Gators head coach Dan Mullen speaks in Jacksonville

1st speaking engagement outside Gainesville for new UF head man

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – New Florida head football coach Dan Mullen made his first public speaking appearance outside of Gainesville Monday in Jacksonville, saying that part of his challenge before his first season is evaluating his roster and setting the tone for how the Gators will be seen in northeast Florida and around the state.

"One of the trickier things about roster management is that I haven't seen any of our guys on the field," Mullen said. "After spring, we'll have an idea of what guys can do well, what they do poorly and what positions we're going to put them in, what they can handle and how we're going to build the offense, defense and special teams around them and that will dictate a little bit more in the future how we handle recruiting."

LISTEN: Gators Breakdown dives into Mullen's visit to Jacksonville, Junior Day haul

Mullen has seen how important the Jacksonville area can be in recruiting. He was on Urban Meyer's staff when Florida won two national championships with rosters that included significant players from the area, including Tim Tebow. One of Mullen's challenges is to re-energize Gator fans around the state. Winning will do that the best.

"We need everybody in the Gator nation. We need flags flying in front of your house. We need people wearing their Gator gear around," Mullen said. "You could have an 8-year-old sitting next to you who is going to be the next Tim Tebow. He lives in the house next to you, but every day, he walks out and all he sees is a Gator flag in front of his house. He sees neighbors and  kids wearing Gator stuff, and he says 'hey, I'm a pretty good athlete and one day, I'm going to be a Gator.'"

How Mullen develops quarterbacks will be a major focus of his early years. He spent the previous nine seasons as the head coach of Mississippi State where he took the Bulldogs to eight straight Bowl games, including the TaxSlayer Bowl, a game he did not coach after accepting the Florida job. Mullen furthered his reputation as a developer of quarterbacks in Starkville, where he coached Dak Prescott. He also coached Alex Smith while an assistant under Urban Meyer at Utah.

As an assistant coach in Gainesville from 2005-2008, Mullen was the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator for Florida's national championship teams in 2006 and 2008, where he coached both Chris Leak and Tebow. He inherits redshirt sophomore-to-be Feleipe Franks as his most experienced quarterback. Franks started eight games in 2017 for Florida with mixed results. 

"I have to see once he gets on the field, but he's had a great attitude of what I look for in a quarterback, which is a guy who is going to compete and set a standard very high for everybody," Mullen said. "People look at the quarterback as the leader. You have to set that bar very high. I explained that to him before our first workout and he tries to be first in everything he's doing. That's what you have to do as a quarterback."

Mullen has two more appearances scheduled. Tuesday, he is scheduled to be in Tampa at the Tampa Yacht & Country Club. The final event is scheduled for Orlando on Wednesday, when Mullen will appear at Cheyenne Saloon and Opera House.

The Orange and Blue game is scheduled for April 14 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

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