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Joe Moorhead Introduced As Penn State Offensive Coordinator

The Joe Moorhead era in Happy Valley began today, as the former Fordham head man was introduced as Penn State’s new offensive coordinator during a press conference at Beaver Stadium. Moorhead inherits an offensive unit that ranked in the bottom half of the nation’s offensive rankings thanks to the previous offensive regime, but will have plenty to work with in terms of weapons with players like Chris Godwin, DaeSean Hamilton, and Saquon Barkley.

James Franklin opened up the conference with an opening statement, saying that he’s “really excited about the opportunity” and that he’s “fired up about [Moorhead] and his family joining our Penn State family” before handing the reins to the man of the hour. 

Moorhead seemed jovial about the occasion, and really more relieved than anything that the hiring was finalized. He wasted little time, noting how excited he was to be in Happy Valley, and that he couldn’t wait to get to work.

“I’m obviously very thrilled to be here at Penn State. It’s a tremendous opportunity for myself and my family, both professionally and personally,” Moorhead said. “Coming back close to home, and to be able to contribute to such a tradition-rich program like Penn State, and help coach Franklin and the program achieve their goals… I’m incredibly thankful to Coach and Sandy Barbour for giving me this opportunity. I look forward to rolling up my sleeves and getting to work.”

Nittany Lion supporters around the country are equally excited about the new hire, but the looming question remains the same: what exactly will Moorhead bring to the table that Donovan didn’t? Moorhead jumped right into his offensive philosophy, providing hope that the former head coach could give Penn State the necessary spark to reinvigorate the lackluster unit.

We have a base offensive system and structure that we believe in. Ultimately, when it comes down to offensive football, it’s about putting points on the board,” Moorhead said. “We really want the trademarks of our offense, we really want to dictate the tempo. We want to be aggressive, and we want to be attacking. We want to be physical in the run game, and create explosive plays in the pass game. Do that while limiting turnovers, being successful on third down, and scoring touchdowns in the red zone. Week to week it’s going to change and vary depending on who our personnel is, and the type of defense we’re seeing.”

That last sentence encapsulates Moorhead’s offensive approach, and helps separate himself from his predecessor. John Donovan firmly maintained the belief that the key to success was implementing his offensive system, rather than adjust to the personnel tasked with executing those philosophies. Instead of trying to cram the square peg into the round hole, Moorhead plans on doing the opposite; the coach wants to evaluate the personnel at his disposal to help formulate the most suitable offensive structure for his team going forward. If anything, it means the days of jumbled sweeps and head-scratching offensive series’ could be a thing of the past.

It is important to remember that Donovan and Franklin were close friends and co-workers, establishing a relationship at Vanderbilt well before coming to Penn State. The ever-loyal Franklin had to separate emotions from business in relieving Donovan from his duties as offensive coordinator, but that doesn’t mean the decision didn’t weigh heavily on him.

I think you guys know my personality now after being here for a year and a half, and how loyal I am to our staff and how close we all are,” Franklin said. “It was probably one of the more difficult things that I’ve ever had to do. I’ve got so much respect for John [Donovan] and his family, and what we’ve been able to achieve together. So yeah, that was not easy at all. That was very, very difficult. I’m still kinda working through it, to be honest with you.

Franklin elaborated on how the hiring of Moorhead was conducted, citing his Pennsylvania ties and connections made from previous head coaching experience.

For the coordinator position, you wanna study data. I have feelings and thoughts about what we were looking for, but there’s a long list. Obviously if we can have someone with Pennsylvania ties, that would be helpful. Not the end all be all, but helpful. The fact that Coach is from PA, Central Catholic, those things help. He has a lot of networks and connections in the area,” Franklin said. “The fact that he’s been a head coach, from a leadership perspective, is important. The fact that he’s had a big impact on a program, overall. At the end of the day, you take all the guys on your lists and you run all the data — third down percentage, scoring offense, red zone, so on — and you look at who’s consistently at the top of almost every single category. Joe kept jumping to the top three or four in every single category. I was just very impressed. That’s how it evolved. Then we’ve had probably 30-40 conversations about everything, about offensive philosophy, Penn State, our staff, third downs, red zone, two minute, everything.” 

Franklin went on to discuss how travel delays affected the interview process, forcing the two men to push their initial interview to around 10:15 p.m., only to end at approximately 3 a.m. But the long hours seemed to be well worth it, Franklin found the right man for the job from the sound of it. Only time will tell if that notion holds true, but Moorhead has an opportunity to make a palpable impact on this program.

Franklin noted toward the end of the press conference that esteemed linebackers coach Brent Pry is being considered for the vacant head coaching position at Georgia Southern, and that although he doesn’t want to see Pry leave the program, he wants his staff to have the opportunity to further their careers and grow as coaches.

About the Author

David Abruzzese

David is a senior from Rochester, NY, nestled right in beautiful Western New York. He is majoring in Broadcast Journalism, and as an avid sports fan, he passionately supports the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres. He is the first Penn Stater from his family, and couldn’t be prouder to represent Penn State University. In his free time, he likes to alpine ski, and play golf. You can follow him on Twitter @abruz11, and can contact him via email at [email protected]

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