Dan Mullen happy to swipe a few recruits from SEC rivals

Florida beats out Alabama and Georgia for a pair of coveted defenders to cap off a top-10 recruiting class.
Kaiir Elam, pictured at the Under Armour All-America Game in January at Camping World Stadium in Orlando. [TAILYR IRVINE | Times]
Kaiir Elam, pictured at the Under Armour All-America Game in January at Camping World Stadium in Orlando. [TAILYR IRVINE | Times]
Published February 6
Updated February 6

GAINESVILLE — The Gators only needed four recruits to lock up their 2019 class Wednesday thanks to a prolific early period in December.

Florida beat out SEC rivals Georgia and Alabama for two of those four, giving coach Dan Mullen reason to be excited about this class.

“We are here to build and bring back a program that competes regularly for championships,” Mullen said, “and you’ve got to have good players to do that.”

Mullen emphasized that it was key landing defenders Khris Bogle and Kaiir Elam, keeping them from signing with the teams that played in the SEC championship this year.

“That’s the level we want to be on,” he said. “So being able to win those recruiting battles is going to help to hopefully beat them on the field as well.”

Florida finished with the ninth-best class in the nation — which includes 17 four-star recruits — according to 247Sports. The Gators are among five SEC teams in the top 10 and finished ahead of other Power Five programs such as Clemson and Penn State.

Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons defensive end Bogle flipped from Alabama. The Gators also beat out Miami for him.

The Gators also added Kissimmee Osceola linebacker Diwun Black and Texas receiver Arjei Henderson. All four signees are four-star athletes.

Mullen brings in two new assistants

After former Gators cornerbacks coach Charlton Warren left for Georgia, players started asking Torrian Gray if he would return to Florida.

First, it was a text from Jeawon Taylor. Then, Gray got a call from Marco Wilson and another call from CJ Henderson. He told them if they were serious, bring it up with Mullen.

“It was interesting to get that process going in that manner,” Gray said.

And it was certainly new territory for Mullen when all of his players started texting him about one guy. It didn’t take much to convince Gray to come back “home” either.

Gray had a brief stint at Florida in 2016 under Jim McElwain when the pass defense ranked second overall in the nation and first in pass efficiency. But Gray left for an NFL job with Washington coaching defensive backs. In 2017, the Redskins ranked ninth in the league for total pass defense and 15th a year later.

The opposite could be said for how Mullen raked in defensive line coach David Turner.

After tossing around a few names, Mullen wanted to know if Turner would be interested in the D-line position.

Turner thought he was kidding at first but soon found out just how serious Mullen was. And it didn’t take long for Turner to relay the mutual interest in working with Mullen for a third time.

“I know what he stands for,” Turner said. “I know what type of program he runs. I’ve seen the success. I know he builds guys up. Not just great football players, but good young men, and this opportunity was at the right time and the right moment for both of us.”

Turner comes to Florida with 33 years of coaching experience. He spent time with Mullen at Mississippi State and has made his way around the SEC (Texas A&M, Mississippi State, Kentucky, Alabama and Vanderbilt) in 16 years’ time.

Turner is looking forward to working with his new line.

“Everybody in the country is recruiting them because it’s hard to find big, athletic guys,” he said, “guys who can run, guys who like contact, guys who play with relentless effort. You have to have some grown men up front to be able to hold up week in and week out.”

Contact Mari Faiello at mfaiello@tampabay.com. Follow @faiello_mari.