Timeline: Dan Mullen's career path
There’s no name in college hotter football hotter than Dan Mullen right now. The sixth-year head coach has gotten the Mississippi State Bulldogs off to a flying start, leading them to the No. 1 ranking in the county for the first time in school history. He’s done it by turning subpar talent into a superior unit; none of Mullen’s recruiting classes since he came to Starkville in 2009 have ranked higher than No. 20 in the country by 247sports.com’s rankings, and they’ve averaged the No. 28 class in the country during Mullen’s tenure.
Despite some criticism during his time at Mississippi State, Mullen has arrived on the national stage. He’s doing such a great job that one of his former employers, Florida, is seeing a grassroots campaign from fans to get him to replace current coach Will Muschamp. How did he get to this point? Let’s take a look at his career up through the start of this dream season.
- 1994: Mullen graduated from Ursinus College in Collegeville, Pa., near Philadelphia. He played tight end and was an all-conference selection as a senior.
- 1994-1997: Mullen finished a Master’s degree in education at Wagner University in New York. He coached the wide receivers group for the school’s football team, then moved on to Columbia University and coaches wide receivers there as well.
- 1999-2000: After a short stint at Syracuse as a graduate assistant, Mullen took a similar position at Notre Dame. It’s in South Bend that he begins working with fellow young coach Urban Meyer, who was coaching the Irish’s receivers at the time.
THE MEYER YEARS
- 2001-2002: With Urban Meyer taking the the head coaching job at Bowling Green University, Mullen follows along. As quarterbacks coach, he oversaw a position that put up 81 touchdowns over two years.
- 2003: Meyer moved onto Utah and once again he took Mullen along with him, this time as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
- Sept. 11, 2003: Alex Smith, the future No. 1 overall NFL draft pick, makes his first start for Meyer and Mullen. The Utes knocked off Aaron Rodgers and the Cal Bears, 31-24.
- 2004: Utah runs through the regular season undefeated, led by the best player in college football in Smith. The quarterback piloted Mullen’s offense extremely efficiently, completing 67 percent of his passes for 2,952 yards, 32 touchdowns and 4 INT. He went on to win several player of the year awards and became Utah’s first Heisman finalist.
- Jan. 1, 2005: In the school’s first BCS game, the Utes smoked Pittsburgh, 35-7. Mullen’s offense rolled up 467 yards and outgained the Panthers by nearly 200 yards.
- 2005: Meyer made the leap to Florida, and Mullen went with him once again for the high-profile position.
- 2006: In just his second season in Gainesville, Mullen heads up the Gators offense as Florida took home its first national championship since the Steve Spurrier days.
- 2007: Mullen’s reputation as a guru when it comes to mobile quarterbacks got another boost. He guided sophomore Tim Tebow to one of the most prolific seasons is college football history, with the quarterback putting up more than 4,100 total yards, along with 55 total touchdowns on his way to winning the Heisman trophy. The team averaged 42.5 points per game and more than 450 yards.
- 2008: The Gators romped to a 12-1 record and another SEC and BCS National championship season. Tebow wasn’t quite as great, but Mullen’s offense still put up more than 43 points and 440 yards per game.
- Dec. 11, 2008: Following Florida’s SEC Championship win, the Bulldogs came calling and offered their head coaching position to the 36-year-old Mullen. Mississippi State was looking for someone to pump up their offense, and Mullen was their man. In his four years at Florida, the Gators rose from 61st in total offense to 14th in his final season.
- Nov. 28, 2009: Misssissippi State went 5-7 in Mullen’s first season, but the Bulldogs upset their rival Ole Miss Rebels in the Egg Bowl to end the season. Anthony Dixon set the single-season school rushing record and the Bulldogs averaged nearly 10 points more per game than they had the previous year.
- Oct. 16, 2010: In his first game against Meyer, Mullen picked up a win over Florida as his Bulldogs knocked off the No. 22 Gators 10-7. Mullen pounded the ball, calling for runs on 49 of 58 offensive snaps, as Mississippi State got its first win in Gainesville since 1965. It would be Mullen’s last win over a ranked opponent for a while.
- Jan. 1, 2011: Capping off a huge turnaround season, the Bulldogs won the Gator Bowl over Michigan, 52-14, to finish the season at 9-4. In the off-season, reporters would praise Mullen for cultivating a new culture at MSU, not allowing complacency after newfound success.
- Nov. 19, 2011: Mississippi State lost its sixth straight game to a ranked opponent, a 44-17 blowout at the hands of Arkansas. While they still went to a bowl game, Mullen’s team took a step back in 2011 and finished the season at 7-6. While Mullen called the year a success, many news outlets called the season a major disappointment.
- Oct. 27, 2012: MSU opened the season at 7-0, rising to No. 13 in the polls before running into No. 1 Alabama. The Bulldogs got pasted, 38-7, in Tuscaloosa, starting a tailspin. State lost five of six games to finish the season, including losing the Egg Bowl to an unranked Ole Miss team and the Gator Bowl to Northwestern. The end-of-season stumble cost the Bulldogs, as Ole Miss dominated recruiting following the season. Whispers about whether or not Mullen could be the guy began to swirl.
- Nov. 16, 2013: The Bulldogs dropped their 14th straight game against ranked opposition, again falling at the hands of Alabama. Earlier in the season, it became apparent that, while Mullen’s job wasn’t in immediate jeopardy, his seat was beginning to grow hotter, especially after a season opening loss to Oklahoma State. Fans had begun to openly question the coach, despite having a winning percentage 80 points higher than the school’s all-time record. MSU finished the season out with wins in the Egg Bowl and in their bowl game, buying him at least another season.