It’s been a tough last few weeks off the field for Gators coach Dan Mullen and his program. However, credit the coach, who’s going into his second season, that he’s not hiding from the problems or controversies.
On Wednesday night, Mullen made an appearance in front of hundreds of loyal Gator fans and alumni in Tampa to fire up West Central Florida for the upcoming season. Prior to taking the stage to give some thoughts and some Q&A, Mullen spoke with our colleague Olivia Stacey, and the other media assembled, and addressed problems with player discipline, arrests transfers and more:
We heard from Dan Mullen for the first time on the incidents that have unfolded over the last week and a half. Here's what he said on Jalon Jones playing in Florida's spring game and the team's knowledge of Jones' sexual assault accusations at the time. @SpecSports360 @BN9 pic.twitter.com/11bkM4SvIz
— Olivia Stacey (@Olivia_Stacey) May 16, 2019
Mullens defending of his handling of incoming freshman quarterback Jalon Jones’ situation is being particularly scrutinized. This as, the former Virginia High School star is accused of having sexually battered two different women in his dorm room in the same night in early April. Although Gainesville police have not charged Jones, he already entered the transfer portal to leave the Florida program and left Mullen to answer for it all.
Clearly, Mullen has had a run a problems with existing players and with potential recruits. That also includes the Gators, along with everybody else, being beaten to the punch by Clemson getting a verbal commitment from Lakeland stud senior running back Damarkcus Bowman to spurn the Gators and come to the defending National Champion Tigers. Bowman is regarded as the #2 running back in the entire country and also picked Clemson over Georgia, Alabama, LSU and Miami among others. He rushed for an astounding 2,466 yards and 36 touchdowns last season for the Dreadnaughts.
It particularly was a stunning blow for Mullen and a Florida program, which has traditionally had a pipeline from Lakeland to Gainesville for great players.
Then, Mullen had to deal with arguably the best player in his 2019 recruiting class, DB Chris Steele from California, also electing to transfer before ever playing a game in Gainesville. Steele was apparently unhappy with Mullen’s handling of his request to no longer be roommates with Jalon Jones, as far back as January. Steele was also present in their dorm on the night of the two incidents, involving Jones and the two females, and told investigators he helped break up one of the incidents.
Steele enrolled at Oregon earlier this week.
Meanwhile, Mullen will be in Orlando Thursday night to speak with Gator fans and alumni in Central Florida and another few hundred are expected to be in attendance. Part of the choosing of that specific date and holding it at Camping World Stadium is that’s where the Gators will play the Miami Hurricanes, 100 days from now on August 24th, in the first huge game of the entire college football season.
A season, that Mullen can’t wait to start soon enough, to have games take the place of off-field controversy for his program.
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