Florida football coach Dan Mullen spoke with the media Thursday and immediately addressed concerns about the health of cornerback Jaydon Hill.
Mullen confirmed the junior defensive back tore his ACL and will miss the entire 2021 season. Hill already tore an ACL in high school, but Mullen stated he tore the ligament in his opposite knee this time in a non-contact injury.
Hill entered camp as the heavy favorite to start on the outside opposite First-Team All-SEC classmate Kaiir Elam. The third-year corner played 22 games his first two seasons with the Gators, including five starts in 2020, and tallied 25 total tackles and 10 passes deflected.
“I think massive disappointment, being ready for this opportunity to be the guy, but you’re looking at a young guy who’s been through this once and came out on the positive end on the other side,” Mullen said. “So I think he understands how to come through it.”
Mullen said a bunch of players have the chance to step up in Hill’s absence due to the nature of training camp, but he mentioned JUCO transfer Jadarrius Perkins and redshirt freshmen Avery Helm and Ethan Pouncey as younger players who could see opportunities. The Gators also landed former Texas A&M corner Elijah Blades from the transfer portal and true freshman five-star prospect Jason Marshall.
The head coach also offered his thoughts on sophomore defensive tackle Gervon Dexter, who’s heard his praises sung by several of his teammates so far this fall, including transfer Antonio Valentino in his Wednesday media session. Mullen complimented Dexter’s mental growth so far this fall.
“Obviously, we know he’s got physical talents,” Mullen said. “I think, one of the things that you see is different is his maturity, his understanding that, ‘Hey, I have these physical talents, but I also have to understand and play within the scheme, I have a job to do on every single play.’”
The fourth-year Florida coach said this maturity leads to better preparation and leadership for Dexter. The former five-star recruit appeared in all 12 games a season ago and totaled 19 combined tackles and an interception.
Mullen also commented on the health protocols and vaccination status on his program. He said the team held a meeting recently about the expected curve in attempts to educate his players about the current status of COVID-19 and the Delta variant. He added masks were not required but are heavily encouraged, especially when in team or positional meetings in indoor, confined spaces.
“Having been through it, (we’re) a little bit more educated on the situation, of a preventative aspect of it and where to be comfortable and how not to be and what not to do,” Mullen said. “So we have changed that but we have not put any mandates in on anybody.”
The coach said he didn’t know his team’s exact vaccination percentage thus far, but although it wasn’t 100%, he claimed it was very high and continues to increase.
“We’re at a grade that you could bring home to your parents, you wouldn’t have to hide that report card,” Mullen said. “We’re at that percentage where you’d be proud to bring your report card home.”
The Gators’ season kicks off Sept. 4 against Florida Atlantic at home in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
Contact Ryan Haley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @ryan_dhaley.
Ryan Haley, a UF journalism senior with a sports & media specialization from Jacksonville, Florida, is Summer 2022's Engagement Managing Editor. 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.