Because college football fans are college football fans, we love to give our opinions about who should serve as assistant coaches for our favorite team. Immediately upon the hiring of Joe Moorhead as the new head coach at Mississippi State, Bulldog fans commenced the debate about who should be on his coaching staff. Again, because we’re fans, we tend to view each staff position in a vacuum: we’ll argue with each other all day that Coach X should be the defensive line coach instead of Coach Y because his resume is so much better, he was an All-SEC player, blah, blah, blah and blah.
But I submit that a coaching staff can only be judged as a whole. If the head coach makes wise choices, his staff as a whole will be greater than the sum of its parts. Consider: a recruiting class that consisted entirely of five-star wide receivers would look great if evaluated on an individual, player-by-player approach. But it would be a disaster on the field because of a lack of players at other positions. Similarly, a coaching staff should be evaluated with a Goldilocks approach: it needs a little of this, that and the other, but not too much of any one attribute at the expense of the others.
Coach Moorhead needs coaches who can teach his offensive system and coaches who are great recruiters. He wants coaches who are familiar with Mississippi State and the SEC as well as coaches who bring fresh ideas from other regions. He wants grizzled veterans who have seen it all, as well as young up-and-comers who can’t wait to prove themselves.
We won’t know if this Mississippi State coaching staff can achieve these conflicting goals until we see some results on the field. But Joe Moorhead seems to have done an outstanding job in assembling a staff that checks all of the necessary boxes.
Coaches who can teach the new offensive system? Check. While not hugely different from what the Bulldogs ran under Dan Mullen, Coach Moorhead’s offense will involve learning new terminology, reads and techniques. This is true for assistant coaches as well as players, so having assistants who already know everything about the system is crucial to efficient implementation. Charles Huff (running backs and running game coordinator) and Andrew Breiner (quarterbacks and passing game coordinator) are each perfectly suited to help the head coach get the new offense installed. Not only has each of these assistants worked with Moorhead before, but each worked for him when the offense was installed at a new school for the first time: Huff at Penn State when Moorhead took over as offensive coordinator, and Breiner at Fordham when Moorhead was hired as head coach. Additionally, receivers coach Luke Getsy played for Moorhead at Akron. This implementation experience will help the Bulldogs hit the ground running in spring practice on the offensive side of the ball.
Coaches who are familiar with MSU and the SEC? Yes indeed. Terrell Buckley (cornerbacks) and Brian Baker (defensive line) are holdovers from the former staff. Mark Hudspeth (tight ends) served as State’s wide receiver coach in 2009 and 2010. Strength and conditioning coach Anthony Piroli served on staff at MSU in 2014. Defensive coordinator Bob Shoop has served stints at Vanderbilt and Tennessee, while special teams coach Scot Fountain lists stops at Georgia and Auburn on his resume. Joe Moorhead will have no shortage of insight on what’s been done at State (and around the conference) in the past, as well whether or not it succeeded and why.
Coaches with fresh perspective? Affirmative. Huff, Breiner, Getsy and linebackers coach Tem Lukabu each have notable experience outside of the southeast at various levels of competition.
Recruiters? Done. Huff, Buckley, and Hudspeth are noted for their recruiting abilities. Moorhead himself appears to be a better salesman than Dan Mullen, for whom recruiting was, at best, a necessary evil. We don’t know much about the recruiting talents of new offensive line coach Marcus Johnson, but one could throw a dart at a board and be guaranteed to find a better recruiter than former offensive line coach John Hevesy. Getsy, Baker and Lukabu can each point to NFL coaching experience when speaking with recruits. With the recruiting ability of the new staff, plus the “addition by subtraction” benefit of removing Mullen, Hevesy and former receivers coach Billy Gonzales from the equation, this Bulldog staff will be very good on the recruiting trail.
Good mix of wisdom and experience verses youthful enthusiasm? Mission accomplished. Four Bulldog assistants bring to the table 26 years or more of coaching experience: Baker (34 years), Fountain (30 years), Shoop (29 years), and Hudspeth (26 years). Three State staffers have previously served as head coaches: Hudspeth (16 seasons), Fountain (4 seasons), Shoop (3 seasons), and Breiner (2 seasons). Even the “youngsters” on the Bulldog staff have solid coaching resumes, with Johnson being the least experienced of the group with seven seasons under his belt as an assistant.
Joe Moorhead has done a very solid job in assembling a talented staff. Even on a stand-alone basis, the individual parts are impressive. Because of the diversity in strengths, skills, and background that this group provides, Bulldog fans can certainly expect the results from the whole to exceed the sum of the parts. Of course, as fans, we reserve the right to complain about the incompetence of the staff, beginning with the first time the Bulldogs fail to convert on third and three in a key situation.