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