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Mullen ready for Mississippi State challenge

12/12/2008

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Forgive Dan Mullen if his head is still spinning. The last few days have been a blur.

Last Saturday night, he stood in the locker room at the Georgia Dome talking about a fourth quarter that would bring a smile to the face of any offensive coordinator.

Florida kept the ball for nearly 12 minutes, scored a pair of touchdowns on picture-perfect drives and rallied from a three-point deficit to beat Alabama 31-20 in the SEC championship and earn a spot in the BCS National Championship.

That's when the fun really started for the 36-year-old Mullen.

Florida coach Urban Meyer told him later that night that Mississippi State was interested. Mullen spoke with Mississippi State athletic director Greg Byrne by phone Monday night and was walking out of a high school the next morning when he got another phone call from Byrne wondering if he could be in Atlanta that night for an interview.

By the wee hours of Wednesday morning, Byrne knew he had his man. Later that morning, after a few hours of sleep, Mullen had agreed to become Mississippi State's next head football coach.

"It all happened really fast, but I had a good feel about Greg and his vision for Mississippi State athletics from the first time we talked," Mullen said.

By late Wednesday afternoon, Mullen was in Starkville, Miss. He was officially introduced at a Thursday press conference and spent the rest of the day on a plane touring the state of Mississippi and meeting with MSU fans.

"It's been a wild ride, but I'm ready to get this thing rolling," said Mullen, whose contract will pay him $1.2 million per year. "The energy here and the excitement for Mississippi State University football is amazing. I can still the hear the cowbells ringing in my ears."

Mullen said his plan is to remain with Florida through the BCS National Championship as long as he can get his staff in place and make sure the Bulldogs' recruiting efforts are organized. He has the blessing of Byrne to remain with the Gators through the Jan. 8 game in Miami.

"I made a commitment to Tim Tebow, and I want to carry through with a goal both of us set a year ago, and that's to be a champion," Mullen said. "That was my commitment to those guys, and I'm going to try my best to work it out."

Mullen said Mississippi State fans can expect to see the same style of spread offense in Starkville that the Gators have run the last four years. But there are a couple of caveats.

Florida has tweaked its offense a good bit the last four years to fit its personnel, and Mississippi State will do the same.

In other words, Tim Tebows don't come along every day.

"Our offensive philosophy starts with our quarterback," Mullen said. "There are skill sets we're looking for, but one of the things we've always done is adapt the offense to the personnel we have. The past four years, we've changed a lot at Florida. We probably changed more when we came from Utah and even more than that when we came from Bowling Green."

That said, it's going to be crucial over the next couple of years that the Bulldogs recruit to the spread offense, and Mullen said there's no better place to start than the state of Mississippi.

"We have the athletes to do it right here in the state of Mississippi," Mullen said. "The key thing for us is that those athletes know what kind of offense we're going to run. We're going to get the ball in their hands and create matchups for them that they can win. It's critical that we get all the athletes in this state to come play for us and do it in a hurry."