About 100 administrators, athletic staff and media members stood 30 feet from three encased national championship trophies, fixated on the man who helped deliver two of them.
And Dan Mullen, Florida’s head coach as of Sunday evening, told them what they were eager to hear.
“I can promise you that I will give relentless effort in everything I do to make sure that we return the football program to a National Championship level,” Mullen said Monday at his first news conference as the Gators’ new coach. “That's what it's all about.”
For Mullen, the path to winning starts with revamping Florida’s lackluster offense.
In 2017, the Gators finished their regular season ranked 109th in scoring. Mullen laid out the philosophy he believes can restore UF to the offensive juggernaut it was when he was its offensive coordinator from 2005 to 2008.
“We'll base ourselves, obviously, out of a spread offense,” Mullen said. “Spread the field to make sure you defend sideline to sideline …. make sure you defend all 11 guys.”
Mullen has been adamant about the spread offense since he was a 30-year old quarterbacks coach at Bowling Green in 2002, and it has served him well ever since. In his last three seasons as the head coach at Mississippi State, the Bulldogs have averaged about 32 points per game compared to Florida’s 23.
“I love scoring points,” Mullen said. “We can score a hundred; I'll keep going.”
Less than one decade after helping Florida win two national championships over a three-year …
A solid quarterback if the foundation for any offense, and Mullen was quick to list the characteristics he cares most about in any signal caller.
“No. 1, it starts with mental and physical toughness because that’s the guy that’s the leader of your program,” Mullen said. “Playing quarterback here, at the University of Florida, those are pretty big shoes to fill.”
Mullen said his next priority is decision making, how fast the player can comprehend plays and information.
“Because it's one thing talking about football or drawing up plays on a board,” Mullen said. “But when you have about 1.2 seconds before a 300-pound guy is about to hit you right in the face, it's really important how you can process everything.”
Next, comes intelligence. Mullen said a smarter quarterback means a higher ceiling for an offense. He said it helps when his quarterbacks don’t have to constantly look to him on the sidelines for help in games.
“Then, I get into throwing and running,” Mullen said. “Throwing is more important …. accuracy, over anything else,”
“And then if you can run, that's a bonus, because that means you can improvise and make some special things happen when the play breaks down.”
Florida fans would likely be satisfied with a quarterback who could either run or throw as long as they do one well. Mullen has 277 days to develop his next quarterback before Florida’s season opener. But whether it’s returning starter Feleipe Franks, one of the two redshirts from this season in Kyle Trask and Jake Allen, or highly touted four-star recruit Matt Corral, if they want to start for Mullen, they have to prove one thing above all else.
“If you want to put it in one word, Mullen said, “it's winners.”
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