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.
Gators announced home and home series with Cal Friday
The Florida Gators continued their philosophy of striking “home-and-home” deals with Power 5 opposition, when they announced on Friday that they will be doing so with the Cal-Berkley Bears out of the Pac-12 coming later in this decade.
The Gators made the announcement through their website and social media mid-day Friday that they will play Cal at home first and then travel to Berkeley the following year:
Coast to coast❗
🐻 at 🐊 2026
🐊 at 🐻 2027#GoGators
— Gators Football (@GatorsFB) February 7, 2020
A.D. Scott Stricklin has broken up the long tradition that Florida would only play two home out of conference games in September and usually, against much lesser competition before entering SEC play. Stricklin has been very outspoken that in the age of the College Football Playoff, strength of schedule is emphasized and the selection committee holds schools responsible for not playing top-notch out of conference opponents, at least some of the time.
With that in mind, the Gators opened the 2019 season in Orlando against the Miami Hurricanes and won a sloppy game. And, they already have other Power 5 schools laid out to play home and away.
As we previously wrote, Florida will be playing the Texas Longhorns first in Gainesville in 2030 and then. return the game the following year in Austin.
Florida had previously announced last year that they will also play the Colorado Buffaloes out of the Pac-12, again with the first game in Gainesville in 2028 and then, returning it to Boulder the following season.
It’s interesting with Friday’s announcement that Stricklin and the football program are working backwards with the schedule. And, they will now play Cal before Colorado in September of 2026, and then will be opening on the Berkeley campus the following season.
Florida and Cal have only met two times, having played first in Gainesville in 1974 as the Gators wo 21 – 17 and then, they also met in Tampa to open the 1980 season with a Florida 41-13 blowout victory.
Second National Signing Day recap for top state schools
National Signing Day 2020 has come and gone, and several in state schools were able to improve their classes heading into spring ball. The University of Florida watched rival Georgia secure the number one overall class, but the Gators were still able to land the best class in the state with the number eight class overall.
The Gators officially signed former five-star receiver Justin Shorter from Penn State, and Florida stayed in the family today as well, Xzavier Henderson officially joined the Gators. He’s the ounger brother of former DB C.J. Henderson.
Dan Mullen also able to dip into the state of Texas inking four-star DE Princely Umanmielen. It wasn’t all great news for the Gators, as they missed out on a few key guys, including losing out on arguably top state safety Avantae Williams to in state rival Miami. Overall it was a good cycle for the Gators both recruiting and in the transfer portal.
The Miami Hurricanes continued an impressive offseason on National Signing Day. The Canes made arguably the biggest move in the state by landing Williams and keeping him Florida. Williams became the highest rated Hurricane in the class and propelled the U to the number 13 spot.
Miami has the second-best class in the ACC behind Clemson. With an impressive offseason in the books, once again excitement will be in the air in Coral Gables. The question is: will they live up to it in year two for Manny Diaz?
Florida State and new coach Mike Norvell have been working hard to get this class rolling last minute. After a good early National Signing Day Norvell looked to keep the momentum going. The Noles took a big hit Wednesday though, with the loss of Venice four star WR, Malachi Wideman, who flipped to Tennessee.
The Noles came back from that by landing a handful of other recruits. They got the number six Juco running back La’Damian Webb, ass well as, Robert Scott, an offensive lineman and Corey Wren, an athlete/running back.
Replacing Cam Akers will be tough for Norvell and building the offensive line is a top priority. The former Memphis coach came in late like he did, yet he finishes with a decent class sitting at 22 on 24/7.
Now the work begins turning around the former powerhouse.