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Thursday, February 25, 2021

Mullen acknowledges defensive issues, preaches urgency ahead of spring practice

Two days before the first practices of the calendar year, Mullen touched on one of the biggest issues plaguing the Gators’ maligned 2020 defense

Coach Dan Mullen during the Florida-Georgia game Nov. 2, 2019.
Coach Dan Mullen during the Florida-Georgia game Nov. 2, 2019.

For anyone who spent enough time watching the Gators’ defense in 2020, players scurrying and shifting before the snap became a frustratingly familiar sight. 

Safeties sprinting to the other side of the field. Linebackers shuffling and rearranging themselves. 

These miscommunications and mental mistakes plagued Florida the entire season. And head coach Dan Mullen noticed. 

Mullen offered no excuses for these accidental adjustments Tuesday, two days before spring practices begin. He said these lapses were caused by several questions UF needs to find better answers to this upcoming year.

“Do we get the calls in time?” Mullen said. “Do we get the calls made to the defense on the field in time? Do the guys make the calls then make the formational adjustment in time when you’re seeing no-huddle?”

UF’s defensive coaching staff has been under fire recently. The firing of safeties coach Ron English and cornerbacks coach Torrian Gray and hiring of Wesley McGriff and Jules Montinar seem to signal an advanced effort to revamp the unit.

However, Mullen also turned the microscope back on the players on the field and cited a lack of urgency before the snap that contributed to the miscommunication and misalignment that seemed to persist, especially .

“We’re a little casual at times getting lined up,” Mullen said. 

The lackadaisical effort led to players not getting lined up fast enough, usually resulting in confused looks by the time the ball was snapped, Mullen said. 

The path to a better defense may sound as simple as adding some hustle, but the valley to cross is vast and daunting.

The 2020 Gators defense allowed the eight-most points (30.8) and the ninth-most yards (428 ) per game in the SEC last year. The three best teams in both categories? National champion Alabama, Texas A&M and Georgia — the three teams Mullen and his squad were left gazing up at in January. 

The difference between UF and its conference foes was staggering. The three powerhouses combined to allow only seven games with more than 400 yards of opposing offense, five of which were the responsibility of either Florida or the Crimson Tide. 

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The Gators allowed 400 yards of offense in seven games on their own. Three of those went for more than 600 yards. That had only happened twice in school history before 2020.

Both pre-snap and after, Florida’s defensive issues hindered a prolific offense (second in the conference and third in total yards), including literally throwing away the Gator’s playoff hopes in a late home upset against LSU. 

Only time will tell if the adjustments Mullen advocated for will be the remedy, but the problem isn’t ignored.

Contact Ryan Haley at rhaley@alligator.org or follow him on Twitter @ryan_dhaley

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Ryan Haley

Ryan Haley is a second-year journalism major with a sports & media specialization from Jacksonville, Florida. He grew up playing a bunch of different sports before settling on golf, following Rory McIlroy and all Philadelphia sports teams. He also loves all things fiction, reading, watching shows and movies and talking about whatever current story or character is in his head.


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