David Wunderlich wrote a post about COVID and its effect on the 2020 college football season, but he touched on something about Dan Mullen I’ve been thinking about myself.
UF alone has 17 scholarship seniors in football, 18 if former walk on Tanner Rowell gets his 2019 scholarship renewed (there is room under the 85 cap for him). That’s a lot more people for one team, and it’d be expensive. It also would make roster math and management very hard in a lot of places. It’s more difficult to try to make a scholarship extension for football seniors work to any degree, so I think it’s likely that they’d just lose out on their last years of eligibility rather than get a makeup year.
It will also be unfortunate for Dan Mullen’s career trajectory at Florida. With a lot of contributing seniors, a senior returning starter at quarterback, and a favorable schedule and other circumstances vis-a-vis division rival Georgia, the 2020 season was the time to make a big statement. Maybe he still wins a lot in whatever this season looks like, but it’s not going to be seen as the same as winning big in a standard season. His 2021 outfit, minus all 2020 seniors plus a couple other likely NFL Draft entrants, will have a lot more questions about it than the ’20 team did right after the Orange Bowl.
It bears repeating that, mockery aside, I do think Mullen is a good coach. One reason I say that is because he did a solid job of playing the hand he was dealt at Mississippi State, a program that lacks the resources and firepower that several SEC West programs have. There’s no way a coach at MSU is going to be able to exchange punches year after year with the likes of Alabama, Auburn and LSU, so what Mullen elected to do instead was build a roster that every three or four years, with player development and a heavy reliance on multi-year starters, could hold its own with the big boys. And you recruit in accordance with that plan.
But he’s at Florida now. Resources aren’t a problem for him. Nor is the division as loaded with powerhouse programs as the West is. Even better, he’s recruiting in a talent-rich state at a time when the two other big programs are in a weaker position.
Despite all that, he hasn’t elevated his recruiting game to take advantage of that. Maybe we’re reading him wrong. Maybe it’s not that he’s a so-so recruiter so much as it’s a matter of old habits dying hard.