Familiar Face Prompts Changes for No. 2 Florida

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Florida’s Urban Meyer and Mississippi

State’s Dan Mullen spent the last 10 years together. They turned around programs

at Bowling Green, Utah and Florida.

Together they compiled an 83-17 record and helped make the

spread offense one of the nation’s hottest trends.

Facing each other for the first time won’t be easy — and

not just because of their close relationship.

Mullen probably knows Florida’s playbook, signals and

tendencies as well as quarterback Tim Tebow. So the second-ranked Gators (6-0,

4-0 Southeastern Conference) are tweaking just about every aspect of their

offense heading into Saturday’s game at Mississippi State (3-4, 1-2).

“He’s going to have a great game plan,” Tebow said. “He’s

a very intelligent coach and he’s been coaching a long time. He knows a lot of

what we do, and we know a lot of what he does. It will be two similar schemes

going at each other.”

That familiarity could breed chaos.

“Obviously, he knows the weaknesses of protections, the

weaknesses of plays,” Tebow said. “Some of it might be different, but a lot of

it is still the same because it’s still that same offense, same


“I’m sure he’ll do a lot of the things that me and him

together didn’t like seeing when defenses ran it.”

Mullen started working with Meyer in 1999 as a graduate

assistant at Notre Dame, where Meyer was the receivers coach. When Meyer got his

first head coaching job at Bowling Green in 2001, he asked Mullen to come with

him as quarterbacks coach.

“Every young coach has characteristics. He’s intense,”

Meyer said. “But the thing that makes Dan unique is he’s very, very smart. I

mean, like, really smart. And he has a great awareness of the game of football.

… He’s very intellectual as far as understanding the game.”

Mullen was Meyer’s quarterbacks coach at Bowling Green

(2001-02) and Utah (2003-04), then became Florida’s offensive coordinator in

2005. He won two national championships with the Gators and took many of Meyer’s

concepts with him to Starkville, Miss.

When the Gators started watching video of the Bulldogs,

they could tell Mullen had pretty much taken the playbook with him, too.

But what concerns Meyer and his assistants more than

anything is how Mullen will prepare to slow down Florida’s offense, the one he

helped groom into one of the best in the SEC.

Meyer already has changed the team’s hand signals, and he

might consider modifying audible calls, deviating from standard run/pass

formations, and even reevaluating the way he approaches every down-and-distance

combination. After all, Mullen and Meyer grew to think alike during their decade


“They are doing everything on defense that bothered us as

a staff on offense,” Meyer said. “Whether it be a two-tilt fire (zone blitz),

this certain blitz. Tim and I were talking about it. You name it that bothered

us, they’re doing it. He’s a smart guy. We’ll be ready, though.”

Mullen acknowledged having a solid grasp of Florida’s

schemes and personnel, but said it might not mean much when the teams take the

field Saturday night.

“You can use a lot of it,” Mullen said. “There’s

familiarity. I know the system and the offense, helping our defensive coaches on

what they’re trying to do, why they’re running what they’re running on offense.

Knowing the players, that helps.

“I know Jeff Demps runs 10.01 100 meters and set like the

(national high school) record. I know their players, but you’ve still got to

stop them. And if they get to the open field, we don’t have anybody that runs a

10.01 100 meters here. So if he gets into the open field, he’s still going to

score. So even though we know that, I don’t think it’s that huge an