For Penn State and Joe Moorhead, this much was inevitable.
The Nittany Lions’ celebrated offensive coordinator was fully expected to draw attention from other schools looking for a head coach. On Monday night, Moorhead was linked by multiple outlets as a candidate at Mississippi State.
With the regular season ending Saturday, schools started the bloodletting on Sunday as several major conference programs dumped their head coaches, and a few announced some new ones.
It’s that latter category that is notable for Penn State right now, as Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen returned to Florida, leaving the Bulldogs looking for a new boss.
Moorhead’s name first surfaced in connection to that job in a report by USA Today that he was a “high priority candidate” for the opening along with Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables and UAB head coach Bill Clark.
Bruce Feldman of Sports Illustrated also called Moorhead “a strong candidate” to head to Starkville, adding the names of Toledo head coach Jason Candle, Michigan offensive assistant Pep Hamilton and Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz.
According to the reports, the Bulldogs are looking to make a hire by the end of the week.
Moorhead likely reminds Mississippi State brass of Mullen, who ran a prolific offense with a mobile quarterback at Florida with Tim Tebow. The Lions’ two seasons under Moorhead have been two of the best statistically in Penn State history, with this year’s 41.6 points per game average checking in at No. 3 all-time.
Unlike the other candidates on the Bulldogs’ list however, Moorhead has few, if any, ties to the SEC or its recruiting area.
Regardless of what happens with Mississippi State, Moorhead’s name will likely come up for head coaching jobs, as it did last offseason.
“I think it’s been interesting,” Moorhead said during his lone in-season interview at the end of September. “Like anybody in the world, people don’t like to be criticized and they like to be praised. But when you get caught up in it and allow it to affect who you are as a person, it becomes a distraction.
“I hang my hat on, everyday we’re gonna come in and take care of business. The things that come along with that after the season, we’ll address them then.”