After a successful season, outside interest in assistant coaches is commonplace and almost expected.
In Penn State’s case, there were a few guys, particularly offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, who got some looks, and their boss is happy for them.
“I think that’s a compliment,” Penn State head coach James Franklin said at Friday’s Rose Bowl media day. “I think whenever you have assistant coaches being approached and people trying to hire your staff, that means you’re doing something right, and they want to kind of get a piece of it.”
Franklin said that three of his assistants were reached out to about different head coaching opportunities. Franklin didn’t specify who was approached and for what jobs, but Moorhead’s name has been out there.
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The first-year offensive coordinator, who joined the Nittany Lions after accumulating a 38-13 record as the head coach of Fordham, transformed an offense that was inconsistent-at-best in 2015.
Last season, Penn State ranked 99th nationally in scoring offense (23.2 points per game) and 105th in yards per game (349). In Moorhead’s first season, the Nittany Lions have the 25th-best scoring offense (36.7 points per game) and average 430.1 yards per game, good for 56th nationally.
Moreover, quarterback Trace McSorley is No. 1 in the country with 16.31 yards per completion, and Penn State ranks fourth nationally with 28 plays of 40 yards or more.
A lot of that credit goes to McSorley and Penn State’s skill players, but the Nittany Lions’ most electrifying threat recognizes Moorhead has quite a bit to do with that success.
“If he’s getting mentioned for head coaching jobs, that’s a credit to him,” running back Saquon Barkley said. “He puts us in the right position to make plays as players … He trusts us. He tries to make the right call. He’s aggressive. He doesn’t have a back-down approach. You can see that in his offense, especially when we face adversity. He’s probably the biggest key to why we’re able to come back and win games in the second half with all the adjustments he makes.”
That all being said, it’s not a surprise that Moorhead was courted this offseason. The 43-year-old interviewed for the vacant head coaching job at Purdue and was next in-line if former Western Kentucky coach Jeff Brohm didn’t accept, according to a report from The News Sentinel in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Then, when Matt Rhule left Temple for Baylor, many speculated that Moorhead would be a good fit for the Owls. Yahoo Sports’ Pat Forde nixed that, reporting that Moorhead would remain at Penn State for the 2017 season.
But how long will he and other assistants stick around?
“They’re talented guys and guys who are going to leave at some point for head coaching opportunities,” Franklin said. “We want that for them, but we want to try to keep the staff together as long as we possibly can.
“For me right now, what I’m concerned about is doing everything in my power and our power here at Penn State to put all the things into place to continue to build on what we’re doing right now.”