Spring football practices are finally underway, which means that the college football season will be upon us sooner than you think. We’re keeping busy watching this new football league that’s sweeping the country, but there’s really nothing like college football, and in particular, the rivalries embedded in every community.
One of the best college football rivalries takes place in the Southeastern Conference when the Georgia Bulldogs and Florida Gators meet at The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. The two football programs have met every single year since 1926 with the exception of an interruption by World War II in 1943. One of the rivalry’s newest additions, Florida head coach Dan Mullen, caught a case of rivalry fever as spring football begins and appeared to take a shot right at Athens, Georgia.
While answering questions about the increase in player transfers within college football this offseason, Mullen seemed to jab at how other programs — like Georgia — mishandled the recruitment of players only to see them leave for another school.
According to Thomas Goldkamp of 247Sports, Mullen said this to reporters:
“I’d think we did a poor job of recruiting if guys were coming in and then immediately walking out the door because it was something different than what they thought it would be and we lied to them during recruiting, or we sold them on a dream that wasn’t true.”
— UF head coach Dan Mullen
Mullen seems to be referencing the exact scenario of former Georgia quarterback Justin Fields. The five-star prospect came to head coach Kirby Smart’s program as one of the two best high school players in the country back in 2018 — the other being Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence.
However, Fields played very sparingly as a true freshman last season. After attempting only 39 passes and recording eight total touchdowns in spot duty, it didn’t seem like Fields was going to supplant Jake Fromm as Georgia’s starting quarterback, so he transferred into the Ohio State Buckeyes football program.
Sure, the second-year leader of the Florida Gators might just be speaking in general about kids leaving programs, but this isn’t the first time Mullen has sneakily thrown shade at the Dawgs.
Before he even coached a game at Florida, Mullen made an indirect comment that again pointed directly to Georgia’s 2017 SEC Championship-winning season.
“Listen, making it to one SEC Championship Game doesn’t make you a dominant program, you know what I’m saying?” Mullen said. “I mean, two out of the last three years we’ve still been to the SEC Championship Game. So even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while.”
This offseason alone, Georgia nabbed Florida’s former defensive backs coach Charlton Warren for the same position with the Bulldogs. On National Signing Day, Florida struck back by stealing four-star cornerback Kaiir Elam, who was recruited by Warren and potentially headed with him to Georgia.
There’s an arms race taking place in the Southeast, and both Georgia and Florida are trending towards a huge showdown in Jacksonville on November 2, 2019. Both schools could very well be top-10 teams when that rivalry game comes around, and there’s going to be no shortage of fireworks after the offseason they’ve had trading shots at each other.