SEC Media Days: Gators aiming high in Mullen's 2nd season

By JOHNATHAN BENTLEY, Eagle Sports Editor
Posted 7/15/19

HOOVER — Florida exceeded expectations in Dan Mullen’s first year as head coach.

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SEC Media Days: Gators aiming high in Mullen's 2nd season

Posted

HOOVER — Florida exceeded expectations in Dan Mullen’s first year as head coach.

The Gators reached 10 wins — after winning just four games the previous season — and finished ranked 7th in the final poll of the season.

Florida put on exclamation on Mullen’s first season with a 41-15 rout of Michigan in the Peach Bowl.

Now Mullen’s planning an encore.

“We made great strides in the first year,” Mullen said Monday at SEC Media Days in Hoover. “It showed just how fast our guys bought into what we were trying to do and what we are trying to build.”

Florida had its up and downs in 2018, losing to two unranked teams at home — Kentucky and Missouri — but also went 3-1 against ranked foes. Mullen is hoping for consistency from the start in 2019.

“We have a lot of talented players coming back on this year’s team that have won games, have high expectations and understand what the Gator standard is all about. It’s about competing for championships every year,” he said.

Mullen was asked about his second season at Mississippi State when the team improved from five wins to nine.

“Let’s hope we make the same jump that we did there. That was four so if we go from 10 to 14 that would be pretty good. I would take that,” Mullen said. “This year (the team) has a better understanding on what we are trying to accomplish. It gives you the opportunity to have a big jump in the second season. Obviously, we had a great year last year. I would love it to be even better this year.”

Florida opens the season in Orlando against Miami on Aug. 24. It’s the first game between the teams since 2013.

“I think it’s huge,” Mullen said of the matchup. “I mean there’s a lot that goes into that game. We’re the opening game of the 150th year of college football. It’s a great honor to just be involved in that game. Whoever wins that game ends up really kicking off the season on the right note with a big win in a big game with a lot of national exposure.”

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LSU looks to build on 10-win season

It had been five years since LSU put together a 10-win season.

Now that coach Ed Orgeron accomplished the feat in his second full season, expectations are once again high in Baton Rouge. And LSU returns proven starters across the board.

The Tigers finished just a few plays away from an even better win total.

LSU fell to Florida 27-19 on the road and dropped an epic 74-72 game to Texas A&M in seven overtimes.

“I believe last year was a pivotal year. We’ve proven we can win. Having a 10-win season is good. It’s not great. It puts us in a position to take the next step at LSU,” Orgeron said. “We need to perform better. We need to coach them better. These guys need to play well in order for us to win the championship.”

He acknowledged areas when the Tigers need to improve.

“We need to put pressure on the quarterback with a four-man rush. It was not good last year. We should be able to rush four guys and then one-on-ones. Then we need to do a better job on the two-minute offense and a better job preventing the deep ball. We didn’t do a good enough job sometimes letting them throw the ball over our head,” he said. “You need to go back to discipline, and that’s what it’s going to take to get great defense.”

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Missouri turns to Bryant

Clemson transfer Kelly Bryant steps into the quarterback role at Missouri this season for coach Barry Odom.

Bryant said Missouri was the pick from the start.

“Right when I put myself in the (transfer) portal and coaches could contact me, Missouri was the first school. It was a crazy process. When I was out there on a visit, I just pretty much fell in love with everything they had to offer,” said Bryant, who steps in for four-year starter Drew Lock, who is now a member of the Denver Broncos.

“They were selling me on how Lock had the success he had... and at the end of the year, he was a second-round draft pick. I was like OK, that’s a box check for me — how they can grow me into the quarterback that I want to be, being able to play at the next level,” Bryant said.

Bryant played in four games for Clemson last season, competing 36 of 54 passes for 461 with five touchdowns and two interceptions. In his career, he has completed 311 of 470 passes (66.2 percent) with 16 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Odom feels Bryant fits in perfectly with the Tigers.

“When Kelly stopped on campus for his official visit, I saw interaction between him and our team in the locker room. It was a natural fit,” Odom said.