Sources: Penn State interested in Mullen

Penn State is expressing interest in Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen for its coaching vacancy, sources have told ESPN colleague Joe Schad.

It's still fairly early in the process, and Penn State only announced its coach search committee on Monday afternoon. But Mullen would be an intriguing candidate for a job that could turn some of the big names around college football.

The key question with Penn State is whether its next coach has strong ties, some ties or no ties to the school. Given the institution-wide impact of the sex-abuse scandal at Penn State, most on the outside assume the school will go with a coach who has no ties to former head coach Joe Paterno or to former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. But I've also heard there's some momentum within the school to hire someone who knows the university and the environment.

Mullen is interesting because he was born in Philadelphia, grew up in New Hampshire and attended Ursinus College in Collegeville, Pa. He has coached in the Northeast and Midwest at places like Wagner, Columbia, Syracuse, Notre Dame and Bowling Green. Even though he has spent the past seven years in SEC country at Florida and Mississippi State, he knows the region around Penn State. As the blog Black Shoe Diaries put it, "Besides either A) Having direct Penn State ties, or B) Direct ties to other major programs in Pennsylvania, that's about as good a personal/cultural fit as we'll find."

Although Mullen struggled this season at Mississippi State and still has to prove more as a head coach, Penn State certainly could do worse, under the circumstances.