Coordinator needs freedom to make changes

This is exactly the kind of hire James Franklin should have made for the offensive coordinator job.

The key word there is “kind.”

I cannot sit here and tell you Kirk Ciarrocca is a home run hire who will do Joe Moorhead type of things for Penn State’s offense.

No one can predict the future when it comes to that sort of stuff.

Ciarrocca might be awesome. Even better than Moorhead.

He might turn out to be blah. Even worse than Ricky Rahne. But that would be a big surprise given his track record.

See, Ciarrocca has the “kind” of track record Franklin needed to find.

“We wanted to get a proven playcaller,” Franklin said.


Ciarrocca has called plays for 18 years. That’s 18 more years than Rahne had called when he was hired two years ago to replace Moorhead.

Rahne had called plays for a grand total of two games — on two separate interim bowl game situations — and there’s no doubt his inexperience cost the Nittany Lions at times in big spots the past two years.

Ciarrocca not only has great experience, he’s produced great results at places like Delaware, Western Michigan and Minnesota.

Now he’ll get to work with overall better talent than he’s ever had, at a PSU program that has everything going in the right direction and should only continue to attract good offensive players.

As someone who loves offense, I’m looking forward to seeing what Ciarrocca can do.

But I’m also looking forward to seeing what Franklin let’s him do. That, more than anything else, could determine Ciarrocca’s ultimate fate.

Franklin repeated Thursday what he said last week about what will be expected from the next offensive coordinator. He wants someone who can come in and “blend.”

“So what’s the blend?” Franklin said. “What can stay the same with what Penn State’s been doing? What do I have conviction about, what I’ve done in my career specifically at Minnesota? And how can we take the best of both of those worlds and blend them together that’s going to be in everyone’s best interest?”

In short, Ciarrocca isn’t going to be afforded the same freedom Moorhead had to come in and completely overhaul the offense. Nor should he have that much freedom.

Penn State’s offense isn’t broken, the way it was under John Donovan before he was fired. It’s just in need of a tuneup and some fresh ideas.

Still, there’s a fine line in all of this.

I always got the feeling with Rahne that he was trying to run Moorhead’s system the best he could, but he just wasn’t as good at it as JoeMo. And it was unrealistic to think Rahne could be as good because he had so little experience as a playcaller.

To be fair, Rahne also didn’t have Saquon Barkley or Chris Godwin or Mike Gesicki. Moorhead did.

Franklin should have gone out two years ago and hired someone like Ciarrocca. Someone with great experience. Instead, he hired his loyal friend, Rahne, and gave him a shot to run the system that was already in place.

Some things worked out OK. Some didn’t.

For this move to work out as well as possible, Franklin can’t force the Moorhead and Rahne system on Ciarrocca. His track record shows he likes doing a lot of the same things with the RPO and building a strong run game, but if Ciarrocca wants to make some huge schematic changes, it will be interesting to see how that plays out.

Michigan hired Josh Gattis and paid him more than $1 million a year to run its offense. But if you watched the Wolverines early in the season, it was clear that Jim Harbaugh’s extremely conservative fingerprints were still all over the playcalling.

Ciarrocca probably is getting more than $1 million from PSU — that’s the going rate to keep up with the Joneses of college football — and he should have the authority to do a lot of things his own way, even it doesn’t necessarily “blend” with what the Lions did the past four years.

Penn State never really ran a true hurry-up offense under Moorhead or Rahne. Yeah, it was hurry up and get to the line of scrimmage, then have everyone stand around for 20 seconds to get to the right playcall.

That’s one big thing I’d like to see change. Tempo works. Tempo is tough to defend. Letting the defense catch its breath because you’re trying to get into the right play can work well at times, but it also can be a detriment at times.

It’s not against the religion of football to go under center on occasion. It was just against the religion of Moorhead and Rahne. If Ciarrocca wants to have the QB under center every now and then, it should be allowed.

My basic belief in life is that you should consider all options in every situation. Think outside the box and don’t ever consider anything off limits.

My beef with PSU’s offense under Rahne and even Moorhead was that things like going under center and the fullback were considered evil. The Lions would never do those things simply out of principle.

It was silly.

If Ciarrocca comes in and wants to do some different things, Franklin needs to let him try it.

Joe Moorhead is gone.

Ricky Rahne is gone.

Their system can still work by and large, but it needs to be improved in some major areas for PSU to take big steps forward and become an offensive juggernaut.

Hopefully Franklin will give Ciarrocca enough latitude to try new things in order to reach that goal.

Cory Giger can be reached at cgiger@altoonamirror.com.


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