Photo: Urban Meyer; Credit: University of Florida athletic association
Working together for nine years since the two first crossed paths in 1999 while one was a graduate assistant and the other was a wide receivers coach at Notre Dame, Gators head coach Dan Mullen and Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer have been through it all.
But, what makes a great coach is how he uses the lessons learned throughout his time coaching to adjust to his next landing spot. Mullen worked with Meyer for many years and has seen plenty of success, including a National Championship victory with the Florida Gators.
But how much has Mullen taken from Meyer to lead him to where he stands today, in the same position his mentor once stood many years ago?
"I think one of the biggest things with Urban, and I was really fortunate because we went to three very different locations with him, okay, is when you take your plan as a head coach, you take 'Hey, this is our plan to win. This is our program,' you take this guidebook of 'This is how I'm going to run the program.' You use it very much more as an outline than a specific," Mullen said last week.
What it takes to win and how you get there can be two different things. For Mullen, there is a baseline approach to how to build up a program, something he's learned from Meyer, however that doesn't mean every program or even every year is exactly the same, the ability to change is necessary.
"So what you want to use is, you use this outline, this structure of core values, of what the core values are. What the program believes, what the philosophy of the program is, what your identity of a program is," he explained.
"How you become successful within the program and your plan to win within the program is. But you take that outline and you apply it to the team, the organization, the program that you have and it works, the plan works, but there are specifics within the plan that are going to be very different and that play out differently at different schools."
Some of those teachings can be seen today in how Mullen is molding his vision of the Gators' football program. Last season, the team was a very pass-heavy offense, rarely handing the football to the running back. This year, the team may become more two-dimensional, an element of the run game is certainly in the cards.
"You know we have the flexibility to go throw for 400-yards a game last year. We have the flexibility to go back and be 50-50 balanced," opined Mullen.
"We can be a run ball control team and control the clock. We can be up-tempo or slow tempo, whatever is going to fit the program or team as a whole within the framework of our offense and then we just kind of like evaluate this spring."
The framework of the program is what's important, the simple core principles that don't change while working with the ever-malleable philosophies of what makes the program run.
"Ours, our program is built on accountability and trust," Mullen said of some of his core principles. "Those are some foundations within the players within our program, right? What's the identity of our program is a team, if you watch us play, your identity is a team that's going to play with relentless effort, have a passion for the game and reach their potential every day
"Then you really want to find the identity of the players, right? Where's the leadership within your program, that's a big part of it."
That's what Mullen hopes to continue to bring to the Florida football program. He's continuously spoken about the "Gator standard", and those sentiments have been echoed by his players. A true influencer of young men, it has been a long journey, assisted by Meyer to get Mullen to the place he is today: the head ball coach of one of the best team's in the nation.