Can Gators take next step in Dan Mullen's second season?
Florida trying to capitalize on 10-win season in 2018
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Dan Mullen set the tone in his first year as the head football coach at Florida by instituting the Gator Standard, the way he expected his players to work. After a 10-win season, he’s challenging his players to work harder.
“Starting to go from being down to having a pretty good year is big,” Mullen said. “But to go from 10 to 11 wins shows consistency and winning and getting ready to compete for championships at a consistent level, that's a lot harder than having one great season.”
At Mullen’s disposal is a returning quarterback, Feleipe Franks, who blossomed last year under Mullen. Franks tossed 24 touchdowns and just six interceptions, including eight touchdowns and no interceptions in his final four games, including a Peach Bowl victory over Michigan. Franks' season wasn’t a smooth ride, however. He was set to be replaced as the Gators’ starter by Kyle Trask before Trask was injured, leaving Franks in the starting lineup.
“I was ready for the production just meet up with my work ethic,” Franks said of his late-season success. “I go in every day and just try to work my tail off and I was ready for the production part to be there.”
A year ago at this time, there was hope among the Gator Nation that Mullen could bring some semblance of consistency, discipline, and most of all wins, back to Gainesville. Now, the hope is that the Gators can compete with the reigning kings of the SEC East, Georgia, and prove that last year’s top-10 ranking is not a fluke.
“It's critical that they understand how hard they have to work,” Mullen said. “If we work as hard as we did last offseason and last training camp, then we can expect to win 10 games at the most. If we aren’t working harder, we're not getting better, you're not going to expect to see better results. So you know, I think a lot of it is a sense of urgency of guys.”
Joining Franks at SEC Media Days are running back Lamical Perine and defensive lineman Jabari Zuniga, who both agreed that the Gators are a different team than the one that showed up to Atlanta for last year’s SEC Media Days not truly knowing what kind of a team they would be.
"Everybody knows what they’re doing, moving fast on the field,” Perine said. “A lot of guys are more comfortable.”
The comfort level has led to a better sense of team identity. That showed up in the spring and the Gators expect it to continue when they open the season Aug. 24 in Orlando against Miami.
“Communication is key,” Zuniga said. “You can have a lot of good players on the team, but if you don’t communicate and you don’t have that camaraderie with each other, you can only go so far.”
The Gators--and Mullen--think they can go further than before.
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