In just six years, Urban Meyer transformed the SEC forever, and for that we should be thankful. He brought SEC football into the 21st century with his spread offense, won two national championships and is largely responsible for the success that the SEC enjoys today. When he arrived in Gainesville, nobody – and I mean nobody – thought that he spread system could be successful in the SEC. Detractors said that SEC defenses were too fast and strong, and could just "out-athlete" the spread.
Just six years after Meyer's arrival in Gainesville, virtually every SEC team runs out of the spread exclusively, or has significant spread elements in its repertoire. Meyer is the one that blazed the trail for coaches like Dan Mullen, Gus Malzahn and many others. Had Meyer not been so successful, they probably would never have gotten a shot.
So where do the Gators go from here? The obvious choice is for Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley to pick up the phone and lure Dan Mullen away from Mississippi State. That might not be the best idea though. Is Florida comfortable with the stench Mullen will bring with him leftover from the Kenny Rogers situation at Mississippi State? Is Mullen REALLY the best option out there?
The answer to both questions should be "no."
While the Cam Newton story has dominated headlines for more than a month and cast a shadow over Auburn's SEC and National Championship run, it's largely a "Mississippi State story." Sure, Cam Newton's father Cecil Newton has taken the brunt of the criticism, but Mississippi State was forced to disassociate itself from Kenny Rogers, a former player who admittedly shopped Cam Newton to his own alma mater. Plus, Rogers was pointed in the direction of boosters by somebody who thought the boosters could help out. Why and how? That remains to be seen. With so much speculation and very few facts in the story, it should concern Florida.
If I'm Foley, I make Boise State head coach Chris Petersen say "no" three times, back up the Brinks truck, and make him say "no" again. Petersen has done all he can at Boise State; and much to the chagrin of the pundits driving the Boise Bus, the Broncos will probably not be in serious national championship contention for the foreseeable future. He's 60-5 as Boise State's head coach, and even though the national championship may be out of his reach, he has transformed the Broncos from a "nice little story" into a legitimate BCS bowl threat. He's shown the ability to win big games, including the 2007 Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma and the 2010 win over Virginia Tech in the Hokies' own backyard. I don't care who you coach, that's impressive.
Mullen's signature win is either this year's win over a bad Florida team or his 2009 win over a very overrated Ole Miss team in Starkville. Meh.
Don't get me wrong, since Mullen knows the landscape in Gainesville and has been a head coach in the SEC, he would probably do fine at Florida. But just because he's the easy choice doesn't make him the best choice. If the Gators go get Petersen, they will up the ante again, and set the tone for the next 10 years in the SEC.
Barrett Sallee covers the SEC for www.CollegeFootballNews.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at
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