If you’ve been a part of a football team at any level, chances are high that you are intimately familiar with running a gasser. Depending on how many you were forced to run, you might even have some traumatic memories of running down to the line and back.
New Florida head coach Dan Mullen is trying to instill a new culture in Gainesville with his first spring practice and one of the ways he’s trying to do that is establishing penalties for Gators players missing class. In a unique twist though, the coach isn’t just blowing the whistle and watching guys run up and down the field — he’s joining them.
“Yeah, they weren’t real happy,” Mullen told 247Sports’ GatorBait site. “That was pretty simple, it’s about going to class. I don’t control that, they control that. If you’re late for class, everybody that’s late for class we run a gasser for. So if they don’t want to run gassers, then just show up on time for class and we don’t run gassers. We’ll get extra work in.
“I’m part of the team, so I should run the gassers too… Hey, if we make mistakes, we’re all going to pay the price. Whether it’s discipline issues, academic issues, football issues, training issues, we all pay the price. So I’m going to pay the price just like them.”
Not many head coaches would take the same path as Mullen but kudos to putting his hand in the dirt and running with his team. Something says a few of his players who struggled to get up and down the field were not to thrilled even if they had their head coach running alongside them though.
Surely this is all a coincidence and not at all a way to gain a recruiting advantage, but junior college linebacker Umstead Sanders will join the Florida Gators as a walk-on player this year. The Gators do have a need to boost the depth at linebacker, so the addition of a junior college player is a quick and easy fix to address that concern, but there is a little more to the story here. Sanders is also the older brother of Trey Sanders, a five-star running back in the Class of 2019 from Bradenton, Florida.
Umstead Sanders announced he will be joining the Florida program with a message on Twitter over the weekend. He will do so as a preferred walk-on, which will likely lead to him landing a scholarship later this year. Sanders is expected to enroll at Florida this summer, so he is not around for spring football practices already underway in Gainesville. While the addition of a 6′-2″ 240-lb linebacker is nice, the whole thing smells like a package deal pitch to lure Sanders’ younger brother into the program down the line.
Package deal commitments and recruiting strategies have long been a part of the game, so this would hardly be anything new if there is a wink and nod to the recruiting efforts going on at Florida. There are no recruiting rules that could prevent Florida from offering a scholarship to a junior college player with the hope of landing his brother in the next recruiting cycle. Other schools have gone so far as to hire the fathers of certain recruits to hopefully gain an advantage, and making sales pitches to high school teammates and family members with scholarships involved has been a trendy technique some schools have put to good use.
Dan Mullen certainly knows what it takes to revamp the Florida program, and taking advantage of all the recruiting angles he can is fair game.
Jason Candle‘s revamped Toledo coaching staff will have a little bit of an SEC feel to it.
Thursday morning, the UT football program announced the hiring of Kerry Dixon as running backs coach. Dixon had spent the 2017 season as the as the wide receivers coach at Florida, but wasn’t retained by new head coach Dan Mullen.
Additionally, Kevin Beard, who was Tennessee’s receivers coach last season, has been hired as director of player personnel as well as assistant recruiting coordinator.
“I am very excited about the addition of Kerry Dixon and Kevin Beard to our staff,” said Candle in a statement “Both men are great teachers and bring with them experience from the highest levels of college football. Kerry will do a great job with our running backs. Kevin will play an important role in developing our young Rockets and also brings valuable recruiting experience to the table.”
Dixon has previously served as the running backs coach at Florida International (2014) and Florida Atlantic (2012-13).
And, finally, Candle also announced that director of high school relations Ricky Ciccone has been promoted to nickel backs coach. He will also retain his previous title.
Florida head coach Dan Mullen has done enough in his coaching career to deserve the opportunity he has in front of him in Gainesville, but his work with quarterbacks is easily one of the top reasons Florida fans are happy to see Mullen in charge of the program. Tim Tebow and Dak Prescott are two of his greatest achievements when it comes to player development and performance, with one winning a Heisman Trophy and being a key cog in a national title run and the other quickly rising to become the starting quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. So it only makes sense that Mullen will plan on spending a good amount of time with his quarterbacks at Florida this spring, knowing just how much room for improvement there is at the position.
“That’s my position of comfort,” Mullen said to reporters during a press conference on Tuesday, according to Gridiron Now. “I will spend a lot of time with the quarterbacks.”
Florida ranked 11th in the 14-team SEC in passing offense last season with an average of 179.5 yards per game through the air. Of course, it is fair t point out Mullen’s previous program, Mississippi State, ranked last in the conference in passing yards per game (166.9 ypg) and tied for the most interceptions thrown (14) among all SEC programs.
But the passing stats do not tell the whole story when it comes to Mullen’s offensive plan of attack, because Mullen likes to have quarterbacks run the football too. Last season, Mississippi State’s Nick Fitzgerald was the team’s second-leading rusher with 984 rushing yards and a team-high 14 touchdowns. Florida’s quarterbacks combined to rush for 50 net rushing yards with no touchdowns. Look for that to change if Mullen has anything to say about it (which, of course, he pretty much does).
How quickly Mullen can get the offense to run the way he is comfortable doing remains to be seen, and it may take more than a year to really take form.
Helmet sticker to Gridiron Now.
The Florida Gators turned the page on the 2017 season by attempting to breathe new life into the program coming off a tumultuous season on and off the field. A season was essentially lost before it ever could truly get going when wide receiver Antonio Callaway was suspended for the season as part of a felony fraud case and a drug charge over the summer, as well as being connected to a Title IX investigation. As the now former Gator prepares for the NFL, he is faced with questions regarding his past in Gainesville, and he is shouldering blame on his shoulders for how it all came to an end for Jim McElwain as head coach of the Gators.
As reported by Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat reporter Trevor Sikkema, via Twitter, Callaway says McElwain may still be the head coach at Florida (and not an assistant coach at Michigan) if Callaway played last season.
Callaway may not be too far off the mark. Callaway was the explosive playmaker Florida desperately needed last season. Callaway was Florida’s leading receiver in 2016 with 721 yards and three touchdowns as a sophomore and a team-high 678 yards and four touchdowns as a freshman. Callaway also returned two punts for touchdowns in 2015, proving to be a threat any time he stepped foot on the field during his two seasons on the field at Florida. Would Callaway have been able to turn a team that went 4-7 into a team that could muster together enough wins to save McElwain’s job?
Considering Florida lost three of their seven games by a single score, the case could be made that Callaway may have been able to save McElwain’s job. But McElwain pretty much talked his own way out of the job by throwing out the idea his family was being targeted and never being able to provide the evidence asked of him.
Florida replaced McElwain with Dan Mullen, previously of Mississippi State, as their new head coach.