University of Florida

New Florida coach Dan Mullen said he loves challenges. He has a big one ahead of him

Florida Gators head football coach Dan Mullen speaks during an introductory news conference at the Bill Heavener football complex on Nov. 27, 2017.
Florida Gators head football coach Dan Mullen speaks during an introductory news conference at the Bill Heavener football complex on Nov. 27, 2017. Getty Images

Dan Mullen looked the part.

He wore an orange-and-blue tie that appeared to feature an alligator-skin pattern. He carried himself with the confidence of a seasoned head coach. And most obviously, he modeled a large, glistening hunk of metal and gems on his right ring finger that should look familiar to Florida fans.

The ring commemorated Florida’s 2008 national title, when Mullen was its offensive coordinator. It was supposed to represent his past — to remind fans, boosters and reporters that he knows what he’s doing because he has done it before. But it also stood as a symbol for his future.

Mullen knows the expectations at Florida are nothing short of contending for another one of those rings every year. And with the Gators suffering just their second losing season in nearly 30 years in 2017, making that happen next year might just not be possible. Regardless, he’s going to try.

“I’m convinced he is ready for the challenges ahead with the Florida Gators,” UF athletic director Scott Stricklin said.

Mullen said Stricklin contacted him about the job on Friday afternoon just to gauge his interest. He called back Saturday to offer it to him.

Stricklin, a Mississippi State alum, said he was only going to hire Mullen away from MSU if he thought he was the absolute best person for the job. After reviewing coaching analytics and speaking with people across the profession, he determined Mullen was indeed the best fit.

“We had several intriguing and qualified options, but in the end, I strongly believe Dan is the most prepared candidate to have an immediate and long-term success here at Florida,” Stricklin said. “And he is the best choice to lead the University of Florida football program.”

He said he was looking for a coach with an offensive mind who had a history of developing quarterbacks, head coaching experience, leadership abilities and a strong work ethic. He said Mullen checked all those boxes.

“You hear the term, ‘What does your candidate pool look like?’ ” Stricklin said. “Well, the fact of the matter is, when you look at really qualified guys for these jobs, it’s more like a puddle.”

And from that puddle emerged Mullen, who said his first priority will be recruiting with the Dec. 20-22 early signing period approaching. After that he’ll shift to strength and conditioning, which Stricklin said has been lacking at Florida.

From there he will try to develop a respectable offense, which Florida hasn’t had since around the time he left. He said he’ll run a spread scheme, which he hopes will have the same success it did when he led Florida’s offense from 2005-08 and his Gators averaged over 35 points per game.

“Trust me, I know how important offense is here,” he said. “I’ve been here and know what that’s all about, and I know everybody likes to score some points.”