Dan Mullen’s 1st recruiting class at Florida bodes well for the Gators on a few levels

Florida coach Dan Mullen never had a recruiting class ranked higher than 18th in his nine years at Mississippi State.

He blew past that mark on his first try with the Gators.

Mullen showed why he might be the perfect fit to lift a program back up after mediocre turns by former coaches Will Muschamp and Jim McElwain.

The Gators finished 14th in 247Sports.com’s composite rankings. UF landed 12 four-star prospects among the 18 signees that will play. A 19th signee, three-star safety Randy Russell, has a heart condition that will force him to give up football.

RELATED: A quick look at Florida’s 2018 recruiting class, with a grade

For a coach known more for his skills to develop talent than to recruit it, this
was a triumphant class for Mullen.

Mullen’s two best classes at Mississippi State had seven four-star prospects in each of them. He signed 40 blue-chip players (four- and five-star prospects) in his nine classes with the Bulldogs, an average of 4.4 a year.

Even his two best classes (2009 and 2015), which both ranked 18th nationally, didn’t get Mullen into the top half of the SEC. Both classes finished eighth in conference. This Gators class ranked fourth in the SEC. Mullen has ammunition to work with that he never did at Mississippi State.

Perhaps a bigger key to Mullen’s possible early success at UF is what happened around him. Florida has four programs it traditionally must worry about every year: Georgia, Florida State, Tennessee and LSU. (Sorry, South Carolina, but I’m not including you.)

Georgia is a buzz saw and a definite concern. But the other three hovered around the Gators. That’s big for Mullen. Usually, you lose ground on your rivals in a transition year. On paper, that didn’t happen. FSU finished 11th, followed by LSU (15th) and Tennessee (20th).

Look at McElwain’s first year in 2015. He finished 21st, with just four blue-chippers. Meanwhile, FSU ranked third, Tennessee fourth, LSU fifth and Georgia sixth. That’s a huge gap in talent.

Muschamp ran into the same issue in 2011 to a lesser extent. His first class finished 11th, with 11 blue-chip prospects. But FSU was second in the country, with Georgia seventh, LSU eighth and Tennessee 14th.

RELATED: How did each SEC team do on the 2018 recruiting trail? Let us tell you

Mullen starts his era at Florida with FSU and Tennessee also transitioning, while LSU looks like a giant getting ready to go back to sleep for a while.

The recruiting rankings aren’t affected, but Mullen also landed two intriguing transfers in receivers Trevon Grimes (Ohio State) and Van Jefferson (Ole Miss).

Mullen never has signed this much talent in his program before. Florida fans should be excited to see what he and his staff can do with it.

(You can email Hays Carlyon at email hidden; JavaScript is required and follow him on Twitter @HaysCarlyon)

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