He’s still working through some rust and trying to find his natural release point, but Fultz has looked quite comfortable rising up from 15 feet despite what his percentages say (scoring only 0.538 points per possession on 26 pull-up jumpers). He set all of Philadelphia on fire with a crossover pull-up and hang-dribble jumper against the Denver Nuggets’ Mason Plumlee in his first game back, and he has had some nice moments in and around the paint since then, showing flashes of what made scouts fall in love with him at the college level.
“It’s funny that when I went to Mississippi State and said, ‘Hey, we’re here and we’re going to try to go win an SEC and national championship,’ everyone snickered at first,” Mullen said. “You say that here and everyone looks at their watch and says, ‘When?’ I don’t have to convince people that that’s going to be the goal. They already want that to happen and have it happen really fast.”
It’s the morning before Florida’s spring game, and Mullen is watching film on a large pull-down projector screen in his office inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. It’s the same office Meyer used to lord over, and Mullen jokes that not much has changed since he left.
Willis walked away from the game a little early, after “only” eight seasons and before he turned 30. That means his career will be remembered as wire-to-wire, sideline-to-sideline mastery.
He burst on the scene as a speedy tackling machine, going from jaw-dropping defensive player of the year to consistent Pro Bowler. There were several early defensive busts in the 2007 class, so credit the 49ers for avoiding those land mines and landing such a keeper right after the top 10.
Nine years ago this past January, Dan Mullen stood on the field at Dolphin Stadium near Miami and basked in the glow of the national championship for what felt like the blink of an eye. Florida had just beaten Oklahoma, and somewhere on stage his boss and then-head coach Urban Meyer lifted the Gators’ second title in three seasons. Players and coaches celebrated as confetti fell to their feet. A dynasty appeared to be in the works; only Mullen had a plane to catch.