Oregon’s New OC Joe Moorhead: Speculation Time Around the “Hot Stove”

Notalot Editorials

The period before spring training begins MLB is sometimes referred to as the “hot stove” time. The season is late winter with spring and baseball just around the corner. There’s little happening for avid fans beyond sitting by the fire and speculating about the season to come. That’s the same place we Ducks Football fans find ourselves in.

Some hot stove periods are more interesting than others. Like the weather, doldrums are offset by storms. This has been an off-season where the last season’s 12-win record, a Pac-12 championship and the Duck’s Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin have stimulated fan interest in Ducks Football and the agitated speculations about the prospects for the 2020 season.

Throw in the coaching changes at Offensive Coordinator and Cornerbacks Coach, support staff realignments and additions, revolutionary recruiting in 2019 and 2020, red-shirt reserves becoming active, the depth and skill of the returning roster, the vacancy at Quarterback, and Ducks Football fans have plenty to ponder and speculate on.

Let us, in this moment, focus on Coach Joe Moorhead, Oregon’s newest Offensive Coordinator. Much has been written on this forum about him. Who is he? Which offensive plays and schemes do you think he will install? What will Moorhead bring and contribute to building a national champion? What will he open with against NDSU and then the Buckeyes? Jump in with your own comments, speculations and contribute what you know and believe.

“They Didn’t Give Him any Help Schematically”

Tom Pelissero, NFL Network, when speaking with a pro scout about Justin Herbert‘s draft rank was quoted on Bleacherreport.com as saying, “Now, they (Oregon coaches) didn’t give him (Herbert) any help schematically. It was a crap offense to watch…” and he went on. Herbert’s on to bigger things, but Oregon will experience a more robust offense under Moorhead’s tutelage. We should see more downfield passing, use of the Tight End position and QB runs out of the RPO beginning with the Spring game.

Joe Moorhead explaining his offense while at Fordham.

Joe Moorhead is a recognized RPO Innovator

One thing to expect from the 2020 offense is more run-pass option (RPO) plays than the Ducks have called over the past three or more seasons. Hear Coach Moorhead talk about installing his offense at Mississippi State here. The key for successful RPO production is the offense creating imbalance in numbers against the defense thereby creating gaps and space.

The beauty of RPO plays is that the plays are dynamic – not pre-programmed. The QB’s decisions are based on his real-time reads of the position and pressure of the defensive players and creating counter responses by the Quarterback based upon the defensive alignments and reactions after the start of the play. The video interview with Coach Moorhead, linked above, sheds light on what his offense is and how he installs it leading to what we can expect to see from the 2020 Ducks.

The RPO was born in Texas high schools. The concepts were adopted and refined by coaches Art Briles, Dino Babers and yes, Joe Moorhead. Brett Favre is noted to have brought RPO concepts to the NFL and the Philadelphia Eagles won a Super Bowl over the Patriots relying on RPO plays. Read about the evolution of RPO‘s right here.

Joe Moorhead runs a confident offense.

Joe Moorhead is a Field Commander

References to famous field commanders primarily tilt toward Generals and war. Washington, Lee, Grant, Patton, Rommel, Westmoreland and Petraeus to name a few famed field commanders. The names stand for valor, winning against adverse odds, battle-tested tactics and superior leadership.

According to Mississippi State Football C-Spire….

“Moorhead received national acclaim during the 2016 and 2017 seasons as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks’ coach on James Franklin‘s Penn State staff. Tabbed as Sports Illustrated and Yahoo’s No. 1 rising assistant in college football in August 2017, Moorhead transformed the Nittany Lions offensively and spearheaded them to a combined 21-5 record, a 17-3 mark in Big Ten regular season play, the 2016 Big Ten championship, two New Year’s Six bowls and back-to-back Top 10 national rankings.

Explosive, balanced offenses have been a trademark of Moorhead at every stop of his career. Penn State scored at least 30 points in 21 of the 26 games he coached, and they averaged 39.4 points per game during that span.

The 2017 campaign saw the Nittany Lions rank in the Top 25 nationally in seven different offensive categories, including seventh in points per game (41.1), fifth in third down conversion percentage (48.0), 14th in passing efficiency (153.6), 17th in yards per play (6.55), 19th in total offense (460.3), 23rd in passing yards per game (290.2) and 21st in red zone conversion percentage (89.8). They also produced four 50-point games, representing the most in a Penn State season since 1994. For the second time in his career, Moorhead was recognized as the National Offensive Coordinator of the Year.”

For an Oregon team that at times floundered on offense and other times appeared to have lost its identity, the potential impact of Joe Moorhead’s coaching is paramount. A successful field commander exploits the weaknesses of his opposition. An effective field commander counteracts the opposition’s defenses. Joe Moorhead is an outstanding field commander. Change is in the air for the offense and Ducks football. The inherited players have the potential to fly once more.

Joe Moorhead has improved QBs at every team he has coached.

Joe Moorhead is a ‘QB Whisperer’

Quarterback Whisperer is an overused term. There are many coaches who wish they were one. There are more fans who yearn for one – the one who can turn their fates around. Joe Moorhead is widely recognized as a Quarterback’s coach.In the previously cited podcast interview with Solid Verbal, the three areas Coach Moorhead focuses on when scouting prep quarterbacks are measurables, decision-making and a history of winning.

Penn State RB Andre Robinson said, “I don’t know if Moorhead’s a psychic or what, but he knows his stuff. He kind of knows what’s going to happen. It gives us so much confidence. He called something else that ended up happening in the game, that was spot-on. It gives us a lot of confidence in him and in the scheme and in ourselves.”

Jon Gruden brought quarterback whispering to TV. Joe Moorhead played QB, and successfully “whispered” to QBs at Georgetown, Akron, UConn, Fordham, Penn State, Mississippi State, and now brings his proven methods to Oregon.

Players love Joe Moorhead…

Joe Moorhead is a Leader of Men

In simple terms, leadership is casting a vision, communicating it to others and working with them to achieve the vision. A richly developed skill-set of leadership is apparent when studying Joe Moorhead’s past and accomplishments. Moorhead is steeped in the wisdom of great leaders and uses quotes and metaphor to illustrate concepts and motivate achievement.
“Don’t tell me how rough the waters are, just bring the ship to port,” was one. “Excuses are the nails that build a house of failure,” was another.

Those are quotes used by Moorhead among many others (posts a quote of the day?) according to former Fordham and UConn QB under Moorhead, Michael Nebrich.
Nebrich added, Moorhead started building his relationship with his players from his first day in town, when he asked everyone but the players to leave the room for his first address.

“He’s the kind of guy that loves his players so much, I’m sure he used that meeting to tell his players that,” Nebrich said. “Joe set the tone there. That’s exactly what he used that meeting for: he set the tone for what he expects from his players and, honestly, what his players can expect from him. Hearing that he put a meeting on like that with just himself, that doesn’t surprise me at all: that is typical Joe Moorhead.”

Cristobal at his press conference discussing Joe Moorhead.

Will Coach Moorhead and Coach Cristobal Mesh?

Both coaches, Cristobal and Moorhead, are men of high integrity. They have thrown their individual plights, careers and families into the collective effort to bring an FBS National Football Championship to Oregon. The acid test is if they do it.

RPO plays, stretching the field with downfield passes, jet sweeps, passing to TE’s and running a balanced attack are hallmarks of Joe Moorhead offenses. Mario Cristobal is a master of offensive line play, toughness in the trenches and recruiting. The teaming of coaches Cristobal with Moorhead will raise the offensive output and make the other Pac-12 teams vulnerable to our Ducks.

It may be February and hot stove time now, but the Spring game on April 18th gets closer every day. A new era of Oregon Football will dawn. Anticipation of the new offense will run rampant overcoming the nauseous third and fourth down situations of 2018-2919.

Off-season workouts and summer’s football camp will lead to the 2020 season opener against the NDSU Bison in Autzen on Saturday, September 5th. What do you expect will happen?

Brent Pennington
Greenville, South Carolina                                                                                                                           Top Photo from Oregon Football Twitter

New 2024 FishDuck Publishing Schedule….

During the off-season the FishDuck.com publishing schedule will consist of articles on Mondays and Tuesdays. Do keep checking as new articles could be published during the week when a writer has something to say.

In mid-August of 2024, we will go back to the seven-days-a-week of articles during the football season as we did in the football season of 2023.

The Our Beloved Ducks Forum (OBD) is where we we discuss the article above and many more topics, as it is so much easier in a message board format over there.  At the free OBD forum we will be posting Oregon Sports article links, the daily Press Releases from the Athletic Department and the news coming out every day.

Our 33 rules at the free OBD Forum can be summarized to this: 1) be polite and respectful, 2) do not tell anyone what to think, feel or write, and 3) no reference of any kind to politics. Easy-peasy!

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