The search for the next Florida Gators quarterback has been ongoing, fruitlessly, since Tim Tebow played his final game in Orange and Blue.
From the second Scott Stricklin made the decision to move on from Jim McElwain he knew he needed to find a coach that had a proven record with finding, developing and coaching quarterbacks.
Why not go after the guy that helped find and develop the last great quarterback at your university?
“Mississippi State football history, which I’m well versed in having grown up in the state, there were not very many quarterbacks of note in the history of the school until Dan showed up,” Stricklin said. “It was obvious how important that position was at having any chance of any success at this level. You’ve got to have a quarterback, and Dan obviously had a run of them there.”
On Monday Dan Mullen was introduced as the 27th head coach at the University of Florida. He has a long track record of coaching great quarterbacks at various stops throughout his career. Monday Mullen laid out exactly what characteristics he looks for in the position.
“It starts with mental and physical toughness, because that’s the guy that is the leader of your program,” he said. “You know, they have to — playing quarterback here, at the University of Florida, those are pretty big shoes to fill, right.”
The quarterback is not only the face of the program to fans and boosters, they also need to be the preeminent voice in the locker room and in the huddle.
Next Mullen says he looks for the ability to process information quickly.
“How fast can they profess information; how fast can it go from their eyes to their brain or their arms or their legs or whatever decision they have to make. Because it’s one thing talking about football or drawing up plays on a board,” Mullen said. “When you have about 1.2 seconds before a 300-pound guy is about to hit you right in the face, it’s really important how you can process everything that’s going on out there on that field, and so that’s critical.”
Mullen has had wild success with mobile quarterbacks. Alex Smith at Utah, Tim Tebow at Florida, Dak Prescott and Nick Fitzgerald at Mississippi State were all battering rams that carried the ball as much or as well as they could throw it. That isn’t the end all, be all for Mullen though.
“Throwing is more important than running, or are you going to have everybody just standing on the line of scrimmage; you have to be able to throw. Accuracy, over anything else, because you want to be accurate with your throws,” he said. “If you can run, that’s a bonus, because that means you can improvise and make some special things happen when the play breaks down.”
That’s a lot of criteria but it all boils down to one central theme. Mullen wants his quarterbacks to be winners.
“Chris Leak was a winner here for us, won. Dak Prescott’s is a winner. And it’s not just at football. That’s their personalities at life; that whatever they are going to do, they are going to be successful at,” he said.
Florida has three scholarship quarterbacks on the roster currently. They have another on the way in Matt Corral. Any of those players could fit the criteria that Mullen is looking for. He’ll find that out in the coming days and weeks but Monday was about setting the expectations and criteria for what he was looking for.
There were no jokes about his dog — who is named Heisman, playing and winning football games. Just a straight laced, clear set of boxes he looks to check off when finding a quarterback that he can build an offense around and win football games with. His track record and résumé in being able to do that speaks for itself.