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FILE - In this Nov. 16, 2019, file photo, Florida head coach Dan Mullen watches from the sideline during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Missouri in Columbia, Mo. Mullen had several players miss the team’s opening training camp practice Monday, Aug. 17, 2020. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

Mullen Talks Preparations for 2020 Season Opener

After months of waiting, Gators football is on the horizon. Florida opens its 2020 season this Saturday with a trip to Oxford, Mississippi, to face the Ole Miss Rebels.  Gator coach Dan Mullen discussed final preparations in his Monday press conference.

Florida Gators head coach Dan Mullen speaks during a news conference for the Orange Bowl NCAA college football game, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Florida plays Virginia in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 30. (AP Photo/Mario Houben)

Scouting out the Rebels

In what has been an unpredictable year, it is fitting the Gators start their 2020 campaign against an unfamiliar foe. Ole Miss brings in an almost entirely new coaching staff to Oxford. Led by Lane Kiffin, Ole Miss has new offensive and defensive coordinators, special teams coordinator, offensive position and defensive position coaches. One of the co-defensive coordinators is D.J. Durkin, the former Florida defensive coordinator turned interim-head coach.

Mullen says playing an opponent with a new coaching staff can be tough as there is no footage of their collective effort to study.

The leader of that new coaching staff is Lane Kiffin. The former head coach at Tennessee, Southern California and Florida Atlantic takes on another role in the SEC. Mullen mentions how Kiffin brings a new personality to Oxford.

The task laid out for Kiffin is a tough one among college head coaches. The Rebels finished 2019 with a 4-8 (2-6, SEC) record, and Ole Miss has not been to a bowl game since the 2016 Sugar Bowl.

Florida’s preparations

It is hard to prepare for a tough season-opening game in the SEC, especially with all of 2020’s complications. However, Mullen is not backing down from his usual expectations.

In his time at Florida, he says he has always discussed his aspirations for national championship-caliber teams, citing the Gator Standard. Ahead of an unprecedented 2020, that mentality holds true.

That being said, preparations for 2020 differ from a standard season. Due to various restrictions and regulations, the 2020-edition of ‘game week’ is different from years prior. For one, and perhaps the most noticeable for fans, is the lack of supporters in the stands. While some schools, including Ole Miss and Florida, are allowing fans, there will still be a gap in the atmosphere inside of the stadium. At Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on Saturday, fans will be capped at 16,010.

Mullen says his preparations for the 2020 season include knowledge of a different stadium atmosphere.

In terms of Florida’s roster, there are a few injuries that Mullen and his staff are preparing for ahead of Saturday. Most notably is the loss of Ethan White. The sophomore offensive lineman will be out this week following knee surgery in the off-season. Mullen called White’s absence a big loss, saying they expected him to start, and now they will have to do some tweaking to the o-line for the opener.

Florida will look to build on back-to-back 10-win seasons, including two appearances in New Years Six Bowl Games.

Matchup

The Gators and Rebels seldom play each other. Last time these two met was in 2015. A Will Grier-led 25th ranked Gator team manhandled the then third ranked Rebels by a score of 38-10 in one of the louder environments ever for Gator football. Overall, Ole Miss leads the all-time series with 12 wins to Florida’s 11; the two teams also tied their contest in 1934, 13-13.

Early odds for Saturday afternoon’s game show Florida as 14.5-point favorites. However, in 2015, Ole Miss came to Gainesville as the favorites by a touchdown, only to lose by 28.

The game kicks off at noon on Saturday on ESPN.

About Kyle Fansler

Originally from Seminole in the Tampa Bay area, Kyle is a contributor for ESPN Gainesville as well as local NPR and PBS affiliate WUFT. Kyle wants to get into sports with a lofty dream of being a sports broadcaster. He was raised playing soccer and baseball while watching hockey and football, so the knowledge about various sports is fairly extensive.

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