As part of his conversation with Tim Tebow on SEC Nation on Saturday, new Florida football coach Dan Mullen was asked how he plans to repair the Gators’ broken offense.
Florida fans are optimistic Mullen’s spread attack and track record of recruiting and developing successful quarterbacks will finally elevate an offense that has ranked among the worst in the FBS for far too long.
Mullen has not yet commented about how Florida’s current QBs fit what he’s hoping to do, but he said Saturday he’ll adjust his system to his personnel however needed while maintaining the core principles of his offensive approach.
“We have a system and [there’s] always tweaks. One of the things that I’ve learned as a coach and [will] implement immediately, we’re going to build the offense around the strength of the players,” he said. “We’re going to be a spread offense, we’re going to spread the field, make you defend all 11 guys on the field and make you defend sideline to sideline, short and long and depth. Make you as a defense defend the field and try to attack your weaknesses.”
Mullen’s history suggests he’ll find a way to make it work.
Florida finished the regular-season ranked 111th nationally out of 129 FBS teams in total offense at 335.9 yards per game and 108th in scoring at 22.1 points per game. The Gators ranked in the 100s offensively all three seasons under former coach Jim McElwain.
Mullen, meanwhile, was the offensive coordinator for the third- and fifth-highest-scoring teams in Florida history in 2008 (43.6 PPG) and 2007 (42.5), and he’s worked quick turnarounds before.
The year before Mullen arrived in Starkville, Miss, Mississippi State ranked 113th in total offense (274.9 YPG) and 115th in scoring (15.3 PPG). In his first season there in 2009, the Bulldogs jumped to 371.9 YPG and 25.6 PPG.
Mullen took over play-calling duties for his final four seasons at Mississippi State, which proved to be his best offenses there as the Bulldogs averaged 36.9 points in 2014, 34.3 in 2015, 30.4 last year and 32.1 this season.
It does not appear that Florida has an ideal quarterback in the mold of the physical dual-threat QBs (Tebow, Dak Prescott, Nick Fitzgerald) with which Mullen has had the most success, but he has made it work with other styles.
Mullen’s Florida offenses succeeded with Chris Leak, who was not much of a threat to run the ball, and his third QB at Mississippi State, Tyler Russell, passed for 2,897 yards while rushing for -5 in 2012.
It’s yet to be seen what Mullen will do with this recruiting class and whether he might quickly get his QB of the future in place. Or whether he’ll talk dual-threat grad transfer Malik Zaire into pursuing another year of eligibility (with a medical-hardship waiver for his 2015 season at Notre Dame). Or if he’ll simply make it work with Feleipe Franks, Kyle Trask or Jake Allen.
Either way, Mullen trusts his system and his ability to figure out a solution.
“One thing we do pride ourselves, we’re going to find a way to put the ball … if you’re an athlete, we’re going to put it in your hands and I’m going to get you 1-on-1 with somebody. Whether it’s in your hands in the open field, in a matchup vertically down the field, we’re going to get you in a 1-on-1 matchup in the open field and we need you to go win that 1-on-1 matchup,” he said. “We’re going to do it with the personnel that we have however we have to do it so we can score, as Florida fans know, a lot of points.”