Dan Mullen was business on the top — a sweet gray suit — and a party at the bottom — even sweeter blue and white Jordans. He talked fast and enthusiastically, even hanging out with the media for a bit before heading over to the Indoor Practice Facility to give a “Go Gators” talk to boosters.
“It has been a crazy day,” said the first-year Florida coach.
As all National Signing Days are. You could have 15 of them spread out over six months and there would be late nights and empty Tums containers scattered around the football offices at any school.
It’s stressful even when the decisions are limited by numbers caused by this new system.
The new guy did pretty well for having two months on the job. But here’s the thing — he understands that it wasn’t good enough.
Oh, it was about the best you could hope for in a transition year. But the thing I took away more than anything from a news conference that included helicopter stories is that Mullen understands that, well, let me paraphrase:
Heckuva class for having only two months in the most hostile recruiting environment. Hopefully, it’s the lowest rated class he ever has. Because as well as the Gators closed Wednesday, Mullen said in so many words, wait until you see what can be done with a full year of recruiting.
“We have to get ourselves to be one of the top classes in the country,” Mullen said. “Our expectations are to be able to sign one of the best classes in the country.”
This one isn’t bad for starters although nobody knows for sure how it will turn out. You can go back and pick apart the transition classes of any former Gator coach (think Ray Graves signed any four-stars in 1960?) after the fact.
Go back and look at the first classes of the last three UF coaches and you will notice that more than half of the players were basically non-factors during their careers as Gators.
Mullen said he went at it a little differently.
Instead of padding the class with high risks, he was willing to go to camp with fewer than the allotted 85 scholarships.
“You just take whoever you can take,” Mullen said, “there can be problems.”
Of course, as we know, signing day was made for rationalizations and everybody is always happy with their class.
It’s just that nobody is as happy as Florida’s biggest rival in the division.
Georgia could have spent the last month in the Bahamas and still probably had the top class. Instead, well, it felt very Alabama-ish.
There is no question the Bulldogs are the big winners of the first split signing periods. Florida still has catching up to do, but the distance doesn’t look as far as it could have been.
It should hardly be surprising that Georgia killed it. Kirby Smart has more momentum than a flood. The combination of being one play away from winning a national title and still having opportunities for early playing time were a lethal combination for Georgia.
Smart is also on his third recruiting cycle (technically his fourth if you count this one as a double) so he has had three years to build this class.
Nobody with a brain can argue that there is another sheriff in town.
But the ability of Mullen and his staff to pull off an excellent class despite being hamstrung by an abbreviated window because of when he was hired is still impressive.
Especially because all of that momentum that Georgia has was non-existent in Gainesville for much of the fall.
Instead, it was player suspensions, 4-7 and a series of noon games.
Mullen not only had to plug leaks, he had to patch them.
The Gator brand was damaged when he arrived, as much by the fact that UF is on its fourth head coach this decade as anything.
Mullen had a lot to overcome.
He did just fine.
“I don’t jump up and down too much on the front end,” he said.
If he wanted to, at least he had the shoes for it.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at email@example.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.