I’m not sure where the program is headed after a humiliating 34-7 loss in Jacksonville, but I’ve got a good idea if history is a guide. I’ve seen this show before, both at Florida and at other big schools, and it very rarely ends well.
Dan Mullen’s playcalling for the offense was uninspired and lazy. He gave Anthony Richardson precious little of the misdirection plays and long pass opportunities seen earlier this year, and all of that can’t simply be blamed on the mediocre O-line play. It was a crapshoot to have AR get his first start in this scenario against what may prove to be a generational defense, but Mullen certainly didn’t give him much help. The O-line struggled in pass protection all afternoon, and more penalties crept back in. I don’t see anything Mullen can hang his hat on after that performance.
As bad as the offense played at times, they still put some good drives together, and were in the game until the fateful last 3 minutes of the first half. Instead of playing it smart with poor field position and trying to get into halftime down either 3-0 or 10-0, Mullen still had AR passing, and the kid admittedly made some bad throws. But instead going into halftime down no more than 10 points and getting the second-half kickoff, the competitive phase of the game had effectively ended.
The defense played hard, but eventually, their spirit waned after the turnover debacle. The secondary played perhaps it’s best game of the season, as it should, given Georgia has no one to really scare anyone at receiver or TE. The D-line had it’s moments against the run, but the lack of talent and size at linebacker was exposed……again. The LBs again missed tackles and were out of position at times filling their run gaps – Christian Robinson has proved to be a bad position coach, and hopefully, he leaves along with DC Todd Grantham at the end of the season. The defense gets credit for not laying down and giving up, especially after the offense had essentially given the game away by halftime.
This was certainly not the performance to have given the terrible losses at Kentucky and LSU. Gator Nation is restless (again), and Mullen is just adding fuel to the fire with both the coaching performances from him and his staff along with his dreadful press conferences.
It’s on to South Carolina and a program that is struggling badly right now under new head coach Shane Beamer. Their problems at QB make Florida’s issues there look rosy. They will likely start Luke Doty or Zeb Noland, who originally was supposed to be a graduate assistant coach. Neither has the arm strength or running ability to stress a defense. Their offense has no real threats other than RB Kevin Harris with only 236 yards rushing, and WR Josh Vann, their best weapon. Their O-line is terrible, and the Gamecocks average only 119 yards per game rushing. It looks like Won’t Misschump ruined another school’s offense, and his legacy lives on. Florida’s defense should feast on this overmatched group all afternoon……if they are focused and play hard, which may or may not happen given the state of affairs right now.
Carolina’s defense, especially against the pass, is solid. They have 11 interceptions, led by CB Javian Foster with 5, which is one of the better totals in the country. Their front seven has struggled against the run, however, and the Gators must re-establish a physical running game this week. This should be a good matchup, but, again, it’s hard to say what the mental makeup of the team is right now. Given the struggles of both Jones and Richardson throwing the ball, I’m anticipating a large dose of ground-and-pound, unless the situation is dire. Jones will start and likely play almost all of the snaps, given Richardson’s injury status coming out of the Georgia game. Mullen will have to have at least one of the true freshmen – Jalen Kitna or Carlos Del Rio-Wilson, ready to play.
Mullen and his staff have a tough task ahead trying to keep players engaged and focused. I fully expect more lackluster and inconsistent play the rest of this season, as the coaching has let the players down, and some are going to mentally check out. There is no juice left in the schedule these last 4 games – all against bad teams. Perhaps some individual leaders will step up and rally the team, but I’m in wait-and-see mode.
There is so much negative press and energy around Mullen right now that it has to be affecting the team. I just hope the talent gap is so great the last month of the season that the Gators can put together some wins and try and salvage whatever little they can out of the 2021 season. Maybe the Gators can finish 8-4 with a win over a bad F$U team in Gainesville. The problem is that recruiting has taken some big hits the past few weeks with decommitments, Mullen is getting trashed on the recruiting trail and in the national media for being lazy (no real surprise), and a mediocre bowl game isn’t going to energize the players or fans. Once again, the worst thing is that all of this could have been avoided – it’s self-inflicted damage due to Mullen’s arrogance, lazy recruiting, and immaturity in dealing with adversity.
Prediction: Florida 27 South Carolina 17