Mullen learned a lot from Spurrier while moving through college ranks

October 30, 2013 9:49:19 PM

Matthew Stevens - [email protected]


STARKVILLE -- As a you college football coach, Dan Mullen could've done a lot worse than to model his career after that of Steve Spurrier. 


As the innovator of the 'Fun and Gun' offensive style, Mullen said this week he remembered fondly studying tapes of Spurrier's offense while the head coach at Florida from 1990-2001. Spurrier began his head coaching career while Mullen was in high school and he remembered the current Gamecocks coach and veteran coach of the Southeastern Conference as both a player and coach.  


As a graduate assistant in Division 1 college football at Notre Dame and Syracuse, Mullen was trying find the next groundbreaking offense in the game and Spurrier's pass-oriented philosophy was considered as confusing to defenses as the spread-option attack is perceived in 2013.  


"I remember studying it but in our offense there was a little bit similar but not a lot," Mullen said. "We were more spread. The offensive philosophies are similar more than the schematics because he was big on spreading the field and finding one on one matchups so your quarterback could see things." 


The major similarity between the two coaches from different generations is their impact on a program in terms of fan response and recruiting based on their new offense they've brought to town. Spurrier was able to attract high profile athletes to Florida based on his offensive numbers and Mullen is trying to continue to do the same thing in Starkville based on his spread.  


"If I knew exactly what factored in to 17-year-olds' decisions on where they go to school then I'd be a very, very wealthy person," Mullen said. "I'd sell that recruiting service as knowing what the total factor was. I think every recruiting situation is independently different. I'm sure kid's look and say 'does this style of offense fit my abilities?' That's about all it factors in." 


Once Mullen got to Starkville as the head coach at MSU, he immediately was drawn to Spurrier, who is 27 years his junior, at conference coaches meetings in Destin, Fla. The duo have voted together officially and unofficially on several issues including last year's 14-0 unanimous vote to increase the scholarship allotment for college football players.  


At SEC media days this summer, Spurrier proposed an amount ranging from $3,600 to $3,900 per football player and even suggested the money come directly from the coaches' pockets. 


Mullen agreed with Spurrier's plea but acknowledged the hurdles that go along with this complex issue. 


"When you look at the stipends, I think the numbers everyone's talking to is kind of, hey what a college kid might have in his pocket to go out and be a regular guy so I'm a big, big proponent of it," Mullen said. "I understand all of the massive issues that it makes sense for football. Does it makes sense for every sport? I don't know but you can't do one thing for one sport and not the others." 


On the field, Spurrier and his Gators teams accomplished a number of memorable feats during his twelve seasons at the helm including a 1997 national championship, six Southeastern Conference championships (1991, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000) and a five-time SEC coach of the year five times (1990, 1991, 1994, 1995, 1996). 


During Spurrier's time in Gainesville, the Gators appeared among the Associated Press Top 25 teams in 202 of a possible 203 weeks. The Gators were ranked number one in the polls twenty-nine times, appeared among the top five team for 117 weeks, and among the nation's top ten teams for 179 weeks. Spurrier is the only coach in major college history to win as many as 120 games in his first twelve seasons at one school (an overall record of 122-27-1, with a winning percentage of .8167). 


"I know Dan a little bit, but not all that much separate than most of the coaches in the conference," Spurrier said Sunday. "Of course, he was at Florida for quite a while with coach Meyer, so I guess he knows a little bit about our teams in the 90s and so forth." 


Mullen got constant quotes about Spurrier's tenure once he and head coach Urban Meyer came to the Gators program in the hope of replicating his success.  


"Yeah, I was a big fan of his growing up but I never met him until I was coaching at Florida," Mullen said. I always liked their style of offense and when they were spreading it out all over the field, in the shotgun throwing it a bunch. I always thought that was pretty cool." 


Spurrier has always complimented Mullen on his five-year tenure at MSU including Mullen being already the winningest coach in Starkville since the late Darrell Royal in 1954-55 (.600), and is already tied for fourth in school history for wins by a MSU head coach (29). 


"Dan's done an excellent job there at Mississippi State," Spurrier said. "Of course, Hugh Freeze is doing an excellent job over there at Ole Miss now. That's one of the best rivalries in the country that a lot of people don't know about, that one right there. I know both the coaches, so I know how important that one is." 


Follow Matt Stevens on Twitter @matthewcstevens.