ST. PETE BEACH ó If anyone has an accurate read on how new coach Dan Mullen will fare at Florida, itís Templeís Geoff Collins.
Collins worked under Mullen as a Mississippi State assistant from 2011-14. He jumped from there to Gainesville, where he spent two seasons as the Gatorsí defensive coordinator before taking over the Owls.
So how does Collins think Mullen will do in his return to UF?
"I think heís going to do really good," Collins said Thursday after formally accepting an invitation to play Florida International in the Dec. 21 Gasparilla Bowl at Tropicana Field. "We had a good plan going at Mississippi State. I know he spoke highly of his time at Florida. Thereís some really good players."
Collins said the biggest thing he took away from his time under Mullen was the offseason workout program, which seemed to be a weakness at UF in the Jim McElwain era. Collins said he still bases his offseason program, which he calls the Temple Tough workout, off what Mullen showed him years ago.
The Owls didnít look much like a bowl team when they amassed only 85 yards in a 43-7 loss at USF in September, but Collins said that defeat ended up becoming the turning point.
"I think we were trying to kind of fit a square peg in a round hole on offense," Collins said. "Once we got a really good taste of who our personnel was, it kind of took off."
Temple averaged 15.3 points and 4.4 yards per play in the first four games. In the past eight, it has averaged 28.8 points and 6 yards per play.
Another key was discovering QB Frank Nutile, who took over for Logan Marchi. Nutile threw 10 touchdown passes over the 3-1 season-ending stretch that helped the Owls become eligible for a bowl game.
Early signing uncertainty
Collins and FIUís Butch Davis are among the coaches trying to figure out footballís inaugural early signing period later this month.
Collinsí week included stops in Los Angeles, Phoenix, New York, Pittsburgh and Miami. Thursday alone featured three in-home visits in Miami and the Gasparilla Bowl event at the Kimpton Hotel Zamora, with two more in-home visits in Miami planned for the evening.
As soon as he was done schmoozing with bowl officials, Davis planned to put on a coat and tie to make another recruiting stop before his team resumes practice.
"To be honest with you, thereís still a lot of uncertainty about it," Davis said of the early signing period. "Itíll be interesting to see how this all plays out."
"Itís unbelievable. It makes the team a lot better, makes the coach a lot better, and thatís why Iím mad that heís not going to be there for another couple of years." ó Davis, on inheriting senior QB Alex McGough when he took the FIU job a year ago. McGough, a Gaither High alumnus, has thrown for 65 touchdowns and more than 9,000 yards in his college career.
Contact Matt Baker at [email protected] Follow @MBakerTBTimes.