Mario Cristobal’s offensive coordinator, version 2.0 upgrade didn’t take long.
Oregon’s head coach is expected to hire Joe Moorhead, recently fired as Mississippi State’s head coach, as the Ducks’ new offensive coordinator.
Stadium’s Brett McMurphy reported the move, but later Tuesday night the Oregonian reported the search remains ongoing.
Moorhead, 46, would replace Marcus Arroyo, who left the program to become the head coach at UNLV.
“I think every time you have a vacancy, and that relates to everyone in an organization, you always have the opportunity to upgrade,” Cristobal said Monday. “That’s not a dig or a shot at anybody because I think that our previous coordinator did a really nice job while he was here.
“But it’s just the nature of the industry. Every time you have a guy graduate and move on, you hope you’re recruiting well enough to replace him at the same level or better. You always want to get better.”
Oregon finished the season 12-2 overall with a Pac-12 championship and a Rose Bowl victory with Arroyo calling the plays and first-year defensive coordinator Andy Arroyo’s unit allowing only 16.6 points per game.
During two seasons at Mississippi State, Moorhead compiled a 14-12 overall record (7-9 in the SEC). He was previously the offensive coordinator at Penn State’s (2016-17) and an FCS head coach at Fordham (2012-2015).
The Nittany Lions went 21-5 with a Big Ten championship and two New Year’s Six bowl victories during Moorhead’s stint in Happy Valley with Trace McSorley and quarterback and Saquan Barkley at running back.
Moorhead was unable to gain any traction at Mississippi State, which ranked 74th in scoring (27.6 per game), 109th in passing yards (179.5 per game) and 70th in total offense (400.1 yards per game) during a 6-7 finish in 2019.
Before the season, the NCAA determined that 10 of Moorhead’s players had committed academic fraud. They were suspended for eight games.
Freshman quarterback Garrett Shrader, who had led the Bulldogs to a win over rival Mississippi in the regular-season finale, did not play in the Music City Bowl after suffering injuries during a fight in practice with linebacker Willie Gay. The Bulldogs lost 38-28 to Louisville.
Mike Leach left Washington State last week to replace Moorhead at Mississippi State.
“I would like to thank our players and families. I appreciate all of the hard work and dedication you have put in over the last two seasons,” Moorhead posted on social media after losing his job two weeks ago. “I’m proud of the things we were able to accomplish on the field, in the classroom and in the community. I hope I have made a positive impact on your lives and helped you grow as a student, a person and a player.
“I love you all and will always just be a phone call away.”
Moorhead would oversee a quarterback competition to replace four-year starter Justin Herbert. The Ducks also lose four starters on the offensive line and one of his former pupils, Penn State transfer wide receiver Juwan Johnson, to graduation.
Redshirt freshman Tyler Shough, true freshman Cale Millen and 2020 recruits Jay Butterfield and Robby Ashford are the candidates Moorhead, a former quarterback at Fordham, would inherit to run his offense.
Outland Trophy winner Penei Sewell returns at left tackle, along with the team’s top three rushers (CJ Verdell, Travis Dye, Cyrus Habibi-Likio) and top two wide receivers (Johnny Johnson, Jaylon Redd) from last season.
Oregon finished 16th in scoring (35.4 points per game), 39th in total yards (433.1 per game), 41st in passing yards (258.2 ypg) and 51st in rushing yards (174.9 ypg).
“We’re trying to head in a certain direction,” Cristobal said. “We feel good about the direction we’re going and it all points to us getting better.”
Follow Ryan Thorburn on Twitter @RGDuckFootball and email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more Oregon sports coverage, visit DuckSports.com.