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Mullen Says Gators Won't Consider Midseason Defensive Staff Changes

According to Dan Mullen, Todd Grantham's job as the Florida Gators defensive coordinator is safe for the time being.

LSU ranked No. 13 in the SEC and No. 127 in the nation with 83.2 rushing yards per game on average entering Saturday's game against Florida. The Tigers would proceed to nearly quadruple their average with 320 yards against the Gators, en route to an upset victory over the nation's No. 20 squad.

Junior Tigers running back Tyrion Davis-Price set a school record with 287 individual rushing yards in the contest, the most by an opposing running back in a single game in Gators history.

It was a miserable showing for the Gators' defense, as they not only couldn't stop the run if they tried, but a successful Tigers' rushing attack opened up numerous scoring opportunities in the passing game off of play-action which translated to three touchdowns from sophomore quarterback Max Johnson. That allowed LSU to score 49 points, the most given up by UF this season by 18.

Despite the catastrophic collapse by the SEC's fifth-ranked defense, head coach Dan Mullen has no plans to make staff changes across Florida's defensive staff.

“Nah, I don’t like to jump to conclusions. It’s a long season on stuff right there," Mullen said, asked specifically if he'd consider any alterations. "I like to know the facts on everything that’s going on and what the issues are and what we’re doing and what we need to do to improve and how we’re going to do that.”

Instead, Mullen shared - as he often does - that he will simply evaluate the Gators' issues on that side of the ball and try to come up with a solution.

But does that statement actually mean anything at this point? Florida's defense has undoubtedly improved from the 2020 season, but the loss to LSU was reminiscent of the Gators' struggles from a year ago when the team ranked ninth in the SEC in yards allowed per game (428) and eighth in points allowed per game (30.8).

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The story remains the same as, ultimately, UF's defense has been disappointing ever since its dominant season featuring an excellent pass rush in 2019. Sure, the team ranked second in points allowed per game in the SEC before facing LSU (16.5), but the Gators have faced subpar offenses aside from Alabama and Tennessee in 2021, which is necessary context.

And yet, Mullen insists that his perception of defensive coordinator Todd Grantham has not changed - a close friend of Mullen's who the head coach has defended on multiple occasions following disastrous performances defensively.

Think back to last year: Mullen was visibly frustrated on the sidelines with Grantham's defense against Kentucky after giving up 190 total yards in the first half. After the game, Mullen blamed his outburst on Grantham - his neighbor - for putting up Christmas lights before Thanksgiving. 

Mullen isn't the type of coach to publicly apply pressure on his assistants, and in this case, his friend, when they're deserving of criticism. That remained the case on Saturday.

"Nothing changes my perspective on anything. We're always evaluating things throughout the course of the season in everything we do," Mullen proclaimed. "We're in the middle point of the season here going into our bye week. Like I said, I'll evaluate what we did well, what we did poorly. We'll go look at the film and see how we can improve it for two weeks from now."

It's too late for Florida to improve enough defensively to contend in the SEC, as the Gators' chances of making the conference championship are all but eliminated now. 

Perhaps Grantham can put together solid game plans and restore his job security before the season ends, but he's undoubtedly on a hot seat right now. However, the seat apparently isn't hot enough for Mullen to make an in-season change - and even if it were, Mullen appears content with keeping Grantham around until the season concludes at a minimum.

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