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Florida hires Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen as football coach

Mississippi State has joined Ole Miss in the search for a new football coach.

Florida announced Sunday it has hired Mullen as its next coach. Mullen spent the previous nine seasons at Mississippi State where he accumulated a 69-46 record, including a 33-39 mark in SEC play.

Mullen replaces Jim McElwain, who was fired in October after going 22-12 in two-plus seasons at the helm for the Gators but struggled to field competent offenses.

“I strongly believe Dan is the most prepared candidate to have immediate and long-term success at the University of Florida,” Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin said in a statement. “Coach Mullen is one of the best offensive minds in all of college football, and has an unbelievable track record in tutoring successful quarterbacks.”

It marks a return to Gainesville for Mullen, who helped lead Florida to two national championships as the Gators’ offensive coordinator from 2005-08. He’s also had stints as the quarterbacks coach at Utah (2003-04) and Bowling Green (2001-02).

Mullen, who previously worked for Stricklin at Mississippi State, led Mississippi State to unprecedented heights during his tenure in Starkville, including the program’s first-ever No. 1 ranking in 2014. He helped develop Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott into a Heisman contender that season. He also mentored Chris Leak and Heisman winner Tim Tebow while at Florida and former first-round draft pick Alex Smith during his time as the quarterbacks coach at Utah from 2003-04.

Mississippi State’s Nick Fitzgerald, who’s accounted for 6,564 total yards and 66 touchdowns in his first two seasons as Prescott’s successor, has morphed into one of the SEC’s best quarterbacks under Mullen’s watch. Mullen’s success developing signal callers is something Florida hopes he can continue with the Gators ranking no better than 112th nationally in total offense in any of McElwain’s three seasons.