Moorhead back in midst of bowl prep with MSU

Joe Moorhead

Staff Writer

This time a year ago, Joe Moorhead was sitting back, watching and waiting.

He’d just been hired as Mississippi State’s new head football coach last bowl season. However, Moorhead was getting his new house in order as the Bulldogs went into last season’s TaxSlayer Bowl under the direction of interim head coach Greg Knox.

A year later, MSU is bowling again. State faces Iowa in the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Florida, on New Year’s Day. This go-around, Moorhead is of course right in the middle of it all.

“It feels good to kind of be back in the flow,” Moorhead said on Saturday in his first media session in a couple of weeks.

Moorhead is trying to use the upcoming days wisely. He’s juggling getting ready for Iowa with using all the extra practice time to further develop his players.

“Last Thursday and Saturday, we practiced and that was a split between fundamentals and technique and then developmental for the non-travel squad, then (Saturday) we introduced a little bit of Iowa and had some developmental stuff again for some of the younger guys," Moorhead said. "Next week, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday we’ll practice. About three quarters of the practice will be devoted to Iowa then the other part will be devoted to player development, so when you get these extra opportunities, and in particular with the New Year’s Day game, I think it’s something that you’re excited to take advantage of – to get these guys some extra work prior to spring ball.”

As Moorhead noted, MSU will practice four more times on campus before leaving for Tampa. The Bulldogs will head for the bowl site on Wednesday, December 26, following a Christmas break. Practices will then resume once Mississippi State arrives in Florida.

Moorhead is glad to be back fully involved with postseason football and all that goes with it.

“It’s been two seasons since I’ve been a bowl game coach,” Moorhead noted.

Sweat, others,
still plan to play

Moorhead stated two weeks ago that, unless something changed, all of his players who could possibly be high draft choices in the National Football League Draft come April still planned to play in the Outback Bowl. He said on Saturday that was still the case.

“That was certainly exciting and I think a good testament to their commitment to our team and the program to finish this thing the right way,” Moorhead said.

Defensive end Montez Sweat, safety Johnathan Abram and offensive linemen Elgton Jenkins are three MSU seniors who could be high draft choices. Junior defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons hasn’t yet declared that he’ll forego his senior season to enter the NFL Draft, but it is expected. However he too plans to play in Tampa.

It has become a trend around the country in recent seasons for NFL Draft prospects to skip bowl games to prepare for the draft, but that apparently won’t be the case for any of these Bulldogs.

Moorhead said they all expressed a desire to play soon after the regular season finale and it has been settled ever since.

“It really wasn’t much need for a follow-up conversation because they all said they were going to play,” Moorhead said.