December 6, 2017 10:11:35 AM
Brett Hudson - [email protected]
STARKVILLE -- New Mississippi State football coach Joe Moorhead has officially made two assistant coach hires; he's had personal ties to both of them.
Moorhead's second hire, confirmed by Fordham University Tuesday, is Fordham head coach Andrew Breiner, who will be MSU's quarterbacks coach and pass game coordinator. Breiner was Moorhead's offensive coordinator for all four years of Moorhead's head coaching tenure at Fordham and was promoted when Moorhead left to become Penn State's offensive coordinator.
The other hire was from the Penn State staff that Moorhead just left in Charles Huff, who is now MSU's assistant head coach, run game coordinator and running backs coach.
"Andrew has shown that he is one of the up-and-coming young coaches and we wish him and his family the best moving forward," Fordham Director of Athletics David Roach said in a statement.
In Breiner's time as an offensive coordinator under Moorhead, the Fordham offense was always among the best in the Patriot League and often among the best in FCS. In 2014 and 2015, Breiner's final two years as offensive coordinator before taking Moorhead's place, the Rams were among the top 10 scoring offenses in the FCS while setting school records for passing offense, among other records.
As far as where Moorhead goes from here to fill the rest of the staff, no guess is a bad guess.
"As far as a staff goes, I could make 10 phone calls right now and have a staff before this press conference ends, but I want to measure twice and cut once," Moorhead said at his introductory press conference last week. "I want to make sure we get the right guys in here so we have an opportunity to be successful long term."
Moorhead has proven he will go many routes to get that fit.
While his first two hires have been with coaches he has previously worked with, Moorhead has proven his ability to find and hire outside candidates. For instance, he had never worked with five of the assistant coaches he hired when he took his first head coaching job at Fordham in 2012, and those five coaches came in different forms. Defensive coordinator and linebackers coach David Blackwell had been out of coaching since his stint at South Florida two years before Moorhead hired him; defensive line coach Peter McCarty went to Fordham and the FCS level after over a decade of FBS coaching; offensive line coach Joel Rodriguez arrived after helping Bryant University get from Division II to FCS.
Moorhead has also taken chances on former players with coaching potential, as he did with recruiting coordinator and running backs coach Tim Zetts, who played quarterback for Moorhead at Akron.
The MSU coaches sticking around for the TaxSlayer Bowl on Dec. 30 also have a shot at staying on the Moorhead staff. When Moorhead took over at Fordham in 2012, he retained special teams coordinator and cornerbacks coach Nate Slutzky in addition to co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Tim Cary. MSU tight ends coach D.J. Looney and defensive line coach Brian Baker have both been seen recruiting for MSU in recent days.
Whichever route Moorhead chooses to take, he knows the time crunch is on him with the early signing period (Dec. 20-22) looming. Moorhead said he wants to take whatever time he can to learn about coaches on a personal levels, their families and, "what makes them tick," before he hires them. He also has a way of seeing their expertise level and how they relay that to their players.
"They bring film and whatever position they are, you tell them to stand up and say, 'Alright, we're installing inside zone here, take me through the footwork, what you would teach the running back,'" Moorhead said. "Take a play and say I'm a freshman that's never heard this before, how are you going to teach me this play? That's really how most of this goes."
With Moorhead's deep background in offense -- he's said he will call plays in the 2018 season -- and two hires already made on the offensive staff, the biggest decision ahead of Moorhead is the defensive coordinator position.
"I look for guys that do things that make it difficult for me to game plan against," Moorhead said. "You can talk about three down, four down and different coverage schemes and things like that, but I want someone that's going to be versatile, I want someone that's going to be attacking and really be a mirror image of our offense."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson