James Franklin's Penn State Football Offensive Journey

NittanyCentral is home for the latest Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, Penn State Basketball news, updates, and analysis of the Penn State Nittany Lions

NittanyCentral is home for the latest Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, Penn State Basketball news, updates, and analysis of the Penn State Nittany Lions

NittanyCentral is home for the latest Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, Penn State Basketball news, updates, and analysis of the Penn State Nittany Lions

The latest news, insight, and analysis of Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, and Penn State Basketball, including schedules, game results, analysis of breaking news, rumors, speculation, and recruiting coverage of future Penn State Nittany Lions

NittanyCentral is home to the latest Penn State Nittany Lions news, updates, insight, and analysis, including in-depth coverage of Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, Penn State Basketball, and much more

James Franklin’s Penn State Football Offensive Journey

Penn State Football head coach James Franklin has done a heck of a job at PSU in many ways, especially with recruiting nationally. But, a big program needs big results, and Franklin‘s quest to conquer the Big Ten once again has been frustratingly elusive.

Penn State Football, Penn State Football Recruiting, James Franklin
Head coach James Franklin of the Penn State Nittany Lions (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

So, let’s go over the OCs Franklin has hired, and where they are now?

John Donovan 2014-15: (fired)

Franklin‘s first OC along with Vanderbilt, Christian Hackenberg’s final two years. Things got better, but it wasn’t enough. Donovan was let go by Franklin. He went on as an analyst for the Jacksonville Jaguars and is currently the Offensive Coordinator for the Washington Huskies.

Joe Moorehead 2016-17: (head coach)

Penn State Football, Joe Moorhead
Joe Moorhead could be on the cusp of a Penn State Football return in 2023. (Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire)

A home run hire for Franklin, the Fordham Head Coach brought an explosive offensive style that PSU fans had never seen. It was an exciting time.

The tools this man had were insane: Trace McSorely, Saquon Barkley, Chris Godwin, DaeSean Hamilton, and Mike Gesicki. And he brought PSU a Big Ten title.

Moorehead left PSU to become the new Head Coach at Mississippi State, where he lasted just two seasons. He was let go, and he is currently the Offensive Coordinator for Oregon.

Ricky Rahne 2018-19: (head coach)

Rahne had a history at PSU and Franklin entrusted him to run the offense.

It wouldn’t be easy. This was the transition time from McSorely to Sean Clifford. There were lots of huge starters left, but Rahne did well.

The problem was that the offense, and Clifford, did not perform well in Penn State’s two losses. Clifford threw three interceptions in the loss to Minnesota, while the team totaled only 17 points against The Buckeyes.
At the end of the season, Rahne moved on and took the head coaching job at Old Dominion.


Kirk Ciarrocca 2020: (fired)

Penn State Football
Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford  (Photo by Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire)

With Rahne gone, Franklin went and grabbed an offensive coordinator who beat him in 2019, Minnesota’s Kirk Ciarrocca.

A completely different style, moving from the explosive to a methodical approach on offense. The offense averaged just 29.8 points per game, and it wasn’t pretty. The playbook was vanilla, and Penn State relied on the quarterback draw, using both Clifford and backup Will Levis.

He also had to deal with injuries to tight end Pat Freiermuth, running back Noah Cain, and Journey Brown retired due to a medical condition.

Ciarrocca lost three of his best weapons. Jahan Dotson did step up and had a huge breakout season. But it wasn’t enough, and combined with the nightmare season of Covid, Franklin moved on after just one season.

Kirk is currently the Offensive Coordinator at Rutgers.

Mike Yurcich 2021-2023: (fired)

Penn State Football, Mike Yurcich
Penn State Football head coach James Franklin and offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich (Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire)

Yurcich came in as one of THE top OC targets in the nation. Ridiculous resume. Oklahoma State. Texas. Ohio State. All offenses improved under his tenure. So what happened at Penn State?

The Nittany Lions scored just 27 points combined in their losses against Michigan and No. 3 Ohio State. The Nittany Lions had been productive overall under his direction, but often not when it matters most. Heard that story before?
Penn State was manhandled by Michigan.

By the next morning Yurcich was fired and Franklin was once again on the hunt. Currently, Yurcich is consulting and helping Elite Camps coach recruits.

Three fired, two promoted.

Where James Franklin, Andy Kotelnicki, Penn State Football Go From Here


Andy Kotelnicki Current:

Coach K joins the Nittany Lions after spending three seasons as Kansas’ offensive coordinator, including the 2023 season as the associate head coach.

Kotelnicki played a key role in the Kansas turnaround, winning 16 games in his first three seasons after the program reached 16 wins total in the previous nine seasons. He honestly has too many ridiculous stats to post.

Over the last three seasons, Kotelnicki’s Kansas offense had been explosive, ranking 12th in the country in 20+ yard plays (8.3%), 15th in 30+ yard plays (3.89%) and 11th in 40+ yard plays (2.12%) during that span. Additionally, KU ranked 10th in the country in 15+ yard pass plays (20.97%) in the last three years.

The Jayhawks scored 40+ points in nine games during the three-year window and 50+ points in five games. Kansas had reached the 400 total yards mark in 20 games and 500 total yards in 11 games, while rushing for 200 yards in 16 games and 300 yards in three games.

The Kansas offense had been efficient in the red zone and on third downs over his last three seasons, ranking 11th in red zone touchdown percentage (68.24) and 16th in third down conversion percentage (44.9).

But, my favorite piece of data: During the 2022 season, Kotelnicki guided one of the most prolific offensive attacks in Kansas history, as the Jayhawks averaged a school-record 7.0 yards per play, ranking second nationally behind Ohio State (7.6).

I want you to think about that: Not Georgia, not Texas, not USC.

Only Ohio State was better at yards per play, with Kansas having arguably far less caliber of talent than any of those schools.

The weapons Kotelnicki has now must make him feel like a birthday party at Chuck-E-Cheese.

Will James Franklin finally get his OC?

Moorehead was as close as Franklin had come. It was lights out. And he’s been chasing that energy ever since.

The rubber has to meet the road now.

Top talent. Increased financial support. Favorable schedule. New top OC.

One thing that I respect, is that Franklin MAKES the change. Either you are getting it done or you’re not. Because he’s gotta figure out a common denominator if that’s that’s the case.

After six Offensive Coordinator changes in nine years, James Franklin has tried it all, and the runway takeoff to the next level is running short.

MORE: Grading James Franklin’s First Decade at Penn State


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