The Dan Mullen Era Begins at Florida

The Gators Begin Their Resurgence in College Football Saturday vs. Charleston Southern: What To Watch

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Gainesville, FL — Just two seasons ago the Florida Gators came off a 30-3 win over Iowa in the Outback Bowl. The Gators finished with a 9-4 record, #14 in the AP Poll, and the arrow was pointing in the right direction.

However, 2017 was not kind to Florida due to the lack of competent quarterback play and home run hitters the Gators are accustomed to having. Florida won only four games and fired head coach Jim McElwain after a 42-7 drubbing by Georgia in Jacksonville.

AP PHOTO
AP PHOTO

Florida’s head coach search got interesting as big names such as Chip Kelly and Scott Frost were floated. The Gators chose a familiar face, Dan Mullen, who was Florida’s offensive coordinator from 2005-2008. During that span, Mullen helped the Gators win two National Championships (2006, 2008) resulting in Mullen’s first head coaching job at Mississippi State.

Mullen comes back to Gainesville battle tested; of Mullens’s nine seasons in Starkville, six National Champions have come from the SEC West (Alabama 5, Auburn 1). Mullen’s stint at Mississippi State was successful under those circumstances with a with a 69-46 record. Also, Mullen brings a 5-2 bowl record to Florida. However, Mullen’s SEC record is only 33-39.

As the Gators usher in a new era, Mullen is tasked with fixing Florida’s offensive woes. Florida’s offense has been abysmal over the past two seasons; ranked 124th last year and 108th in 2016. An offensive savant, Mullen has his work cut out for him. The process begins Saturday night at Ben Griffin Stadium.

The Quarterback Situation

Photo: AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

One of many teams featuring a quarterback competition in fall camp, Mullen named redshirt sophomore Feleipe Franks the week one starter. Mullen has been extremely present around the quarterbacks and is constantly giving them advice and pointing out how to do things. Franks has appreciated that.

“I think just this past offseason was one of the biggest light bulb clicks in my head that I really needed to dial in,” Franks said. “Being a college quarterback is a once-in-a-lifetime thing, especially at this level being able to play with guys who are really good around you.”

Franks, along with all Florida quarterbacks struggled last year. Now he’ll have the opportunity to prove Mullen right and take the gig by the reigns.

Due to the competition, all quarterbacks will get some action Saturday night, each using their unique skillsets.

Stopping The Triple-Option

Playing the triple-option is no fun, preparing for triple-option is even worse. Mullen can view how his team takes preparation to gameday, and gauge their discipline.

“I think any time you’re facing a team like that, you’ve obviously got to be ready for the runner in the middle as far as the fullback or the halfback, as they do it,” defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said.

Florida was suspect in gap integrity last season. The Gators developed a habit of giving up big plays. Big plays happen against triple-option teams when you’re not focused.

However, Mullen saw this team last year at Mississippi State. The Bulldogs pounded the Buccaneers 49-0. Charleston Southern didn’t score one point vs. power five teams last season.

As long as Florida stays focused and finds the ball, Saturday’s matchup will be a breeze.

Prediction: Florida 52 – Charleston Southern 3