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Reports: Florida has “targeted” Dan Mullen as next head coach, decision could be imminent

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Is a homecoming in the offing?

Florida v Mississippi State Photo by Rick Dole/Getty Images

The Florida Gators have “targeted” Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen and could move to hire him as soon as Sunday, per a report from Yahoo’s Pete Thamel.

Dan Mullen has been targeted to be the next head coach at Florida, according to sources with direct knowledge of the situation. Yahoo Sports sources also indicated that a decision is expected by the end of the day on Sunday.

Thamel also suggests that Mullen might be Florida’s choice in part because the fits for widely-desired coaches Chip Kelly and Scott Frost simply aren’t as good in Gainesville as elsewhere.

Florida touched base with Mullen on Friday, following the Egg Bowl loss to Ole Miss. The school had conversations with Chip Kelly and Scott Frost, who both indicated better fits may be available at a place other than a high-profile SEC school.

Kelly, of course, was announced as UCLA’s head coach on Saturday, while Frost — still UCF’s head coach for the time being — has strong ties to Nebraska that might outweigh the fact that he’s been on every Gators fan’s wish list.

Another report from Tampa-based CBS 10 sports anchor Ryan Bass suggests that Mullen’s representative is working to pry him loose from his Mississippi State contract.

A third report suggesting Mullen to Florida is likely comes from Associated Press reporter Mark Long — usually rock-solid in his sourcing and reporting. And then there’s ESPN’s Chris Low, who is reporting — via an @SportsCenter tweet, apparently? — that Florida is “finalizing” a deal with Mullen.

Reports from Bass and 247Sports’ Juan Toribio — who covers UCF for the company — also suggest that Florida made a run at Frost on Sunday, and was told no.

Mullen was a part of two national championships at Florida, serving as Urban Meyer’s offensive coordinator from 2005 to 2008 before moving on to become a head coach for the first time at Mississippi State. And Mullen has arguably had the most success any head coach has had at the helm in Starkville, going 69-46 at a program that has not won the SEC since World War II and has only won the SEC West once.

But Mullen also didn’t change either of those facts, and his Bulldogs never won 11 games — peaking just once at 10 games — despite once topping the College Football Playoff rankings and enjoying significant success with Dak Prescott.

And there has been perceived bad blood between Mullen and Florida almost since his departure, possibly stemming from Mississippi State’s recruitment of Cam Newton, likely being stirred up by Florida publicly announcing it was not targeting Mullen to replace Will Muschamp in 2014, and unquestionably peaking with Mullen calling former Mississippi State defensive coordinator Geoff Collins leaving for Jim McElwain’s Florida staff a “lateral move.”

While Mullen is fairly young — he’s just 45 — and obviously has the most experience as a head coach in the SEC of any plausible candidate for Florida, his hiring would be seen by most Florida fans and pundits as the Gators landing a coach who was no better than the third option for the program.

And with that program struggling to put good football teams on the field of late, the perception game is the only one left to play at the moment — and the perception that Mullen was a backup plan would be a hard pill to swallow.