December 30, 2017 10:54:34 PM
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- As much as he doesn't like it, Joe Moorhead has actually done this before.
When he left Fordham to take over as Penn State's offensive coordinator two years ago, Penn State was in the TaxSlayer Bowl, so he made the trip to Jacksonville to watch the game without coaching it. It's not the most delightful of experiences for people in his profession; he had to repeat it Saturday.
Moorhead was at EverBank Field Saturday in a suite with Mississippi State Director of Athletics John Cohen and two of his newly hired assistant coaches, defensive coordinator Bob Shoop and running backs coach Charles Huff to see No. 24 MSU (9-4) beat Louisville (8-5) 31-27. He had one priority.
"Root, root, root for the home team," Moorhead said Friday night after the Dawg Talk radio show in Jacksonville. "Hope for this team and these seniors, this is their journey and I hope they finish it the right way."
Moorhead may have had the option to be on the sidelines, but elected to stay away in order to not be a distraction for the team trying to win a game. He said he stayed away from the team's practices in Jacksonville for the same reason.
He also knew he would be far from resigned while watching the game in the suite.
"I don't think that any coach can do anything passively, so it's going to be an active viewing of the game," Moorhead said. "I'm going to root hard the kids and obviously you're going to see what you see, so you'll make some evaluations but it's hard when they're not necessarily running the schemes they're going to be running in the fall."
That evaluation -- and everything else about installing the Moorhead era in earnest -- begins now.
As Moorhead put it, "There's a lot on the agenda."
Moorhead said he's had a few limited conversations with players as they moved between meetings while in Starkville preparing for the game, but one of his first orders of business will be to spend Jan. 10 and 11 taking 15 to 20 minutes with each player 1-on-1.
Those meetings will come after he meets with the staff on the morning of Jan. 3 to, "go through every department in the program." For the moment, that entails the January weightlifting and conditioning program and piecing together the schedule for spring practice, in addition to the staff's plan for January recruiting.
First, that means finishing the staff. Moorhead has to fill assumed vacancies at wide receivers coach, defensive line coach, linebackers coach and cornerbacks coach; he said plans to have those finalized by the end of the first week of January. The NCAA's new rule allowing programs to hire a 10th on-field assistant takes effect on Jan. 9, and he said he will use that position to hire a special teams coordinator and will make that hire within a week of the rule going into effect.
Moorhead's aggressive plan in that regard is partly a ploy to have nearly the entire staff assembled by Jan. 12, when coaches can hit the road recruiting again. Moorhead said in December MSU will have four or five scholarships left in its 2018 class to grant before the February signing period.
Once he gets done with that, the NCAA allows a certain amount of meeting time per week with coaches and players, and that's where the installation process will truly begin with Moorhead's offense and Shoop's defense.
Moorhead recently pushed back the spring schedule two weeks to get more time in that phase. The Maroon & White Game was previously scheduled for April 7, but now has been moved back to April 21, a move Moorhead said was exclusively to get more meeting time with assistants and make the most of the spring practice period.
The unknowns of the Moorhead era will still loom large as January comes, but he can rest with one certainty: when Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson's final pass attempt hit the ground and MSU won the TaxSlayer Bowl, the team became his.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson
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