Mississippi State's Joe Moorhead joined the rest of the league's head coaches on the SEC Teleconference on Wednesday to discuss the Bulldogs' upcoming game at Arkansas.
Here is a transcript of Moorhead's time on the call:
Moorhead: “I’m disappointed in our loss against Texas A&M, a quality SEC opponent on the road. We’re excited to get back on track this week and play an Arkansas team on the road. It’s going to be a great challenge.”
What do you make of Arkansas’ quarterback situation and what do you make of that bunch?
Moorhead: “You get crossover film throughout the course of the season and certainly (Nick) Starkel, (Ben) Hicks and then the young kid – (John Stephen) Jones – came in and did a nice job at the end of the Alabama game and led a touchdown drive. It’s difficult to prepare for all three. I don’t know that the system necessarily changes based on who is in the game but you certainly see glimpses of production from all three of those guys.”
What do you see from Arkansas’ defense and what do you need to do to move the ball week this weekend?
Moorhead: “Like always, I think you have to establish the run and do a good job of getting Kylin Hill moving. The nose guard is a real good interior defensive lineman who is very active, very twitchy and very sudden and explosive. The middle linebacker is a three-time All-SEC guy and they’ve got a mixture of some older guys and some young guys on the back end.
“I think coach (John) Chavis does a real nice job. Any defense, and in particular this one, is going to be a real challenge this weekend.”
At the beginning of the week, you have all the players write a letter of why they play football. How did that come about and how useful was it?
Moorhead: “What I wanted to do is talk about what’s their why and who they would want to dedicate the game to. Throughout the course of the season, you’re always looking for different ways to motivate the guys and keep them encouraged.
“There’s a lot of people in their lives and throughout their journey to the SEC throughout high school and Pop Warner that they owe a debt of gratitude to and feel close to. I just want them remembering something to keep things in perspective that there’s a lot of people who are supporting you that helped you get to the spot where you are today.”
Have you heard from all of the player and what did you learn from those letters?
Moorhead: “We just got them all turned in this morning. They had them all at position meetings yesterday so we just got them all accumulated this morning so I haven’t had a chance yet.”
Paul Finebaum said on the radio that he’s not sure you’re the right guy for Mississippi State and that you could be coaching for your job at Arkansas this week. How do you deal with that pressure?
Moorhead: “I haven’t heard any of those things from anyone here at Mississippi State. I’m worried about making sure we’re putting these kids in position to be successful this week with the game plan, doing a good job at practice and improving our urgency and precision and going out on Saturday and playing a great game.
“You understand what you sign up for when you become a head coach in this league – the good, the bad and the ugly. People are entitled to their opinions and what they think is reality and I’m entitled to mine as well.
“I’m excited about what we did last year. I’m excited about the current state and I’m excited about the future of the program. That’s where we’re at and that’s where I’m at. If I was any better, there would be two of me.”
What’s it like to be a head coach in the SEC and has it been different than what you expected?
Moorhead: “I talked to coach (James) Franklin about it prior to coming down here about some of the ups-and-downs, highs-and-lows. Part of the reason I took this job among other opportunities after the ‘16 and ‘17 seasons is I wanted to gauge myself and compete against the best of the best in the SEC. You know going into it that you’re coaching against coach (Nick) Saban and the other great coaches in this conference.
“The recruiting aspect of it as well is going to be a grind every single day. The margin of error is going to be small. The praise when you do well is going to be high and when you perform poorly it’s going to be harsh. That’s just part of it. This conference has gone through a bunch of great coaches. Some of them have had hard times.
“I hate to simplify it in this manner but it’s what you signed up for and it is what it is.”
What is the next step in the progression of the offense?
Moorhead: “I think continuing to focus on our efficiency and explosiveness in the run game and connecting on a bunch of downfield throws and be more explosive. We’ve done that throughout the season.
“I think we need to not turn the ball over and do a good job with ball security and decision-making. We’ve got to do a better job of converting on third down. Those would be the areas right now where we need to see the most improvement.”