The quarterback questions have come at Mullen non-stop, but he's dodged and sidestepped his way through the media blitz without giving much away. By my count, Mullen has fielded 31 questions concerning the quarterback position since Sunday, and most of them were centered around whether Chris Relf or Tyler Russell will start Mississippi State's game against No. 15 South Carolina on Saturday.
All the talk stems from last week's 21-3 win at UAB, when Russell relieved Relf in the second half and was lights out: 11 of 13, 166 yards, three touchdowns. Mullen has said the QB competition is "wide open," but he also claims it's that way every week.
Yet, for the first time since the spring, the conjunction "OR" sits between Relf and Russell's names on the depth chart. I'll give Mullen this: He has said more than once that multiple quarterbacks could play, and he said Tuesday that he might not let the QBs know who the starter is until the first offensive possession.
A delicate dance
Mullen is engaging in a delicate dance. He took the precaution of declaring his QBs off-limits to the media all week, and he's been mostly vague when asked for specifics. Relf has built up a lot of confidence the past couple of seasons, and Mullen doesn't want to do anything to shake it.
Twice on Wednesday he said MSU will "go with who gives us the best opportunity to win the game." The possibilities are many.
Relf only. Russell only. Platoon Relf and Russell. Stick with the platoon, or go with the hot hand. Work Dylan Favre into the rotation.
Or, as Mullen suggested on Tuesday, "I might go wildcat the first play, that way none of them started." Starting quarterback: Jameon Lewis? Knowing Mullen, this is not too far-fetched of a notion.
This is the guy who on his first offensive play as a head coach let a freshman receiver, Chad Bumphis, throw a pass. Mullen seems to enjoy keeping the shades drawn while he plots and tinkers - plus, like most football coaches, he's a control freak.
That's not an insult; I'm just well-versed in the personality of Mullen.
The Bulldogs are staring an 0-4 SEC start in the face, are searching for answers on offense, and are suddenly embroiled in a quarterback quandary.
Naturally, Mullen wants to close ranks a bit while he figures things out.
Who knows what's been happening on the inside this week, but on Saturday the dancing and dodging will stop.
Brad Locke (email@example.com) covers Mississippi State for the Daily Journal and blogs daily at NEMS360.com.