Sources: Dan Mullen targeted to be next head coach at Florida

Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen looks at the scoreboard in the closing seconds of the team’s 31-28 loss to Mississippi on Thursday. (AP)

Dan Mullen has been targeted to be the next head coach at Florida, according to sources with direct knowledge of the situation. Yahoo Sports sources also indicated that a decision is expected by the end of the day on Sunday.

Mullen, who is 69-46 in nine years at Mississippi State, would be returning to the school where he made his name as an offensive coordinator on two national title teams under Urban Meyer.

Florida touched base with Mullen on Friday, following the Egg Bowl loss to Ole Miss. The school had conversations with Chip Kelly and Scott Frost, who both indicated better fits may be available at a place other than a high-profile SEC school.

Mullen was perceived to be Tennessee’s No. 1 choice to fill its coaching vacancy, but it’s likely that Florida will be able to lure him to Gainesville instead.

All along, Florida officials have wondered whether Mullen would be the best fit because of his time at the school, his SEC experience and his success developing quarterbacks.

Mullen has an offensive acumen that would serve as a salve for Florida fans who’ve watched tortured offenses under Will Muschamp and Jim McElwain since 2010. This Florida team ranks No. 111 in total offense, the third consecutive season a Florida offense ranked outside the Top 100 in total offense.

The hiring of Mullen would mark the first significant hire for athletic director Scott Stricklin, who began his tenure at Florida in the fall of 2016. Stricklin is a Mississippi State alum and was part of the search committee who hired Mullen away from Florida under former MSU athletic director Greg Byrne.

When the Florida job opened in 2015, former Gator athletic director Jeremy Foley immediately dismissed Mullen as a candidate. Foley and Mullen did not have a strong relationship during his time as Florida’s coordinator.

Foley didn’t interview Mullen for either of his most recent failed football hires – Muschamp and McElwain – and those decisions have sent the Gators football program to a spiral of irrelevancy.

Stricklin and Mullen have a solid working relationship, as their time together in Starkville included a boom in high-end facilities and Mississippi State reaching No. 1 for the first time in program history (2014).

Mullen’s arrival at Florida would bring immediate results on the offensive side of the football. Mullen is a noted quarterback tutor, as his protégées include Alex Smith, Tim Tebow and Dak Prescott. The lack of development at the quarterback position has been a glaring flaw in the Florida program.

Florida fired McElwain under strange circumstances in late October after McElwain made a vague reference to death threats in a news conference and refused to provide details of them to Florida officials.

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