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We ranked all of Dan Mullen’s 12 starting QBs. Spoiler: Tim Tebow isn’t No. 1

As Kyle Trask starts his Bucs career this week, we ranked all of Mullen’s notable starting signal callers.
Kyle Trask is the latest example of Dan Mullen's quarterback-grooming expertise.
Kyle Trask is the latest example of Dan Mullen's quarterback-grooming expertise. [ LYNNE SLADKY | Associated Press (2019) ]
Published May 11

After the Bucs drafted former Gators star Kyle Trask, Bruce Arians praised the Florida coach who helped turn Trask from a longtime backup into a second-round pick.

“I’ve got all the respect in the world for Dan Mullen,” Arians said. “He’s a good friend. He does a hell of a job with quarterbacks…”

That last point is indisputable. Just look at the passers Mullen has developed over the past two decades.

Related: What makes Florida Gators’ Dan Mullen a quarterback guru?

As Trask prepares to start his first minicamp with Tampa Bay on Friday, we ranked the 12 quarterbacks who started at least six games for Mullen since he first became the quarterbacks coach at Bowling Green in 2001. Our assessment includes both college and NFL success.

12. Tyson Lee, Mississippi State

Tyson Lee was the first quarterback to start for Dan Mullen in his head coaching career.
Tyson Lee was the first quarterback to start for Dan Mullen in his head coaching career. [ JIM LYTLE | Associated Press (2009) ]

The first starting quarterback of Mullen’s head coaching career posted a 4-14 touchdown-interception ratio in 2009 on an offense that ranked 105th nationally in passing efficiency. One of his three rushing scores was a 22-yarder at Vanderbilt that helped seal Mullen’s first SEC victory.

11. Andy Sahm, Bowling Green

Urban Meyer watches a Play Station 2 program with his Bowling Green quarterback prospects: Andy Sahm, Omar Jacobs and Josh Harris.
Urban Meyer watches a Play Station 2 program with his Bowling Green quarterback prospects: Andy Sahm, Omar Jacobs and Josh Harris. [ ALLAN DETRICH | Toledo Blade (2002) ]

Sahm started seven times in Mullen’s first season as a position coach before losing playing time and, eventually, the starting job to Josh Harris. Sahm completed 61.6 percent of his passes in 2001 for 1,326 yards, 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Related: The underrated reason why Gators’ Kyle Trask fit the Bucs

10. Chris Relf, Mississippi State

Chris Relf remains one of the top 10 most prolific passers in Mississippi State history.
Chris Relf remains one of the top 10 most prolific passers in Mississippi State history. [ ROGELIO V. SOLIS | Associated Press (2010) ]

In three years with Mullen, Relf posted a 28-18 touchdown-interception ratio with more than 3,200 passing yards. The 2011 Gator Bowl MVP still ranks in the top 10 in program history in total offense (4,872 yards) and touchdowns responsible for (37).

9. Feleipe Franks, Florida

Feleipe Franks' career rebounded under Dan Mullen at Florida.
Feleipe Franks' career rebounded under Dan Mullen at Florida. [ Times (2018) ]

Franks was one of the most improved quarterbacks in the country during Mullen’s first season as UF’s head coach and was the offensive MVP of the Peach Bowl. He was putting up even better numbers in ’19 before suffering a horrific ankle injury that essentially ended his UF career. He spent last season at Arkansas and signed with the Falcons as an undrafted free agent.

Related: Meet the Florida fans who sent get-well cards to Feleipe Franks

8. Tyler Russell, Mississippi State

Tyler Russell set single-season passing records at Mississippi State in 2012.
Tyler Russell set single-season passing records at Mississippi State in 2012. [ GERALD HERBERT | Associated Press (2012) ]

In his only season as the full-time starter (2012), Russell set Mississippi State single-season records in touchdown passes (24) and yards (2,897). He still ranks in the top five in Bulldogs history in career passing yards (5,441), completion percentage (58.7), completions (410) and total touchdowns (45).

7. Josh Harris, Bowling Green

 Josh Harris led Bowling Green to the Motor City Bowl in 2003.
Josh Harris led Bowling Green to the Motor City Bowl in 2003. [ JOHN F. MARTIN | Associated Press (2003) ]

In his final season with Mullen (2002), Harris was responsible for 41 touchdowns — second nationally behind Texas Tech’s Kliff Kingsbury. Harris went on to become the second player in Division I-A history with at least 40 rushing and passing touchdowns in his career. The Ravens drafted him in the sixth round in 2004, and he was inducted into Bowling Green’s hall of fame in 2016.

6. Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State

No quarterback in SEC history has rushed for more yards than Mississippi State's Nick Fitzgerald.
No quarterback in SEC history has rushed for more yards than Mississippi State's Nick Fitzgerald. [ ROGELIO V. SOLIS | Associated Press (2018) ]

Fitzgerald wasn’t Mullen’s best passer — he completed 55 percent of his throws in their three seasons together — but he was a hard-to-stop runner. Fitzgerald finished his Bulldogs career with more rushing yards (3,607) than any other quarterback in SEC history and set a program record with 46 career rushing touchdowns. He spent time on the Bucs’ practice squad in 2019.

Related: Tom Brady invited Kyle Trask to begin throwing with him

5. Chris Leak, Florida

Chris Leak and Dan Mullen celebrated many wins together, including a triumph over Georgia in Jacksonville.
Chris Leak and Dan Mullen celebrated many wins together, including a triumph over Georgia in Jacksonville. [ Times (2005) ]

With Mullen as his offensive coordinator, Leak quarterbacked the Gators to the 2006 national title and was the offensive MVP of UF’s blowout win over Ohio State in the BCS championship. His 101 total touchdowns, 88 passing touchdowns and 11,350 total yards all rank in the top three in UF’s record book. Leak never stuck in the NFL but played in the CFL and the Arena Football League.

4. Kyle Trask, Florida

Kyle Trask led the Gators to the SEC title game last season before being drafted by the Bucs in the second round.
Kyle Trask led the Gators to the SEC title game last season before being drafted by the Bucs in the second round. [ BRYNN ANDERSON | Associated Press (2020) ]

Trask had one of the best seasons in Gators history last fall, breaking program records in passing touchdowns (43) and yards (4,283) while finishing fourth in Heisman Trophy voting. The Texas native led UF to a pair of New Year’s Six bowl games and an SEC East title. We’ll see how he does with the Bucs after being drafted No. 64 overall.

Related: What Bucs fans need to know about Gators’ Kyle Trask

3. Alex Smith, Utah

Alex Smith starred at Utah before having a long, successful NFL career.
Alex Smith starred at Utah before having a long, successful NFL career. [ DOUGLAS C. PIZAC | Associated Press (2004) ]

The 2005 No. 1 overall pick had the most productive NFL career (three Pro Bowls, 167 career starts) but is weighed down here by only starting two college seasons. Still, Smith posted a 47-7 touchdown-interception ratio with 15 rushing scores in those two years with Mullen as his quarterbacks coach. The Utes went 21-1 with Smith as their starter.

2. Tim Tebow, Florida

Tim Tebow led the Gators to a win over Oklahoma for the 2008 national title in what was Dan Mullen's final game as a coordinator.
Tim Tebow led the Gators to a win over Oklahoma for the 2008 national title in what was Dan Mullen's final game as a coordinator. [ Times (2009) ]

If we only focused on college success, Tebow would be the easy No. 1. His first three UF seasons: a national title, a Heisman Trophy and then another national title. Assuming his upcoming stint as a Jaguars tight end fizzles out, his only NFL success was a brief flash with the Broncos in the 2011 season, which put him behind...

1. Dak Prescott, Mississippi State

Dak Prescott was a largely unheralded recruit before Dan Mullen turned him into a star at Mississippi State.
Dak Prescott was a largely unheralded recruit before Dan Mullen turned him into a star at Mississippi State. [ ROGELIO V. SOLIS | Associated Press (2015) ]

Prescott has the best blend of college and pro success. His 11,897 total yards and 114 total touchdowns both rank fourth in SEC history. In 2014, he put the Bulldogs at No. 1 in the Associated Press poll; that season’s 11th-place finish was the program’s best in more than 70 years. Prescott’s NFL career includes a pair of Pro Bowls, a passer rating (97.3) that’s tied with Bucs superstar Tom Brady for seventh in league history and an NFL-record $66 million signing bonus. Put it together, and it makes Prescott the best overall quarterback of Mullen’s career.

Related: New Buc Kyle Trask: ‘I just feel very welcome already’

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