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Penn State Football: Moorhead Sounds Like Fit, But Like Most Things Only Time Will Tell

by on December 16, 2015 4:00 PM

He said all of the right things.

Which is hard not to do in all honesty. Few coaches open their first press conference telling the world that their offense will be predictable and methodical. It's hard to sell tickets by underselling the product.

But for Penn State's latest offensive coordinator, Joe Moorhead struck a balance between a positive outlook and the inevitable bumps in the road that come with Penn State's situation and the unavoidable struggles of a growing program.

Perhaps most importantly for fans and Penn State at large, Moorhead sounds like someone who wants to be at Penn State. 

“It was an incredibly difficult decision,” Moorhead said at a Wednesday press conference. “Because of the success we’ve had in the past four years, that’s attributable to our players and coaching staff. There have been opportunities for me to leave Fordham. I had an offer after last year at the FBS level and other things in years before. As I told our players and kids we were recruiting, for me to leave Fordham, it was going to have to be a special, special opportunity at the FBS level. 

“Obviously, the offensive coordinator job at Penn State is one of those opportunities.”

I left a great situation at Fordham. I had a long-term contract, we had a tremendous amount of success, it was my alma mater, I loved our kids,” Moorhead added. “But when you look at the opportunity to come to Penn State and be the offensive coordinator and be a part of a program on the rise with great things on the horizon, two hours from home… it was mutual.

“I fit the things (James Franklin) was looking for, and for me to make a move from Fordham, it was a great fit.”

"This is a tremendous opportunity for both me and my family, both professionally and personally," said Moorhead. "Being able to come back close to home and contribute to such a tradition-rich program like Penn State and help Coach Franklin and the program achieve their goals, I'm incredibly grateful for the opportunity."

According to James Franklin he and Moorhead have talked on the phone on the upwards of 40 times with one in person conversation last from just after 10 PM until nearly 3 in the morning. There is little they haven't talked about, and seemingly little they don't see eye to eye on.

"We talked about everything: protections, run game, pass game, quarterback development, offensive line development, our backgrounds in the West Coast offense," Franklin said. "Some of the staff members were in there, and as the night went on, they kept tapping out."

Most telling of all though, Moorhead admitted late into his Wednesday introductory press conference that he has yet to watch the offensive line on film. In truth he has seen very little of Penn State on either side of the ball from the standpoint of an analytic mind. So even if he has the answers, they're still a work in progress. A fair situation to be in just a few days into the job, but the work is still yet to be done.

And that's where the rubber will meet the road. Moorhead seems like the coach Penn State needs. His offenses exploit team speed and explosive plays. It's no-huddle but high IQ. On paper it's everything Penn State needs to do to grow as a competitor in the conference and at the national level.

“The tempo we play, you hear the terms ‘up-tempo’ and ‘fast-paced.’ That is true. At times, we’re going to play as fast as we can play,” Moorhead said. “But being able to play with different kinds of tempos where it’s about getting into the right play, as opposed to running the wrong play quickly. We can run as fast as we need to go, but it’s going to be the best play against the defense presented...We want to dictate tempo. We want to be aggressive. We want to be physical in the run game. We want to be explosive in the pass game."

"Accuracy is more important than arm strength, but you have to be able to throw the ball long," he added. "The quarterback has to be athletic and create plays with his feet, whether by design or when a play breaks down.

"With the pass game's foundation being the West Coast offense, the quarterback will have responsibilities in protection, pre-snap recognition and post-snap reads. And he has to be a leader, a guy who, when you walk into a room, you don't ask if he's the quarterback."

But no matter who calls the plays and draws up the schemes there are still challenges to overcome. That will be where Moorhead makes his money.  

So everyone will wait. Because lots of people have been winning press conferences in State College over the years. Fewer people have been winning games.

But to his credit Moorhead sounds like the coach Penn State needs and the one it was looking for. And that's all fans can ask for months and months from the first time he ever calls a single play.

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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