Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead works with two of his best weapons, quarterbacks Trace McSorley (9) and Tommy Stevens (2). Moorhead is reportedly a candidate for the head coaching job at Mississippi State after leading the Nittany Lions’ offense to new heights in 2016 and 2017. ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTO
It’s that time of year, when our worlds turn red and green, when we celebrate love and and hope for peace, when we embrace giving, when we wonder what’s going to become of Penn State’s coaching staff in the coming weeks.
Predictably, the talk of Joe Moorhead moving on to a bigger job has already started in earnest.
Penn State’s highly touted offensive coordinator has, according to USA Today, emerged as a top candidate to fill the head coaching post in Starksville, just days after Dan Mullen left for Florida.
We are all familiar with Moorhead’s work by now. He came to Happy Valley in December of 2015, and since, the Nittany Lions have gone from inept to prolific offensively. Penn State ranks No. 28 in the nation in total offense right now. In their Big Ten Championship season in 2016, Moorhead’s first on the sideline, it ranked No. 49 in total offense.
The season before, under John Donovan, it was 105th.
In 2015, Penn State ranked 101st in points per game. Under Moorhead, it ranked 21st in 2016 and is No. 7 right now.
It’s really an amazing turnaround for Penn State under Moorhead, when you look at it that way, and the fact he accomplished that so quickly — albeit with Saquon Barkley and Chris Godwin on his side, but also with a shaky offensive line and an unproven (at the time) quarterback — would make him a really attractive candidate for a program that thinks it can maybe turn things around quickly with what it already has on the sideline.
Mississippi State certainly qualifies there, even though a few other names have also emerged as interesting candidates. The leader to land that job, before Moorhead’s name surfaced, seemed to be Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt*, who leads the top-ranked defense in the nation, has the Alabama pedigree and as the Tide’s chief recruiter, knows the South very well. Moorhead hasn’t coached further south than Washington, D.C., when he was at Georgetown as a young coach fresh out of college from 2000-02.
*Mississippi State might have some competition here, if this is its preferred route. Pruitt has been mentioned as a possibility at Tennessee, if that’s OK with Vols fans and boosters, of course.
Maybe that will matter in this case, although Mississippi State hired a northerner who spent the vast majority of his career coaching in the North and West when they brought Mullen on board. Like Moorhead, Mullen is a Pennsylvania native, and he worked out just fine. So, this will be interesting to follow in the coming days, as the Bulldogs reportedly want to finalize a hire by the end of the week. Either way, though, there are some pretty good head coaching openings right now, and I wouldn’t expect Mississippi State’s to be the last of them to be associated with Moorhead. Unless, of course, he gets the job.