Notebook: Lesson learned in revamping offense before ’05 Georgia game

Dan Mullen said he learned a valuable coaching lesson in his first season as Florida's offensive coordinator in 2005. [File]

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.”


  1. Mullen has done a superb job this year on O with this team and he makes the most of every player’s innate talent. He is also very much into “situational football.” How about this for a situational revamp to beat the Dawgs?
    How about passing on some running downs and running on some passing downs to throw the Dawgs off scent? Execute 2-3 explosive plays early but not to the WR’s as expected , but to the TE”s and RB’s out of the backfield. Kadarius Toney should figure into some of this. Bring in Pierce early and let him blow holes into the soft middle of the Dawg D. Like LSU did vs. Ga., stay on the field as long as possible on O. Pound the Dawgs hard and win the fourth quarter. Gators 24-21.

    • I really like the way you put that, Lakeland…..and your comments about “situational football” made me think of another “situational” aspect Dan Mullen and his staff seem to excel at: Situational Awareness and Situational Understanding during a game. They have a knack for situational awareness when things aren’t going right — of course, many coaches share that knack — but what Mullen & Company have that is not shared as frequently is the situational understanding of what to actually do about it. That, plus tapping into the dormant grit, drive, and character of this team, has made a big difference in my opinion.

      • in my theme of the one time i saw a bulldog take on a gator in a relatively natural situation, my dog was smart enough not to get himself caught in the alligator death roll. Fans love the chomp, and its wicked, but the death roll that sourrier put on a couple of Georgia coaches, and urban did to richt (ok richt survived but it wasnt fun for him), thats what i want to see, this year. i dont like Georgia, i dont like a lot of teams, but as they used to say, plain and simple, i hate Georgia.

    • If you’re saying coaching is even, then I don’t agree. I think the Gators have a distinct advantage in coaching. Smart has one game plan, run run run, and if that doesn’t work he has no clue how to adjust and loses his mind. He’s an amazing recruiter, but when it comes to drawing up game plans and trying to be innovative, forget about it. Mullen has the ability to draw up a game plan to not only fit his personnel, but what’s going to be the best way to attack that particular opponent, and then he can completely change course in the middle of the game if it’s not working. I just haven’t seen Smart have that ability. He’s won a lot of games simply by having better talent than his opponents and running the ball 85% of the time. In the last 3 games that he’s lost, that game plan didn’t work and he couldn’t adjust. I have a feeling we’re going to see Mullen thoroughly out coach him on Saturday similar to what Orgeron did. Talent will only get you so far and will win you a lot of games against inferior competition, but it’s when you face the good teams that great coaching comes into play. Smart’s 3-5 against top 15 teams and 2 of those wins were last season when he had ridiculous talent left by Richt.

  2. I trust Mullen and the game plan he will use. That being said, the same game plan that LSU used won’t work for us. We need something Georgia hasn’t seen before, they will be ready for us if we try to do what LSU did.. Gators 27, Dawgs 26

    • Agreed. We aren’t LSU. We’ve had success all year focusing on what we do well and masking our defincies. We need to be 2018 Florida, not LSU. Now, if some of the things LSU did to UGA are also our strengths, then ok.

      • If I had nothing else to admire you for, Dallas, it would be that you were awake at 0200 and posting on this site! Say, you any kin to our pal, Daz Wazlle?

        But anyway, you make an excellent point there — we need to be 2018 Florida, with all the positives and even all the warts. “That” team. Not try to be any other team, we need to be “that” team…..the team, as 65 says, “…..has no right to win but win they do”. Maybe we’re really those “inglorious basterds” who find ways regardless. It will be at Georgia peril if they overlook “that” team. It’s what brung us to the dance this far.

  3. That’s just nasty and rude, gleco30 (sure it’s not gleco13?) It’s a good thing Robbie wrote this article. And how do you know Pat’s Mom so well, gelco30?
    Robbie, I know you all write from the coach’s pressers (making the material limited), but I was really hoping you’d put more into the ”transition” part of the story (before the 2005 game). Because I didn’t think we had a great chance in J’ville after the L.S.U. game in ’05. But Meyer & Mullen pulled one out of their magic hat. Hope these coaches are ”putting these players into a position to succeed” for this game, too. Go Gators!

    • I was thinking maybe he was talking Vince Dooley, but still an immature comment. I don’t care how we look or play Saturday, as long as we get a win. This game will always be the most important to me after suffering the 70s & 80s of always finding a way to lose.

      • You know, you’re probably right, Sparky. But since Coach Vince Dooley came to UGA in ’64 and hasn’t been a factor since the 80’s, I thought it was Pat Dooley. And it was distasteful, and Florida fans are better than that! Which is why I thought he was attacking Pat.

          • G-6, I jumped on him for a rude comment. I like many of gelco’s comments, too. But I mistakenly thought he was addressing Pat, and I was wrong. But his comment was too rude to repeat.

          • Wow, must have been one humdinger then! Again, I was lollygaggling around at the gym when I should have been monitoring GatorSports — I miss all the good stuff, dang it.

  4. It is not the strongest that survive but the most adaptable to change. Mullen and company have proven adaptable in terms of coaching philosophy, as outlined in the article above, in terms of game preparation and in terms of adjusting in game to what teams are doing.

    Watching some games during our off-week, I was struck by how many of the games I watched people just kept doing what wasn’t working– Michigan State being foremost among them gaining less than 100 yards and seeming to have no idea how to innovate within the game to attack Michigan’s defense. I keep thinking– this is only halfway through the first season, with the players still learning the system and getting comfortable. How amazing is that?

    And yet how often it seems so simple and obvious. One of the things I have heard both McElroy and Danielson talk about as analysts for the live games is how often Mullen just seems to be counting the number of guys in the box, on the perimeter and running plays to the areas of the field where we have the other guys outnumbered. It’s great to watch and hard to figure why more teams don’t do the same thing. Ego? Inflexibility? Stubborness?

    • Jaws, BAM! Couldn’t possibly put it any better.

      And it’s not just within the game; Mullen also shows flexibility and simplification in how he talks about the game and what’s important to him. There are too many examples to cite, but the one that jumped out to me this week was his comment about how any area of the game (or particular play) might be the one that makes the difference.

      Then I compared that against most of us (myself included) on here pontificating about precisely “what” the recipe for success will look like on Saturday. Mullen ain’t buying it.>>> “Go out, play with relentless effort, and execute your assignment with proper technique and within the team concept. If it ain’t working, let us (coaches) make adjustments. Do that consistently and any unit or player might be the star(s) of the game.” That’s Mullen’s deal, and he does not waver from it.