Gators preparing for a new Kentucky quarterback

It’s 3:00 am in the Bronx in 1996 and a couple of 20-something young men are meeting up with duffle bags in their hands.

It’s not a nefarious as it may seem.

Dan Mullen is 24 and coaching wide receivers at Columbia. Geoff Collins is 25 and coaching linebackers at Fordham. As the young coaches on staff they were tabbed to take VHS tapes to exchange game film for the week ahead. Columbia won that game 17-10, by the way.

“That was what you do, yeah. You drive halfway, or you know, sometimes you’ll be at the airport and the overnight carrier package if it was too far drive. But it was easier to drive and meet halfway with VHS tapes, or the beta tapes and go on your way,” Mullen said on Monday. “Now you just like hit a button and it’s on your computer.”

That’s good news for the Gators’ youngest coach Christian Robinson, who would have probably been making a trip somewhere to exchange game film if not for today’s technology.

Mullen and the Florida Gators will play Kentucky this week but the Wildcats will be without starting quarterback Terry Wilson, who tore his patellar tendon in a 38-17 win over Eastern Michigan. That makes Troy transfer Sawyer Smith, and Cantonment, Florida native the new starter. Smith played a few series last week, but Mullen and his coaching staff will have to go back to his time at Troy to really be able to scout their opponent this week.

Mullen says the coaching staff will handle most of it on their own and cut up individual plays featuring Smith at Troy rather than making the team watch it on their own.

“There’s nothing worse than watching film and then realizing, ‘Hey, that’s nothing to do with the team we’re playing; I’m just trying to watch the person.’ That can kind of mess with your head, with your reads and what you’re seeing,” he explained.

Smith played in 19 games during his three years at Troy. As a redshirt sophomore in 2018 he took over the starting job seven games into the season and was 5-2 as a starter. He completed 144-of-229 (63%) of his pass attempts for 1,669 yards and 14 touchdowns. He added 191 rushing yards on 74 carries but he isn’t the dynamic runner that Wilson is. Wilson torched the Gators in Gainesville last year, surpassing the century mark both rushing and passing.

“They’re not gonna just scrap everything,” Mullen said. “They’re going to run their offense it will just gave a different flavor to it. We’ll have to go and try to find some film on the new quarterback, watch what he does. Just like anybody, they’re not going to make wholesale changes to what they do.”

Kentucky won’t be able to make wholesale changes to the offense, as Mullen noted, but they will need to tweak what they do to put Smith in a position to be successful. That’s a task for the Wildcats but also for the Gators as they try to prepare for a new quarterback.

“We’re going to be looking at him today, but I think we’re just going to stay focused on he’s still a college quarterback for a reason, so he must be good, he must have some talent,” safety Donovan Stiner said. “So, we’re just going to go out here and prepare for the game just like we always do.”

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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