Dan Mullen has won big on the recruiting trail. Already. And it has nothing to do with prospective football players.
Yeah, I know, that other recruiting trail is the one people want to talk about — the one where you get the really good players to come your school. By all accounts, the new Florida coach and his work-in-progress coaching staff are grinding as best they can on that recruiting front, as well.
But when it comes to recruiting his own fan base, Mullen’s class may rank No. 1 in the nation. It has been an absolute clinic in saying the right things, doing the right things, acting the right way.
Mullen has won over the masses with unbridled enthusiasm that hasn’t seemed to wane one bit. The best part? I think this is the real Dan Mullen.
I wrote before that I was intrigued but not over the moon at the hiring of Mullen. I thought it was a safe hire, a solid hire. Given the options available if Scott Frost (who I wanted) and Chip Kelly (who I didn’t) weren’t coming, I thought Mullen made perfect sense. My thinking was, in that scenario, it probably was the right hire.
But the guy has moved me from thinking it was an OK hire to now maybe an awfully good one just by the way he has carried himself since he took the job. And I’m not alone. I sense a fan base that was somewhere between lukewarm and excited – intrigued at what Mullen could be but not certain what he would be – is now jacked that Mullen is the coach. And I wasn’t certain there was a guy on the market, other than maybe Frost, who could have that impact.
Florida’s football program has seemed broken for a long time. No conference titles in almost 10 years, and two recent East titles only to be obliterated by Alabama in the SEC championship game time. Five consecutive losses to FSU for the first time. Eight years of astoundingly bad offense.
The Gators had not become completely irrelevant, but they certainly could see irrelevant from where they were. While Alabama, Georgia and Auburn have spent time this season dreaming of a national title, Florida has seemed to be more on par with Missouri and Kentucky. Digest that for a second. If Mullen’s old team had played his new team this season, I think Mississippi State would have beaten Florida by three touchdowns.
And that irrelevance made its way to the fan base. Game attendance still was good, but you could sense a malaise hanging over Gator Nation. I don’t think I’ve ever heard so many Florida fans that excited about the start of basketball season.
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