University of Florida

UF coach Dan Mullen wants his defensive line to play angry — like this superhero

The Hulk is a favorite in Marvel movies for his muscular frame, animalistic rage and superhuman strength.

The fervor in his eyes as he embarks on his destructive rampages separates him from any other fictional superheroes.

But when the Hulk snaps back to reality, he’s Dr. Bruce Banner. A normal, reserved human being.

First-year Florida coach Dan Mullen told reporters he wants the seven guys along his defensive line to embody every aspect of the superhero’s ferocious — yet composed — personality.

He wants the players to carry themselves like a raging, monster on the field, so that no offensive line can overtake them.

“We need that mind-set of how we attack on the field and how physical and tough we are and aggressive,” Mullen said.

But when they hang up their helmets, unlace their cleats, they should be more like the levelheaded Dr. Banner.

“He just wants us to be kind off the field and respectable young men,” Florida nose tackle Elijah Conliffe said. “And on the field he wants us to be destructive, disruptive animals on that defensive line.”

Conliffe lauded the Hulk’s nuanced temperament, saying that the character’s mentality is exactly what makes the Hulk his favorite superhero.

“I just like the way he goes about things,” Conliffe said. “He is just a destructive animal so he flips on a cause, and he isn’t really scared of anyone.”

Conliffe (6-4, 317 pounds), sees plenty of similarities between himself and the Hulk, especially when he’s on the field.

“When I get angry I get out of control,” Conliffe said. “That’s why I try to control myself because I know I need to get the reads, tell my teammates what they are supposed to be doing, so I kind of have to keep a cool head.”

But it’s precisely that aggressive mind-set that Mullen is hoping to elicit from his defensive line.

The Gators’ front seven has struggled with remaining physical on the line, specifically in the team’s loss to Kentucky.

But Mullen says he’s seeing incremental steps forward.

The Gators showed progression in a 48-10 victory over Colorado State with 90 total tackles, five sacks and nine tackles-for-loss.

Defensive end Jabari Zuniga was named SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week after his career-high performance in that game. The redshirt junior recorded five tackles and a quarterback hurry along with 2.5 sacks for 25 yards.

“What stood out is he was disruptive both in the run and the pass,” defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “So any time you get a guy that can be disruptive in his play and make plays in your base defense, it’s going to allow you to have a good turnout.”

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