Penn State Football

Will James Franklin’s New Hire Be His Last Stand as Penn State Football Head Coach? | STASZAK

It’s no wonder James Franklin and Penn State Football made a drastic change.

The Nittany Lions finished the 2023 regular season ranked No.14 nationally in scoring offense (37.2 points per game), No. 27 in rushing offense (186.67 yards per game), No. 92 in passing offense (204.3 yards per game), No. 62 in total offense (391 yards per game) and No. 81 in yards per play (5.46 yards per play)

Since the only number that really matters is points per game, in a vacuum it looks like the Nits’ offense had a superb season finishing 14th out of 133 Division 1 offenses.

But here’s the thing.

It’s one thing to drop 63 on Delaware or UMASS. But, in the two most important games of the year, at Ohio State and against Michigan, Penn State’s offense was virtually unwatchable.  And it’s not a talent problem.

Penn State has a 5-star recruit at the helm in sophomore Drew Allar and and a one-two punch in the backfield with two of the top running backs in all the land in Kaytron Allen and Nick Singleton.

Since head coach James Franklin is in charge of all things “We Are” the impotence of his offense in big games is on him and believe me he has to be feeling the pressure.

Franklin is in his 10th year as the head man at Penn State and his team has had four 11-win seasons since 2016 under his guise, but here are the numbers that exasperate Nittany Lions fans: the Nits are 1-9 against Ohio State; 3-16 vs. top-10 teams; 1-13 vs. Ohio State and Michigan teams ranked in the top 10 under Franklin.

In the two biggest games of the season here is how Penn State’s offense faired.

VS Ohio State: Allar was 18 of 42 for 191 yards. They rushed for 49 yards. They were an astounding 1-16 on 3rd down conversions and scored their only touchdown of the game with :29 seconds left.  Penn State had the ball for almost 10 minutes less than the Buckeyes as well.

VS Michigan: Allar was just 10-22 for 70 yards and threw his only touchdown pass of the game with under two minutes left and his team down 15. The offense was again abysmal of 3rd down going just 4-14.

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After firing Mike Yurcich a couple weeks ago, Franklin acknowledged that the offense’s performance against Ohio State and Michigan, the only losses during a 10-win season, factored into the decision to make a change at offensive coordinator.

In order to get where Penn State Football wants to go, the Nittany Lions need to beat the top teams in a conference that is poised to add Oregon, UCLA, USC and Washington next summer.

So in comes Andy Kotelnicki as the new offensive coordinator in Happy Valley.

Kotelnicki arrives from Kansas where he had great success this season despite missing Preseason Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year Jalon Daniels for much of the year.  Kotelnicki generated an attack that ranked No. 29 in both total and scoring offense this season.

The Jayhawks’ 7.01 yards per play was good enough for eighth in the country, alongside high-powered units like Washington, Oregon, Georgia and USC.

Penn State failed to maximize their abilities in their biggest games this season and that’s what Kotelnicki will be tasked with in Happy Valley.

But, here’s why this is Franklin’s most important hire to date; Kotelnicki will be the SIXTH offensive coordinator to serve under Franklin since he was hired at Penn State in 2014. Three were ultimately fired for performance.  Let me repeat that. THREE were ultimately fired for performance.

So, how many chances will the administration give Franklin to get it right?

Four 11 win seasons is an impressive accomplishment, but it doesn’t achieve the ultimate goal.

Penn State Football won two National Championships in the 80s, but haven’t won one since.

Kotelnicki has built a reputation as one of the most creative play callers in college football, and is known for generating exciting offenses. If he’s unable to do the same thing with the talent at his disposable at PSU it could be the last go around for Franklin.

Franklin, who has eight years left in his contract, currently holds the distinction of having the biggest buyout of any of the Big Ten coaches with a whopping $64.47 million buyout.

That number comes from the deal Franklin signed in 2021 that has an average annual salary of $7.5 million.

Though the Nittany Lions were just 7-4 at the time the contract was unveiled and were coming off a 4-5 2020 campaign, the program’s first losing season since 2004, Franklin’s name had been linked to the vacant USC job, which ultimately went to Lincoln Riley.

In 10 seasons with the Nittany Lions, Franklin is 83-36, including a 16-2 mark since the beginning of the 2022 season, buuuuut there are  those pesky big game performances that has Franklin on the proverbial hot seat.

While his contract is good throughs the 2031 season it wouldn’t be unprecedented to pay him to not coach at Penn State if next year doesn’t go well.

Texas A & M relieved former head coach Jimbo Fisher of his duties a few weeks ago. Fisher also had a contract that would take him through the 2031 season.  The school paid him a record $77 million dollars to go away.

In explaining his decision, Aggies athletic director Ross Bjork said a few weeks ago, while the timing is “not ideal,” he felt the team needed a shift in direction.

“Our program is stuck in neutral, we should be relevant on the national scene, something is not clicking, something is not working and therefore, something had to give in order for Aggie football to reach our full potential,”

Now if that doesn’t have a familiar sound to it you’re just not listening.

MORE: 3 Things to Know About New Penn State Offensive Coordinator Andy Kotelnicki

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