from a pair of season ending injuries to David Reese II and C.J. McWilliams, the Gators are healthy as they head into the week zero matchup with Miami. This bodes well for the Gators, who are facing some potential depth issues at a couple of positions.
See also: 2019 Season Predictions
This announcement brought up the question of whether or not there would be any suspensions being served. As is usually the case with this subject, Mullen was coy in his response.
“If we have any, like we always do, that’d be something we’d announce on Saturday before the game.”
One of the unique aspects of this head-to-head pairing of Florida vs Miami, is the game within the game. Miami head coach Manny Diaz once served as a defensive coordinator under Mullen, which lends familiarity to each of the coaches.
Mullen remained very complimentary of Diaz, saying, “Yeah, we played against him when he was at Middle Tennessee State and I thought that he was… One, I thought he had some energy on the sidelines, which I like. You know? I like guys that have juice and energy. I thought he had a good scheme that was… and he wasn’t afraid to think outside the box and try different things. You know? So one of the things when we were at Mississippi State, you’re looking for, ‘O.k., how do we look for different things?’ I remember after we played him, I put his name in my folder as people to consider if the position came open. And then afterwards, meeting him, found out how intelligent he was. He had the energy. He had an interesting scheme. He wasn’t afraid to think outside the box with his scheme, and then had the intelligence to back it up. And we got along pretty well when I met him. So I thought it was a great fit for us at Mississippi State and I thought we worked really well together.”
Diaz will have his hands full trying to bring a program that underachieved in 2018 back to national prominence in his first season as a head coach. Facing a team like Florida in week zero is yet another challenge in an already lengthy list.
Both teams boast talented defensive lines, while breaking in young and inexperienced offensive fronts. Mullen was pressed to name a couple of backups to fill in a two deep rotation and, once again, remained cryptic in his response.
“I don’t know,” said Mullen. “We’ll see how this week goes, in practice. How they figure it out. A lot of them are going guys and they’ve never been through a game week at this level. So I want to see how they handle it all.”
Despite their youth, many reports about the development of the offensive line, out of fall camp have been encouraging. Just how much they have matured remains to be seen.
Regardless of where the offensive line’s development is at, Mullen enters year two with the same starting quarterback that he had last season. If history is an indicator, this means Florida fans can expect a big year from Feleipe Franks.
Mullen’s quarterbacks have shown consistent and impressive growth in their second season, dating all the way back to his time as a quarterbacks coach at Bowling Green University. When Mullen was asked about this, he responded with a modicum of humility.
“Those guys are more comfortable within the system,” he said. “We only have them for so many years. I bet Tom Brady’s pretty comfortable in the Patriots’ system at this point. Drew Brees is pretty comfortable in the Saints’ system at this point. I think when you look at guys that get into their next year, they understand it. Again, it’s a very quarterback friendly, quarterback based offense.”
Although there is truth to this statement, I believe Mullen is understating his own impact on the quarterbacks that he has developed in his career. In the meantime, he has one more week with Feleipe Franks before the snaps count.
Florida takes on Miami at 7:00 p.m. EST live from Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida. Gameday coverage begins at 10:00 a.m. on ESPN.