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20 Game Report Card: Mullen more like Spurrier and Meyer than Muschamp or McElwain

October 13, 2019
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FLORIDA FOOTBALL & RECRUITING COVERAGE
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Inside the Gators first published this three years ago in order to grade former Florida head coach Jim McElwain 20 games into his stint leading Gators football. It is time to go back over it now that Dan Mullen has completed his first 20 games as Florida’s head coach

I have long held that to be considered a successful head football coach at Florida you don't have to win the National Championship each and every season. If that were the case, with the Gators only doing so three times in their 111 year history, that would mean that there were 108 years of futility.

No, you don't have to win the big prize every year to be a success at Florida. However, in my opinion you have to accomplish these five things:

  • Win in the Swamp

This is sort of a self fulfilling prophecy in that the more you win, the more intimidating the Swamp becomes, making the home field advantage an even bigger advantage. As much as a loss hurts - at least when it happens on the road some are forgivable. Florida travels to some incredibly hostile environments – places no team should expect to enter and leave with a win on a consistent basis. Plus, the bottom line is it just hurts more to lose at home. You feel as though your personal space has been invaded.

Quick Take: Those two home losses last season against Kentucky and Missouri looked much worse at the time that they occurred than they actually were at the end of the season when both teams went bowling. Having said that, getting blown out by an unranked Missouri team at Homecoming is all but inexcusable. Also,if everything is rolling along, as the 30-plus year streak showed, Florida shouldn’t consistently have an issue putting away the Wildcats. The opposite has been the case these last two meetings under Mullen.

  • Beat the teams you are expected to beat

When things are going well recruiting wise at Florida, realistically the Gators only play a 3-4 game schedule in even the most difficult of strength of schedule years. Now, notice I said when Florida is recruiting at the level it should be recruiting at. When they are, the Gators should be able to simply out-talent all but a couple of schools on the schedule. From a historical perspective, Florida State, Georgia, LSU and then Tennessee to a degree and of course if Alabama is the opponent in the SEC Championship, are the only teams the Gators face regularly who recruit at a high 'Florida like' level year in and year out. Yes, now and then you'll have a South Carolina or Kentucky rise up that you have to deal with, but for the most part when UF is recruiting on the level it should be, 8-9 teams on the 12 game schedule shouldn't be able to match-up to Florida talent wise.

Quick Take: Through the first 20 games, it is those two SEC East losses to Kentucky and Missouri that stand out as losses to teams that Florida is expected to beat. Digging a little deeper into it, to this point it feels like there have been too many times where Florida has come out listless, and played down to their level of competition. This is an area that needs to see improvement. Also, what looks like it could potentially be an issue down the road is that the teams Florida can simply expect to out talent year in and year out is going down because the Gators aren’t recruiting at the level they did pre Jim McElwain

  • At least split with ranked teams

 In most years the Gators are going to face 4-5 teams ranked in the Top 25. If you can at worst split with those teams, that would mean 9-10 win seasons. You would like to win them all, but that's not realistic. At least walking way with a win half the time is acceptable. Losing two out of three or worse is unacceptable.

Quick Take: Here is a an area where Mullen has excelled. He has certainly gotten his teams up for the big games. From winning on the road against a ranked Mississippi State team last season, to beating LSU at home to dominating Florida State and Michigan to end the season, to even playing LSU close on the road, Mullen seen his teams rise to the occasion in his first 20 games.

  • Win two out of three against Florida's traditional rivals

If you do well enough against Florida State, Tennessee, Georgia, LSU – and Miami in the years they are on the schedule – Florida fans will be forgiving in some other areas. A loss, any loss, huts badly enough, but to lose to one of the Gators traditional rivals is 10 times worse. Depending on where you live, you might have to put up with a Bulldog, Seminole, or Volunteers fan holding bragging rights for a full 365 days. That can become unbearable.

Quick Take: Mullen has done incredibly well against Florida’s traditional rivals through this point with the road block being the Georgia Bulldogs. We’ll see if he can bust through there in a couple of weeks.

  • Run an exciting offense

When Jeremy Foley hired Ron Zook, one of my first comments was wondering how a defensive minded head coach would fit in at what was then known as a wide-open offensive minded school. The answer was, not very well. Foley then doubled down on that mistake by hiring Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp a decade later. Some what because of the athletic playmakers available to the Gators – but mostly because of what Steve Spurrier was able to accomplish – Florida fans simply do not want to see a boring – three-yards and a cloud of dust offense which leads to a low scoring affair. Honestly, though many may not admit it publicly, there is a significant portion of the fan base who would rather go 9-3 with an exciting, high scoring offense, than 10-2 with a grind it out, a cure for insomnia, type of offense. No, to be fully accepted by the Gator Nation, you have to play an exciting brand of football, and airing it out is the preferred method of moving the ball.

Quick Take: It’s been more fun to watch this season than it was last year as Florida’s passing attack is ranked in the top 25 in the nation. We really won’t get a true look at what a Dan Mullen offense looks like with Florida type of talent until he gets his quarterback in there. Mullen may say that he will adjust his offense to his quarterback, and he will, but truth be told, he wants not just a willing runner at quarterback, but rather a running quarterback. Feleipe Franks was at least somewhat capable, Kyle Trask though is strictly a pocket passer. You saw huge holes close quickly against LSU not because of the speed of the Tiger’s defense, but more so because of the lack of speed of Trask.

IF the Florida head coach is able to accomplish those five things the chances are damn good that the Gators will be in contention to win the SEC East, which means they will be in the running for at least a top 10-15 finish and when things align perfectly, even in the running for one of the four College Football Playoff spots.

That doesn't mean any or all of the above is going to happen every single year. Things, injuries, bad luck, etc.... happen. However, when things are going right, it should happen often enough.

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After the loss to LSU we started a poll asking members to grade the performance of Florida head coach Dan Mullen on his 20 game Gators coaching career. Explain your vote on the We Champ Chat

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GRADING DAN MULLEN

CATEGORY

COMMENT GRADE
Coaching Staff He doesn’t have an all-star cast type of coaching staff in that though Todd Grantham is highly thought of, he is hardly a threat to be hired away by another team as a head coaching candidate. That pretty much goes for the entire staff. Coaches like Billy Gonzales and John Hevesy have been with Mullen for over a decade. Bringing Nick Savage along with him may have been his best hire. B
Program Building I was pretty high on him when he was a candidate, but I honestly don’t know if Florida could have made a better hire than Mullen. From his insistence of everyone involved with the program upholding the Gator Standard to his hiring of someone like Savage to carry out that edict, even coming off a loss to LSU, I don’t know of many who aren’t sky high on the Gators. A
Fan Interaction After Will Muschamp started to promote an ‘us against them’ mentality among the players and fans (when has that ever worked for a head coach?), and then Jim McElwain took it  a step further by claiming he and players received death threats, Mullen has done a very good job at mending those relationships. He has luncheons with fans, the women’s football clinic and is active in the community. I have only listed to a handful of his call-in shows, but he doesn't take a condescending tone with fans, which is a change of pace from some coaches I have heard answer questions in the past B+
Media Interaction He had more open practices last spring and fall than he did this year, but overall he has a very good relationship with the media. The only issue to this point was two media only open practices being canceled right after he was asked about his players issues with violence against women. That seemed needlessly retaliatory when the fact is he has gotten overwhelmingly positive headlines B-
Wins/Losses Mullen’s overall won-loss record 20 games in puts him right up there with Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer. However, those two bad losses last year were worse than anything Spurrier or Meyer suffered. To be sure, he has UF ranked in the top 10 despite not having a great fit at quarterback yet during his time in Gainesville. A-
Recruiting Here is the wrench in the works to this point. Coming in Mullen was thought to be an average recruiter, and though he is slightly better than I anticipated, he’s still nowhere near the top tier head coach recruiters. That is a shame because with his program building ability and Xs & Os acumen, the sky would be the limit. C-
Roster Management Overall, if you look at the Class Breakdown Mullen has done and outstanding job of filling in the gaps across the roster, more evenly distributing the numbers by position and class. There are still a couple of issues, most noticeably a lack of top tier SEC talent along the offensive line and at safety. At the conclusion of spring ball he stated his desire to add an offensive line transfer. Had that come to fruition, how good might this offense be right now A
Overall Whether or not he eventually gets to an A+ is almost assuredly dependent on how recruiting goes going forward.  A-

The following is how Mullen stacks up against the previous five Florida coaches through the first 20 games as the head coach of the Gators.

Category

Spurrier
90-91

Zook
02-03
Meyer
05-06
Muschamp
11-12
McElwain
15-16
Mullen
18-19
Win/Loss 17-3 12-8 16-4 14-6 15-5 16-4
W/L SEC 12-1 8-4 10-4 9-5 10-2 8-4

W/L Rivals

3-2 2-4 5-0 3-3 2-3 5-2

W/L Ranked Teams

5-3 3-6 7-3 3-5 1-5 4-2

W/L UR Teams

12-0 9-2 9-1 11-1 14-0 12-2

In the Swamp

10-0 7-4 11-0 9-2 10-1 9-2

Biggest Win

48-7 over #4 AUB 19-7 over #6 LSU 24-7 over #23 FSU 14-6 over #3 LSU 38-10 over #3 MISS 41-15 over #8 Michigan

Worst Loss

38-21 to #17 SYR 16-7 to #18 LSU 30-22 to UR USCe 21-7 to UR FSU 41-7 to #17 Mich 38-17 to UR Missouri

Times scored 35 or more

10 4 5 7 4 10

Times held 21 or less

3 9 6 8 8 4

Average points per game

35.0 28.4 27.8 27.1 25.0 33.8

Game weeks ranked in AP top 10

12 5 13 2 3 8

Recruiting Ranking

NA/NA 15/3 15/2 13/3 23/14 17/9

Rivals: Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Tennessee and Miami (in the years playing them)

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20 Game Report Card: Mullen more like Spurrier and Meyer than Muschamp or McElwain

2,096 Views | 5 Replies | Last: 1 mo ago by Mark Wheeler
GatorDMD
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I agree with almost everything except for the grades you gave the staff. We need to get new blood there. Replaced Gonzales, Knox and English with some recruiters.
Graylon
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The only thing in Mullen's offense I wish he would change is the quarterback runs... it literally drives me crazy knowing we have a stud like Dameon not getting the ball on those plays... I cant say it enough WE HAVE LOST A QUARTERBACK DUE TO RUNNING HIM INTO TRAFFIC.. we cant afford to lose Trask or Jones...

We have SO MANY PLAYMAKERS.. last night showed LSU couldnt cover our receivers and Kyle Pitts..
OrangeandBlue
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This goes to show the greatness of Meyer. If he would have coached 12 years here he would have won 4 or 5 titles.
notexgator
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After our 2 previous idiots - Fan Interaction deserves at least an A. Look at all the things he has done plus he even likes to juice up the crpwd before and after the game. He "get it".
Mark Wheeler
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Staff
notexgator said:

After our 2 previous idiots - Fan Interaction deserves at least an A. Look at all the things he has done plus he even likes to juice up the crpwd before and after the game. He "get it".
I think he has done very well with the fans, trying to get them involved with the program, but in assigning grades I tried to compare Mullen to the other coaches. Meyer did over 20 Gator Club events a year in his first two years. He did things such as have a contest where the fastest fan got to race Chris Rainey.
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