Bulldogs Hire Florida Offensive Coordinator - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Carrie Anderson

Bulldogs Hire Florida Offensive Coordinator

ACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Florida offensive coordinator Dan Mullen

will be the new football coach at Mississippi State, moving from

the Southeastern Conference champions to one of the league's

perennial cellar dwellers.

Mullen arrived in Starkville on Wednesday afternoon and will be

introduced at a news conference Thursday morning.

"We feel like he's the right fit for our football program, and

we're looking forward to tomorrow and letting everyone meet him,"

Mississippi State athletic director Greg Byrne said. "We think he

brings everything we were looking for in our football coach."

Mullen leaves Gainesville as the top-ranked Gators are preparing

to play for their second national title in three years.

"A lot of people get in this profession and when you have head

coaching opportunities, they're very rare," Urban Meyer said at

news conference in Hollywood, Fla. "Head coaching opportunities in

the Southeastern Conference at a young age is a great honor. So

(Tim Tebow) had the same exact reaction that I did: Doggone it, but

we wish you well."

The 36-year-old has been an assistant coach for 14 years and

spent the last eight with Urban Meyer at Bowling Green, Utah and

Florida. He'll get to see what it's like facing Meyer and the

powerful Gators when the teams face off Oct. 24.

Florida won the SEC with a dominant offense and will play No. 2

Oklahoma for the BCS national championship next month. Meyer told

reporters he was not sure if Mullen would be staying through the

title game.

"It's all too fresh," Meyer said. "The most important thing

is whatever gives the University of Florida and our players an

opportunity to be successful on that night and I have not had a

chance to evaluate that yet."

Mullen replaces coach Sylvester Croom, who resigned last month

after going 21-38 in five seasons as the SEC's first black football

coach. Since 2001, the Bulldogs have had only one winning season.

Meyer told reporters after the SEC championship game that Mullen

was in contact with Byrne about the job.

The hiring was first reported by the Clarion-Ledger of Jackson

and the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo.

Byrne interviewed other candidates for the job. Chris Peterson

of Boise State and Louisiana Tech coach Derek Dooley both denied

interest in the job and Byrne also appears to have talked with

Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson.

Croom left the program Nov. 29 after the Bulldogs suffered a

humiliating 45-0 loss to archrival Mississippi. He said in a recent

television interview that he was prepared to make changes to his

coaching staff in order to please fans, boosters and Byrne, but

that Byrne wanted to head in a new direction.

While Croom was credited with improving the overall talent at

Mississippi State despite NCAA sanctions he inherited, the former

NFL assistant coach and All-American center at Alabama could never

get his complicated and conservative run-first version of the West

Coast offense into gear.

The Bulldogs never cracked the top 100 under Croom and finished

113th out of 119 Bowl Subdivision teams with 274.9 yards per game

of total offense and 115th in scoring with 15.3 points per game

this season.

Byrne said he was looking for a coach who could jazz up that

woeful offense and got him. Mullen led the Gators to a team record

for points in a season this year and has Tebow in the running for a

second Heisman Trophy.

"They are going to get coach who likes to work, who will do a

great job," Tebow said. "They'll have success because of the way

he is."

Mullen also helped develop quarterback Alex Smith into a No. 1

overall pick in the NFL draft as quarterbacks coach at Utah.

The Gators led the nation in scoring last year and are third

this season with 45.5 points per game. Mullen directs the nation's

No. 18 offense (442.4 yards per game) and No. 11 rushing offense

(229.7 ypg).

The Gators run a spread option offense, the kind of attack that

would match the skills of incoming quarterback Tyler Russell of

Meridian, the Bulldogs' top recruit who has left his nonbinding

oral commitment to Mississippi State in place despite Croom's

departure.

Mullen is expected to begin recruiting immediately in an attempt

to hold together the promising class Croom put together before

resigning.

Mississippi State's new coach spent two seasons apiece as wide

receivers coach at Wagner and Columbia from 1994-97 after

graduating from Ursinus College in Collegeville, Pa., where he

played tight end.

He then spent three seasons as a graduate assistant at Syracuse

and Notre Dame, where he met Meyer and later followed him to

Bowling Green.

"He's a great coach," Meyer said. "I made a comment (when)

someone wrote an article about us and I said, 'Boy, his resume is

pretty good,"' Meyer said. "When you work with a guy, you don't

realize it. He's been with me as a graduate assistant at Notre

Dame, we went together to Bowling Green, developed Josh Harris,

went from there to Alex Smith at Utah, and then came here and Chris

Leak and Tim. So the resume is pretty strong and I wish him all the

best."

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