GAINESVILLE, Fla. — After serving as his own primary play-caller his last four seasons at Mississippi State, it was presumed that Dan Mullen would continue in that role as Florida’s new head coach, and he confirmed as much during an event with fans this week.
Mullen spoke to about 500 or so fans at the Gators’ indoor practice facility on Wednesday night after National Signing Day, concluding the session by taking questions from the crowd.
When asked about the play-calling, Mullen explained how his staff handles that between he, co-offensive coordinators Billy Gonzales and John Hevesy and even quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson.
“I call plays, but it is very unique in how we do it because we’ve been together so long,” Mullen said. “Believe it or not, a lot of times, even though John and Billy are kind of the co-offensive coordinators, a lot of times when I’m with the defense Brian might even be the one who calls the plays when I’m on defense because he’s upstairs … getting all that stuff to the quarterbacks.
“We all kind of contribute to it in between series. If you see us all talking and making notes, I’m [saying], ‘Hey, John, what do you want to run? Billy, what do you want to throw? Brian, what are the quarterbacks comfortable with? What do we see?’ But in the end I like calling plays.”
Gonzales, who coaches the wide receivers and oversees the passing game, has worked with Mullen at Bowling Green (2001-02), Utah (2003-04), in Mullen’s stint as offensive coordinator here at Florida (2005-09), at Mississippi State (2003-17) and has now followed him back to Gainesville.
Hevesy, who coaches the offensive line and oversees the running game, also coached with Mullen at Bowling Green, Utah, the first stint at Florida and Mississippi State. The two have worked together without interruption since 2001.
“I’ve known him longer than I’ve known my wife,” Mullen said. “So you’ll see us, we’ll yell and scream at each other, we have our very own [way of communicating]. Like I said, I’ve known him longer than my wife, so we have our whole relationship.”
And Johnson, who was a quarterback at Utah during Mullen’s time there, worked on the staff at Mississippi State from 2014-16 before serving as the offensive coordinator at Houston last year.
“He’s one of the best young coaches in America, one of the great quarterback coaches in America and knows my standard of how to work with the quarterbacks because he did play for me,” Mullen said.
Mullen has surrounded himself with offensive coaches who know how he thinks and how he likes to do things.
But ultimately, he said, he likes to be the one calling the plays.
“And I learned this as a head coach after a couple of years, the assistant coaches like it too. Because if I don’t call the plays and we go three-and-out I can then say, ‘Is that the best we can call? That’s awful. Is that really the best we could come up with with those plays?'” Mullen joked. “Now they laugh because I still stay that, but they’re like, ‘Well, you’re the one who called them.’ But I love calling plays. I called plays for four years when I was here before. I love to call plays so I’ll keep calling plays.”