Moorhead embracing former head coaches on his staff in 2019

August 10, 2019 10:50:26 PM

Ben Portnoy - [email protected]


STARKVILLE -- Joe Moorhead is admittedly still learning his trade.


Twice this offseason he's said he was, "getting ahead of his skis," in year one at Mississippi State.


"I am not saying I'm changing what our goals are," Moorhead said at Southeastern Conference Media Days. "But the approach of coming off the plane guns blazing, talking about ring sizes and Heisman trophies -- and the expectation level of the team entering the season, prior to me even getting there ... I think what I may have done is elevated the expectation level to a point where nothing that we did short of a championship was going to make people happy."



Yet with a handful of new coaching hires and a plethora of head coaching experience on his staff for 2019, Moorhead is prepared to learn from those under his guidance.


"Any time you've had an opportunity to bounce ideas off of people who have sat in that chair (is great)," he said. "There's really not a manual for it."


Mississippi State currently boasts five assistant coaches with head coaching experience -- quarterbacks coach Andrew Breiner, special teams coordinator Joey Jones, associate head coach and tight ends coach Tony Hughes, defensive coordinator Bob Shoop and wide receivers coach Michael Johnson.


Of those, Jones, Breiner, Hughes and Shoop have all coached at the Division I level.


"He lets us know when the suggestion box is open and when it's closed," Shoop said of Moorhead. "Coach encourages everybody to contribute and when a contribution is asked for, and I'm happy to do it. And if I see something that is right or wrong I think all of our guys are good about doing that in a professional manner and doing it the right way."


Jones, the longtime coach at South Alabama, reflected on his time in Mobile Saturday in reference to Moorhead's tall order of setting a championship standard in Starkville. Tasked with taking the Jaguars into their first season at the DI level, Jones leaned on former MSU assistant Les Koenning during the transition period before he was hired away by Dan Mullen ahead of the 2009 season.


A similar relationship can be seen between he and Moorhead -- though Jones was quick to note Moorhead is plenty equipped for the task in his own right.


"First of all I don't think coach Moorhead needs a ton of help because I think he's a great football coach," Jones said. "But from time to time I'll go into his office and talk to him about things and he asks. He's not too big of an ego guy to where you can't ask a question."


As for Shoop and Breiner -- both earned their head coaching experience in New York City at Columbia and Fordham, respectively.


Shoop, whose past coaching stops include Tennessee and Vanderbilt, expressed how his three-year tenure taught him the larger job a coach has beyond the day-to-day tasks of guiding a program.


"I thought when you were a coach you were the guy who made the scripts for practice and you told them what time to show up on the bus and you got everyone going," he said. "But it's about building a culture and that's maybe what I failed recognizing at that time and it's about establishing not just Twitter-based relationships, but meaningful, positive relationships."


Entering year two of the Moorhead era, MSU's head coach is prepared to learn from his first season in Starkville. Walking into a situation in which expectations of 10-win season reached a boiling point -- his 8-5 debut with the Bulldogs was marred as a relative disappointment given MSU's vaunted 2018 defense.


But in his second go around, Moorhead is more prepared for the expectations and the managerial side of being a coach in the SEC, while also boasting a coaching staff with ample head coaching experience to glean from.


"I think the most important thing as a coach, not just as a head coach, is being who you are," Hughes said. "And coach Moorhead is as genuine a person and a coach as anybody that you will ever be around."


Ben Portnoy reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @bportnoy15.