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July 18, 2018

Joe Moorhead

Atlanta, Georgia

JOE MOORHEAD: Good morning. I appreciate everybody coming out today. And certainly the coverage you provide for our team and our conference is something that make this conference very special. So I thank you very much for your time and really appreciate it.

I'm certainly humbled and honored to be here today representing Mississippi State at SEC Media Day. You look around at the event and the people that are here and coverage and slogan that "It Just Means More" really resonates. It's certainly an honor and privilege to be a part of this.

Just three short years ago at this time of year, I was a head coach of Fordham University in the Patriot League. Not to take away from Patriot League Media Day, which was held at Green Pond Country Club in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania certainly this is a little larger in scope and significance. So certainly proud to be part of the SEC Media Days.

I would like to thank the SEC communications department. When I saw the list earlier in the spring and saw I was speaking on the same day as Coach Saban, I was a little worried I was going to have to go after him. It would be like taking the stage and performing after the Beatles and no one is going to be in their seats and paying attention to what you're doing. I am excited to be able to lead off today. I hope I can start the day off on the right foot. I promise I won't use the words excited or opportunity too many times.

The past eight months have been incredibly busy and productive. When we got here, we were forged with keeping our 2018 recruiting class together. I think we put together a very solid class. Part of that is getting out to the high schools in the state of Minneapolis and the surrounding areas and establishing and cultivating relationships with the players, with the coaches, with the administrations and the fans. I thought that went very well for us.

From there, we transitioned to the winter workout program, which was led to Coach Piroli, another northerner that I brought down with me on the staff hailing from the great football city of Aliquippa, Pennsylvania. Mike Ditka, Tony Dorsett, Darrelle Revis, Ty Law, amongst others. And

Coach Piroli came to us from the Arizona Cardinals. I may be a little bit bias, but I feel he's the best strengthening conditioning coach in the country.

His job is to make sure our team gets bigger, stronger, faster and more explosive, concentrating on functional football movements. He's done an unbelievable job in the weight room. And certainly as the strengthening conditioning coach, he spends more time with our team than any of the assistants. And we want to make sure that he's continuing to focus on building our culture and mental and physical toughness. Coach Piroli has done an unbelievable job there.

From there into our Spring Ball, where our goal heading into Spring Ball, we are to develop our identity and gain confidence. We want to make sure we dominated situational football concentrating on explosive play margin and turnover margin. We want to make sure we competed and improved every practice. I think throughout those 15 opportunities, we took advantage of those.

It felt very, very good where we were coming out of Spring Ball. As the saying goes, you can't expect a harvest in the fall if you haven't planted in the spring. I think we definitely planted seeds for success during Spring Ball.

Now we're in summer conditioning program, which is really an extension of our winter workouts. Really it is a time of the year where it's player driven. Our team selected two excellent captains, Nick Fitzgerald and Gerri Green.

We have great leadership all across the board in all three phases. And certainly we want culture drivers during this time of the year, guys who understand what it takes from discipline, accountability, attention to detail standpoint to make sure things are done the right way when the coaches aren't around.

From there, we will head to fall camp, which is really an extension of our spring goals. I want to make sure when we get out of the 29 practice opportunities and

3 scrimmages that we have a very good two deep in place on offense, defense, and special teams. And certainly when you look at personnel starting on the defensive side of the ball, very excited of what we have coming back under the direction of Coach Shoop.

You know, our front four has been talked about a lot and for good reason, you know, led by Montez Sweat and Jeffery Simmons, and we go two or three deep there at the defensive line, very talented and athletic at the linebacker position. Certainly a lot of depth and experience at the safety position.

On the offensive side of the ball, certainly very excited as well, nick Fitzgerald at the quarterback position, good stable running backs, big physical and aggressive offensive line, and certainly a bunch of play makers at tight end and wide receiver position who are going to be given an opportunity during fall camp in the season to show what they can do.

And special teams, Coach Getsy, our offensive coordinator, and then on special teams lead by Coach Joey Jones. Jace Christmann returning as our kicker and Kody Schexnayder and Tucker Day fighting it out for the punting duties. We will head from there into the season. There is certainly a lot of excitement and optimism abounding for the Mississippi State program, very challenging and exciting nonconference schedule.

There I did exciting again. If you are all keeping the over/under on that, I might be hitting on the over on the exciting calls.

Certainly, of our non-conference schedule, the trip to Manhattan, Kansas and the opportunity to play against Kansas State and the coaching icon like Coach Synder is an awesome opportunity. From there, you head into the conference schedule. Certainly everybody knows here in the SEC, the margin of error is very razor thin. You have to be on top of your game every single week to have an opportunity.

Hopefully when things go well to be back here in Atlanta, the first weekend in December competing for the conference championship, and certainly the opportunity to head into the College Football Playoff. Certainly as I talk about the margin of error, the last two years at Penn State, we were very close to the College Football Playoff. In 2016, won the conference, but weren't selected. This past year, we were four points from being undefeated. Lost to Ohio State by one and to Michigan State as time expired.

Certainly as we go through the SEC schedule, and particularly on the western side of the conference, you have to be on your game every week and very excited about the opportunity there. And then our goals for the season, certainly we want to perform at a championship standard every single day on the field, in the classroom and in the community. Our goal is to be the best Power Five team in the state, to be the best team in the SEC conference, and ultimately compete to be the best team in the country.

We want to do that while graduating 100 percent of our players with a meaningful degree and preparing them with the tools to become productive and responsible citizens and also while impacting Mississippi State, the city of Starkville and the state of Mississippi in a positive manner.

How are we going to get that done? I think because we have the requisite talent on our roster to compete on a weekly basis in this conference, I think we have put a coaching staff in place that our experts at fundamentals and technique that can motivate our kids and that will put schemes in position that will put our guys in a place to make plays.

Obviously, what I say up here and talking about it and the excitement and all of those things, we want our actions to reflect our goals. So it's not about what I say we're going to do. It's about what we're going to do because well done is better than well said. Certainly excited for the season, certainly proud and honored to be the head coach of Mississippi State and be a part of this fantastic conference. And I will open it up to questions.

Q. Can you just tell us what led you to hire Joey Jones? Is there a pre-existing relationship or how did you get there?
JOE MOORHEAD: There actually wasn't a pre-existing relationship. I got his name recommended to me by one on our staff. And I think in the process of comprising our assistant coaching staff, we wanted to have a good combination of guys from the north and guys from the south.

And certainly with coach's extensive recruiting experience being the head coach in the state of Alabama and certainly the head coach there for an extended amount of time, we thought the combination of his head coaching experience, how well South Alabama had done on special teams and certainly what coach brings to the table from a recruiting standpoint made him a great natural fit to bring him to Mississippi State.

Q. You alluded to coaching at Fordham, which I guess is in New York City in the Patriot League. Now you're in Starkville, Mississippi in the SEC.
How do you compare and contrast those situations and what is it like being one of six new coaches in the league and new places? What has been your interaction with coaches at meetings and things like that?

JOE MOORHEAD: We have a bunch of sports people in the room here, so I'm assuming the reference everybody is going to get, everybody seen the movie Hoosiers, where Norman Dale takes the team before the state championship against Muncie Central, and they are in Butler Fieldhouse. And he has strap shoulders, and they run the tape measure down from the hoop to the floor, and they see it's ten feet. That's how I feel transitioning here from my time at Penn State and my time at Fordham into the SEC. You know, the field is 53 and a third yards wide. It's 100 yards long. When you're on the field, there's going to be 11 people on the other side. They're big, fast, strong athletic and very well coached.

And from the standpoint of it being a different brand of football or different style, we're certainly excited for the challenge of coming into this conference.

Q. Part of the new coaches?
JOE MOORHEAD: I think it's interesting. You know, six new coaches and guys bringing new ideas and getting an opportunity to run a program. Certainly, coming from Penn State and going from the coordinators chair back to the head coaches chair, I think I learned a lot of things there. I am certainly excited to take over the team. And like I said, optimism abounds and certainly excited for the upcoming season.

Q. Coach, over the last two years, Trace McSorley developed into one of the best quarterbacks in the country. Are there any similarities or differences in working with and experienced quarterback in Nick Fitzgerald?
JOE MOORHEAD: I think there's a lot of similarities from an intangible standpoint. Both guys are very intelligent.

They understand the game very well, incredibly competitive.

Trace, obviously from a measurable standpoint, a little bit shorter. Nick's a 6'5" guy, 235 pound guy. Both are guys that can make all of the throws. Both guys can help win with their legs in the run game and can beat you in their arms with the pass game. I think there's a lot of similarities with Trace and Nick.

Q. I wanted to ask you about the decision to bring
Bob Shoop in as defensive coordinator. I know you worked together at Penn State. He's very familiar with the SEC. And also one of your players from my area in North Alabama, Erroll Thompson, I really loved him in high school. How has he acclimated to your coaching staff and what do you expecting out of him this season?

JOE MOORHEAD: Coach Shoop is a guy that grew up in Pittsburgh in a town about 15 minutes from me, so I certainly know him. From a professional standpoint, his time at

William & Mary and his time as a head coach and certainly what he did at Vanderbilt and Penn State and his experience in the SEC.

Coach has been a guy that's had top 10, top 15 defenses in the majority of spots he's been. So I think he was a good natural pick for us in terms of the formation of the staff knowing each other, having familiarity, and having experience. And certainly what he brings to the table knowing the SEC.

Erroll is a guy that plays our linebacker position. He gets everybody lined up, makes all of the calls, very instinctive and intelligent football player. And a guy who can certainly stop the run and be a guy that is in the right spot against the pass.

Q. Joe, have you or our staff discussed how you might utilize the new Redshirt Rule when it goes into effect?
JOE MOORHEAD: We kind of had some preliminary discussions before we broke for the summer. And I think as much as people concentrate on the Redshirt Rule affecting the incoming freshman, we first started off with looking at our roster and seeing who are the guys on the current roster and who had redshirted and who hadn't.

The guys who were non-first year players, who are the guys that are possibly playing them in four games, but still preserving a year of eligibility for those guys and where that was feasible. From there, we looked the incoming freshman. I think really the decision that is going to be made, if you are going to play them above and beyond the four games that are permissible, will be how they progress in camp, where you are from a depth chart and an injury standpoint. And really if you are going to use a year of eligibility, you know, how much above those four games are they going to be play and affect the game in a positive manner so it makes utilizing that year of eligibility a smart decision.

Q. Nick said earlier that he's kind of made some minor tweaks to his throwing motion. Were those something that you suggested or something he picked up on the quarterback circuit over the summer, and how involved were you in helping him make those tweaks?
JOE MOORHEAD: I think it's a combination now with quarterbacks in this day and age that you have your position coach, you have your head coach who played quarterback, and a lot of guys have guys that they go see in the offseason and work with. And certainly Coach Breiner and the things they've done with Nick and his mechanics have been more lower body focused and upper body focused.

I think the things he did from an upper body mechanics standpoint were very sound and solid, a lot of working with making sure his feet are aligned at the target and throwing off a rhythm and things like that.

Q. Coach, have you had a "welcome to the South" moment yet?
JOE MOORHEAD: "Welcome to the South" moment yet. Um, I guess stepping out of your front door every day and being smacked in the face with the humidity, that's a pretty good "welcome to the South" moment. And everything being wrapped in bacon in food, that's pretty good, too.

Q. You're taking over for a team that ran the ball close to 65 percent of the time last year. Given your background, obviously, you like to throw it a bit more than that. Just how much are you planning on throwing the ball, and how do you think the team is handling that adjustment?
JOE MOORHEAD: I think a lot of it is you have your base scheme in place. And always as coaches you want to make sure that your scheme is fitting your personnel; not your personnel fitting your scheme.

Throughout the course of us running this offense, I don't think we've been ever over 55 percent one way or the other. So we could be a little bit more run heavy, if that's what we do, and more effective in running the ball and scoring points. If we end up being a team that can pass it a little more, we may gravitate more towards that.

I think for our offense to operate at its optimum level, we need to be able to run the ball successfully and force people to commit numbers to the box by supported by pressure, and that is what creates one-on-one matchups on the perimeter and gives our wide receivers and tight ends an opportunity to make plays down the field.

Q. You're taking over a program that took Alabama to the wire last season. Just what do you think about what Alabama has done? And when you see the type of game that you guys played last year, how much does that give you confidence that you guys can compete?
JOE MOORHEAD: Certainly Alabama is the standard in our conference. They won the National Championship and had a heck of a game there in the final.

And ultimately that's our biggest challenge as a program, is we're looking to elevate this program from good to great. And everything we want to do is to operate at championship standard. What we do on the field, what we do in the classroom, what we do in the community on a daily basis, it's never going to be at the line. It's going to be above the line or below the line.

When you're chasing a great program like Alabama and your goal is to come to the SEC Championship, you have to make sure that you're doing things on a daily basis that are going to give you an opportunity to compete with a team of that caliber.

Q. How would you characterize the quality of the quarterback room you inherited, and what maybe quality stands out among the group that Dan Mullen left behind?
JOE MOORHEAD: Certainly very excited about our quarterback room. Leaving the situation like we were at at Penn State and walking into this situation here with Nick and K.T. and the young guys that we have in our offense at that position, you want a guy who is able to beat you with his brains, beat you with his arms, and beat you with his legs.

When you look at our top two guys with Nick and K.T., they are two guys that understand the game, understand our offense and are going to make the correct decisions the majority of the time and will continue to improve.

When their number is called in the run game by either design or improvisation, they can create explosive plays with their feet. Certainly what we do in the pass game, they have the arm to make all the throws, and we're continuing to work on their understanding of coverages and where to go with the ball and why. So certainly very excited amongst other positions on our team with the quarterback position.

Q. What was your introduction into the Ole Miss-Mississippi State rivalry, and how do you plan on approaching that dynamic?
JOE MOORHEAD: I'm certainly excited to be a part testify, coming from the Pitt-Penn State rivalry. I think the characteristics of a great rivalry are two schools with a lot of tradition who were in close proximity to one another and whose fan bases are incredibly passionate about the game.

I think that's something that is representative of the Mississippi State-Ole Miss game. I've had an opportunity to meet Coach Luke on the road recruiting and at SEC meetings. It's something I'm very excited to be a part of. It's important to our school, important to our city, and important to the state. November 22nd will be a heck of a game. I'm very excited about it.

Q. Coach, is there any sense of urgency to have a really good season this year with such a talented returning quarterback in Nick Fitzgerald and then a lot of talent around him?
JOE MOORHEAD: Sense of urgency?

Q. Yes.
JOE MOORHEAD: I think it goes back to really talking about the expectation level and our ability to embrace that. And certainly you look at the preseason polls and what people said about our team, because we have a lot of starters returning and a lot of production coming back, it's probably elevated the level of expectation for us, which is fine, because no one is going to have higher expectations than us.

Certainly from a contextual standpoint, you have the elevated expectation levels relative to who is coming back. And you look at it, from what we've done in the past, you walk into the building and the Egg Bowl trophy is not there, we've never won an SEC Championship, we've never competed for a National Championship.

So part of our task as a staff is to elevate the program, which has a very solid foundation, from good to great. And for our ability to do that, we're embracing the expectation level. We feel no one rises to low expectations. So we talk about championship standard. I feel I was brought here to take a program that's really had one winning season in the SEC play in the last 15 years and make sure that we're competing in the conference play on a weekly basis and give ourselves a chance to win a conference championship.

Q. Just wondering, working with James Franklin, who obviously coached in the SEC at Vande, what advice did he have or what thoughts did he have for you coming into the conference?
JOE MOORHEAD: You talk about Coach Franklin first and foremost, I'm incredibly indebted to him for the opportunity he gave me taking a chance on an FCS head coach to coming and running offense in the Big Ten. First and foremost, I'm very appreciative of him for that opportunity.

The thing we always talked about in my 2 years there relative to his experience in the SEC and Vanderbilt was he would always refer to it as line of scrimmage football league. He thought what separated the SEC from other conferences was the size, the speed, the athleticism and the physicality of the fronts on both sides of the ball. That's something we talked about a bunch of times.

Q. You talked earlier about being a new coach in the SEC and obviously there are a few others. Do you think the fact that there are a few other new coaches here in the SEC kind of alleviates some of the pressure that you might have felt if you were maybe the only one and what are some of those pressures that you're feeling?
JOE MOORHEAD: I don't necessarily think it alleviates it. Relative to pressure, I think there's two ways to view it. You either feel it or you apply it. I believe attitude reflects leadership. We are going to be a football program that is not concerned about the outside expectations. We're going to be a team that is constantly looking to apply pressure on the field.

Six coaches have an opportunity. And certainly, you know, the one we have here at Mississippi State is, you know, one that we're expected to play very well this season. So I think I can't speak for the other coaches, but I know the opportunity we have here is one that's very exciting.

THE MODERATOR: Coach Moorhead, thank you for your time. Welcome to the SEC.

JOE MOORHEAD: Thank you, guys.

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