What the Gators need in Johnson’s replacement

For a brief moment, it looked like Dan Mullen had his coaching staff set for the 2021 season. That lasted all of five days.

Reports surfaced on Wednesday afternoon that offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson was leaving Florida for the quarterbacks coach job with the Philadelphia Eagles. Now, Mullen finds himself embarking on yet another coaching search that figures to feature plenty of twists and turns over the next couple of weeks.

Unlike the departures of Torrian Gray and Ron English, losing Johnson is a massive blow for the Gators. He helped orchestrate one of the best passing attacks in program history and helped develop Kyle Trask into a Heisman Trophy finalist.

Assuming that cloning Johnson isn’t a possibility, here are four things Mullen needs to find in his replacement.

Elite Recruiter

The Gators essentially had two quarterbacks coaches the past three years, as Mullen is heavily involved with the position and calls most of the plays. So, filling this position with somebody who excels at developing quarterbacks but is just an average recruiter would feel like a waste of a coaching position.

Johnson was one of UF’s top two or three recruiters. In addition to signing a four-star quarterback in every class, he also helped recruit other positions. He was the primary recruiter for five-star cornerback Jason Marshall and four-star safety Corey Collier Jr. from Miami Palmetto High School in the 2021 cycle and top-70 receiver Xzavier Henderson from Miami Columbus High School in 2020. Johnson seemed to have great relationships with the high school coaches in the southern portion of the state.

The next quarterbacks coach needs to at least match Johnson on the recruiting trail if not surpass him. This person basically needs to be an ace recruiter who also happens to have some prior experience with coaching quarterbacks.

RPO Background

The Gators are at something of a crossroads schematically. They’ve enjoyed unprecedented success running what basically amounted to a modified version of the Air Raid the past two seasons with Trask. However, the top-3 receivers from the 2020 team are gone, and they’ll have a quarterback next season that better fits what Mullen likes to do in his spread-option system.

However, Mullen shouldn’t completely abandon what worked for him with Trask. He should try to mold some of those passing concepts with what Emory Jones and Anthony Richardson can do with their feet.

This is where the new quarterbacks coach comes in. He should have a background in the run-pass option concepts that have taken the NFL and college football world by storm in recent years.

If Mullen tries to run the same offense he became famous for at Florida and Mississippi State next season, it’s probably not going to end well. They have to replace three starters from an offensive line that wasn’t very good to begin with, so they’re not going to rush for 230 yards per game.

Instead, Mullen should try to find the happy medium. He needs to hire a coach that’s familiar with those intermediate passing concepts and be willing to heed his advice.

Familiarity with Mullen

Mullen is known for keeping his coaching circle small. He likes to hire assistant coaches that have worked for him before and that he knows he can trust. While you can question those decisions on defense, you cannot argue with the results on offense.

The Gators’ offense was a machine last season. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Mullen has a great collaborative system in place. While Mullen is ultimately the final decision-maker when it comes to play-calling, he allows the rest of his staff to chime in with suggestions. Some of the best plays the Gators have called under Mullen were actually Johnson’s ideas.

The next coach needs to be able to fit into this system. He needs to have chemistry with the other offensive coaches and know how Mullen wants to run his offense. The best way for Mullen to find this person is to dig into his past and find somebody who worked for him as a graduate assistant or a quality control coach, even if it was only for one season.

No Ego

This goes hand-in-hand with the previous point. Mullen likes for his game planning and play-calling to be a collaborative process among the entire staff. Any coach who comes to UF expecting to be the star of the show and get a major head coaching job in one or two years is sorely mistaken.

He needs to be confident enough in himself to speak up when he has a great idea but humble enough to understand that, at the end of the day, this will always be Mullen’s offense. The quickest way to derail an offense that’s firing on all cylinders is to hire a coach who turns out to be a culture problem. Mullen can’t let that happen.

Ethan Hughes
Ethan was born in Gainesville and has lived in the Starke, Florida, area his entire life. He played basketball for five years and knew he wanted to be a sportswriter when he was in middle school. He’s attended countless Gators athletic events since his early childhood, with baseball being his favorite sport to attend. He’s a proud 2019 graduate of the University of Florida and a 2017 graduate of Santa Fe College. He interned with the University Athletic Association’s communications department for 1 ½ years as a student and also wrote for InsideTheGators.com for two years before joining Gator Country in 2021. He is a long-suffering fan of the Jacksonville Jaguars. You can follow him on Twitter @ethanhughes97.


  1. Personally…I don’t think the hire needs to be a qb coach since Mullen handles a lot of it. Almost over kill to have essentially 1.5 qb coaches. Maybe hire an elite recruiter and double up at some other position coach (like o line).

    • You have to have a QB coach. While Mullen is heavily involved with coaching them, he still needs to be able walk around and watch all of the positions during practice, and you have to have somebody that can run position meetings.

    • I am not sure, but there are a lot of rumors about Garrick McGee being hired shortly. He would check at least three of the boxes. I’m not sure how he is as a recruiter.