Notebook: Expectations for Shorter, Lingard; UF getting into game mode
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Florida’s receiving corps this season will feature a pair of Big Ten transfers and former five-star recruits.
With the NCAA approving his waiver last Thursday, Justin Shorter joins Trevon Grimes & Co. at a position that lost four senior starters from a year ago.
Shorter, who was listed at 6-foot-4, 226 pounds at Penn State, gives the Gators another big weapon out wide and a potential red-zone target for quarterback Kyle Trask. UF coach Dan Mullen expects Shorter to make an impact in 2020.
“He has a great attitude. He works hard, very physical player, talented, has size, has speed and can make explosive plays down the field,” Mullen said. “One of the things to me is, great physical blocker at the point of attack. You can see he's a little bit of an older guy. He’s not a new guy coming in.
“He’s a veteran guy that’s played some football, so he understands the importance of the complete game. Blocking is just as important as catching a 50 yard touchdown pass. And when you understand that, you have the opportunity to become an impact player and I think he'll be an impact player for us this year.”
Despite not enrolling until the summer, Mullen thinks Shorter has improved “an awful lot” and done a good job of learning Florida’s offense in fall camp. He credited wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales, who was instrumental in Shorter’s decision, for developing him as a player.
“I think Justin’s got a great work ethic,” Mullen said. “You take a guy with a great work ethic and you put him with a great coach and you’re going to see big strides. You’ve seen that out of Justin.”
Gonzales tweeted a photo last week of his four rookie receivers who made NFL rosters, and former Gator Van Jefferson responded by calling him the best receivers coach in the country. Like Shorter, he and Grimes chose to play for Gonzales as transfers and formed one of the top WR corps in school history with seniors Freddie Swain, Tyrie Cleveland and Josh Hammond.
“You look at Billy and how he develops players,” Mullen said. “Two years ago when we first got here and everybody’s like, ‘We have the worst receiving corps.’ And all of a sudden, four of them are playing on Sundays. … Billy’s going to do such an unbelievable job of not just recruiting and getting quality guys here, but the improvement they make in his development with them.
“His knowledge of what he does with technique, of scheme and understanding the big picture of the game and how he’s able to motivate and get the most out of his players. I think you look at his body of work throughout his career, his success those guys have had going on at the next level is second to none. It’s great to hear those guys say he’s the best football coach in the country and if you want an opportunity to make it in the NFL, go play at Florida.”
Expectations for Lingard
Shorter is UF’s second five-star transfer to receive eligibility for this season, joining former Miami running back Lorenzo Lingard Jr.
Mullen said in June he sees a bright future ahead for Lingard and praised how hard he runs after the first week of practice. However, Mullen acknowledged that Lingard was behind the other backs because they’ve been in the offense for multiple years.
That lack of experience is still limiting Lingard.
“Obviously we have some guys that have been in the program. So him picking it up is one thing that he’s probably behind those guys in because this is his first time learning the offense,” Mullen said Monday. “Again, he didn't have a spring. If you (count) spring and fall camp, you have guys that this is their sixth and seventh time going through it all that have played in seasons.”
Despite being at a disadvantage, Lingard hasn’t let that boil over into frustration. Mullen has been impressed with his attitude and work ethic in fall camp.
“I know he is a guy that was really a highly rated recruit out of high school,” Mullen said. “He is a guy that shows up and he works his tail off every day. He shows up on special teams. He plays hard and you see that he loves to play the game.
“The thing that I have been the most impressed with is really his effort level and approach to how hard he works every day. And he has worked on picking it up. He is very conscientious on picking the offense, even though, mentally he is a little behind some of the other guys that have more experience in the system.”
Getting into game mode
A week from now, the No. 5 Gators will be preparing for their season opener at Ole Miss on Sept. 26.
Mullen said the players were “a little bit stale” in practice last Friday, so he wants to see better energy from them in the coming days.
“Hopefully the intensity picks up,” Mullen said. “I think our guys are ready to get into game week. I think our guys are ready to start playing football. We still have some work to do before we get there and we’ve got to make sure we take care of the task at hand this week. But I do think, I’m hoping by next week, I think next Monday we’ll be pretty juiced up ready to get into game week.
“I would say the biggest concern is us translating into game speed and game mode. You know your practice, the defense gives up a big play and you can kind of bring the ball back, play the next play. ... You know offense, you make a mistake, you don't feel the turnover, you don't feel the penalty and how it affects the drive. So probably the biggest one is that, getting into the game flow of things and how you know every little detail affects the big aspect of the game.”
After two days of practice this week, Mullen said the team will hold a “mock game” on Thursday. He explained what all that entails.
“On Thursday morning we come up into a mock game from every aspect. We start in the locker room, what the schedule is pregame, how we walk on the field to warm up, to every single situation that you could come across in the game,” Mullen said. “We try to walk through and review, from substituting this. We have a huge script we always do every year within a mock game, goes all the way from walking into the stadium to singing the fight song after the game.”
News & notes
* Mullen on freshman Jeremy Crawshaw and the punting competition: “He’s doing really well, getting adjusted to it. I think, obviously again, he missed spring. We were limited in the summer so he's only had some practices. He's worked punting but he hasn't played in live game situations or live football situations where people are coming, running at you to try to block the kick. But he certainly has a lot of talent in there. So you have him and you have Jacob Finn, who's obviously a fifth-year senior, veteran guy, been around the program a long time, understands what it is. So, both of those two I think have done a really solid job, and it’lll be interesting to see who gets it. I mean, I don't make that decision until probably the end of next week, probably after Thursday's practice.”
* Mullen on UF being ranked the nation’s No. 6 public school: “I think it’s huge. Again, continue to be the only school in America that’s a top-10 academic school in the public universities and top 10 in football, which is a pretty special, special deal. So really excited about that. We take a lot of pride here at Florida in being the best of the best, not just on the field but off the field. Quality student-athletes that decide to come here, as well as the success they have in football and the success they have beyond football in the classroom and in life beyond.”
* Mullen on the fire at the Swamp last Saturday: “I wasn’t here. We did meetings all in the morning, and we had left in the afternoon. Players had kind of a film review in the morning. My understanding is that a maintenance vehicle caught on fire and really did no structural damage to the end zone. That was, like, the new scoreboard we had there that caught on fire while our offense was rolling. It’s good everyone was safe and not much damage was done, facility-wise.”