You can take the coach out of Starkville, but you can’t take Starkville out of the coach.

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.

11 Comments

Filed under Gators, Gators..., Recruiting

11 responses to “You can take the coach out of Starkville, but you can’t take Starkville out of the coach.

  1. He had Corch to do the recruiting in Hogtown. All he had to do was coordinate the pieces. He had a gimmicky offense in the late 2000s that SEC coordinators struggled with. Now everyone has parts of that offense in their repertoire. Kirby has figured out how to defend the Utah/Florida/Mississippi State version of the spread option (just as he has the Gus Bus). He isn’t going to outhustle Kirby on the talent front. MuLLLet for the Handbags forever!

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    • junkyardawg41

      You can’t be more on point. New, innovative offenses are created by smaller, lower talented teams in order to compete with better teams. The key word is compete. Fish Fry could be competitive with the flex bone option system, but not consistent and dominant with his players. The same is true for the Mullen. He is the coach who can take good talent, improve it, and be competitive. That doesn’t do it at Handbag U. And further to the point, he has lost the innovation of the spread.

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  2. gastr1

    I have to believe that once you’ve won a certain way it becomes your identity. How could it not? This is what, to me, makes what Kirby Smart did in the off-season regarding his offense so impressive. I know, we haven’t seen it yet, but it appears he’s willing to change his stripes. Not a lot of coaches can or will do that.

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  3. Sam Johnson

    If there is little or no college football, how seniors are handled will be interesting indeed. If they are truly “student-athletes” and have received a four (or even five) year scholarship, then why would they need another year of eligibility? Another year won’t matter for rosters full of draft likely players- they’ll leave anyway. But if you are Kentucky or Florida with many contributing seniors not likely to be drafted, another year of eligibility could matter a lot. We should be pretty good in 2021 either way, but maybe relatively better without the extra year. Of course, there is also the expense of an extra year. This should be fun to watch.

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  4. Russ

    Peter Principal at work. He’s maxed out. He’s been a head coach for 10(?) years so I can’t see him suddenly becoming a lights out recruiter now. I’m happy for him and the Gators. I hope they have a long relationship.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. W Cobb Dawg

    Maybe the seniors can return for the simulated season. I understand they’re a lock to go undefeated.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. practicaldawg

    The point about Miami and FSU being at historic lows can’t be overstated. The situation at those 2 schools would have been unthinkable at any time in the past, including the Spurrier and Corch era.

    I think another overlooked point with Mullen is that he’s probably not a “bad” recruiter by average standards. He’s just being compared to literally 2-3 schools, including UGA, that operate in a different stratosphere. 99.9% of college football coaches aren’t going to crack into that, and he’s likely he’s one of them.

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  7. pcpup

    I still have difficulty thinking DM is an outstanding coach. Average at best. He gets way too much credit for having Tebow and Dak.

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  8. FlyingPeakDawg

    Extend senior eligibility by a year and open up the portal. The Top P5 teams don’t need 100 players but seniors who still want to play can go to other schools that need help and take some classes that might actually benefit them in their next stage of life.

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  9. I like dan mullen a good bit as a coach when he went to Mississippi state. I expected him to do reasonably well. I’m not thinking he expected to work hard as he needs to at Florida.

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