In the immediate aftermath of Florida’s 34-7 blowout loss to No. 1 Georgia Saturday, Gators coach Dan Mullen did not want to talk recruiting.
Two days later, he still didn’t.
The first question of Monday’s shorter-than-usual news conference focused on whether his program needs to take a different approach to recruiting. Mullen deflected it.
“We’re in the season right now,” Mullen said. “We’ll do recruiting after the season. When it gets to recruiting time, we can talk about recruiting. Okay? Next question.”
Let’s dissect his comment. Mullen didn’t mean that he and his staff aren’t recruiting now and will only do so after the season. The Gators picked up two commitments last month, so they’re clearly not ignoring it.
Instead, Mullen meant the second part; he apparently won’t talk about recruiting until after the season.
Except he has done so before. Like a year ago this week, when he and the Gators were basking in the glow of a win over Georgia.
“You’re hitting up your guys that are committed to come play for you, and they’re fired up,” Mullen said. “They can’t wait to be a part of where the program’s headed, the direction the program’s headed. Guys that aren’t committed and all these other guys you recruited … are excited about what the future of the program looks like. There is sure something positive around the program.”
Or in 2019, when he was asked about the recruiting impact of that week’s top-10 showdown against Auburn.
“It certainly doesn’t hurt,” Mullen said. It’ll be good to have College GameDay here, not just recruiting football. I think it’s great for the university and recruiting top athletes, right?”
He has helpfully answered questions about scouting a former community college pitcher as a tight end (during the 2018 season), the challenges of recruiting during a pandemic (late last season), signing a punter from Australia (last month) and whether his program’s recruiting budget is adequate (last week).
But not now.
Maybe he hasn’t liked the questions. Maybe he doesn’t know the answers. Or maybe he does know the answers but doesn’t like them.
Regardless, the issue isn’t going away. After Saturday, Mullen is 1-3 against Georgia. He’s also 1-3 against LSU, 0-2 against Alabama and 0-1 against Texas A&M. Those programs (and their coaches) are all among the SEC’s top recruiters. Those facts are related.
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Monday’s question seemed to hit a nerve because recruiting doesn’t appear to be getting any better. UF’s class is 22nd in the country, ranked between this week’s opponent (4-4 South Carolina) and 4-4 West Virginia. Worse, the Gators have lost two of their top three commits — both top-100 prospects — in the past two weeks.
In the final month of a lost season, fans can usually look ahead to signing day with hope for next year and beyond. Though UF will land more recruits between now and Dec. 15, it’s hard to look at its situation and come away overly optimistic. Especially not after Mullen passed on a chance to offer a positive spin on valid questions.
He did, however, hint at the issue earlier in the season after the two-point loss to Alabama.
“We’ve got to keep building, got to keep recruiting, keep coaching, keep developing here…” Mullen said. “We’ve got to continue to recruit well, get it back where we’re competing for championships every year.”
To get his program back there, Mullen will have to find answers to the uncomfortable questions he keeps ducking.
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