Mullen wants more communication between defensive coaches
The Florida Gators' defense was historically bad in 2020. When the season ended with another defensive embarrassment the head coach knew he had to make some changes.
Mullen dismissed two coaches, cornerbacks coach Torrian Gray and safeties coach Ron English while retaining defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. Mullen has privately and publically expressed his confidence in Grantham, who has more than three decades of coaching experience at the collegiate and professional levels. Despite the quick moves, Mullen wasn't just getting rid of coaches without a plan.
He moved quickly to replace Gray.
Mullen's first call was to Wesley McGriff, someone who had turned Mullen down previously.
"He's a guy I've known for a long time — actually, I tried to hire him before and wasn't able to – But if you look at his background, as a secondary coach both in the Southeastern Conference and in the NFL, coordinator experience within the conference. You know, his personality, his energy, what he brings, the relationships he has with kids," Mullen said. "Is somebody you're really, really excited ... as soon as I made the change really I think first call I made was to him, so great to get him."
McGriff coached the secondary for Gus Malzahn at Auburn. He has experience in the state of Florida, having spent time with Randy Shannon at Miami from 2007-2010.
So the coach affectionately known as Crime Dog was the first target and he's already making an impression on his players. Trey Dean has had several different coaches in his four seasons with Florida but he spoke quite highly of his latest coach.
"Coach McGriff I think is second to none. He's one of the best defensive back coaches in the country," Dean said. "It's a lot of discipline, a lot of man-to-man concepts. And the end of the day we gotta win our one-on-one battles, no matter what call Coach Grantham calls. We gotta go out there and execute and win our one-on-one battles. And what Coach McGriff's bringing to the table is teaching us how to win our one-on-one battles."
Once Mullen had his man locked down he wanted to take his time on the next hire.
"I like to go out, did a lot of research on different guys. And, you know, research once you got Wesley in place kind of I really took, kinda went in a different direction after we knew we had Crimedog (McGriff) in place of getting a guy of his experience that fit. I wanted to do, and I researched a lot of different directions of which we could go with the position after that. And meeting with Todd and going through and reviewing things, and going to do and dig a lot of research."
That research led Mullen to Juels Monitar, who was on Jeff Scott's inaugural staff at USF in 2020 but has a long history as both a coach and a recruiter, despite his younger age (36).
"Going to find Jules was a guy that was a recruit of the year, has a great pedigree, he's learned, he's worked his way up within the coaching profession," Mullen said of Monitar. "Had to kinda start battling, be at different levels and learn how to coach at different levels, learn under some great secondary coaches as well early in his career and then had success both in recruiting and with his players on the field."
There's a delicate balance when creating a staff. You don't just go out and hire anybody. You have a staff that spends more time together than they do with their families. You have to find the right balance of personalities that can work and coexist with each other.
"One thing to me about putting a staff together, it's not just 'hey let's just go crazy and go just, hey you have this... all-star roster'," Mullen said. "What you want to do is create a staff where everybody is going to work together and understand how it best fits together."
On that note, the biggest thing the staff needs to do is to communicate with each other. Every individual will have personal goals and aspirations but when you're part of a team you need to come together to achieve one common goal.
"I think it's critical for us to have that whole communication within the secondary so they're going to be working together, you know, not just individual position but also together quite a bit.”