Dan Mullen, the man who guided Florida’s offense to a pair of national championships under Urban Meyer before finding moderate success as coach of Mississippi State, is coming back to Gainesville. And this time, he won’t be working in Meyer’s Shadow.
Mullen was announced as Florida’s new head football coach on Sunday, ending a search for Jim McElwain’s successor. UF split with McElwain following the team’s 42-7 loss to Georgia on Oct. 28. But as one coaching search has ended, another in the state of Florida may be beginning.
Florida State, meanwhile, could be opening its own coaching search soon. Texas A&M fired coach Kevin Sumlin on Sunday, and Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher is rumored to be A&M’s top choice as Sumlin’s replacement. One news station even reported a deal is already in place to poach Fisher from Tallahassee and bring him to College Station, Texas.
“We are happy to be coming back to such a supportive administration, staff, student body and fan base, which is the premier football program in the country,” Mullen said in a release. “We will give relentless effort in everything that we do on and off the field.”
Mullen is an offensive-minded coach who’s known for his ability to develop quarterbacks — something Florida hasn’t been able to do since Tim Tebow left the program in 2009. It was Mullen who developed Tebow in his first three years before leaving his role as Florida’s offensive coordinator to take over at Mississippi State. He also developed current Kansas City Chiefs starter Alex Smith at Utah as well as current Dallas Cowboys starter Dak Prescott at MSU.
As Florida’s offensive coordinator, Mullen’s Gators averaged 36.3 points per game and 7.1 yards per play. In his final season in Gainesville, the Gators ranked 15th in yards and fourth in scoring. MSU ranks 37th in scoring and 49th in yards this season.
“I strongly believe Dan is the most prepared candidate to have immediate and long-term success at the University of Florida,” UF athletics director Scott Stricklin said in a release. “Coach Mullen is one of the best offensive minds in all of college football, and has an unbelievable track record in tutoring successful quarterbacks.”
Mullen guided the Bulldogs to a 69-46 record in his nine seasons in Starkville. Comparing his record to Jim McElwain’s at Florida over the same period of time, McElwain (22-12) comes out one game better than Mullen (21-13), but Florida’s program is viewed as a considerable upgrade from Mississippi State. Florida has the resources to land big-name recruits as well as the financial backing to give the football program as much support as it needs.
Fisher is 83-23 since taking over for Bobby Bowden in 2010. His team won a national title in 2013. He’s also led the Seminoles to two Orange Bowls and a Rose Bowl in his tenure.
UCF’s Scott Frost, who was connected to the Florida opening, could also potentially leave Orlando to take over at his alma mater, Nebraska. FAU’s Lane Kiffin may also get some looks from bigger programs.