Mullen promises winning effort from ’18 Gators

File photo of Florida head football coach Dan Mullen from his introductory press conference. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

By Garry Smits
GateHouse Media Services

JACKSONVILLE — Dan Mullen stood in a luxury box at EverBank Field, just a few feet from a window that looked down on the playing surface where he will clash with the University of Georgia in 244 days for the first time as the University of Florida head football coach.

He didn’t make predictions but he knows what he wants from his team.

“We expect to win in Florida, in The Swamp or whether we’re here … any location in the state,” Mullen said Monday before addressing more than 600 members of the Jacksonville Gator Booster Club on the second leg of his statewide tour. “We are THE University of Florida.”

Mullen’s team is about to wrap up the most physical offseason conditioning program current players have ever experienced — and they’ve told him so.

“They said they’ve never been through anything like it,” he said.

They’re three weeks away from opening spring practice and seven weeks from the spring game April 14, where many questions he got from fans will be answered.

The others will remain open-ended until UF begins the season Sept. 1 against Charleston Southern.

But Mullen did make one guarantee.

“We will give a relentless effort in everything we do,” he said. “The team that plays with that passion, energy and effort winds up being a very entertaining team.”

Mullen spoke and then answered questions from fans for one hour and 20 minutes. Every topic from beating Georgia to who will play quarterback to what kind of athletic shoes Mullen likes to wear was covered.

He gave the fans one message at the outset:

“We’re in this together,” he said.

Mullen hasn’t had much of a chance to hit the pause button since he was hired to return to Florida last November after nine years as the most successful coach in Mississippi State history. Before that he was the offensive coordinator for the Gators for two SEC championships and two national championships, with Chris Leak and Tim Tebow at quarterback.

There’s no Tebow on the roster. The Gators will pick from either an existing quarterback, or pull one from a recruiting class ranked 14th by 247Sports. But Mullen said returning starter Feleipe Franks, who was benched three times during the 4-7 2017 season, is buying what Mullen is selling.

“He’s had a great attitude,” Mullen said. “What I look for is a guy who’s going to compete and set a standard very high for everybody. You have to be a leader. People are going to look to you as the quarterback to be a leader. I explained that to him before our first workout and he tries to be first in everything he’s doing.”

Mullen also said the other returning players have followed suit.

“We’ll see after spring but I think there’s certainly guys buying in and working hard with the offseason program,” he said. “We have quarterbacks who look the part, who can throw, running backs who look physical on film but we want to see how they perform with the ball in their hands. We’ll know a lot after spring but we’re certainly going to make them work hard.”


    • I think we’ve had the talent to beat FSU the last 3 years but just haven’t had the coaches necessary to do it. You’re not going to beat very many quality teams that have about average coaches with a 3 play offense.

      • You are correct because each yr we always had the teams to beat fsu. The games were normally close first half and middle of third quarter but with a inept offensive game plan keeping the defense on the field way to long fsu just pulled away. But I think this yr we can reclaim the state.

      • I love our Gators passionately, but Noles have a top 5 roster that is stronger and deeper than ours. Fisher severely underperformed and letting him go was an overall positive for the program. Taggart will make better use of the talent and is a premier recruiter who will haul in top 5 classes routinely. I’m very pleased with Mullen, but he was our third choice and i’m worried that his message will not standout in the Saban-cloned world that is SEC football. To say nothing of UGA and where they’re going…

        • Just curious Tim, if Mullen was their 3rd choice then what was the great Willie Taggart, who will make a 7 win FSU a dominant force again? You do realize he was also on the list of potential candidates for Florida right? Funny how no one wanted him here but he’s going to have FSU rolling while Mullen will struggle to get his message out there. Hypothetically speaking, what would you be claiming had they actually hired Taggart and FSU hired Mullen? I also don’t know how you can claim FSU has a top 5 roster, unless you fully believe the overhype they always gets in the preseason. I’m sorry, but top 5 rosters don’t win only 7 games simply by losing 1 player. Fisher has definitely underperformed, but he’s still a 10 win a season coach. They’re far from a top 5 roster. They’re paper champions and last year proved it.

          • Joe, I never said FSU was going to be “dominant” again. But they are not going away any time soon and have built-in advantages over UF that are likely to persist a little longer. Mullen will eventually come through, but he has a long way to go to close the gap. Did you see what that 7-win FSU team did to us in the swamp? Fisher lost that team months ago and in my opinion they’re closer to a 10-win season than we are. Plus, the game is in Tallanasty next year, which has not been good to us. The long term money (5 years or so) is on us since I think Taggart is more likely to fizzle out than Mullen. I hate FSU with a passion, but we need to keep expectations in check and not let our emotions get the better of us. With patience, good things will come.

            FYI, I have it on good authority that Taggart was contacted by UF but showed little to no interest in the job. That’s all fine with me because Mullen is a much better coach and fit for us.

          • One advantage the semenholes have over “US” is lower entrance requirements. FACT, they share their math dept with FAMU. What a joke. Want to be a pharmacist, oops, not at half ass u. Want to be a dentist, oops, try again. However, if you want to be a clown, F$U DOES offer a degree (seriously, they do) in circus technology. Another advantage the semi’s have is their plug in to local LE (see the Jamis fiasco). And “you have it on good authority that Taggart was contacted by UF…” Outright hilarious. So, can’t get into college, go to F$You. Gator envy on full display. Let me help you Timmy (BF, whoever) Go Gators!

        • I am curious as to what makes anyone think that Taggart will be a better coach than Mullen? I didn’t even know who Taggart was until FSU hired him so I’m surprised he’s in any kind of conversation involving Mullen. What championships exactly did he win as a coach or assistant coach? Mullen was our offensive coordinator for the last 2 National Championships that Florida won and everyone knows what he’s done at Mississipi State and Utah and Bowling Green. Anyway, I am convinced that the only reason our president didn’t go after Mullen first or second is because 1) Kelly was available before the other coaches’s season ended 3) Scott Frost fits the Jeremy Foley’s hiring style of going after young promising coaches and Stricklin most certainly sought his advice. 3) Mississipi State is Stricklin’s Alma Mater and it would have been awkward to not put a valiant effort in 1) and 2) with those two being the most popular fan choices. 4) Mullen had already been a primary target after Muschamp left and so it wasn’t clear how interested he was this time around. In summary, for our AD to feel he had to go after Mullen so soon after Mississipi State season ended shows that Mullen was top choice caliber all along and Go Gators!! And also btw, Free Shoes University can go … ah never mind. 😉

  1. To above commenters: when the Florida fan base starts to think Florida Football CAN’T BEAT a team, any team, even red and black leg-humpers , then it’s already over! This is U.F., and even when U.F. was average they had EXTRAORDINARY MOMENTS. ”BELIEVE!” It works. Ask another former U.F. Football Coach who accomplished amazing things by ”believing”, I’ve read he’s hanging around still, ”thank God!” Go Gators!

    • We can beat any team, but it will take time for our program to become truly competitive with the big boys. Let’s be hopeful without being delusional. Truth is, FSU and UGA are better programs than UF, and will likely remain so for some time. I have full faith and confidence in Mullen’s abilities to surpass them (in time), but let’s not kid ourselves into thinking he is better suited or wants it more than our rivals. Mullen is a great man and the last thing this program needs is for the “fireronzook” nut jobs to start screaming for Mullen’s head in 2-3 years. Patience and perserverence will see us through. We certainly don’t want to become the next Tennessee.

  2. I agree that attitude makes a huge difference but it doesn’t matter what fans believe. The best part about being a fan is that we are allowed to get way too jacked up after a win, get way too down after a loss and act crazy after every single play. We can look ahead 5 games and sulk over a loss in game 3. And the best part…none of it matters because we are ultimately just fans and we don’t work out, practice, learn a playbook or even touch a football. If the players and coaches believe they can beat UGA and FSU on a given day, then that is all that matters. When you are playing sports, you know if the other team has more talent but you have to trust that your coach will put you in position to equalize that talent. If the players do not believe they are properly prepared, then the game is over before it starts. I’m so happy that it looks like Mullen has a plan and is excited to be here.

    • OrlandoGator; Wise comments and I couldn’t agree more. The players need to bring 2 things to every game; confidence that their coaches have prepared them well, and confidence that their teammates are all in and have a sense of accountability to each other. With that, it doesn’t matter what the writers and fans think or say. I get a sense that this coaching staff gets that, but of course, that is my opinion and it also doesn’t matter.
      Go Gators.

    • Tim, putting UGA and FSU on the same level indicates to me that you must be an FSU fan. Georgia played for the NC last year. FSU went 7-6. Those two programs are not on the same plane right now. I think Georgia takes a step back this year, but FSU could struggle to have a winning record again.

        • No worries. That’s a good point. I’m not sure if that is a good thing or bad thing. Haha! I wasn’t really disagreeing with you in my post. I was just adding that the coaching staff has to give these players the belief they can win with less talent and that the game plan is solid and they are well-prepared. If the players believe that, it will trump most negative noise from fans. That was what Spurrier and Meyer were so good at doing. They would find the places where their teams were better and exploit that advantage over and over and over again. They would make those players believe that they were better because of that singular advantage. It did not always mean a win, but it meant we were in every game. I don’t know if our players ever believed in Mac’s game plans. That being said, I’m excited about Coach Mullen. Obviously success is measured on the field, but he is winning the preseason which is all he can do right now.

  3. I am looking forward to seeing a well-coached team that plays hard and fights until the clock reads zero. I believe we will have that this year. The off-season conditioning program is where the mentality is instilled in the team. Now, it may take some more time for the confidence to develop, so I will be watching to see how they react to adversity. But I know this team is going to be playing at a much higher level this year, and I am excited for them because they deserve to be among the best.

    We do not have the depth of some of our opponents, but we have plenty of talent. If these Mighty Gators play hard and as a team, good things will happen. Hustle always pays. And even if they do lose, if they fought hard and competed to the end, I will be on my feet applauding the effort.

    There is no shame in losing if you left all your blood and sweat on the field. The only shame is in quitting or not doing your best to take care of your team mates.

  4. Have you not seen UCF? Their recruiting is not good when you compare it to most sec teams. And yet they took it to Auburn who had more talent. Great coaching and development and getting the right pieces in place anything is possible. Superior teams don’t always win. But I do agree we need to be near the top in recruiting so we don’t have to rely on upsets. Our record imo will all depend upon how well the qb plays.

  5. Great comment from John above – freaking UCF, that’s Central Florida, beat Auburn who happened to beat the two teams in the National Championship for crying out loud! Attitude and coaching make a deference!

    Of course we can beat FSU and Georgia. Short memories abound here as I’m pretty sure the Gators beat that unbelievably talented Georgia squad the year before last and that was with at the time a still-engaged Jim McElwain as coach.

    Hats off to Kirby who has done exactly what Dr. Mullen will do for the Gators. Turn a talented team into a monster. It took him two years. As for Willie Taggert – he is a great guy but I’m not convinced yet that’s he’s a great coach. Time will tell for FSU.

    Gators are on the verge of killing it – it may take longer than one year but keep your shorts on because it’s going to fun again in Gainesville!

  6. Tim, Florida can beat everybody on its schedule. I think the major issue facing the Gators is quarterback. Georgia lost a ton of seniors and just because you hear about 5 stars…they still have to prove themselves. No, Florida can beat anybody next year. I believe they will win 10 games and recruiting will go through the roof. Look, if stars were everything why did Ohio State lose twice? Are they not suppose to loose? They have recruited some of the best classes on signing day. Well, everyone has their opinion and I’m riding the high horse with all that Mullens has done and I think will do. It just seems like it coming. We’ll see won’t we?

    • It reminds me of the comment Coach Spurrier made about the dawgs recruiting. They were thought to have out-recruited us every year but then we get to Jax and dust their asses. He took a shot at them by saying something to the point that we hear of their recruiting being off the charts every year but then when we beat them in Jax again WE have all the athletes. What do they do with their athletes? Living in Middle gerogia I get to hear all the woofing about how great the dawgs are and how Kirby Smart will win multiple NCs. We all know however that the road to the SEC East has to go through Jax. We are still very much in their heads when it comes to that game. Of course losing 20 of the last 28 tends to cause that. They might have had a solid year this year but we remain a thorn in their side. I look forward to what a UF team with an offense AND a super defense can do. Not all that worried about uga and fsu at this time. More concerned about the QB situation. Solve that and we gonna be pretty good.

  7. The team will not be very good for the next five years. The hiring of Mullen, in my estimation was a big disappointment, especially given the large sums of money paid to make it happen. His W/L record is near 0.500 with a really bad mark against ranked teams. I hope the AD is held accountable once all of this works itself out. I can say that I admire his good attitude and energy / optimism since taking over – it has been refreshing to see. Unfortunately, all of that doesn’t mean very much in late September, and unless he is able to break from previous history UF will be seeing a lot of Birmingham and Mobile in December each year.

    • Jacob – we won 2 National Championships with Dan Mullen as our OC. Did you see last year’s Bama-MSU game? Bama had to rally in 4th to win; MSU controlled the ball for 40 minutes. Mullen clearly sees this opportunity to be HBC of the Gators as his dream job. You’re going a long way to sell him short; expect crow to be on the menu.

  8. The players started to give up on the message because they message was fake. The football team has awesome talent but no leaders to lead them. Offense (the QB) NONE. Defense (NONE) The leader for the D is the inside linebacker who gets them fired up and gets them in the right spots…They were to young and to top it off, not depth. Our great LB’S coach (Shannon) was a joke because the time he was there never got one 5 start LB. Look at his recruiting and you can see he did not do a good job in recruiting LB’s and that is supposed to be his legacy. This staff understands if you see the light go to it and trust it and what ever you do…don’t take your eye off the light.