It’s year eight for Dan Mullen as an SEC head coach and he still doesn’t lose the excitement that comes with the start of fall camp.
That was apparent not only through him on Monday at Mississippi State’s media day, but also through his coaches and the players that followed. For Mullen, the uncertainty that comes with this 2016 team isn’t that of anxiousness, he’s eager to see who has made a move up the ladder.
“We are really excited to get things going again and get back out there on the field,” Mullen said. “I know as coaches, one of the biggest things is to see who took strides this summer since we haven’t been on the field with a ball since mid-April. Here we are 30-something days away from kickoff, and since mid-April we haven’t seen anybody with a ball in their hands or doing any football stuff. It’s exciting for us to get back on the field.”
Of course, there won’t be a position watched more by Mullen and the rest of the fans than at quarterback. For the first time in five years, Dak Prescott won’t be taking the field. In the last three years, there wasn’t a question who would be running with the first team on day one.
Now, four different players are set to gun it out for the next month to see who takes the first snaps against South Alabama on Sept. 3. While that can be unsettling for some, Mullen welcomes the challenge along with the quarterbacks.
“I think it is going to be something,” Mullen said. “I don’t think there will be anybody that is happier knowing who the quarterback is going to be than me. I will be thrilled to find out who our starting QB is. I think it is one of those things where you see who has made the improvements over the summer to be the most consistent performer to help us win football games.
“The biggest thing for us is who can make the play every single snap and consistently perform at a very high level, not look at the spectacular plays they can make but can they make the average plays. I think this summer had a lot to do with who is that going to be.”
The four players competing for the job are redshirt freshman Nick Tiano, junior Damian Williams, sophomore Nick Fitzgerald and sophomore Elijah Staley.
As for who doesn’t win the job, Mullen said that he felt that at least one of the four could transfer out if they don’t win the battle.
“We’ve had very little attrition within our program since I’ve been here, but I think that’s one of those positions where it’s difficult,” Mullen said. “Those guys want to play. The guy to me that’s not in that category is Nick Tiano because he’s learning. If he’s not the starter this year it doesn’t mean he won’t be the starter next year.
“If it’s a very different understanding at the quarterback position than other positions. It wouldn’t surprise me if (a transfer) happened and, to be honest with you, I’d be supportive of those players and help those guys any way that I can.”