Dan Mullen learned a valuable coaching lesson early in his career. It happened in 2005, his first year at Florida as the offensive coordinator under Urban Meyer.
Mullen and Meyer came to UF with an innovative spread offense that had worked wonderfully at Utah. But it pretty much failed during the first half of that first season in Gainesville.
It didn’t work because the players weren’t a good fit for the scheme.
“For me as a young coach, probably a little bit of inexperience at the time,” Mullen said. “You just think, ‘I’m really smart, I know what I’m doing. We’ve created this scheme that is awesome and nobody could stop at Utah, so we just plug it in at Florida and it works.’ And it didn’t really fit the personnel that we had all that great.”
Realizing that, Meyer and Mullen spent the bye week before the Georgia game revamping the offense. They came up with a scheme that fit the talent of the players and it helped turn around the season.
The Gators beat Georgia 14-10 and won four of their last five games to finish 9-3. UF won the national championship the following year.
“We played on Saturday (a loss at LSU) and on Sunday I get a call early (from Meyer), around lunch,” Mullen said. “Instead of spending family time it was, ‘Come over to the house, we’re going to revamp a bunch of things.’ So I went to the house and spent the rest of the night there.
“We were rebuilding the program. We were really learning as coaches. I think you had a bunch of young coaches on the staff at the time. I really learned that coaching is really about putting your guys in position to be successful and utilizing the personnel you have, not just that you have all the interest in your scheme. It’s how does your scheme fit your personnel.”
That has been Mullen’s approach since then. He makes his scheme fit the players, not the other way around.
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Early take on Perine
While he was the coach at Mississippi State, Dan Mullen was the first coach from a major conference to offer a scholarship to running back Lamical Perine, a little-know prospect from Theodore, Ala.
Mullen said he can’t remember exactly what first drew him to Perine.
“We used to take a lot of pride on evaluating guys and not paying attention maybe to all the stars or whoever had the most offers early on,” Mullen said. “But even to this day, (what) we still do is we try to trust our evaluation. What do we see, where a guy is now, what can they become in the future?
“Trust your evaluation. So I think that’s probably why we offered him. What you’re seeing now is what we saw back on his high school field.”
Grantham and the rivalry
A former defensive coordinator at Georgia, UF defensive coordinator Todd Grantham will be experiencing the Florida-Georgia rivalry from the Florida side for the first time Saturday.
“You obviously understand the importance to the university, to the players, to the fan base,” he said. “It’s a rivalry game. It’s big. But on top of that is we’re still in the hunt to achieve all the goals that we’ve got ahead of us. And to do that we’ve got to continue to prepare because we’re going to play the way we prepare the rest of the week.
“We’ve just got to continue to understand that our preparation is key. It’s obviously a big game, but it’s going to come down to doing the little things right. It’s going to come down to executing and doing those things we’ve got to do.”