Mullen, hired away in January from his former position as quarterbacks coach at Wake Forest, is one of several new faces on Bill Stewart’s inaugural coaching staff. Despite having never been a coordinator at the Division I level, the Lima, Ohio native has been handed the responsibility of choreographing an offense that will feature the speedy talents of Heisman-hopeful quarterback Pat White and standout running back Noel Devine.
While Mullen has the title and responsibility, the level-headed assistant readily admits that he will certainly not be the only one with a hand in the playcalling.
“The blessing I have is that I’m surrounded by great guys,” he said last week. “You learn very early in football that this is a team sport. All the credit will go to our entire staff. Of course, all the blame will come to me and I’m cool with that. We’ve got a great staff, a great group of guys that we can lean on, and we’ve got great players. I’m very excited to get started this fall.”
When West Virginia kicks off the regular season against Villanova on August 30, Mullen will get his first taste of Mountaineer Field from a seat inside the coaches box high above the playing surface. While running backs coach Chris Beatty, wide receivers coach Lonnie Galloway and offensive line coach Dave Johnson will be at the field level for games, Mullen and tight ends/fullbacks coach Doc Holliday will keep tabs on the proceedings down below from upstairs.
Admittedly, coaching from the box is different from being on the field.
“You’re more of a thinker instead of a cheerleader,” Mullen said. “You can see more, and make adjustments easier. We’ve got a great group on the ground that will keep them going.”
However the ace-in-the-hole for Mullen on gameday will be the experience of the man seated at his side. Holliday, a college coaching veteran of nearly 30 years, will bring with him a wealth of gameday experience from both sides of the ball. And though his coaching responsibilities at WVU lie on the offensive side of the ball, Mullen hopes that Holliday’s recent stint as safeties coach at the University of Florida will bring an invaluable and insightful perspective to the proverbial table.
“He’ll get a really good feel really fast of what we’re getting defensively,” Mullen explained. “I think we all will, but he’ll have an added element there having coached on the defensive side of the ball the past few years.
“Last year, I was in the box with a guy named Tim Billings,” he continued. “Tim had come to Wake Forest and a few years ago had been the defensive coordinator at Marshall, of all places, back in the 90’s. He was a defensive minded guy, and to be in the box next to that kind of guy…I can’t tell you how important that is. I’m used to having that type of mind in my ear.”
It also appears that another key perspective will be brought to the table when it comes to in-game playcalling: that of senior quarterback Pat White. While White may not be calling the plays on his own at the line of scrimmage, Mullen does expect his veteran signalcaller to have options at his disposal. How many options, however, will depend on White’s comfort level with specific plays as well as the offense in general.
“At the end of the day, really, it’s Pat White’s offense,” Mullen said. “We’re going to do what he’s comfortable doing, and we’re going to call plays that he enjoys having called because at the end of the day, when he’s playing fast and he knows what he’s doing, he’s a dangerous kid and that’s what we want. We don’t have to trick anybody, just give the ball to five and let him go. That’s exciting and I’m looking forward to that.
“At the same time, we have to be smart enough not to get him killed,” he continued. “We’ve got to be smart enough to spread the wealth a little bit, and I think he’s excited about that part of the offense as well.”
Perhaps no one, though, is more excited than Mullen as fall camp approaches.
“I am,” he said with a grin. “They showed so much promise in the spring with what we’re trying to do, and that’s why I’m so excited to get back out there this fall.”
“This fall” will finally arrive by week’s end.