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Penn State commits sound off about Joe Moorhead departure
The college football coaching carousel is spinning at a rapid pace this week. Penn State felt its impact Wednesday morning when Nittany Lions offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead was officially announced as coach at Mississippi State.
Moorhead, who helped guide Penn State to nearly 42 points per game this season, replaced former Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen, who is now with the Florida Gators.
Considering his immense success as a Power 5 coordinator and previous head-coaching experience (2012-15 at Fordham), it’s no surprise Moorhead warranted interest from other universities. A 2018 return to Happy Valley was certainly possible, but an eventual departure seemed inevitable based on his rising reputation.
His presence at Penn State is directly correlated to the program’s recent resurgence. He arrived in 2016 after the Nittany Lions averaged 21.9 points per game during Franklin’s first two seasons. Moorhead made an immediate impact, as Penn State scored more than 30 points in 21 of his 26 games with the staff, including nine contests that featured at least 45 points.
— Saquon Barkley (@saquonb21) November 29, 2017
Penn State players and coaches posted messages of gratitude on social media, while committed Nittany Lions recruits also shared their thoughts. As I wrote Wednesday morning, conversations with several prospects revealed a group excited for Moorhead, albeit bummed to see him leave, and confident about where Penn State is headed.
“Great coach and even better person,” defensive tackle PJ Mustipher said. “Would’ve loved to experience his offense firsthand, but he’s made a decision and I’m happy for him. What’s next for PSU hasn’t changed. We have guys on the roster and in the recruiting class that can make plays all day long. We’re going to be great so no one should be worried.”
Fellow blue-chip defensive lineman Aeneas Hawkins agreed, stating that Penn State is still on track despite the departure of its highly respected play caller.
“I trust that the next step at the OC position will be the right one,” he said. “Coach Moorhead obviously did a terrific job and helped bring Penn State back to power. The train will keep rolling, though, and I’m confident in the players who will return next year, and the men in my class to help it become a smooth transition.”
Top-10 tight end talent Zack Kuntz may fight for immediate reps as a freshman since record-setting senior Mike Gesicki is headed to the NFL. Like all recruits I spoke with, his vision for the future of Nittany Lions football remains resolute.
“I have 100 percent confidence in the coaches that they will set up their current players and the future players in my class for success,” Kuntz said. “I look forward to starting [with early enrollment] in January.”
The search for Moorhead’s replacement now enters the spotlight as Penn State waits to hear its bowl fate Sunday. Whether the Nittany Lions look internal or venture beyond campus for an offensive coordinator remains to be seen, but the initial response from recruits doesn’t show any signs of shakiness as National Signing Day approaches.
Appreciate what @BallCoachJoeMo has done for our program! Not only is he a great coach, but he is a better man! We wish him & his family the absolute best at Mississippi State! #WeAre pic.twitter.com/h1pAk7HkYL
— James Franklin (@coachjfranklin) November 29, 2017
Group of Penn State coaches visit DE target Jayson Oweh
Jayson Oweh visited Penn State five times between March and November, spending more days in State College than any other school during a crowded recruitment. Nittany Lions coaches returned the favor Wednesday, journeying to New Jersey for more personal interaction with the prized defensive end prospect.
Defensive coordinator Brent Pry, defensive line coach Sean Spencer and passing game coordinator/tight ends coach Ricky Rahne each made the trip, according to Blair Academy (Blairstown, N.J.) football coach Jim Saylor.
After spending some time at the school earlier Wednesday, Penn State staff members were expected to return for Oweh’s evening basketball game, Saylor added. Until his first high school football season last year, Oweh was primarily focused on hoops, but now he’s drawing college coaches from far and wide for his emerging skills on the defensive front.
Oweh, who secured a scholarship offer from Penn State in April, used an official visit at Michigan last weekend. He plans to utilize an official visit at Notre Dame during the second weekend of December, while Ohio State hosted him in September.
The 6-foot-5, 235-pound athlete intends to announce his college commitment Jan. 4 during the Under Armour All-America Game. Oweh has considered Ohio State and Penn State his leaders for several months, though these other official visits may make the situation increasingly interesting.
He totaled 47 tackles — 8 for loss — and 13 sacks in fewer than five full games this fall. After a 4-sack performance in the season opener, Oweh told me he is “at less than 50 percent” of his potential, and his coach agrees major strides likely lie ahead.
“His upside is just tremendous,” Saylor said. “He’s in a program where we get 10 hours of practice per week, and he has to practice offense and defense. When he gets to a college program and has three hours each day just to focus on defensive end, it’s going to be special. He’s like a flower that hasn’t even bloomed yet.”
Oweh is considered the No. 7 strongside defensive end and a top-200 overall recruit in the 247Sports composite rankings. Watch his junior-season highlights here:
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