Once again, Hal Mumme is leading the country in passing. No big surprise there that he's got a team piling up points, but it's the blossoming of his fell-through-the-cracks quarterback that is starting to get some attention for a tiny school in Texas.
Mumme, the former Kentucky coach, is now at tiny McMurry University in Abilene, Texas, a Division III program about to make the jump up to D2. The War Hawks (5-2) are in one those of those transitional years where they faced a few programs from bigger classifications, teams that can give scholarships. In their opener, the War Hawks were pounded 82-6 by FCS power Stephen F. Austin, but since then Mumme's team has been rolling. They came back the following week to beat another scholarship program from what used to be known as 1-AA, UTSA, 24-21.
McMurry, running the prolific Air-Raid system, is averaging 380 yards per game. They've won their past four games by an average of 54-16.
Mumme's attack is led by an intriguing prospect named Jake Mullin, a 6-3, 225-pound junior quarterback already generating a little buzz from pro scouts. It's not often Division III players get that kind of attention, but Mullin's unique.
He was passed over by major college recruiters because he played in a run-heavy Wing-T system at Burleson High. The scouts who did notice him may have been scared off because Mullin's a standout baseball player and there was speculation he might get drafted and go that route. It also didn't help that he has a speech impediment and scouts are skeptical about QBs who struggle to bark out play calls in the huddle or communicate with teammates. He ended up on the baseball team at McMurry, a school of about 1300 students.
Mumme was hired in 2009 to take over a program that had gone 0-10 the previous year. He was grateful to find the big QB on the campus. Actually, when the coach arrived, he'd asked his players if there were any QBs on the team, thinking maybe there'd be a guy with some throwing ability that got switched to another position. Instead, Mumme was told by the players, the best QB at the school was playing intermural football and tearing it up. A few of Mullin's old high school teammates were football players at McMurry and informed Mumme that the QB could really throw it, but his coaches hadn't let him throw it. Mumme went to see Mullin play baseball and could see the kid's athleticism as the all-conference outfielder wowed the football coach.
Mullin had heard plenty from his buddies and was intrigued by the opportunity to play in Mumme's system. After some bad luck, Mullin, who has had to overcome a bout with the Swine Flu and a broken collarbone in his first two seasons of college football, has picked up the Air-Raid scheme quite well.
"He's really, really good," Mumme told me Thursday morning of the QB with a 20-8 TD-INT ratio and a 66 percent completion mark this fall. "He's got one more year with us, but he's about as good as anybody I ever had."
When Mumme said that, it stunned me to hear the coach make such a statement about the DIII QB when he'd coached, among others, Tim Couch, a guy who was the first pick overall of the NFL draft.
"Jake is great with his feet," Mumme said. "He's probably 6-3, 225, runs about a 4.65 and has real live arm. He is a very accurate deep passer. He can throw the long out from the hash mark which we do a lot. He's a smart kid. He's just gotta learn to be more patient to dump it off because he's so good at spinning out of the pocket and making a play."
Yeah, but as good as Couch?
"I'd hesitate to say that," Mumme said. "With the competition level, it's hard to say that right now, but physically, he's definitely as good."
Word has gotten out. NFL scouts have already been to Abilene to take a look at Mullin, Mumme said. Last week, McMurry beat Texas Lutheran on the road 60-16 with Mullin going 43-57 for 614 yards and four TDs.
Mullin and the War Hawks will face stiffer competition on 2012 when they move up to D2. They'll play McNeese State and Lamar and several other bigger programs.
Just how much of an issue Mullin's speech impediment may have in pro scouts' eyes remains to be seen. "His really isn't that bad," said Mumme. "When I first met him I actually didn't know he had one. It's more of a stammer than a stutter. He'll probably need some tutoring on that because in our system it's easy with the play calls because the plays are one or two words. In the NFL, it's like 18 words together."
For now, Mumme's just excited about how much better Mullin can get in his system. You can pretty much count on the QB to have a few more days with gaudy stat lines.