Goodbye Gainesville, Hello Starkville

Ben SpicerCorrespondent IDecember 10, 2008

The coaching carousela wild ride that makes every college football fan a bit tipsy turvy at this time of the season. With questions being ask, reports being released, and rumors running wild, this part of the year is sure to drive fans crazy.

For myself, as a Gators fan, it already has spoken volumes with a rumor swirling atop the coaching carousel.

It appears that Florida offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Dan Mullen will be leaving the University of Florida to fill the vacant head coaching position at Mississippi State.

Known for his signature move of leaving the coach's box when a game is well wrapped up, Mullen is a presence that will be missed on the Florida coaching staff. He's been a critical part of the team, and most importantly he is very well respected by fans, players and the rest of the conference.

A coordinator that was somewhat hidden from media speculation and rumors, Mullen has quietly become an integral part of Florida's success during head coach Urban Meyer's tenure.

But why?

It's simple, really. Mullen has got a great passion for the game of football. He brings enthusiasm and a great mind to the table day in and day out, and loves the players that he coaches.

Coaching wise, he's just a Mississippi State kind of guy at this moment in time. He's offensive minded, something the Bulldogs have lacked since Sylvester Croom became head coach.

In fact, since Croom took over in the 2004-2005 season, the Bulldogs haven't been higher than 103rd overall in total offense, including three spots at 113th total offense,  and haven't been higher than 96th in scoring offense.

In terms of Mullen, he's been highly successful as an offensive coordinator, and a quarterbacks coach. He was a crucial factor in Alex Smith's development that later made Smith the number one overall pick in the NFL Draft.

Since 2005, when he became an offensive coordinator for the first time at Florida, Mullen's worst scoring offense was 49th in the nation during his first season with the Gators. Since Mullen has been in the top-25 in that category each season, including consecutive berths at the 3rd best scoring offense the past two years.

This season, the Gators offense has been virtually unstoppable on their way to an appearance in the BCS National Championship Game. The Gators ranked 18th in total offense, 3rd in scoring offense, 11th in rushing offense, 61st in passing offense (5th best passing efficiency), tied for 2nd with the fewest turnovers lost all season (11), and is 13th in third down conversion efficiency.

The numbers speak for themselves, especially in a defensive minded conference, one in which all 12 teams rank in the top 75 total defense.

Aside from that, Mullen is a very successful recruiter, something Mississippi State has lacked in Sylvester Croom's tenure. Mullen was responsible for the recruitment of several current Florida standouts, and has really made an impact on the recruiting trail for the University.

Dan Mullen brought speedster running back Jeffery Demps to Florida. He brought Junior College standout Carl Moore to the program. He got John Brantley, the second string quarterback, and Brandon Antwine, a defensive tackle that's made an impact this season. He's also received a commitment in the 2009 class from quarterback Jordan Reed, and a 2010 commitment from dual-threat quarterback Trey Burton.

He's also known for recruiting Tim Tebow, prying the future Heisman winner away from the likes of Southern Cal, Alabama and so on.

However, it's truly a shame Mullen won't remain a Gator long enough to do the thing he's arguably done best; developing young players into superstars.

Mullen was a huge success with Chris Leak, turning him into a Florida Gators legend at the position and a National Championship winner. He's also been noteworthy in helping the development of Tim Tebow, totally revamping his delivery into something that's made Tebow an immense success.

It's uncertain as to whether or not Mullen will leave the team before the Championship Game, but as far as I'm concerned I don't think this will happen. Dan Mullen has been a great coordinator, coach and person to have around during his time. He will certainly be missed, and I'd like to wish him the best of luck in his future aspirations.


Mullen's Decision - A Distraction to the team?

If there was ever a bad time to make it official that your leaving a team, this is it.

A few weeks before the National Championship Game, Mullen has decided to announce that he will take over as Mississippi State head coach next season.

One thing that is widely being overlooked by the media and fans is how the Gators will respond to the news, especially if Mullen leaves the team before the National Championship.

If Mullen were to leave before the Championship Game, it would take a brutal toll on coaches and players alike. A lot of time was spent by Mullen in terms of game plan and preparation, and with him gone that would put a lot of work on the shoulders of Urban Meyer and the rest of the staff to replace him.

Trust me, Mullen won't be as easy to replace as what it may seem like.


Heads Up For the Program?

Rumors have also been surfacing around defensive coordinator Charlie Strong about various positions elsewhere. The decision by Dan Mullen could be very critical on Charlie Strong, and losing them both in the same off-season could really send the program spiraling downwards.

The Gators have been known for their outstanding offense, that's a fact, and their defense has also been highly under the radar. Florida was ranked 9th in total defense this season, 5th and scoring defense, and most importantly, 19th in pass defensewhich is a 79 spot increase from 2007.

Strong has also been a highly successful recruiter. He's recruited several notable starters on this season's team, including: Jermaine Cunningham (DE), Carlos Dunlap (DE), Ahmad Black (S), and Brandon Hicks (LB). Black is the team's leader in interceptions, while Dunlap and Cunningham have 15 combined sacks.

Many speculated that Strong was the best coordinator on the team, and many thought he would be the first to go before Mullen. With Mullen gone, losing a defensive coordinator like Strong could be very bad, so that's something to watch for.


What This Means For Florida Football, And Possible Replacements

Losing Dan Mullen is a major loss for the program. Fans remember Mullen's trick but excellent play call, his wonderful developmental skills and his fine recruiting ability. With intangibles like that as a coach, that's going to be highly tricky to replace.

A name to watch for is Galen Hall, Penn State's offensive coordinator. Hall runs the spread offense with the Nittany Lions, and some Gator fans might have heard the name before. Yes, he used to be a head coach at Florida!

Chip Kelley of Oregon is a name to watch, too, as well as Steve Logan at Boston College and even Joker Phillips of Kentucky. All have had solid success with their schools, so it may be hard for Florida to pry these coaches away. (Especially Phillips, who's Kentucky's head coach in-waiting)

It's hard to specify who will call the shots next season. A lot of uncertainty remains, and it's going to give a lot of Gator fans, including myself, something to discuss.


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