So when I spoke with offensive coordinator Dan Mullen after Tuesday's practice I expected to see a man who great concerns. After all, this is his responsibility. It's his first year as a coordinator and he's doing it under a pretty bright spotlight.
Well, I was mistaken. Mullen remains confident in this scheme; in the players running it and the potential for Florida to score a lot of points in the upcoming games. Here's our conversation:
LV: Dan, how surprised or disappointed are you in the offense not scoring a touchdown in the last six quarters?
DM: It's the execution in the red zone that's disappointing. In that time we've had the ball inside the ten-yard line four times without a touchdown. That's just a lack of mental toughness in the red zone part of our offense. We've moved the ball down the field; we just haven't knocked it in.
LV: Is it one thing, or a combination of factors?
DM: Well, let's see we've had two dropped passes, we had a bad call in my part on a fourth down play and we had a turnover. It's little things here and there that keep us from finishing drives and when you drive it down in there you gotta come out with touchdowns, not field goals.
LV: You and Urban have had a lot more success with this offense than these players have. How do keep what's happened from undermining their confidence?
DM: I don't think that's a concern, they can look at the tape and get their confidence right there. They can see plays that are there to be made. Two games back you saw them make the plays. This game they didn't. The same plays were there, but we drop the ball, we miss a block or we miss a read. When that sort of stuff happens they can see it on tape. It's there; they just have to make the plays.
LV: Are you going to change anything in the offense this week?
DM: If anything we're going to go back to the basics of it. We were trying to add in some cute things here and there, but we're just going to go back to the basics.
LV: What does that mean? Will fans notice anything different?
DM: We did some things we like to do in our offense in the last game. We just got behind and got taken out of what we wanted to do and started throwing it a little more. We might try to run the ball more than we have, that could be the biggest difference.
LV: You talked prior to the season about how you've asked Chris to do more. Might you take some things off him to lighten his load?
DM: No, we're going to put more on him. Every week we put more and more on Chris and every week he's doing more. The first week I don't think he could check a play. The second week he could check one. Now he can check four or five. Once you get into that, when he can start checking and running the offense, then you're not stuck with single play calls. He can run the option either way, now. He can make different calls at the line of scrimmage to get us into the plays we want to be in.
DM:He is. He's working to get more reps. You gotta slowly work the young guys in more and more and more. And you hope each game they claim a little bit more and give you a reason to put them in the game. That's what we tell the young kids; make us put you in the game show us every day that you have to be on the field.
LV: In the last few days has Boateng, or Manson or Mike McIntosh or anyone else showed you that they have to be in the game?
DM: They're getting there. Yesterday they did some stuff but today (Tuesday) when you put I the game plan there are some guys looking at you and saying whoa, "How are we running this again? How did we change it from last week?" So they're always a little slower and sloppier on Tuesday. I want to see who is going to take care of the ball and hit it. That's what I'm looking to see every day the rest of this week.
LV: It seems when the offense is clicking you guys get to the line of scrimmage and run the play pretty quickly. Against Alabama it seemed like you were spending a lot of time at the line of scrimmage. Is that a concern or a problem? What was going on there?
DM: When guys are all walking around on defense you have to wait and let everybody make their calls and figure out who they're going to in the first place. Chris kinda waits to let everybody make their calls and make sure everybody's set first. There are some times it will go faster than others depending on the play and what Chris sees. Maybe Chris wants to wait a second to see if he can see a blitz coming from the defense before he makes any adjustments.
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It's obvious there is a lot of teaching going on with this staff and Chris Leak in terms of recognizing defenses and what to do based on what they appear to be doing. I would not be surprised to see the Gators go with some hard play calls this week and snap the ball while the defense is wandering around trying to confuse the Gators QB.
It's never in your best interests to allow the other guy to dictate tempo. That's one improvement to look for in the weeks to come as this offense, and this quarterback goes through the maturation process.
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