Penn State Football

Reports: Penn State OC Joe Moorhead set to ink head-coaching deal with Miss. State

Joe Moorhead — the architect of Penn State’s high-flying, Big Ten title-winning offense — is reportedly leaving Happy Valley.

Moorhead is set to become Mississippi State’s next head coach, according to a report by college football insider Brett McMurphy and confirmed by ESPN’s Mark Schlabach. In McMurphy’s report, he states that “the deal is expected to be completed in the next few days.”

USA Today Sports’ Dan Wolken reported Monday night that Moorhead — Penn State’s offensive coordinator the past two seasons — was a “high priority” candidate to replace former Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen, who left for Florida’s vacancy on Sunday.

Moorhead, whose offense has averaged 41.7 points per game this year (seventh nationally), has helped guide the Nittany Lions to a 21-5 record since his arrival. The Nittany Lions came back to beat Wisconsin in the 2016 conference championship game, fired shot for shot with Southern California in an epic Rose Bowl and accumulated a 19-3 mark over their last 22 games, all thanks in large part to Moorhead’s RPO, high-octane system.

Under his tutelage, quarterback Trace McSorley posted back-to-back 3,000-yard seasons — the first in program history to do so — while Saquon Barkley took advantage, becoming a Maxwell Award finalist and Heisman Trophy candidate this season. As a recruiter, Moorhead helped Penn State land highly-touted prospects like C.J. Thorpe, Sean Clifford and more.

Moorhead, who reportedly interviewed for the Purdue job last offseason, should be a good fit at Mississippi State. Even though he doesn’t have experience in the SEC, Moorhead’s head coaching prowess (38-13 record at Fordham from 2012-15) and unique offensive style should help the Bulldogs compete in a crowded SEC West with Alabama, Auburn and LSU. Plus, Moorhead knows how to mentor quarterbacks — filling the role of Mullen, who was proficient in doing the same.

But what does this mean for the Nittany Lions? Well, for the third time in four years, Penn State will have a new offensive coordinator. Head coach James Franklin hired Moorhead away from Fordham in Dec. 2015 after the dismissal of John Donovan. Ricky Rahne could be in-play for the job. Penn State’s tight ends coach was called a “future coordinator” by the head coach back in August.

Franklin has proven himself competent in picking coordinators. Not only did he bring in Moorhead, but Franklin also promoted Brent Pry to defensive coordinator when Bob Shoop bolted for Tennessee.

Whoever fills Moorhead’s role, another home run hire by Franklin is paramount to help keep the momentum of the program going.

John McGonigal: 814-231-4630, @jmcgonigal9