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Florida Gators’ Dan Mullen on quarterbacks, Malik Davis and Kadarius Toney

By Matt Baker | Times Staff
Published: February 27, 2018
Florida Gators coach Dan Mullen chats with reporters during a stop in Tampa. [ MATT BAKER | TIMES ]

TAMPA – Even though Dan Mullen has only been Florida's coach for three months, he understands the Gators' program, history and culture.

That was obvious Tuesday night during his speaking engagement with boosters at the Tampa Yacht and Country Club.

Mullen touched on the greatest hits from his time as UF's offensive coordinator from 2005-08. He name-dropped Percy Harvin. He joked talked up Tim Tebow and joked about his ultra-tight shirts. And, of course, he highlighted the two national titles he won under Urban Meyer.

But Mullen's familiarity with the program shows up in other ways, too, that have little to do with schmoozing the fans he wants to fill Ben Hill Griffin Stadium for the April 14 spring game and beyond.

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"I think one of the things that's helped me out is the comfort and the understanding of the university, the program, the standards and expectations and how things work – how the inner things work," Mullen said. "I think there's certainly an advantage to having some comfort having been here before. That stuff doesn't come up and shock you."

Mullen touched on numerous other topics in a chat with reporters and a Q&A with fans:

Running back Malik Davis, the former Jesuit High star who is recovering from knee surgery: "He's working really hard to get healthy. He won't be ready for spring, but he's working really hard. We'll probably make a judgment in August for where he will be at for the season."

The importance of Tampa Bay in recruiting: "You're in Gator country here. This is a place where kids dream of growing up, playing in the Swamp, playing for the Gators and representing the University of Florida – representing everybody in the state. That, to us, is huge. This is where we have to be really successful and get the top players in this area to come play for us."

UF expanding its recruiting reach: "We're nationally recruiting. We have a national brand. Now our focus is always going to be within the state of Florida, but we also have a national brand. We're trying to go out and recruit the top players from America to come here and play for us."

His assessment of the quarterback room: "Watching the film from last year, it looks like they have some arm talent. They've got strong arms. … I don't know what they were being asked to do. I wasn't in the meetings. … We'll get out there, practice and see what they can actually do."

Receiver/Wildcat quarterback Kadarius Toney: "He's an H receiver. He'll play the same position Percy Harvin played when we were here before. For both our success short term and his success long term, that's going to be the best thing for him to do…You will see him line up at a lot of different positions, including quarterback, this year."

Quick hits: Mullen said his first reaction to UF's swamp green alternate uniforms was: "That's awful," but recruits loved them. He teased to a black combination. … He said he has "no idea" about when UF will learn about the NCAA eligibility of transfer receivers Van Jefferson (Ole Miss) and Trevon Grimes (Ohio State). … Mullen declined to comment on a defamation lawsuit filed against him by Rebel Rags, dating back to his time at Mississippi State. … Mullen was asked why Meyer resigned from UF after the 2010 season. His (joking) response: "I think it's because I left."