New Florida coach is deodorizing dead-fish smell McElwain left behind

University of Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin, left, smiles as he talks to Florida's new NCAA college football coach Dan Mullen after Mullen arrived at the airport in Gainesville, Fla., Monday, Nov. 27, 2017. (AP Photo/Mark Long)

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University of Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin, left, smiles as he talks to Florida's new NCAA college football coach Dan Mullen after Mullen arrived at the airport in Gainesville, Fla., Monday, Nov. 27, 2017. (AP Photo/Mark Long)

The dead fish are gone.

The live wire has arrived.

Thankfully and mercifully, the McElwain Malaise has been replaced by Mullen Mania.

New Florida Gators football coach Dan Mullen didn't just speak to a gathering of hundreds of UF football fans Wednesday night at the Cheyenne Saloon in downtown Orlando; he brought them back to life after three miserable, mundane years of enduring former coach Jim McElwain's awful offense and aloof personality. The only thing missing from Mullen's resuscitation effort was the defibrillator paddles.

"I embrace the expectations all of you have," said Mullen, who was Urban Meyer's offensive coordinator for two national-title teams during his four years at UF. "... The standard here is national championships; that's what Gator Nation expects."

Mullen wasn't just a breath of fresh air after McElwain's dead-fish era; he was a whirlwind of Gator giddiness Wednesday night. He was funny. He was engaging. He was sincere.

"We're all in this together," he said.

Obviously, these pre-season speaking engagements mean nothing if Mullen's offense is as bad as it was under McElwain, but at least Mullen has the ability to excite and connect with Gators fans in a non-football setting. That's at least a start.

Here's all you need to know about Mullen trying to reunite Gator Nation. Before he showed up for the fan gathering Wednesday night, he stopped by Amway Center to say hello and present Magic veteran center Marreese Speights, a former UF basketball player, with a Gator football jersey.

"I want all Gators everywhere to come together," Mullen said. "It's going to take all of us. We've got a team that's going to work its tail off and give relentless effort in everything we do, but we need Gator Nation to show up and support the team. We want to pack the house at every game, including our spring game, and have an unbelievable home environment. We want to get the Swamp back to being the toughest, most intimidating place in college football to play."

You know what else Mullen did Wednesday? He actually opened the doors and _ gasp! _ allowed the media in to hear him address the Gator gathering. One of McElwain's first moves when he went on his inaugural speaking tour was to become the first college coach in modern state history to ban the media from watching him speak at fan functions.

Mullen actually realizes he's trying to build interest; McElwain tried to kill it.

Who will ever forget McElwain's most infamous public comments during his three lifeless seasons in Gainesville? Remember when he compared his team to "dead fish on ice?"

"Stop by Winn-Dixie, go to the dead fish aisle and look at the fish's eyes," McElwain said in one of his delusional moments. "Now think about that visual. How excited are you to hang out with that dead fish?"

Mullen's monumental task is to clear the dead fish floating on top of the water and once again stock the Swamp with a bunch of enlivened Gators. And if Mullen can't do it, you wonder if anybody can.

Mullen has everything Gator fans desire in a coach. He has a cool factor about him, showing up on recruiting visits in a helicopter while wearing suits accentuated by Jordan sneakers. "You have some shoe swag in this business," Mullen said, laughing. "And I got a sock game, too!"

He has a sense of Gator history as someone who coached Tim Tebow in college and now embraces Steve Spurrier, who has an office upstairs in UF's athletic complex. Said Mullen: "If Coach Spurrier has different suggestions about what he sees or what he thinks, I'm certainly going to listen to those things in every aspect of the program _ whether it's motivation, how to deal with wins and losses, how to deal with alumni or how to attack Georgia's coverage."

Mullen also has a touch of cockiness that the two greatest coaches in UF history _ Spurrier and Meyer _ both possessed. How refreshing was it when he addressed the crowd at halftime of a recent UF basketball game and promised that he would once again turn the Gators into national champions?

And Mullen _ unlike his two offensively challenged predecessors, McElwain and Will Muschamp _ doesn't say, "I just want to score enough points to win the football game." Mullen wants to score enough points to win the game _ and entertain the fan base.

"Trust me," Mullen said. "I understand how Gator fans want to score points. I was the offensive coordinator here, and I know they weren't very happy when we didn't score points."

The dead-fish smell may still be lingering within Gator Nation, but Dan Mullen is already deodorizing the program.

Just call him the great American fumi-Gator.

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