Some thoughts from Joe Moorhead’s introductory press conference at Mississippi State on Thursday, including the fact that State’s new football coach talks faster than the Bulldogs put up billboards.

And that, folks, is fast …

• Much to be impressed with including Moorhead’s tribute to his father, a Pittsburgh steelworker who often worked two jobs in order to put Joe and two siblings through college and make them the first college graduates in the family. “I understand what the blue collar work ethic means,” Moorhead said.

State fans, many of whom identify that way, had to love that.

Rick Cleveland

• The word I get, talking to people who know Moorhead, is that he is an excellent “people person.” And while it is difficult to judge that when he is addressing the masses, Moorhead spoke often of relationships – with family, with coaches and with players.

• State athletic director John Cohen — who is receiving rave reviews nationally for his orderly yet quick, thorough, on-point search —used the terms “blue collar” and “intellectual” to describe Moorhead. Sounds like a sports writer to me (he says, tongue fully in cheek), and, indeed, Moorhead, an English major at Fordham, did work as a sportswriter in Ohio and Pennsylvania before going into coaching. If he types as fast as he talks, he was probably excellent on deadline.

That’s conjecture, here’s fact: I’ve seen the terms of his new contract. He made a wise career choice.

• Don’t know what is more impressive to me, the job he did at Fordham, where he took over a 1-10 program and then went 38-13 over four seasons, or taking over a mediocre Penn State offense and increasing its output by about 100 yards total offense per game.

• There are always going to be nitpickers. As one NFL scout put it: “Moorhead better hire well. He has no experience in the South, much less Mississippi. It’s a lot different in Mississippi than in Connecticut or Pennsylvania.”

There’s some truth to that, although television and the internet surely have bridged many of the stark differences that once existed. Moorhead said he will arrange his staff at least partly with that in mind. Although he did say, “I have recruited down here when I was at Fordham, although it is not an area of expertise.”

My take: If you can relate to people and families, you can recruit— in New Jersey or Mississippi — no matter whether you speak fast or speak with a drawl.

Dan Mullen is from New Hampshire. He did OK.

• Moorhead’s reported first outside hire — Penn State running backs coach Charles Huff — would seem to indicate he values Southern connections. Huff, from Maryland, played at Hampton and coached at Tennessee State and with Penn State head coach James Franklin at Vanderbilt. Obviously, he has recruited often in the Deep South.

• You never know in coaching, but it appears that State made a solid, possibly terrific choice.


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Rick Cleveland, a native of Hattiesburg and resident of Jackson, has been Mississippi Today’s sports columnist since 2016. A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi with a bachelor’s in journalism, Rick has worked for the Monroe (La.) News Star World, Jackson Daily News and Clarion Ledger. He was sports editor of Hattiesburg American, executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. His work as a syndicated columnist and celebrated sports writer has appeared in numerous magazines, periodicals and newspapers.
Rick has been recognized 12 times as Mississippi Sports Writer of the Year, and is recipient of multiple awards and honors for his reporting and writing.

2 replies on “New Bulldogs boss Moorhead impresses with rapid-fire responses”

  1. Seems to me that most people in the United States appreciate the blue collar work ethic regardless of what team you pull for. I agree that it’s a myth about a guy from Pittsburgh having a problem recruiting in the south….that simply smacks of parochialism in today’s world…just dying out

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