On the Mark: Time to change the narrative on Mullen and recruiting

January 5, 2019
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FLORIDA FOOTBALL & RECRUITING COVERAGE
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Two days.

Well, actually less then 48 hours.

That's how long it took for Florida's class to go from simply meh to on the verge of being worthy of a Mick Hubert 'Oh my' type of exclamation.

All it took was two announcements; one a surprise, one not so much so.

In the roughly 43 hours between 8:28 p.m. Thursday evening when Arjei Henderson‍ pledged to Florida during the Under Armour Bowl broadcast on ESPN2 through 3:08 p.m. Saturday afternoon when Chris Steele‍ revealed that he was all Orange & Blue – the perception of the Gators' 2019 recruiting efforts, as well as perhaps Dan Mullen as a recruiter, changed dramatically.

During that time period Florida went from No. 17 to No. 15 to No. 11 in the 247 Team Recruiting Rankings Composite.

That is a far cry from where Florida was back in late July when the Gators came in at No. 37.

The worry then, and really perhaps up until this week, is that the knock on Mullen coming in was correct.

He wasn't a top notch recruiter.

The book on Mullen as far back as when he was the offensive coordinator at Florida - through his stint as the head coach of Mississippi State - was that while he was excellent dealing with the Xs & Os – he struggled when it came to acquiring the Jimmys and Joes.

To put it simply, he wasn't considered much of a force on the recruiting trail.

I am as guilty as anyone for not only buying into that notion, but doing my part to help promulgate it.

There is a reason for that.

Truthfully, he wasn't much of a recruiter when he was on Urban Meyer's staff at Florida.

I am one of the dinosaurs on the beat who covered the team way back then and while I can't speak on his time in Starkville, I do see a stark contrast in his outward behavior from his coordinator days to the here and now.

He used to come off as more distant, more standoffish, than he does today. Whether it is because he is more comfortable and relaxed or something that comes with age, I don't know. However, something such as his dancing on the sidelines during the opener – which is still all over social media - or the hat turned sideways, mugging for the camera in the locker-room after the Peach Bowl win...

...are things you would never outwardly see from him a decade ago.

Those type of moments resonate with young men.

It is in those moments that he doesn't seem so unapproachable, thus they feel more comfortable with him and thus more likely to want to play for him.

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At this point, not withstanding what eventually happens with Henderson and/or Diwun Black‍, Florida is a difference making defensive lineman and adding any prospect with a pulse at safety, from closing about as well as could have been expected this cycle.

This is after Florida finished with their highest star average (14 of the 18 - or 78% - signees rated as four-stars) in a decade after Mullen's strong finish last cycle.

Interestingly enough, though Ron Zook (No. 2) and Will Muschamp (No. 3) had much higher rated classes in their first full recruiting cycles, neither of them had as high a percentage of bringing in four-stars as Mullen does this time around.

This year Mullen is at 65% (15-of-23), while Zook was at 54% and Muschamp was at 61%.

As a side note, only 40% of Jim McElwain's first full class was rated as four-star or higher - while Urban Meyer signed 78%

What Zook and Muschamp did was brought in five-stars and top 50 prospects to help them earn those high class rankings, and offset some of their three-star reaches.

That is what Mullen needs to begin to do.

To this point he has proven to be an excellent game day coach, has surprised me with his program building acumen, and now that the recruiting is coming along, the one thing keeping Florida from taking the next step is to sign the kids considered the best-of-the-best.

The difference makers.

The Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin types.

Florida has yet to land a five-star under Mullen, but by the way things are shaping up in the the next two cycles, the wait shouldn't be much longer.

The Gators ascension to the top should be powered by in-state recruiting that should be greatly aided by the uncertainty in Coral Gables and the train wreck taking place in Tallahassee.

Where, speaking of coaches who were highly thought of as recruiters, Willie Taggart actually finds his Florida State Seminoles currently behind Florida in team recruiting rankings.

That may or may not change by National Signing Day, but one thing we know, if Taggart doesn’t have a talent advantage, he is in a world of trouble.

Is there anyone who saw him this year who believes that if the talent is equal, or maybe FSU is slightly behind, that he is going to actually out coach anyone?

Mullen on the other hand has proven to be a top 10 type of head coach. Now that the recruiting aspect is coming along, we’re about to find out what the ceiling is for Mullen at Florida. 

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