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Monday, September 27, 2021

Florida Gators make defense the focus on SEC Media Day

Florida Gators kick off the first day of conference media week

Florida head coach Dan Mullen speaks to reporters during the NCAA college football Southeastern Conference Media Days Monday, July 19, 2021, in Hoover, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Florida head coach Dan Mullen speaks to reporters during the NCAA college football Southeastern Conference Media Days Monday, July 19, 2021, in Hoover, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

The media floodgates opened Monday afternoon after Florida Gators head coach Dan Mullen, defensive lineman Zach Carter and linebacker Ventrell Miller kicked off the first day of SEC Media Week.

The packed room of media members had plenty of questions for both the fifth-year coach and defensive leaders to ponder, including the new mentality of the defense. 

Mullen first greeted the reporters with a bright smile to display his overall excitement for the new season. 

“It’s really exciting to be back, to see everybody here and the excitement of media day,” Mullen said. “The excitement of the season coming and being live in person again, not having to look at everybody through computer screens and to do that, I’m really excited to be here and get that kicked off.”

It’s clear the coach was ecstatic for the football world to return to some kind of normalcy after UF cleared the way for full capacity at sporting events, including those at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

“That energy in the stadium, those are things that we really missed, and I can’t wait for that opening night in The Swamp to feel that energy and excitement of our fans and everybody coming out to see us play again,” Mullen said.

Coach Mullen and Carter used their time to highlight a key focus going into the 2021 season: Defensive attitude.

“Really with me the attitude of our defense is what I’m really pleased with,” Mullen said. “The energy, we play a lot of guys defensively, roll guys through to keep them fresh and healthy, and I’m really excited about the mindset, the attitude that the defense as a whole is bringing to the table and the leadership that they have within our program.” 

The Gators finished in the middle of the SEC pack defensively last season, surrendering 30.8 points a game (8th in the conference) and allowing opposing offenses to gain 6.1 yards per play (10th). The Alabama Crimson Tide took advantage of the weak UF defense in the SEC Championship to put up 52 points and deny Mullen his first conference crown.

Carter and Miller made the trip to Hoover, Alabama, to set the premise for the Gators defensive mentality. Carter enters his fifth year of eligibility and believes his final year with the team will be a recovery for Florida after coming up short in the SEC Championship against Alabama.

“We knew we had some things to work on this year defensively definitely, and I think spring was a great step forward,” Carter said. “Going into camp, we’re looking to bounce back.” 

The lineman returns to compete with the Gators for his fifth-year of eligibility and feels that there’s still more to accomplish playing under Dan Mullen that he wants to be a part of.

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“I remember after the SEC Championship game, I probably stayed on the field for about five minutes after watching the confetti come down and all of that,” Carter explained.”At that moment, I knew, I was like, we’ll be back.”

Linebacker Ventrell Miller believes the Gators are the team to beat in the SEC East.

“We came out and we won the East,” Miller boasted. “I feel like we’re the undisputed champions in the East. Like I said, we’re looking forward to coming out and winning the whole thing. We come out every year ready to go and ready to rock and roll.”

Carter closed his session with a promise he made to himself and the rest of the locker room: “I’m going to give everything I’ve got this year and I’m going to try to help my team the best I can, help lead my team in some type of way.”

The Florida Gators officially return on Sept. 4 against the Florida Atlantic Owls in Gainesville, as Ben Hill Griffin Stadium welcomes a full house of fans after the 2020 season reduced the stadium capacity to 25%.

Contact Jesse Richardson at jrichardson@alligator.org. Follow him on Twitter @JesseRich352.

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