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Chomp: Florida talks offensive, defensive changes at media days & could Texas, OU join SEC?!

Florida head coach Dan Mullen speaks to reporters during the NCAA college football Southeastern Conference Media Days Monday, July 19, 2021, in Hoover, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Florida head coach Dan Mullen speaks to reporters during the NCAA college football Southeastern Conference Media Days Monday, July 19, 2021, in Hoover, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

This story first appeared in Chomp, our Gators football newsletter. Subscribe here.

Greetings, Gators fans!

I was expecting this edition of the newsletter to be focused primarily on Southeastern Conference media days, but the unofficial start to the college football season was overshadowed by Wednesday’s bombshell report...

👀 Texas, Oklahoma reportedly talk to SEC about joining conference

There have reportedly been discussions between Texas and Oklahoma and SEC officials about the Longhorns and Sooners switching from the Big 12 to the SEC.

The Houston Chronicle first reported the discussions.

When asked at SEC media days about the report, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said: “I’m talking about the 2021 season.”

Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork was adamant about not wanting the Texas, once the school’s greatest rival, in the SEC.

“We want to be the only SEC program in the state of Texas,” Bjork said. “There’s a reason why Texas A&M left the Big 12, to be standalone, to have our own identity. And that’s our feeling.”

In the latest episode of Gators Breakdown, host David Waters breaks down the report.

Sixteen SEC teams would be the most in major college football, and it would certainly shake up the East and West Divisions or perhaps the elimination of them.

On Monday at media days, Florida coach Dan Mullen even talked about changing up the schedule and doing away with permanent crossover teams.

“I don’t want to get the commissioner in trouble here, but I’d love us to maybe do away with the permanent crossover team so you get these type of games more often,” Mullen said. “I think for the players, for the fan bases, I really think it’s exciting to see some more of maybe mixing up the teams from the west and playing two different teams each year instead of a permanent crossover.”

🐊 Gators address offense, defensive changes at media days

Alright, so going back to SEC media days, Mullen was the first coach to take the podium.

First things first: Mullen’s shoes are usually one of the talking points at media days, and he didn’t disappoint this year when he wore custom-made Air Jordan IIIs.

The Gators addressed how the team will look on offense after losing key players like Kyle Trask, Kyle Pitts and Kadarius Toney, as well as how the defensive will bounce back.

Mullen said the team will look different on offense, but he doesn’t expect production to dip.

“A lot of exciting things going on for us right now. After coming off a great year, obviously, a little bit of challenge. Offensively it will be different this year. Two first rounders last year on the offensive side of the ball and a second rounder at quarterback. Guys leaving on to the NFL. It’s great to see those guys have that success and go on to the next stage, but there’s a lot of production to go fill offensively that we’re really excited about on the offensive side of the ball,” he said. “We’ll be a little bit different offensively, but that’s part of the fun of coaching is being able to adapt and change and build around the players that we have.”

Defensive tackle Zachary Carter and linebacker Ventrell Miller represented the Gators in Hoover, Alabama, and Mullen focused on the “defensive attitude.”

“You look at the leadership those guys bring on defense that we have. We have some really young players in the secondary, but you have Trey Dean and Kyle Engel with some experience coming back there,” he said. “Really to me the attitude of where our defense is at is what I’m really pleased with. The energy, we play a lot of guys defensively, roll guys through to keep them fresh and healthy, and I’m really excited of the mindset, the attitude that the defense as a whole is bringing to the table and the leadership that they have within our program.”

David was in Hoover this week, and in this episode of Gators Breakdown, he gives his reaction to the answers from Mullen, Carter and Miller about questions of changes on offense and defense.

🦴 Mullen takes jab at Georgia

Mullen took a page out of the HBC’s book and took a subtle shot at the Dawgs when asked whether he was concerned about preseason magazines thinking Florida will take a step back and Georgia will be the winner of the SEC East.

“Didn’t they say that last year?” Mullen said in response. “I don’t, we didn’t have any of them at our practice and I haven’t talked to any of them so I don’t know how they do that. I think it’s great, I don’t get into that stuff all that much and pay attention to it. ‘Cause all of that, I mean, it’s fun -- I love it ‘cause it’s speculation, it gets everybody excited about football, gets everybody fired up. Even being here today, it’s exciting, creates this energy. Can’t wait to get people back.”

🏈 Other topics of discussion in Hoover

While SEC media days returned to an in-person format this year, the pandemic was still a topic of discussion. Sankey said on opening day that six football teams in the conference have reached the 80% COVID-19 vaccination threshold.

The first question Mullen was asked at the podium was what percentage of his team has been vaccinated. Mullen declined to provide any specific numbers but said “we’re getting close to the threshold numbers that you need to be at.”

Mullen also expressed how he was glad to return to some type of normalcy.

“It is great to be up here, it is really exciting to see everyone here live, in-person again and not just look at everybody just through a computer screen,” Mullen said. “That energy in the stadium, those are things that we really missed, and I can’t wait for that opening night in The Swamp to feel that energy and excitement of our fans and everybody coming out to see us come play again.”

Name, image and likeness was also a hot topic as athletes begin to sign deals -- including Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, who Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said has made “almost seven figures.”

Mullen said he met with his team Monday about NIL, saying it was great for players but an issue that needs education for them and coaches alike.

“It’s a learning curve, obviously,” Mullen said. “You’re looking at the state law that we have in Florida, and any time you’re adapting to a new law within the state and a new law that directly affected our football program, there’s a big learning curve.”

In the latest episode of Gators Breakdown, David also wraps up his coverage from media days.

🏆 Elam named to Chuck Bednarik Award watch list

Cornerback Kaiir Elam is another defensive stud the Gators are expecting a big year from, and this week, Elam was named to the Chuck Bednarik Award watch list.

The award is presented annually to the outstanding defensive player in college football.

In 2020, Elam finished his sophomore campaign with 39 tackles (28 solo), 1.0 tackle for loss, two interceptions, 11 pass breakups and one fumble recovery.

🏟️ ICYMI: Florida, UCF reportedly close to finalizing 3-game series

Full disclosure: I was out of town when this report dropped, so it didn’t make it into last week’s newsletter. But the Orlando Sentinel’s Mike Bianchi reported that Florida and Central Florida are close to finalizing a three-game series, with games played at 2024 and 2033 in Gainesville and another played in 2030 in Orlando.

✉️ Send us your Gators thoughts, questions

David and I want to hear from you. Do you have any thoughts or questions about the Gators football program? Agree or disagree with something we’ve said? Let us know here and we’ll share our responses to your questions.

David and I want to hear from you. Do you have any thoughts or questions about the Gators football program? Agree or disagree with something we’ve said? Let us know here and we’ll share our responses to your questions.

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About the Author:

Jacksonville native and proud University of Florida graduate who joined News4Jax in March 2016.