MULLEN IT OVER

Play­ers who faced him don’t re­mem­ber much

New York Daily News - - SPORTS - PAT LEONARD

Giants don’t know much about new 49ers QB but they’ll get a good look Mon­day night

The Giants’ Dalvin Tom­lin­son and Lan­don Collins both played against Nick Mul­lens in col­lege, but it didn’t oc­cur to ei­ther for­mer Alabama stand­out that Mon­day night’s San Fran­cisco 49ers start­ing quar­ter­back was a player they’d faced be­fore.

What Tom­lin­son does re­call vividly from Alabama’s 5212 win over South­ern Miss on Sept. 13, 2014, is Crim­son Tide coach Nick Sa­ban chew­ing out the de­fen­sive tackle for fail­ing to rip the ball out of Mul­lens’ hands on a po­ten­tial sack fum­ble.

“I re­ally don’t re­mem­ber too much about it,” the Giants’ Tom­lin­son said Fri­day. “From what I re­mem­ber, he was a good quar­ter­back ... But Sa­ban chewed me out that game ... I al­most had a sack fum­ble that game, and (Mul­lens) held onto the ball and he ac­tu­ally gained a yard.

“Sa­ban, he wants the best out of all his play­ers,” Tom­lin­son said with a smile. “And when he sees an op­por­tu­nity for some­thing and it’s not seized, he wants you to do a lit­tle bit bet­ter.”

Collins, mean­while, led Alabama with 12 tack­les that day against South­ern Miss, but when asked Thurs­day what he knew of Mul­lens, Collins at first said: “Not much hon­estly.”

Once he re­al­ized Mul­lens had quar­ter­back the Golden Ea­gles against Collins’ Crim­son Tide four years ago, Collins did re­call two note­wor­thy traits:

“He al­ways got the ball out quick,” Collins said Fri­day, adding with swag­ger: “He was play­ing against a good de­fense in col­lege, so I would do the same. But at the time, he had a great arm. He showed a great arm.”

The Giants (1-7) will need to knock Mul­lens, 23, an un­likely re­cent hero for the 2-7 Nin­ers, off his pedestal if they hope to win coming out of their Week 9 bye.

The Nin­ers’ third-string quar­ter­back com­pleted 16of-22 passes (72.7%) in his NFL de­but last week for 262 yards and three touch­downs.

And while he did it against the tank­ing Oak­land Raiders, the Giants are show­ing him the same kind of re­spect they would to Nin­ers blue-chip­per Jimmy Garop­polo (out for sea­son with a torn ACL) or even to sec­ond-stringer C.J. Beathard (out with a wrist in­jury), who beat Eli Man­ning head-to-head on this same field last year.

Part of the rea­son is that Nin­ers head coach Kyle Shana­han is call­ing the

plays, and the Giants don’t see a trun­cated form of Shana­han’s typ­i­cal of­fense just be­cause Mul­lens is un­der cen­ter.

“They’re run­ning a lot of their of­fense,” Giants DBs coach Lou Anarumo said Satur­day. “It’s not like it’s that cut down or scaled down. I’m see­ing a lot of what he’s done over Kyle’s ca­reer, to be hon­est.”

An­other rea­son is that Mul­lens seems to be grounded enough not to let the spot­light get to him.

“He’s han­dled it fine,” Shana­han said Thurs­day on a con­fer­ence call. “Nick’s the same guy ev­ery sin­gle day. He was prac­tice squad with us all last year and rarely got reps even there. He was usu­ally our prac­tice squad safety, just be­cause we didn’t have enough guys and acted the same as a prac­tice squad safety as a backup No. 2 and as he did last week and this week as the No. 1.”

Shana­han ac­knowl­edged it al­ways gets “harder and harder” for a quar­ter­back as NFL de­fenses get more tape on him, but he also added “there’s some ben­e­fit for (Mul­lens), also.”

“This will be his first full speed prac­tice (week) that he’s had with us as a starter,” Shana­han said, an in­cred­i­ble fact that adds to how im­pres­sive Mul­lens’ de­but was in Week 9.

A few weeks ago, Giants rookie QB Kyle Lauletta was thought to be the third­string quar­ter­back that might make waves in this game, given that Pat Shur­mur will be eval­u­at­ing him at some point in the sec­ond half of the sea­son to de­ter­mine Big Blue’s fu­ture at the po­si­tion.

But af­ter Lauletta’s ar­rest dur­ing the bye week, and Mul­lens’ 34-3 trounc­ing of Oak­land on Thurs­day Night Foot­ball, it is now the Nin­ers’ young kid who owns the spot­light en­ter­ing this show­down of two dis­ap­point­ing teams -- with one’s ar­row on the fu­ture point­ing up.

HER­BERT GETS A LOOK

The Giants’ hunt for a quar­ter­back in the 2019 NFL Draft starts with a Duck.

Giants GM Dave Get­tle­man, as­sis­tant GM Kevin Abrams and scout Jeremy Breit all were listed in press box seat­ing to watch Ore­gon Ducks ju­nior QB Justin Her­bert play at Utah on Satur­day night, per a tweet from KEZI9 Sports’ An­drew Haub­ner.

The Daily News sought an in­ter­view with Her­bert dur­ing the road trip to Utah but he re­spect­fully de­clined, pre­fer­ring to fo­cus on his col­lege sea­son and not the draft or NFL.

If Her­bert de­clares for the draft, he is con­sid­ered the likely top quar­ter­back prospect in a class much less her­alded than last spring’s, which saw five QBs se­lected in the first round.

The Giants took Penn State run­ning back Saquon Barkley sec­ond over­all.

PHOTO BY AP

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