GAINESVILLE, Fla. — While speaking to fans Wednesday evening at the team’s indoor practice facility, Florida football coach Dan Mullen gave the crowd a glimpse into what he is demanding of his new players and how he’s going about building this program toward his vision.
And it sounded exactly as Mullen’s former players at Mississippi State recalled from the way he turned the Bulldogs program from SEC afterthought to overachiever.
“Everything is a competition. They’re learning to compete in everything that we do,” Mullen said. “When we’re in weight room, they compete. When we do mat drills, they compete. When we do speed training, they compete. They don’t just run sprints — they race against somebody. When we do agilities, we compete against each other. Community service, we compete. There’s a winner and there’s losers in everything we do.”
Back in December, several players from Mullen’s first Mississippi State team in 2009 recalled to SEC Country how he shook things up in Starkville, Miss., and how competition and accountability were the core tenets to changing the mindset within the program there.
Just as he did then, Mullen told the fans Wednesday that the Gators elected players for their leadership committee and those guys then drafted teammates to form groups. Everything is tracked and peer accountability drives the process.
Every couple weeks, Mullen said, the coaches see which groups are performing best … and which aren’t.
“The last two place teams, they showed up Tuesday morning at 5 a.m. for a little bonus workout. Because winning is great and the other thing really stinks,” he said. “They’ve got to learn to compete in everything they do.”
Mullen did not reveal who comprises the leadership committee, but FloridaGators.com in-house reporter Scott Carter wrote a couple weeks ago that quarterback Feleipe Franks and linebacker David Reese are two of the eight captains.
During his Q+A session with fans Wednesday night, Mullen was asked about freshman quarterback Emory Jones and he praised his competitiveness, physical abilities and leadership qualities. But he also made a point to praise Franks as well.
“When we run from the locker room over here [for offseason workouts], I’ve yet to have anybody beat Feleipe Franks here. He’s the first one,” Mullen said. “The quarterbacks understand that they have to set the tempo. I imagine he’s not the fastest guy on the team, but I still have yet to see anybody beat him here to start their workout.”
For that matter, Mullen emphasized the same message with reporters earlier in the afternoon Wednesday that he did with fans that evening.
He’s been very pleased with the response from the players he inherited and how they’ve bought into the ramped-up offseason strength and conditioning program, the heightened demands and his new way of doing things.
“The thing I’m most excited about is the buy-in of the guys who are here. The excitement that these guys have every day they show up, the work ethic they’re putting in, there’s no resistance,” Mullen said. “You’d have been impressed watching them work. Now I don’t know that they really know how to work yet because I ask guys, ‘Is that as hard as you can go? … We’re going to get you to figure out [how] to push yourself to go absolutely as hard as you go every single rep.’ You’ve got to learn to do that. There’s a process that they go through to learn to do that, but there’s no resistance.
“They’re buying in in every aspect of their life. They’re buying in to the accountability to themselves and their teammates. They’re buying in to the discipline of what it takes to do everything right with exact detail. … They’re buying into the work ethic and the demands we’re putting on them, and that is what I am so excited about. Their buy-in will accelerate the time it takes us to win a championship.”
That said, this process is only just beginning.
Back in his first news conference after being hired, Mullen promised Florida’s offseason program would be more demanding than what the returning players were used to previously.
To infer from his most recent comments, the adjustment period is still ongoing, but he at least feels everybody is on board.
“I think we have some talented guys that are here on this roster. I don’t know that talent’s our issue — work ethic’s our issue,” he said. “Because I’m going to tell you what, do not expect to win a championship if someone outworks you. If there is any team in the country that is outworking us, don’t expect to win a championship.”
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