The big theme from Dan Mullen’s first SEC Media Days as Florida’s head football coach was building a foundation.
While Mullen acknowledged the pressure of short-term success, he also said the team has longer-term goals as well.
“I want us to go compete for a championship with this year’s team,” Mullen said. “But I also want to build a program that’s going to do that every single year on a consistent basis. And that consistency really defines the program. And when you’re consistent, you’re going to have an opportunity to go win that championship.”
Consistency is a major emphasis for Mullen and his staff as they look to turn the Florida program around. In the past four seasons, they’ve had two trips to Atlanta as SEC East winners, but they’ve also had two four-win season in that time span as well.
That’s why it’s so crucial for Mullen that he has a group of veterans in Martez Ivey, Cece Jefferson, and David Reese returning that have been through the ups and downs of the past few years.
“They’re learning a new system of doing it, but the one thing they have is experience and been on the field and been through a lot,” Mullen said. “So a lot of other players on the team look up to them. A lot of players in the program look up to them because they’re guys that played out there on the field. They’re guys that have played in SEC Championship games.”
New Energy in the Building
In turn, the players have also been receptive of a new staff that’s completely changed the attitude in the program and built back up some confidence that had been lost after last season.
— Gators Football (@GatorsFB) July 17, 2018
“We have a different staff now that brings attack energy every day that you have no choice but to feed off of. What you see is what you get with that staff.”
A lot of that has to do with the new strength and conditioning program under Nick Savage, who Mullen brought over with him from Mississippi State.
“We could tell that people were stronger than us, and I don’t want to say that it was intimidating, but it just made me ask why,” Ivey said. So getting a new staff has helped, and we knew that it would be changed around. I have a feeling that we will be more physical up front, and we will be able to take control of the game more and have more strength more speed and more power.”
The return of Ivey and a stronger offensive line should bode well for what is expected to be a more dynamic attack under Mullen’s spread offense.
He’s boosted by a solid core of running backs with the return from suspension of Jordan Scarlett. It’s a running game that’ll figure to take some of the pressure off a quarterback, whoever it is, that won’t have too much asked of them.
“We won’t change our philosophy, we’ll change what we do,” Mullen said. “One of my first meetings with the quarterbacks, I wanted to sit down, and I told them, I said, you may have watched — if you watched Mississippi State film from last year, that’s not the exact offense we’re going to run. We’re going to put you in position to be successful.”
The feeling for many is that the Gators are good quarterback play away from being serious contenders for the SEC title. If they get that, it’ll go a long way towards avenging that 4-7 record that left a bad taste in the program’s mouth.
“Especially at the University of Florida,” Jefferson said. “Pretty sure it’s motivating everywhere, but here, we are used to crystal balls and SEC Championships.”