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Mullen a Perfect Fit for Florida

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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Florida was able to hire a head coach with program ties, a championship pedigree and a proven track record of consistent offensive production.

As Florida looks for a return to competing for national titles, they have turned to a coach who won two of them with the Gators in Dan Mullen. The head coach at Mississippi State from 2009-2017, Mullen was a successful offensive coordinator in Gainesville for the four years prior. After missing on Central Florida's Scott Frost and former Oregon head coach Chip Kelly, who recently inked a deal with UCLA, Florida was able to hire a head coach with program ties, a championship pedigree and a proven track record of both developing quarterbacks and overseeing consistent offensive production.

In his first tenure with the Gators, Mullen was the play-caller for the 2006 and 2008 BCS National Championship teams. His work with Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow can be found, annotated, in the SEC and NCAA record books. The Gators averaged 36.2 points per game during Mullen's stint as coordinator, with his final two offenses averaging 43.1. In 2008, Mullen's last season at Florida, the Gators set a school record with 611 total points.   

A noted quarterback guru, Mullen's successes didn't just start with Tebow and, before him, Chris Leak. While with Urban Meyer at Utah, Mullen was the quarterbacks coach for Alex Smith. Under Mullen's tutelage, Smith completed over 66% of his passes while throwing for 5,199 yards, 47 touchdowns and just eight interceptions, adding 15 rushing scores. Smith, in 2005, was selected as the number one overall pick in the NFL Draft.

Mullen developed two superstar signal callers at Mississippi State in reigning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Dak Prescott and current Bulldogs' quarterback Nick Fitzgerald. Prescott stands as the best player in program history, as he set dozens of school and SEC records and finished with the third-most total yards and fourth-most touchdowns ever in college football's toughest conference. The Mullen-Prescott combination resulted in unprecedented production for Mississippi State. Fitzgerald has already scored 66 total touchdowns in two seasons as starter.   

While with the Bulldogs, Mullen completely changed the status quo. He won 60% of his games, a rate considerably better than his modern era predecessors: Sylvester Croom (35.6%), Jackie Sherrill (49.3%), Rockey Felker (38.2%) and Emory Bellard (46.8%). Prior to Mullen's arrival in Starkville, the Bulldogs had won seven bowl games all-time; Mullen, in seven full seasons, won five. In 2014, Mullen claimed multiple coach of the year honors by leading Mississippi State to the top of the national polls.  

In terms of chemistry and cohesion at Florida, Mullen has reunited with his former boss Scott Stricklin, athletic director for the Bulldogs from 2010-2016. The transition should be a smooth one.

More than just a part of the Gators' golden past, Mullen addresses what Florida desperately needs most: help on offense. The Gators finished this fall ranked 13th in the SEC in total offense and, unfathomably, have not ranked higher than 10th in the conference since 2009, the year after Mullen left.   

There isn't a box that Mullen doesn't check. He is an established head coach, a tried and true commodity in the SEC, is familiar with his new employer and administration and is just 45 years old. He is an offensive mastermind with multiple examples of premier production at different stops. Mullen knows what he is getting into and it's an opportunity he has earned.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports