By DAVID BRANDT, AP Sports Writer
Mississippi State has hired Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead as its football coach, bringing in another up-and-comer who is largely in the mold of previous coach Dan Mullen.
The school officially announced the hiring on Wednesday morning. The 44-year-old Moorhead replaces Mullen, who left Starkville, Mississippi, after nine successful seasons to become the Florida Gators’ new head coach on Sunday.
Moorhead will be introduced on campus on Thursday morning.
The new coach inherits a good situation at Mississippi State. The 24th-ranked Bulldogs were 8-4 this season with a roster that features only a handful of senior starters.
“I am thrilled to take the reins of an SEC program that has been as successful as this one has the past decade,” Moorhead said in a statement released by the school. “I look forward to getting to know the young men on our team, hiring a staff and hitting the recruiting trail quickly.”
Moorhead has been with Penn State the last two seasons, calling plays for one of the best offenses in the country.
Penn State coach James Franklin hired Moorhead after the 2015 season to bring his creative spread offense to State College, and it has helped the Nittany Lions post a 21-5 record over the last two seasons.
“We couldn’t be happier for Joe Moorhead and his family,” Franklin said. “This is a tremendous opportunity for him to return to being a head coach and continue to move forward in his career. We are so appreciative of everything that he has done for Penn State Football in his two years.”
Mississippi State athletic director John Cohen didn’t waste much time finding a new leader for the football program after Mullen left for Florida. Mullen’s move wasn’t totally unexpected — his name had been linked to several job openings over the past few years.
Moorhead’s hiring is reminiscent of Mullen’s arrival nine years ago. Both worked mostly on the offensive side of the ball and are considered innovative coaches who are good with quarterbacks.
Moorhead’s resume has the added bonus of some previous head coaching experience. Before arriving at Penn State, he was head coach at FCS Fordham University in New York. He went 38-13 at his alma mater with three playoff appearances in four years.
The Rams have made only two other playoff appearances since moving up to Division I in 1989.
The 44-year-old from Pittsburgh also has been offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Connecticut and Akron.
“Joe is a winner, a man of integrity with a blue-collar work ethic and an ability to motivate others that our student-athletes will gravitate to,” Cohen said. “His innovative offensive philosophy is a perfect fit for our program and will keep us on a path to competing for championships.”
AP College Football Writer Ralph D. Russo contributed to this story.
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