As word spread Wednesday afternoon of Urban Meyer’s resignation and speculation began centering around Dan Mullen heading the list of potential replacements, I noted on Twitter and Facebook that I was unsure whether this turn of events was good for UGA or not.
The feedback I got from fellow Bulldogs fans pretty much ran along the lines of this being possibly good for Mark Richt’s program in the short-run, but not good long-term.
Here’s the thinking: No matter who takes over at Florida, there’ll be at least a year of transition, even if it’s Mullen, who has only been gone from the program a couple of years and is considered by many to have been the genius behind Meyer’s phenomenal success there as well as at Bowling Green and Utah, where he also worked was Meyer’s key assistant. Some recruits might get jittery and if FSU doesn’t scoop ’em all up, the Dogs could benefit there.
And with Richt facing what appears to be a make-or-break season in 2011, any rebooting on the part of the Gators, however shortlived, tends to look like a good thing. Pair that with Gus Malzahn’s likely promotion to the head coaching ranks somewhere and Auburn, also likely to lose Cam Newton, looks like another rival returning to beatable status.
But as Meyer noted, “Florida will always be Florida,” and this is likely to be just a hiccup for the Gator program, particularly if Mullen is the new hire. I mean, the guy managed to win in Starkville. Imagine what he can do with all the resources and recruiting advantages he’ll have at the U of F.
Under Meyer, the Gators were likely to have continued slipping slightly since after last December’s brief retirement he obviously no longer had the fire in the belly, and without Mullen and Tim Tebow he looked much less like a coaching genius. As one fan noted, now with a new coach they get new energy, new optimism and no more Steve Addazio as O-ccordinator. So, going forward, Georgia fans might end up missing Meyer more than you’d think.
As for Mullen, you’ve got to figure he’d jump at the chance to coach at Florida. Why stay in Starkville when you can have possibly the best coaching job in America? Yes, expectations are very high in Gainesville, where as Steve Spurrier has noted 10 wins are probably no longer enough to satisfy the fan base. But Mullen seems like a pretty confident guy and isn’t likely to be fazed by that.
Now, of course, Mullen might not be Jeremy Foley’s first choice. There’s been speculation he might take another run at Bob Stoops, though that would seem quite a longshot. And other names floated include another former Meyer assistant, Louisville’s Charlie Strong, along with Utah’s Kyle Whittingham and Arkansas’ Bobby Petrino. Some lists throw Boise State’s Chris Petersen and former NFL coach Jon Gruden into the mix as well.
But you’ve got to figure Mullen tops the list because, in addition to his Florida connections and looking like a perfect fit for the job, it also would remove him from the bank of potential rival coaches. The chances of him staying for the long haul in Starkville seem pretty slim. And if the top job were to come open in Athens after next season and Mullen hadn’t yet made a move from Mississippi State, he’d likely top Greg McGarity’s search list.
Personally, I’m hoping Richt turns things around and it doesn’t come to that. I like him as a person and as a coach, and I really don’t want the program to have to go through a coaching change.
But I’ve got to agree with those who say a re-energized Florida program minus a coach who’d lost his mojo doesn’t bode well for UGA’s prospects in Jacksonville and the SEC East. What do you think?
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