By Zach Abolverdi
New Florida quarterbacks coach Garrick McGee crossed paths with Dan Mullen and his assistants long before joining the UF staff last year as an analyst.
After being hired as UAB’s head coach in late 2011, one of the first calls McGee received was from Mullen at Mississippi State. He reached out to congratulate him on the job and invited his staff to Starkville for a coaching clinic.
“Dan got our offensive coaches together and Greg Knox, Billy [Gonzales] and [John] Hevesy were there. We sat and had a great day just talking ball and exchanging information,” McGee said. “Dan was really giving me information on what being a head coach is all about and his plan to win. So he really benefited me at that point in my career, and from there we always stayed in touch.”
Nine years later, another call from Mullen would mark a pivotal point in McGee’s coaching career. When the Philadelphia Eagles began pursuing Gators offensive coordinator Brian Johnson in January, Mullen informed McGee there may be an opportunity for him to be promoted.
“I immediately got off the phone, called Brian and told him, ‘Man you gotta get on outta here. You gotta go dude.’ But I was just so happy for Brian because he deserves that,” McGee said. “Brian is one of the best quarterback coaches I’ve been around. It just so happened that the timing worked out for me and I was in the right place at the right time.
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“I just appreciate Dan for saying, ‘I like you. My staff likes you and appreciates you being here. You’ve been around here and I want you to be our quarterbacks coach.’ He gave me an opportunity to return to my passion and what I like to do: recruit and develop quarterbacks. That’s what I take pride in.”
McGee played quarterback at Arizona State, Northeastern Oklahoma A&M and Oklahoma before getting into coaching, a career he always had interest in. His father, the late Larry McGee, was the head coach and athletic director at Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He posted a 90-22 record and won the state title in 1984.
“When my dad asked me why I wanted to be a football coach, I told him to make a lot of money and stand on the sideline and yell at the referees. He forced me to come up with a better explanation,” McGee said. “There’s a huge responsibility my dad taught me a long time ago that comes along with coaching football, and that’s to impact the lives of young people.”
McGee’s early coaching stints included Toledo (2002) and UNLV (2003), where he first crossed paths with Mullen. He was the quarterbacks coach at Bowling Green and then Utah during that time frame.
“Bowling Green was an arch-rival for Toledo and they were putting up major numbers down there with Josh Harris,” McGee said. “Then I joined the UNLV staff when they went to Utah, so I was still in the same conference as those guys and they were completely unstoppable with Alex Smith. I was like, ‘This is the same crew. Holy smokes.’
“Then they went to Florida from there and they were still putting up numbers. I ended up at Arkansas with Coach (Bobby) Petrino and I thought we had it going on, but those guys were winning the championships.”
Who else has McGee coached? How about Lamar Jackson
McGee was a finalist for the 2011 Broyles Award after Arkansas finished first in the SEC in total offense and ranked No. 29 nationally at 438.1 yards per game, and that success propelled him to the UAB job.
His next stop was Louisville, where McGee coached future Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson. He started eight games as a freshman under McGee’s tutelage. McGee redesigned the offense around Jackson’s dual-threat skill set.
“Our offense at Arkansas with Ryan Mallett and Tyler Wilson was an under center, drop back, pro-style offense. When we recruited Lamar he brought a totally different skill set to the position,” McGee said. “Lamar provided us with an athlete that we really hadn’t seen before in college football. And that’s been proven with the way he’s still dominating.
“Once we figured out how he learns, because everybody learns differently, we started laying the foundation for the offense. He was a fast and willing learner, and it all went from there. But you could see the talent that he had right away.”
McGee also worked at Louisville with Florida defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, who served in the same capacity for the Cardinals. McGee was on the job hunt last offseason after Barry Odom’s firing at Missouri and got wind of an opening at UF for a defensive analyst.
He inquired and reconnected with Grantham before eventually getting the offer from Mullen.
“Once Dan called me and told me about the position, I felt it was a major opportunity,” McGee said. “He laid out the expectations for the program and the good culture that’s been created. I got to be on the defensive side of the ball and study the offenses for the defensive coordinator, so it was perfect.
“And then Brian was here, so I got to watch him run his quarterback drills and grow from that perspective. It was just a great overall situation and made for a seamless transition when I got promoted. I knew everybody in the building because I was a part of the staff for a whole year, and they knew me also. So I fit in.”
McGee inherits a talented position group of Emory Jones, Anthony Richardson and early enrollees Carlos Del-Rio W and Jalen Kitna. The former Sooner likes to joke around with his quarterbacks about how he was better than them, although McGee admits Jackson made it a tough sell at Louisville.
“Lamar was one that kind of stretched me talking about I was more talented than them. I don’t know about that one. I don’t know about Emory and Anthony either, even though I tell them all the time they’re not better than I was. But they are extreme athletes,” McGee said. “The talent of Emory and Anthony is off the charts. What those guys are able to do with arm talent, it’s going to be hard to defend those guys because of what they can do with their legs also.
“The other two kids, Carlos and Jalen, they’re doing a really good job and they’re really fast learners. I think we got a good crew. I’m really excited to recruit and keep building the room. I get to continue the development of Steve Spurrier, Danny Wuerffel, Tim Tebow and now Kyle Trask, a Heisman finalist. This place is known for having a quarterback that’s competing for that trophy and I’m willing to accept the responsibility of continuing that tradition.”