There are several new college football coaching hires who will draw the bulk of the attention, led by Lincoln Riley at USC, Mario Cristobal at Miami, Brian Kelly at LSU, Brent Venables at Oklahoma and Marcus Freeman at Notre Dame, just to name a few.
While so many high-profile jobs opened up the past offseason, maybe one name slipped under the cracks.
That would be Joe Moorhead. It will be fascinating to see whether he can successfully resuscitate the program at Akron. The first thought when Moorhead was appointed head coach at Akron is maybe some of the Power Five programs missed out on this offensive guru.
I mean, who wouldn’t want a former quarterback who played for the Munich Cowboys of the German Football League? Everywhere Moorhead has gone, points have seemed to follow – and so have wins. Moorhead 49, graduated from Fordham in 1996, where he was a three-year starting quarterback. He then departed for Germany to play quarterback for the aforementioned Cowboys that year.
His coaching career began soon after with a two-year graduate assistant term at Pitt beginning in 1998. Then it was off to Georgetown for four seasons and in 2004, he began a five-year stint as an Akron assistant, including the last two seasons as the offensive coordinator.
He then left for Connecticut in 2009 to be the offensive coordinator. The next year, in 2010, UConn won the Big East championship and played in the Fiesta Bowl. That’s right, UConn once had a strong football program, one that Jim Mora is now trying to revive in a challenge that may be bigger than the one Moorhead faces.
After three years at UConn, Moorhead was hired by his alma mater Fordham as head coach. He inherited a 1-10 team and had the Rams go 6-5 in his first season in 2012. In four seasons he went 38-13 and guided the Rams to three FCS playoff berths.
He then served two seasons as offensive coordinator at Penn State in 2016 and 2017. Penn State went 22-5 and played in the Rose Bowl and Fiesta Bowl. The Nittany Lions also averaged 39.3 points per game in those two offensively charged seasons.
That led him to his first FBS head coaching job at Mississippi State. Despite a 14-12 record in two seasons, including two Egg Bowl victories over Mississippi, Moorhead was canned. He became the offensive coordinator the past two years at Oregon. This past season, the Ducks went 10-4 and averaged 31.3 points per game.
Just as he did when he took over Fordham, Moorhead is inheriting a team that is in dire need of hope.
The Zips, who went 2-10 last year, are 3-27 over the past three years and have had four straight sub .500 seasons. He will compete in the Mid-American Conference that is known for week-night football, long-standing rivalries and impact NFL players such as Hall of Famer Jason Taylor (Akron) and future Hall of Famer Ben Roethlisberger (Miami of Ohio).
Even with Moorhead’s arrival, Akron is picked near or at the bottom of the MAC East.
Still, it will be interesting to see him work with the talent, including 6-6, 205-pound junior quarterback DJ Irons, who appeared in eight games, with three starts last season. No doubt, Moorhead will find a way to utilize the talents of senior receiver Shocky Jacques-Louis, a transfer from Pitt. Moorhead obviously has his work cut out, inheriting a team that was 119th in scoring offense (19.8 PPG) and 125th in scoring defense (39.5 PPG). There are only 130 FBS teams.
Yet everywhere he has gone, especially when serving as either a head coach or offensive coordinator, Moorhead has produced impressive results.
The trend should continue. It may not be immediate, but at the very least, the Zips should be a vastly improved team in his first year. And if form holds, potential contenders sometime in the future.