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UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
December 19, 2018
DAN MULLEN: All right. Where are we going today in are we going to recruiting first? I think a pretty good day for us today.
Obviously a good start, anyway to this signing class, you know, with the early signing period and we still got a bunch of work to do but I think our -- our coaches did a great job. Worked real hard. Put this class together. I know our support staff, everybody, there are a lot of people that are involved in it, in recruiting, whether it's from us traveling, from organization to recruiting weekends, I think everybody really put an unbelievable effort, you know and you got to see that with some of the success we had today with this recruiting class.
You know, I always love -- boy, what do we think of the class. Well, unfortunately, you're going to get the same, right. If you haven't heard me before, you'll get the same answer I give just about every single year. Come ask me in 2 to 3 years and I'll tell you if we had a good recruiting class or not.
These guys, you bring in young guys and we see where they are now and how they develop throughout their career and see how successful that they are. So also, you know, a lot going on with the practice. You know, we have one more practice tomorrow morning, kind much wrap up as we wrap up our Bowl prep here on campus. Guys will have a couple days off and then we'll report Sunday night up to Atlanta for the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl and continue preparation with practice starting on Monday with that.
So we've had a pretty good week of practice. I'm pleased with how our guys transition from kind of the pre-Bowl practice, developmental practices into the back into game week practices and so they have handed that pretty well and you know, it will be hopefully we get it all set.
It's all of our first time together for a Bowl game so they are kind of learning what it's all about, and hopefully they get used to this routine and we go to a lot of great Bowl games in years to come.
Q. When you're looking at the early signings, is there any positions you feel like you're pretty much done now with?
DAN MULLEN: Well, I don't ever say that but I think there's -- there's -- I think it's a great start and I think we strengthened a lot of certain areas with talent and depth for the future and then there's other areas, you know, that we still have, you know, we still need to fill several spots. The main areas that -- that I think we have to -- that we're going to look to focus on and as we continue in this -- to the second signing is going to be -- is obviously going to be secondary and defensive line for us.
Q. You signed three kids from Lakeland today.
DAN MULLEN: Yeah.
Q. How much did you use what happened in 2007 as a recruiting pitch or how often did you talk to those kids about that?
DAN MULLEN: You know, I mean, a little bit because here is the thing, I was here to sign those kids so I knew the situation. I know the players. There are guys that in high school, the 2007 guys, guys that won back-to-back high school state and national championships and then came to Florida and won a National Championship, you know and it was great, the guys at Lakeland were able to win the state championship this year, so hopefully we can continue that and they help the -- the opportunity to help lead us to a National Championship in the future.
You know, I think when you look at that a lot of times, they were guys that were young and growing up and looking up to, you know, guys like Chris Rainey and the Pouncey brothers and Ahmad Black and all the success those guys have and now, you know, they are carrying on the tradition to come here to Florida and, you know, hopefully they get the opportunity to win a National Championship here, as well.
Q. There's always a ton of angst from fans about recruiting, irrational angst --
DAN MULLEN: Hey, you know what three years from now, it's either very rational or very irrational.
Q. So what was your feeling about the way everything came together?
DAN MULLEN: You know, I don't know if there where are a lot of surprises to be honest with you, and that's kind of what you look for. I thought it was a pretty solid day.
I still think, you know, I still think there's additions we're going to make to this class, I think with the early signing, with the two signing days, I think everybody gets so excited today, okay, how was the signing class, where are you. Well, we're partially there, you know what I mean.
There's still going to be more additions to this -- this recruiting class moving forward. I don't know, you know, I mine, the hardest one for me is I'll go back and I remember sitting there and there was a lot, as you say, the angst with everybody, signed a recruiting class, and you know, according to rankings, it was probably one of the lowest classes I signed in my career and I had this quarterback no one had heard of, Prescott, and I had a running back and two-star running back, Josh Robinson, who is this Preston Smith kid, he's not a highly ranked kid on his high school team. And that's a group that went on to rebound the No. 1 team in the country for half a season.
And so a lot of NFL players, there are a bunch more I'm missing but McKinney who is a two-star, who is this two-star quarterback athlete kid. And you know, because I think there were a lot of things in those guys that we saw, that may be weren't shown in high school or camps or in the star rankings but you know, as we got to know them and knew what they would -- how they would develop and fit our program, would be more successful. You know, I don't -- we'll see.
We'll see. To be honest with you, I don't know whether our fans are happy or sad or excited or nervous or, you know, and I'm sure I can get on my Twitter feed tonight and see a little bit or a lot of both, you know. So we'll see.
Q. By the same token, you talk about being such a competitor. I remember when Urban used to come in his first couple years, he'd be admittedly had been looking at the rankings like crazy and all that. Do you look at him and do you have a -- do you feel compelled to move up as high as you can go?
DAN MULLEN: No, because I -- I -- you know, the hard one for me. You know, we might have guys that are ranked higher than I would have ranked them and we have guys that are probably ranked lower than I would have ranked them.
You know, it's funny, it depends what website you go to. It depends how guys are ranked and if you came -- so you know, it's kind of a functional -- a functional thing and with players.
Now obviously there are some that are easy to figure out that, boy, this guy, the three-play guys or four-play guys, they are not to evaluate, this guy's a freak show, but a lot of the other ones are you've got to really pay attention to what's going on and your thoughts and where the development of them can come.
Q. That year was your lowest class by the way.
DAN MULLEN: Boy, why you just call it up?
Q. Did my homework earlier.
DAN MULLEN: And there were some pretty good players, Dak was a pretty -- well I guess if you're a one-name athlete, you're a pretty big name. When you say Dan -- (Laughter).
I know y'all jump right to me but there are some people that don't jump right to me that think that way.
Q. This one's for you, Dan. The coaching carousel, obviously a big thing every year and not any turnover in the SEC but when you look back at last year, how much different for you was this month of December when you're not having to hire a full set of coaches, move?
DAN MULLEN: Totally different deal. I'm still moving because I'm still not in my house yet, but, right -- working really hard to get me in there, so that's a good thing.
But this year, this year is exhausting a little bit. Even though last year, you know what I mean, because last year you come in and you're on adrenaline, but you know, there's a lot of little things this year, you know, especially Bowl prepare, practice, dealing with all our players.
That was probably a little different than last year, you know and so the -- when you look last year over the course of the period, you're exhausted and all of a sudden Sunday hits when it goes quiet and there's no one around campus. Sunday hit this week, I think I got to bed about 4:00 in the morning, a little after four last night and was in the office by 6:30 this morning. Because you know, you're doing both ends of it right there. I think that's what's a little bit different.
Q. Last year you signed 13 in the early window, you signed 20, people speculate that had maybe in the second year of early signing it would kind of slow down a little bit. Do you see that for top teams that want to compete every year; they are going to be signing more often, full classes if they can, in December?
DAN MULLEN: I don't know. I'm interested to see, I would bet, what is it last year, 74 percent, 75 say, signed early, nationally. I bet it's going to be in that same window -- how does it look so far?
Q. It's on track to be a little bit more. Last year it was 66 percent of 3-star prospects signed early, so now it's looking around 70, 75 percent of those.
DAN MULLEN: Okay. Yeah, I think people are getting used to it and we'll see. So hard to say after year two, you know, of -- I think you give it a couple years and see where it's all at with -- with opportunity, and you know, I bet it will always stay around that same number. I don't know that it will ever go all the way up. But I bet it stays around that 70 -- I would bet 75 percent is about the number on an average year for, you know, overall, you know, that most schools will sign -- 75 percent of the guys will sign early and 25 percent will sign on the second signing window.
Q. 11 offensive linemen the last two years you've signed. Do you feel like you've established your line of the future and big a priority was that this year?
DAN MULLEN: It's huge. We lose a bunch this season of offensive linemen graduating. But I think the foundation of a team is really at both lines of scrimmage. If you have a great foundation on the offensive and defensive lines, it's pretty easy to build the program around that. I think if you look at successful teams, they can control the line of scrimmage and control it on both sides of the ball. So you really have to have a great foundation on the offensive line.
Q. And just how big a priority, obviously you're losing a lot of guys but even coming in last year and getting some guys and to have that many, I think you have five early enrollees coming in this year?
DAN MULLEN: On the offensive line, yeah. Because we're going to need some of them to play right away and offensive line is one of those positions that guys that redshirt, and a lot of them come in want to redshirt and want to develop, and just because of the nature of the position, but for us, if you look at where we're at, you know, we're going to need a couple of those guys on the field playing next year for us that just sign, so it's great. We're hoping to get most of them, most of them in early and get them going through spring.
Also to replenish everything that we're going to lose on the offensive line.
Q. You had the Lakeland kid, you said there was not much surprise today. You had the Lakeland kids on campus. What was your sense when they left their official visit last weekend and you go into a quiet period? Where do you think they are leaning going into today?
DAN MULLEN: I felt pretty good about it. One great thing for those guys, you know and guys enjoy the recruiting process. You know, and the one thing I appreciate, I think it's fun and I've loved guys to have a fun time with it but I'm also, you know, there's a serious aspect to it because it's -- you know, you're talking about people's futures and you're talking about these young men, their lives. It's not a game. It's their future and their life and it's going to have a huge impact, where they go to school has a huge impact on the rest of their life.
I really appreciate those guys. Those guys were nothing but straightforward with me, and everything they talked about and said they were going to do, they did right from the beginning all the way through the end. Now, personally for them, did it ever waiver and what was going through their mind and how they were getting through everything, possibly. But all I can go off of from them is all the conversations we had and all through the process, they were pretty steady in how the whole thing played out from -- from beginning to the end.
Q. From a recruiting standpoint, how important is it to have that pipeline and to recruit that area with Lakeland?
DAN MULLEN: You look at the whole central Florida area is major Gator country, and so for us, to go down there and you look at the history and all the great players that have played here, and not just Lakeland, the whole part of the state, there's a lot of tradition, a lot of great players that have been here and that's really important for us to have -- to get the best players in the State of Florida from that area.
Q. Ten early enrollees, how big is that?
DAN MULLEN: I think it helps for those guys. I'm not one that pushes it on guys because it's a very personal decision. Parents ask me, what do you think, I say, well, what do you think? What are you looking to get out of this?
You know, but the opportunity for these guys to come in, they get to go through an off-season. They will get to go through spring practice and get a jump start in the classroom on progress towards their degree. So I think that helps.
It certainly helps as you go through spring, having depth and repetitions for guys to get that work in in the spring and it helps jump start their career.
Q. And Jalon Jones, what kind of prospect do you think he is?
DAN MULLEN: He's a guy I've known for quite a while. He's a very athletic, got great size, he's a guy that is always worked very hard at the discipline part of it, being a quarterback. You know, and what I mean by the technique and fundamentals and always improving himself, you know, he's one of those guys that's kind of fun. He works hard to play the position, technically at a high level but he has the athleticism and skill to improvise and make plays on his own.
Q. Can you talk about Wright?
DAN MULLEN: Nay'Quan obviously is a guy you get to see, as a back, he has a great combination of power and speed, great quickness in how he plays the game. You're not going to look at him and say, boy, this is a big power back but he has the size to play physical. But he also has the make you miss and speed to be a dynamic player on the open field.
In camp he wanted to play wide receiver and do one-on-ones and you see the competitive edge first off and also the skill-set that he has to catch the ball coming out of the backfield, you know, and to be able to be a threat not just running the ball but as -- you know, as we use the tailbacks in the passing game.
Q. And then the linebackers was probably one of the more recruit the groups in this class, can you talk about them?
DAN MULLEN: It's different, there's inside and outside backers for us with how those guys play. If you look at it, we have some older guys at that position. A couple of, you know, senior this year, but also next year, you're going to have a whole bunch of guys that are going to be walking out the door, so we had to make sure that as those guys are leaving, as they become seniors, the next guys are ready to step in and have got a little year under their belt ready to go.
Q. Getting Jaelin Humphries this year, he was coveted by everyone. How big to get his commitment and hang on to him?
DAN MULLEN: It's huge. Like you said, he's a big athletic guy on the defensive line. That's a big position that we're not finished recruiting at yet for us, but it is huge because like I said, I mean, that's where you have to have a great foundation on -- I think we brought in some guys, some athletic guys, guys that can go rush the passer, whether it be we have some of those, whether they be defensive end or outside backers, we have a couple of those but it's the guys that can be big, physical and athletic difference-makers that can play inside and outside that as much as we really need to build on in the future.
Q. You already hit on Hopper and he blew up as his recruitment went on. How key was his commitment as well, I know you had to hang on his pledge, too.
DAN MULLEN: It was. It was big. He's a guy we identified early that has a lot of potential. He's a guy that's played corner and safety in high school, had a great -- played everywhere, has great length and athleticism and I think he's a guy you're going to see as he gets here his ability to grow. You know, gets in our program and now you have a guy that has length and all of a sudden puts on the size but in -- and is a linebacker that, you know, had corner cover skills in high school, and so that type of athleticism is what we want to have on our defense.
Q. And then lastly, so much is made about the State of Florida and going to the powerhouses and getting those pipelines, but beyond Georgia, you guys hit it last year and this year and you go into Beaufort and get a player out of that powerhouse program. How big to recruit the peach state?
DAN MULLEN: It's big. You really want to look at it, the rounded off number, you say five hours, put a five-hour radius around a campus, extend to six I guess, that really encompasses the entire state of Florida, Georgia, Alabama, even starting to touch on Mississippi, and parts of Tennessee and South Carolina and you get that radius of guys. That's where you'll build and where we'll recruit players. We'll recruit top players from all around the country but generally speaking that's your local area. It's easier for players to come to campus, easier for them to come visit and they can get in a car and parents can get in a car and drive and come to all the games. I think we're talking to these guys over the next three years, the freshmen class, it's something like we play something like 25 of 36 games in the State of Florida in their first three years. In that area, parents are not having to travel all around the country to see their son play, so you know, in that area, I think there's a big plus, but you know, it's important that you be strong in your local area, and then you can go and recruit -- then recruit the best national players outside of that area.
Q. Is there a certain number of defensive linemen you're looking for in the second period?
DAN MULLEN: I don't have put numbers on stuff because we're going to look at guys that we think fit our program and go after those guys. I'm not going to put a number on it because if you say, hey, there's one, but, hey, the number's one, but there's two that we have the opportunity to get, we'll be really happy. You know, if you say the number is two and we only get one, I'm not going to force somebody that won't fit our program just to fill a number.
So what we do is you kind of build around and you're going to get guys that really fit your program. But that is a need for us.
Q. Is that an advantage or disadvantage to having I guess more people focusing on those last few prospects?
DAN MULLEN: I think one thing and I do think that's a lot of prospects, if you look and you play one of these positions, some of the guys waiting for the second signing period are looking at where people went, you know, what -- okay, so I think a lot of people, this school is telling me this and all of a sudden, they said I'm going to be this one guy they are going to sign to that position and all of a sudden they signed four guys to that position.
As they look at it going forward, I would imagine in lot of guys wait until the second signing period are going to look at where the depth chart; how they fit in, the opportunity to play and what the need of the school is going to be.
I think that part of it makes it easier for us to focus our attention and for them to focus the attention on us and say, okay, coach, I understand what you're saying now, here is the need at your school, this is exactly where I fit in with every other prospect and how it's going to play out in the future.
Q. I think each of the Lakeland kids might have mentioned the family atmosphere here is a big reason. How do you create that? It can come off as like, oh, yeah, of course, kind of clichÃ©, but how do you guys truly create that and go about that when you have recruits here and just to show it to them, portray it?
DAN MULLEN: That's one thing I try to -- hopefully it's real. That's one that's important to me and guys within our program. That's a big thing for me many hiring coaches and as we put a staff together and that's one thing we talk about, we want you to treat players like you would treat your own son. We want coaches families around, wives around the program as much as possible and not just recruiting, but around all of our players on the team.
And you know, I think it's kind of how I've run the program. Megan, I mean, she's -- that's how she knows how to run the program. She's around not just in recruiting. She's around the players. She's around all the time, and you know, but I tell them that, a lot it, in the family program, we treat them like our own son. Means we're going to have really high expectations. We're not a family program that's just all lovey-dovey.
I don't know, if you ever see me and Megan together after the game, you'd probably laugh. Guys come by, she'll be like, oh, my goodness, you did so amazing, give him a big hug; I'm like, he dropped a pass in the third quarter. Oh, and you did such a great job; I'm like, he jumped off-sides. I'm probably a lot more critical and she's extremely loving. But we're a pretty good team that way.
Q. What makes Robinson such a good recruiter?
DAN MULLEN: As a young coach coming in here, it was one of the things in knowing about him that I spent a bunch of time with him on in coming in is, one, asking a lot of questions, how to recruit, how to do it the right way, how to, you know, especially young coaches, there's a lot that goes on out there that make sure to be careful of putting yourself in a bad situation, and I think one, he's very intelligent, very motivated. I think you see that as a position coach on the field, he's got a huge future. But I think that, you know, what you're seeing is him growing and being able to handle those situations and I think his mature, he's a very young man that he's able to handle the situation he gets put in.
But also, we all try to stay young with it and keep a young mindset, whether you're wearing -- I wear my Jordans and all that. I try to keep a young mindset because you're around -- I'm going to spend my life around 18- to 22-year-olds, and I think for him, the ability is he can look at guys and he was -- he's played in this league. He's had success in this league and that wasn't that long ago and I think his ability to relate really helps as well with the players.
Q. Ja'Markis was a guy that was off the radar throughout his recruitment and never went to camp. How were you able to keep --
DAN MULLEN: I'm a huge Ja'Markis Weston fan. What's his ranking? Okay, good, we'll see. I'm a big fan of his. I think he's a tremendous young man, has great potential, great athleticism, great size, but most importantly amazing character and work ethic for a young guy.
You look at him, academically, takes care of his business. You go down and how people talk about him around the school, how he's respected in the town is pretty special. How he handled the whole recruiting process, first class, and his image, if you want to -- if you look at what your brand is, he's got a first-class brand. I'm really happy to have him part of the family. He's got potential to have a pretty special career here at Florida.
Q. You talked about taking care of your own backyard.
DAN MULLEN: You know, Trent is a guy that everybody you talk to, you know, boy, he's an amazing athlete, not just -- I mean, football, basketball, and you know, when he gets to concentrate on one sport, I don't think he's probably ever lifted a weight in his life. He's going to get here and when he gets on that training program, physically going to be a different guy. He has great size and athleticism, played all over the field in football, he's a phenomenal basketball player. You know, we've got to see where he's going to end up playing for us. You know, I have an idea where we're going to start him but it's not even fair to label that right now for him because I want to see him as I starts going through workouts and as he grows and progresses, so I think he's got a really -- a really bright future. You look at those guys, and you look at Trent and you look at Ja'Markis, they were committed before I got here. It shows, they want to be Gators. You know, there's something about that, when you have that extra pride in there and what it means to be a Gator, I think that's great to have in the program of guys that believe in that and I think that, you know, those are guys that end up being great leaders, not just great playmakers, talented guys, they end up having a little bit of leadership in them because of what it means to put on that uniform and that helmet. FastScripts by ASAP Sports ...
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports