AP source: Florida fires 2 assistants after defensive fiasco

Sports

Florida coach Dan Mullen, center, watches play against Oklahoma during the first half of the Cotton Bowl NCAA college football game in Arlington, Texas, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Florida coach Dan Mullen wasted little time identifying problem areas following his team’s worst defensive season in more than a hundred years.

Mullen fired secondary coaches Ron English and Torrian Gray, according to a person familiar with the situation. The person spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity Friday because the moves hadn’t been made public. 247Sports first reported the firings.

The 10th-ranked Gators (8-4) allowed 30.8 points a game in 2020, their most since giving up 41.2 over six games in 1917, and the secondary was a significant part of the problem.

English coached Florida’s safeties the past three seasons, and Gray coached cornerbacks the last two.

Florida surrendered 52 and 55 points, respectively, in consecutive losses to top-ranked Alabama and No. 8 Oklahoma to close out the year. The Sooners racked up a whopping 684 yards — the most any team has ever gained against Florida — in the Cotton Bowl on Wednesday night. Florida’s previous high was 629 yards in a 62-24 loss to Nebraska in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl.

It was the third time this season that Florida’s porous defense surrendered more than 600 yards. The unit allowed 613 in the opener at Ole Miss and 605 to the Crimson Tide in the Southeastern Conference championship game.

Mullen made excuses for two of those, first pointing to his team’s lack of tackling in preseason camp before facing the Rebels and then blaming injuries and opt-outs for the team’s embarrassing performance against Oklahoma.

Still, the defense yielded 35 or more points in half of its 12 games, twice as many times as it did during defensive coordinator Todd Grantham’s first two seasons in Gainesville. The unit ended with consecutive 50-point outings, the first time Florida had done that in back-to-back games since 1917.

The Gators played without three defensive starters in the Cotton Bowl. Defensive tackle Kyree Campbell, linebacker Ventrell Miller and cornerback Marco Wilson opted out of the finale to start preparing for potential NFL careers. They also were without safety Shawn Davis and pass rusher Jeremiah Moon. Davis missed the final four games because of an injury and Moon sat out the final seven games for undisclosed reasons.

Even with those give guys, Florida’s defense was mostly a debacle. Breakdowns, blown assignments, missed opportunities and mistakes at critical times were a constant in 2020.

Mullen clearly needed to make changes.

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