After mastering the ropes as Urban Meyer’s protege at Bowling Green, Utah and Florida, Mullen earned his first head coaching opportunity at Mississippi State in 2009. Results have been mixed for the league’s youngest coach against nationally-ranked competition, but three bowl victories and a string of Top 35 recruiting classes has been enough to reenergize a success-starved fanbase in Starkville.
Mullen’s speciality is offense, specifically developing quarterbacks. It’s an art he showcased during two seasons with the Utes in the mid 2000s. In 2004, Utah went undefeated and Mullen’s passer, Alex Smith, was drafted first overall by the San Francisco 49ers. At Florida, Mullen helped solve mechanical flaws in Chris Leak and Heisman winner Tim Tebow’s game.
There’s an obvious talent gap between the players he coached at Florida and now Mississippi State, but Mullen’s worth as an offensive guru has been evident early with the Bulldogs despite the difference in player personnel. In 2012, Mississippi State’s fan-friendly offense shattered six school records including total points and passing touchdowns and has helped sell out nearly every home game during Mullen’s tenure.
Mullen is part of the three-headed, so-called ‘New Hampshire Mafia’, a coaching circle based on ties to New Hampshire with the Philadelphia Eagles’ Chip Kelley and former Winnipeg Bombers offensive coordinator Gary Crowton.