As Florida heads into the first of three bye weeks on their 2019 schedule, Dan Mullen met with the press on Wednesday afternoon. The Gators are fresh off of a 24-20 victory over in-state rival Miami. Although there were plenty of ugly moments in Saturday’s inaugural game, Dan Mullen’s squad also displayed many encouraging signs of things to come.
Before Florida can begin to celebrate future glories, however, they must clean up the miscues that took place at Camping World Stadium last Saturday night. The good news? Every one of the problem areas are easily remedied.
The Gators hit the practice field on Monday to begin the process of polishing the rust that was readily displayed in tackling, run-blocking, and ball security. Florida will take a long weekend in observance of Labor Day before getting back to game week preparations next Tuesday.
Until then, it is business as usual for Mullen and the Gators, but the head coach took a few moments to discuss last week’s performance and the plans for moving forward, before hitting the practice field once again.
Mullen was asked about how he assesses each unit’s individual performance when he replied, “The turnovers are a big disappointment. The two fumbles are disappointments to me, obviously, because those are the ones you control. And the last interception. You know? One, I don’t know if it was a great call or not in that situation. You know, so much gets made about it, he’s [Feleipe Franks] getting pressured, looking to throw the ball away. Obviously, a great call by Manny [Diaz], you know? If you talk about, maybe, knowing personalities. We get the ball, we felt like we’ve set them up for this play. We felt they’re going to be ready to stop the run because we’re gonna try to run out the clock. We’re gonna hit them with this play-action pass, the guy’s gonna be wide open, and we hit an explosive play. If that happens, what’s really funny is then, you flip Feleipe’s stats to eighteen of twenty-six for 320 yards passing, three touchdowns, and a pick and ‘he has all the answers.’ You know? ‘What an unbelievable game! Look at his development through the off-season, unbelievable!’
After a brief pause, Mullen continued, “Probably should have taken the sack there. Boy, that’s hard to teach. That’s really hard to teach guys to take sacks. You know, and he’s trying to throw it away and he doesn’t get enough on it and it gets picked. Maybe not a great call by me. All the combinations in that one call.”
Since the game’s end on Saturday, all of the negativity was thrust upon Feleipe Franks, once again. Mullen was asked if he felt that he might have “over sold” Franks’ development in the off-season.
“No, but I think what gets missed, he threw a pick that could’ve been, in the fourth quarter of a game, that could have been the deciding factor of the play,” Mullen stated. “The next time we got the ball, he accounted for every yard on that drive that we scored a touchdown. The game-winning touchdown drive. He accounted for every yard, either running or throwing on the game-winning touchdown drive. I don’t know if Feleipe Franks could’ve done that last year. I think that pick might have affected him, instead of him coming back and not even a blink of the eye he accounted for every play on the scoring drive.”
Turning to the play of the offensive line that so much has been made about in the off-season, Mullen stated that he was encouraged by what they showed against Miami. He went on to say that he wanted to see more efficient running, but pointed out that many of the negative rushing plays had as much to do with the backs behind Lamical Perine, as it did with the progression of a youthful line.
Florida displayed a willingness to go for it on fourth down vs Miami. This willingness paid off each time they attempted to keep the drive alive, and Mullen addressed the thought process behind his aggressive playcalling.
“I think, one, we wanted to take an aggressive approach to the game,” said Mullen. “And two, we knew they were a great third down team, and we wanted to create momentum.”
Mullen went on to explain the situational strategy behind taking risks, saying, if they were looking at third and ten, they probably weren’t going for it on fourth but if it turns into fourth and two or three, then they are much more likely to attempt it.
Florida has several things to clean up before the start of SEC play, but with the bye week and a tune-up game vs UT-Martin, they should have most of the kinks worked out before they meet Kentucky in Lexington.