Mullen putting an emphasis on having “athletes”

A quick look at the Florida Gators football roster and you’ll notice an abundance of depth at a certain position — athlete.

Last year do it all receiver, running back quarterback Kadarius Toney was the lone Gator given the “athlete” tag, but now the Gators have 24 players distinguished as athletes on the roster. Many are walk ons that have played mostly special teams or filled in at linebacker, tight end or receiver, but the small shift on the team’s website is the first move in a different thought process for Dan Mullen’s Gators.

“I don’t like on a roster typecasting people into roles, especially guys that are going to potentially do multiple things for us,” Mullen said on Wednesday. “So you’ll probably see that a lot in the future, that I list a lot of guys — we like to list guys as athletes that have different roles.”

Mullen quipped that Riley Cooper played a role called “starting left missile.” Now, Cooper probably wouldn’t have minded that listed as his position on his official roster, for obvious reasons, but Cooper played receiver and shield on special teams and did so many things for the Gators during his time in Gainesville.

He was also a two-sport star. A lot of coaches will tell you they love two-sport athletes. Over the years young athletes tend to begin specializing in a specific sport well before high school. the days of football season bleeding into soccer and basketball and then baseball in the spring is over. It’s hard to play two sports at the college level, but doing so throughout an athlete’s youth and in high school is something Mullen likes in his football players.

It’s something that stuck out to Mullen about offensive line signee Griffin McDowell. Mullen recruited McDowell while he was at Mississippi State and secured a commitment from him there. An offensive lineman might not be the first person you’d think of when the term athlete is thrown around but McDowell is a decorated wrestler in high school. That stood out to Mullen when he met him.

“He’s a player I always knew I wanted on my team,” Mullen said of McDowell on Signing Day. “I mean, he wasn’t going to wrestle because all the recruiting stuff, and then he’s going to the state wrestling meet. He’s got to compete. And those are the guys that I love.”

That kind of fierce competitive nature is something Mullen is looking for. He’s entrusted strength and conditioning coach Nick Savage to instill that during offseason workouts and it’s already starting to show benefits. Mullen loves the way the players he inherited have bought into the new culture change and the abundance of “athletes” on the roster shows that. Guys will be competing for multiple positions and multiple roles. Whatever gets them on the field and puts them in a position to make an impact for the team.

You’ll notice a lot of “athletes” when you head over to the Florida roster. It’s the first sign of Mullen’s thumbprint on the Florida football program and it’s a welcome change in Gainesville.

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Nick de la Torre
A South Florida native, Nick developed a passion for all things sports at a very young age. His love for baseball was solidified when he saw Al Leiter’s no-hitter for the Marlins live in May of 1996. He was able to play baseball in college but quickly realized there isn’t much of a market for short, slow outfielders that hit around the Mendoza line. Wanting to continue with sports in some capacity he studied journalism at the University of Central Florida. Nick got his first start in the business as an intern for a website covering all things related to the NFL draft before spending two seasons covering the Florida football team at Bleacher Report. That job led him to GatorCountry. When he isn’t covering Gator sports, Nick enjoys hitting way too many shots on the golf course, attempting to keep up with his favorite t.v. shows and watching the Heat, Dolphins and Marlins. Follow him on twitter @NickdelatorreGC