Mississippi State fired Joe Moorhead after two years. Who are the possible candidates to replace him?
No pressure, college football coaches. WIN NOW … or else.
The college football coaching world has truly gone crazy with its expectations and demands for head coaches.
Willie Taggart couldn’t even get two years in at Florida State.
Matt Luke at Ole Miss and Barry Odom at Missouri each guided their teams through NCAA sanctions at places they’re perfect for, and were launched.
And the Chad Morris rebuild at Arkansas ended before it could set any sort of foundation.
And now Mississippi State is done with the Joe Moorhead experience – and is willing to pay him at least $4 million to go away.
Fantastic at Fordham and great as the Penn State offensive coordinator, Moorhead’s 2018 MSU team put up one of the best defenses in the country on the way to an 8-5 season, but this year’s version went 6-7, got whacked around by Louisville in the Music City Bowl, and worst of all …
Lane Kiffin was hired by Ole Miss.
Moorhead went 14-12, but the offense never got going like it was supposed to – it was just two years to get the pieces in place, remember – and yeah, losing a second straight bowl game was a problem.
But who would possibly want this job?
Who wants to deal with Alabama, LSU, Auburn, Texas A&M, and the rest of the SEC every year, and yeah, who want to deal with Kiffin?
Kiffin is going to have the fun program with the spotlight on it at all times now. Mississippi State? It can take that away by winning, but again …
Alabama, LSU, Auburn, Texas A&M.
Here are five Mississippi State coaching candidates who athletic director John Cohen will at least need to think about.
5. Gene Chizik, former Auburn and Iowa State head coach
He’s only on this list because he’s one of the first names that’s been popping up any time a mid-level SEC job is open.
He hasn’t coached since 2012 after Auburn went 3-9, and it would be sort of odd considering the Cam Newton controversy of 2010 was somewhat associated with Mississippi State – at least in terms of the storyline – but again he’s a name with a national title on the resumé. He’s not going to get the job, but he’ll be on everyone else’s list of coaching candidates.
4. Joe Judge, New England special teams coach
But does he want to go deal with the college world and take on Mississippi State when he’s a name being thrown around for bigger and better things in the NFL?
Judge wouldn’t have the brand name, but he’s a Mississippi State graduate who quickly rose up the ranks as a key assist at Alabama and then New England. Just 37, he’s a bright young talent who’ll be brought in for interviews for open pro gigs, but he’s never been a coordinator much less a head coach.
3. Willie Fritz, Tulane head coach
The scheme, the scheme, the scheme.
Known mostly for his option offenses at Georgia Southern, he tweaked and adapted to his personnel at Tulane and turned it into a solid winner with two straight bowl appearances.
He does have a losing record in his four seasons at the helm, but he was fantastic at Sam Houston State, great at Georgia Southern, and he might be the one who can take the offensive style of Dan Mullen – and what Moorhead was supposed to do – and make it all work.
2. Mike Leach, Washington State head coach
Who’s the ONE guy out there who can out-Kiffin, Lane Kiffin?
Leach might be full of gas, he’s not as funny as people make him out to be, and he doesn’t really win big things – coming off a Cheez-It Bowl loss to Air Force for his fourth losing season in eight years at Wazzu – but …
Oh, would this make football in Mississippi a whole lot of fun – it would be Ground Zero for the media between the state’s two main head football coaches.
And yes, his passing game would be one of the few schemes that could and would throw a scare into the SEC big boys on a regular basis.
1. Billy Napier, Louisiana-Lafayette head coach
I’ve had him at or near the top of just about everyone open coaching job for the last year, and this one might be it.
His Ragin’ Cajun offense has been fantastic over the last two years, with a spread style that Moorhead tried to use, only much faster and more effective.
He would tweak, though, at MSU.
His running game was sixth in the nation, but he was workin with the personnel in place. The ability is there to pivot to more of a passing game – he was the offensive coordinator at Arizona State before taking this gig – at a place like MSU.
Just 40 and with some SEC experience as Nick Saban’s wide receiver coach for four years, he’s ready.