Moorhead believes Fitzgerald a great fit for MSU offense

Nick Fitzgerald

Staff Writer

It’s a week later than would have been ideal, but first-year Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead will finally get the chance to coach his star senior quarterback Nick Fitzgerald in a game that counts this weekend when the Bulldogs visit Kansas State.

Moorhead suspended Fitzgerald for last week’s season opener due to a violation of team rules, but Fitzgerald will be back in action against the Wildcats on Saturday.

On the Southeastern Conference coaches teleconference Wednesday, Moorhead discussed why he’s excited to finally have Fitzgerald available.

“You look at Nick’s history as a quarterback at Mississippi State and in particular as a ball carrier and I think he’s just about 500 yards from becoming the SEC’s all-time leader at the position,” Moorhead said. “He’s 6-foot-4, 230 (pounds). He’s big, strong and physical and fast. He can make plays with his feet by design or improvisation. That doesn’t even touch on his ability as a passer.”

Moorhead’s reputation is that of an offensive-minded coach that is always looking for the explosive play. He believes Fitzgerald gives MSU an excellent chance to pick up big yardage with his legs and his arm.

It’s not all that different from Moorhead’s quarterback the last two years when he was offensive coordinator at Penn State. Nittany Lions quarterback Trace McSorley thrived under Moorhead. In 2016, McSorley passed for 3,614 yards and 29 touchdowns. He rushed for 365 yards and seven scores.

He put up similar numbers a season later. In 2017, McSorley threw for 3,570 yards and 28 touchdowns as well as rushed for 491 yards and 11 scores.

Moorhead is hopeful now that Fitzgerald can produce like numbers as McSorley’s last couple of seasons.

“I think he’s an excellent fit for us systematically,” Moorhead said of Fitzgerald.

Moorhead pleased with staff

In many ways, it was like old times for Moorhead and his coaching staff in last Saturday’s win over Stephen F. Austin.

Many of the members of MSU’s coaching staff had worked together before coming to Starkville. On Wednesday, Moorhead praised his entire staff’s ability to quickly get into the swing of things from a coaching standpoint.

“Offensively, a bunch of us had already worked together at previous institutions at Fordham or at Penn State,” Moorhead said. “So there was a lot of familiarity there. It was just a matter of getting (offensive line coach Marcus Johnson) and (tight ends coach Mark Hudspeth) and some of the other guys up to speed with how we operate. Then (defensive coordinator Bob Shoop) and (special teams coordinator Joey Jones), I think they did an excellent job as coordinators putting the plan together, delegating authority and making sure we were getting excellent communication. They did a great job delivering that information to the kids between series.”

A lot of years left?

When Moorhead visits Kansas State this weekend, he’ll be opposed by legendary Wildcats head coach Bill Snyder.

The 78-year-old Snyder has collegiate coaching experience dating back to the mid-1960s.

Moorhead, who is 44, was asked Wednesday if he thought he, like Snyder, would be coaching when he gets to be 78-years-old.

“I hope I’m still able to get up out of bed at 78 so if I’m coaching at that age, that’ll be a great luxury,” Moorhead said.