Back when Dan Mullen was Urban Meyer’s offensive coordinator at Florida, the Gators not only were known for making big plays on offense and defense, but also on special teams.
The Gators blocked kicks, returned kickoffs and punts for touchdowns, created turnovers and helped out both the offense and defense in so many ways.
There were some special teams stars, like Chris Rainey, Brandon James, Jarvis Moss and so many others.
Recently, the only special teams stars have been the kickers. In the other phases of special teams, there has been a lack of aggressiveness and a lack of big plays — and therefore a lack of stars.
Last season, the special teams were a reflection of their coordinator Greg Nord — sort of laid back and old school.
That’s going to change now that Mullen is back. Mullen is going to put a big emphasis on special teams, just like he did at Mississippi State.
“Yeah,” new special teams coordinator and running backs coach Greg Knox said. “He works with it closely. Not a lot of head coaches will put the time in that he does with special teams. And so I think his impact, he’s right there at the forefront of it. I think the players understand the importance of it. And so that by far is a lot different than a lot of other coaches I’ve been around.”
Knox said a lot of staters will end up playing special teams and that the Gators will try to impact games with an aggressive approach.
So, pretty much the opposite of the past few years under the former coaching staff.
“Everyone has a role and everyone plays a big part in it. Some roles are larger than others,” Knox said. “But everyone has a role, that’s coached included. When I put together a plan, every coach is included and every player is included.
“Dan’s part of it is. Special teams are going to win the game for you. That’s the hidden yardage that no one really calculates at the end of a game.”
Knox certainly will have a lot of special teams expertise to lean on coming up with game plans. Mullen is very involved. And then there’s tight ends coach Larry Scott, who was the special teams coordinator at Tennessee the past two seasons.
But Knox is pretty good on his own, based on his track record at MSU as the special teams coordinator.
Over the past four seasons, since Knox took over the Bulldogs’ special teams, the Bulldogs blocked 14 kicks and punts, the most in the SEC and the third-most in the nation over that span.
While Mullen’s offense is generating much of the excitement among the fan base heading into spring practice, special teams might be something to look forward to also for a change.