Florida Gators fill two important roles on Dan Mullen’s coaching staff

By Adam Silverstein
December 11, 2017
Florida Gators fill two important roles on Dan Mullen’s coaching staff

Image Credit: @UFGatorBand / Twitter

With the early signing period fast approaching and head coach Dan Mullen still filling out his staff, the Florida Gators are playing a bit of a waiting game with some candidates. But that has not stopped Mullen from closing two important positions on his staff over the weekend.

It was announced Sunday that Mullen has secured Houston offensive coordinator and former Utah quarterback Brian Johnson as an assistant coach. As none of the roles for Mullen’s offensive coaches have been specified, Johnson’s was not either. Johnson has led the quarterback position through his entire tenure as a college coach, doing so at Utah (2010-13), Mississippi State (2014-16) and Houston (2017). He assumed the offensive coordinator post with the Utes (2012-13) and returned to that role with the Cougars last season.

All three of Mullen’s offensive assistants join the Gators after serving as coordinator at their previous spot as Billy Gonzales (expected wide receivers coach) and John Hevesy (expected offensive line coach) were co-coordinators with the Bulldogs. It has been reported that MSU running backs coach Greg Knox will also be joining UF, though that has not been confirmed at this time. Florida has announced Todd Grantham as defensive coordinator.

Back to Johnson, the record-setting Utah quarterback who picked up Sugar Bowl MVP honors after leading his team to a win over Alabama. After throwing for nearly 8,000 yards and 60 touchdowns as a three-year starter, Johnson found himself on the cover of the “NCAA Football 2010” video game but never had an NFL career. Instead, he went into coaching at Utah and became the youngest FBS offensive coordinator in the nation at age 24 ahead of the 2011 season. The Mullen-recruited signal caller joined his former coach at Mississippi State and coached both Dak Prescott and Nick Fitzgerald before moving on to Houston.

Bulldogs strength & conditioning coach Nick Savage has also joined the Gators in the same role. OnlyGators.com had previously noted that Mullen was waiting for Savage to become available for the role, and the coach is now “Twitter official” after having changed his social media profile to reflect his spot on the UF staff.

Savage began his career as an intern under former Florida strength coach Mickey Mariotti at Ohio State (2013-14), took a graduate assistant job at Toledo (2014) and joined Mississippi State as assistant strength coach in 2014. He was promoted to the top position in 2016 and has spent the last two years coordinating the program for Mullen.

It was made clear upon Mullen’s arrival that strength and toughness was going to be a massive part of his plan to turn around the Gators. It’s fair to say Florida struggled mightily in this area following the transition from Will Muschamp to Jim McElwain, and it was apparent on the field.

“I told them to rest up over the month of December,” Mullen said at his opening press conference, “because when they come back in January, it’s probably going to be something they have never even experienced in their life before, our offseason conditioning program.”

Mullen now has all of his primary assistants in place with over a week to go until the early signing period. He has six more on-field assistants to formally hire, and though he held over four of McElwain’s assistants, it is unclear as to whether all or any of them will remain with the program.

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