July 18, 2018 Atlanta: Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead holds his SEC Media Days press conference at the College Football Hall of Fame on Wednesday, July 18, 2018, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton

Moorhead inherits talented Mississippi State team, eyes contention in Year 1

Three years ago Joe Moorhead was at Green Pond Country Club in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, representing Fordham.

On Tuesday, the Pittsburgh native stepped to a shiny podium underneath a mega-projector that boasted his name, to the left of a banner that read “It Just Means More,” in front of hundreds of media members sitting at tables on a turf football field.

“Not to take away from Patriot League Media Day,” Moorhead joked.”… This is a little larger in scope and significance.”

Fresh off aiding the rejuvenation of Penn State — helping develop Trace McSorely into an elite quarterback and guiding an offense that scored more than 41 points per game as offensive coordinator — Moorhead takes on a new challenge, taking over for the departed Dan Mullen. This one of a “scope and significance” unlike he’s seen.

Yet just over four minutes into his opening remarks, Morehead already had topped his self-proclaimed “over” for times using the word “excited.”

For the new Mississippi State coach, it’s easy to see why. Moorhead inherits a team that won nine games a season ago and brings back one of the more talented quarterbacks in the conference in Nick Fitzgerald. 

“Certainly very excited about our quarterback room,” Moorhead said. When you look at our top two guys with Nick (Fitzgerald) and (Keytaon Thompson), they are two guys that understand the game, understand our offense and are going to make the correct decisions the majority of the time and will continue to improve.”

The cupboard is not bare in Starkville. And with that comes with a degree of pressure — even in the gauntlet of the SEC West — to perform right away.

“Certainly you look at the preseason polls and what people said about our team, because we have a lot of starters returning and a lot of production coming back,” Moorhead said, “it's probably elevated the level of expectation for us, which is fine, because no one is going to have higher expectations than us.”

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