If you tuned into a Mississippi State football game over the last nine seasons you would see Dan Mullen with a headset and a laminated card. Mullen is an offensive guy. He earned his first head coaching job by calling plays and didn’t secede that right when he went from offensive coordinator to head coach.
What does that mean for an offensive coordinator on his staff? Well, Mullen doesn’t have just one, he has two. Both receivers coach Billy Gonzales and offensive line coach John Hevesy were named co-offensive coordinators at Florida.
The trio has a long history together. All were assistant coaches at Florida under Urban Meyer but their history with each other and Meyer goes all the way back to 2001 at Bowling Green.
“When you start cutting your teeth, and as a grunt kind of coming up the system together, you have a lot of time between myself, him and John, with the exception of four years of me being away, we’ve been together 18 years,” Gonzales said of the trio.
They all checked their egos at the door. Ultimately it’s Mullen’s team, he’s the head coach and he will make the final decisions at the end of the day but it’s a process with the three of them to build a gameplan.
“I don’t know if there’s a science to it,” Hevesy said. “It’s one of those things where again, Billy with the pass game, me with the run game, Danny, coach Mullen having it all, it’s one of those things where here’s where we’re going in the whole week. Really all the work is done before Saturday. Then Saturday comes, ‘OK, what do we want to run?”
Having been together for the better part of two decades the trio is always on the same page. They’re in tune with each other, know what to expect and aren’t afraid to bring in new ideas even if it’s outside of the box or realm of what they’ve done before. Hevesy joked that there’s even an unspoken language between the group. Often times watching film or working on something a simple look, nod or grunt might be an entire conversation.
“We start looking at each other like ‘yeah we’re good to do this’ and there’s two or three other guys in the room going ‘what are they talking about?’ Because we’re ‘let’s do this, we did this back here, we did this’ so there’s part of us for the three of us, it’s great because we know kind of what we’re thinking and what we’ve done over all the years… We take for granted at times what we know, the three of us together.”
For the most part Hevesy will be in charge of the running game. Mullen and Gonzales will work with the passing game and then the three of them, along with the rest of the offensive staff will come together to make a gameplan for Saturday. Hevesy will rely on Greg Knox and Larry Scott to figure out what the running backs, line and tight ends feel most comfortable in with the running game.
“There’s a great trust factor when those comments are made or what we should do. We trust each other in what’s being said,” said Hevesy.
That camaraderie between the coaches cannot be faked or replicated. It takes years to build that kind of relationship that Hevesy called a “brotherly love.” Ultimately they were brought here to fix an offense. The last coaching staff was brought in to do the same. They failed and were sent packing three years after they arrived. Mullen, Hevesy and Gonzales were all here for the Gators last two National Championships. They know what is expected of them and they’ve signed up for it.
“When you come to Florida you’re not coming here to be a state champion. You’re not coming here to be a district or a division championship. You’re coming to Florida to do this (holds up index finger). When you do this, I’m getting chills thinking about it. When you do this and you raise that finger and there’s nobody else in the country that can do it on that day, at that moment, and you can – that’s the truly feeling of being able to accomplish everything that you’ve dreamed about. That can be done here.”
“Our job is to try to get it done as quick as possible.”