Florida’s Mullen fits his offense around players’ skill set

At Mississippi State, coach Dan Mullen fit his offense around the different skills quarterback Dak Prescott (15) brought to the team. It was the same way Mullen handled things from the start of his career. [Robert Sutton/GateHouse Media Services]

Everyone seems to agree that dual-threat quarterback Emory Jones, who signed with Florida on Wednesday, appears to be a perfect fit for Dan Mullen’s offense.

But Mullen was quick to point out that when it comes to his system, it’s not about the quarterback fitting the offense, it’s all about the offense fitting the quarterback.

“One of the things that’s most important at the quarterback position is understanding as a coach what they do well and try to put them in a position to do things that they do well,” he said.

“You have to have the flexibility that your system fits around the strengths of that quarterback, and that’s the most important thing for us, identifying these strengths for all the guys that we have and put them in the right position to be successful.”

This is something Mullen has successfully done throughout his coaching career. He has developed a long list of excellent quarterbacks as a coordinator and head coach. But no two quarterbacks have been exactly alike. They’ve had varying skills sets, and Mullen has taken those particular skill sets and built his offense around them.

Take, for example, the situation when he was the offensive coordinator at Florida. Mullen helped the Gators win a national championship in 2006 with a dropback passer (Chris Leak) and again in 2008 with a dual-threat quarterback (Tim Tebow).

Those two offenses certainly were different. But the results were the same: the Gators scored a bunch of points and won a bunch of games.

“If I lined up all of my quarterbacks throughout the years and they all stood in a line up here, you would say there’s no way those guys all had success running the same offense for the same coach,” Mullen said. “And you’d probably be right in one part of it, because even though they didn’t all run the identical offense, the flexibility within the offense to build around the strength of the quarterback is really important, and you’re not going to ask guys to do things they don’t do well.

“Even in recruiting, in talking with Emory, how are we going to change and do things that he does well, and we went back and explained and looked at the difference of the different quarterbacks.”

Mullen pointed out that each quarterback he’s coached has had a different skill set from the others.

“From what a Nick Fitzgerald was doing well was different than what Dak Prescott did well, which was different than Chris Relf did well, which was different than what a Tebow did well, which was different than what Chris Leak did well, which was different than what Alex Smith did well,” he said.

“The key is putting them in a position to be successful, not have the quarterback have to fit your system.”

At this stage, Mullen can’t tell you exactly what his offense is going to look like next season. He won’t know that until he establishes who his starting quarterback is going to be.

It could be this spring. It could be in late August. When he identifies his guy, he’ll fit the offense around his skill set, whether it’s Jones, Feleipe Franks, Kyle Trask or Jake Allen.

The competition for the job will be wide open in the spring.

“I think the opportunity for (Jones) graduating early and going through spring practice will give him a chance,” Mullen said. “But I’ll be honest with you, there are a couple quarterbacks on campus that are going to have something to say about that because they’re going to have a competitive edge to them, as well. That mindset, the competitiveness at the position, is certainly going to elevate the play of all of the quarterbacks.”

When it’s come to his quarterbacks, Mullen has been flexible down through the years.

At his early signing day news conference, he talked a great deal about flexibility, about players being flexible enough to play different roles, and coaches being flexible in the systems they run.

Mullen said his defense will be similar to his offense in that it will be built around the skill set of the players.

“We’re going to be flexible,” Mullen said. “You’ll see us be in the 3-4, you’ll see us be in the 4-3. We’re not going to sit in one defense. We’re going to move in and out of defenses and use different personnel groupings.

“Very similar to what we are offensively. (Defensive coordinator) Todd Grantham is going to have the flexibility to build the defense around the personnel that we have now and around the personnel as we continue to build and recruit and get guys that fit the specific needs of what we want. That defense will transition long-term into what we want to be.”

Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or robbie.andreu@gvillesun.com. Also check out Andreu’s blog at Gatorsports.com.


  1. Really like Coach Mullen’s mindset – proactive, flexible – he has substantial experience coaching QBs which is one of the Gator’s major weak spots, yet one with great upside potential. Developing this potential is vital to the success of the Gator offense. I recall that Coach Grantham helped turn around one of the worst defenses in the SEC (at MSU) into one of the best – in just one season. The talent must have been there – MSU just needed a much better DC. Now the Gators have that much better DC – not comparing him to his predecessor, but note that Coach Grantham has an excellent track record. Looking forward to the remainder of this recruiting cycle, and then spring training. GO GATORS!!!

  2. Excellent philosophy on putting this team together. Hope he’s brought extra thread and band-aids. There’s a fair amount of healing that needs to be done. Very high potential with many by getting a rehab infusion. Still think he should sign 3* QB Wyatt Rector. Especially for his versatility. Could easily play QB, FB, TE, OLB, plus has 4.52 speed. Make one more great wild cat option at minimum. Look forward to the molding process.

  3. Oh no. This is going to be a disaster. Don’t believe me? Just reflect on this for a few minutes:

    “He didn’t make you fit into his scheme. He recognized your strengths and played to them and avoided weaknesses.” – Derek Abney on then-new Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease, 2012

    “We’ve got to go in and find out who are the playmakers with the ball and what our players of capable of doing up front and what we’re capable of doing at the quarterback position.” – Florida offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, 2013

    “We’re going to do what our personnel allows us to do and fit our system to what our people can do.” – Florida offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, 2015

  4. What is interesting to me is that Can Newton was behind Tim at Florida under Mullen and Newton is in the NFL and Tebow isn’t. Jacoby Brissett under Muschamp plays in the NFL and Jeff Driskel watches from the sideline We had many Florida backups that didn’t play here and went on to NFL success.
    Irregardless Coach Mullin will be very successful at Florida again

    • It’s interesting as well to note Newton’s behavioral problems at Florida, which to many people is a requirement to be an NFL star. Note also that it may well be true, according to some, that Tebow has a weight around his shoulders that few other NFL athletes have, that of course being a Christian. The Driskel over Brissett thing is inexplicable, since the latter always showed promise and the former mostly only brought to the table his patented deer-in-the-headlights stare.

    • There is no shame or a lack of spotting talent in Cam sitting behind Tebow. You have two of the greatest college QB’S of all time in those two. Had Cam been in the 2006 class and Tebow in the 2007 class Tebow would have sat behind Cam. Also Mullen was at Miss St when Driskell and Brissett were on the roster. Me for one thought Jacoby should have been the starting qb. Jeff played so bad at UF and never had to worry about Jacoby getting in. After watching Jeff at La Tech I saw a really good qb which shows how bad our qb coaching was.

      • Very different set of pressures at La. Tech and a much inferior league to compete in, Jeff was just not SEC caliber QB. Given the opportunities that were afforded to Jeff, Jacoby would IMO have showed to be a star in this league. He simply was not given a FAIR shake at proving he was a better QB and competitor. I do agree that the coaching was the problem, they were not ready to be SEC HBC, nor OC. IT SHOWED!!! Let’s wait and see what Dan can do with some pretty good players here at Florida, these kids are YOUNG but now have some valuable EXPERIENCE.

      • I watched him at La Tech too, Derek, and while I’d say he was much improved there c better coaching and a less gruesome opposition from week to week, I’d have trouble assessing him even there as “really good”. I would guess that he’d be a stand out in Div III, and really make a name for himself. That’s not meant as a shame by any stretch of the imagination, just what I see as the truth.

          • Just a Quick test for the Great White Buffalo, NAME THREE (3) 3rd string QB’s in the NFL. Actually just two others besides Driskell, point being they are probably 85% Div.3 QB’s or worst. the pool is so diluted by the time you get to the 3rd string you have to fill that spot with someone. Some teams use wide receivers that were former QB’s in high school or college.

          • Yeah, probably so Great White. In retrospect that wasn’t entirely a fair statement. The kid always reminded me of the boxer, Duane Bobbick though…..all the skill in the world but no potato.

    • Meyer had a bromance with Tebow and ruined the Gator program by not giving Cam decent playing time. Cam got bored – got in trouble – and the rest is history. All Meyer’s fault. Cam should have been a Heisman winner from Florida.


        CAM WAS # 3 QB.



      • I don’t see what’s so clear about it. For example, it’s not clear how one might change the play of ten other players to suit the abilities of one unless the coach means something as ordinary as, “If the quarterback can’t pass, we’ll run.” Or what might be done if the quarterback can pass but the line can’t pass-block. Or if the quarterback can pass but the pass-catchers can’t run routes or even remember the route. Or if the quarterback can pass but can’t look for second or third order receivers.
        If it means nothing more than the coach might organize e.g., the defense (or offense) around the main strengths of the players, then what’s singular about that? What coach wouldn’t do that?

          • One would be unable to find the manipulations a coach might have deployed to maximize the abilities of one or more of his players by watching game tapes. If you can do it, Tim, let me know when and where in what game a particular adjustment had been made; I mean, be specific.

          • Tim, it’s the nature of terms like insanity that there can be no ostensive definition. That aside, would you provide the source of your reference to Einstein? One more comment: the crux of my reply to Gator was in the first paragraph. The question that occupies you i.e., the last question is the second paragraph was rhetorical.

          • Leland, lest I exhibit the same form of insanity to which I alluded in my previous post, I will make this my final retort on the subject. All I have been trying to say is that repeating the same behavior and expecting different results is one definition of insanity. This definition is often attributed to Einstein. It may be a misattribution since there doesn’t appear to be any specific reference that is traceable within his written works, though he may have uttered this definition in one or more of his many speeches or Princeton lectures. Which might explain the first attributions to Einstein. One of the earlier written manifestations of this definition seems to be a 1981 AA handbook for alcoholics seeking sobriety in which readers were warned against repeating the same behavior that had led them to their alcoholism. In any case, I am completely content to leave the search for the original utterance or publication of this definition to others. My only point in raising this particular definition of insanity was merely to suggest that the previous two UF head football coaches’ insistence on doing the same thing over and over again offensively and expecting different results made them the perfect embodiment (i.e., ostensive definitions) of this type of insanity. An ostensive definition is an example of the thing being defined. In this regard they were doing the opposite of what coach Mullen has done offensively in his career as an OC and HC. Since his days at Bowling Green University, he has put his players in a position to be successful by designing offensive schemes that were best suited to their talents and abilities and not trying, for example, to make Chris Leak into a dual threat QB. You may wish to maintain that there are no examples or ostensive definitions of this type of insanity. I beg to differ. In any case, I am done quibbling with you about this and expecting a different response. Merry Christmas and Go Gators!

          • How is it, Gator, that you are able to know whether any prior coach tried or did not try to make adjustments of some kind or other to increase the effectiveness of his players. Actually, the point of my comment passed you–I was criticizing the blather of coaches and sports writers who say and report stuff with no discernible substance.

          • Exactly Gator. Leland seems not to remember that his question asked “What coach wouldn’t do that?” To which I replied the previous two. My game tape reference was an invitation to him to watch Muschamp insisting on running the ball on first and second down and then throwing it only when it was obvious that was required on third down. Whereupon his choice at QB would get sacked repeatedly because the line couldn’t hold up, receivers couldn’t get open and Driskell would hold the ball too long. Did the coach make any adjustments to his scheme? Negative. Did he give Brissett a fair shot at the position? Negative.
            As regards coach “and then again,” if you want to see the ostensive definition of “insanity” as defined by Einstein, just watch UF’s offense during Mac’s three seasons of inflexibility and futility.

          • Agreed. If you want a specific example Leland I would throw out Chris Leak MVP national championship game. The worse thing Chris could do was run with the ball. I think he started eight for eight passing. Merry Christmas Leland. Peace

          • Not sure why the term “insanity” got into this mix, perhaps by example, but truthfully it is a legal term, not psychiatric, and to the point of absolute clarity means specificly, not ostensively, that by reason of mental disease or defect, the subject was unable to appreciate the wrongfulness of his or her conduct. Suggest a better example, but Merry Christmas just the same!

  5. With exciting R.B.s like Davis & Lemons, and a veteran, consistent bashing back like Perine, along with the dynamic Toney playing in a ”Percy Harvin type role”, I’m truly excited for Mullen’s 2018 Florida ‘O’.
    And the important play of the O-line for U.F. is, for the most part, all veterans.
    Finally, (Lord willing) plug in a decent Q.B., and heck, I am ready to see them play today! GO GATORS!

    • Toney needs to his the training table and the weight room. who I think weighs 175, soaking wet with rocks in his pockets. Remember, Percy was a big, strong dude, I think about 30-35 pounds heavier than Toney. And he was yoked for the position he played.

      • You’re probably right, Albert, so much as pertains to this modern era where oncoming linemen weigh in excess of 300# c the speed of a fast freight train. Velocity + Mass actually does = Terminal Kinetic Energy, after all. Can’t help but think, tho, that the late Larry Libertore (who just passed on at 78) weighed in at 138 while playing mostly at QB and sometimes as a safety. I don’t recall him ever getting hurt, other than roughed up a little occasionally. Then again, the average rushing lineman back in those days probably weighed in around 215-230# and wasn’t known for his (or her, if it was an FSU line-person) quickness. Although….the relative difference era to era in terms of Toney is just about the same. Probably a good idea just the same to keep an eye on him injury-wise, even if he does bulk up enough not to lose his speed at the same time.

  6. It does feel good to have a coach who can speak grammatically correct. It’s been awhile. We finally have a coach that’s proven to be offensive minded, and not a fraud, one that doesn’t sound like a buy here pay here car salesman. We finally have a coach that is actually motivated and knows what it means to be a Gator and has previously lived and breathed the culture of Gatornation. We finally have a coach again with white teeth. A coach who ACTUALLY KNOWS OFFENSE and actually has a scheme that gives the Gators a chance to be competitive.

    • That’s what they used to call Les Miles, among other things. It might just fit for Dan Mullen too! All in all, he seems to be the real deal, the whole enchilada, the next great Gator coach. Good call, Garrett.

  7. Emory will need a year or two as backup. Filipe should improve dramatically under Coach Mullen. He is an excellent athlete and really hasn’t had a good situation to develope his skills. There’s a lot to learn as a QB in the SEC and experience can win some games. Mullen will know what to do with the QB situation. Whatever he decides is good with me. Go Gators!

  8. It’s deja vu, all over again. I think many Gator fans are similar to Charlie Brown, who always believes he’s going to kick the ball, even though it’s always pulled before he can do it. Mullen is just the latest to give some fans palpitations for the ninth straight year, which concides with when Tebow left-hence the “Curse.” At least we didn’t hear anything about his dog…
    We womn’t learn anything until UF plays a real game, and I assume UF is going to go back to playing paid scrubs to open the season since, the only time in recent memory they didn’t do so, they were seal-clubbed by Michigan. It’s also folly to pay ANY attention to the Spring game, except to see if UF can punt and kick, since it’s almost always dumb to take anything away from it. I recall Franks looked good and Toney was going to a terror…both of whuich turned out to be nonsense.
    By the way, Tebow doesn’t have a “burden” from being Christian. He has a “burden” from not being able to thrwo a lick or read a defense. Kurt Warner didn’t let being a Christian stop him from being a great QB.
    Jeff Driskel sucked because he’s a bad QB, period. It had nothing to do with coaching, unless you watched him blow the game against Miami and think that gruesome perfomance had anything to do with “coaching”
    Felipe Franks is Driskel 2.0. He’s too dumb to play QB. Period! I see there’s some folks who, like with Driskel, still think Franks will improve. They are grasping at straws, like the idiot, Will Miles, who said he had seen great improvement from Franks after playing the paid scrub, UAB. Franks was awful oin the first game against Michigan, and awful in his last game against FSU. If Franks is UF’s starter, ever again, It’s clear that Mullen is just as dumb as his predecessors.

    • I think Mullen saw the fsu tape and instantly realized he can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip. For all the time Franks had on the redshirt bench, next spring camp, fall camp and this season and still being “rusty” on the playbook… he either made little effort to learn or isn’t the sharpest knife in the shed. His slower-than-the-game pocket presence all year likewise is either a hard knock on his coaches (likely true) or he just cannot think fast enough to play this position in the SEC (also true). Thank you Nussmeier for putting him out there. Mullen knows Franks can’t play QB because unlike McYet and Nuss Dan is a real football coach that knows how to win. He’s putting the puzzle pieces together and will come out with a much sharper picture than the last goofball staff could ever produce. So glad to be rid of them, and beginning a new era of hope for this program.

    • THETEBOWCURSE……Brother, if I actually believed most of what you just said, I think I’d lose the freakin’ will to live. Maybe even commit suicide on YouTube by eating worms, I dunno.

      But apparently not being cursed c a gene for depression, I’d agree c you to the point of Franks not being a starter again, but I think there’s some place on this team for him. That doesn’t matter a hill of beans, though (what I think), it entirely depends on what Dan Mullen thinks. All said and said again, however, I 100% agree that this is a new era and I’m glad as well that the last two regimes are gone, gone, gone. Will we be let down yet again? Possibly, but not probable by a long shot. The glass is neither half full or half empty, I think it’s most likely beginning to overflow. Go Gators, buddy rho!

    • “I assume UF is going back to playing paid scrubs” since they got beat by Michigan–so I guess you have absolutely no clue about scheduling. Out of conference matchups are set several years in advance, so 2018’s would have been scheduled well before the 2017 Michigan game or even the January 2016 bowl game with Michigan.