Who is Penn State's next offensive coordinator?
Right now, no one has any idea. Hell, no one even knows what direction James Franklin plans on going in with this hire. No one knows if he'll go with a college guy or a pro guy, no one knows what his new guy will believe in (MAYBE WE'LL GET AN OPTION OFFENSE). All we know is that there will be a national search for a new coordinator and we have no idea when the offense will have its new leader.
We decided that we wanted to help out. Our staff came together and compiled a list of people who we would like to see Penn State target in this coaching search. This doesn't mean that the eventual hire needs to come from this list of people, nor does it mean that we endorse one of the people on this list (we'll do our endorsements a little later). Rather, this is just a list of names who we think would be interesting hires for a variety of reasons. There is nothing linking anyone on this list to the job vacancy, nor are we suggesting that anyone in here will get interviewed for the gig.
Current Staff Members
- Herb Hand (Run Game Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach, Penn State)
- Ricky Rahne (Passing Game Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach, Penn State)
- Josh Gattis (Offensive Recruiting Coordinator/Wide Receivers Coach, Penn State)
- Charles Huff (Special Teams Coordinator/Running Backs Coach, Penn State)
Of the four offensive staff members, Huff is probably the one least likely to get a promotion, as he already coaches Penn State's special teams. Rahne and Gattis would both be the most ambitious hires, as the two have no experience as offensive coordinators but are young, energetic hires who by all accounts are smart guys.
If you had to bet on a guy in this group, the safest bet would likely be Hand. He is the only remaining coach with offensive coordinator experience, has been coaching in some capacity since 1990, and is exactly the kind of guy who you want as the face of your offense.
- Mark Richt (former coach, Georgia)
- Al Golden (former coach, Miami)
- Jeff Brohm (head coach, Western Kentucky)
- P.J. Fleck (head coach, Western Michigan)
- Mike Locksley (interim head coach, Maryland)
First things first, let me remind you that this is a hypothetical scenario where it makes sense for a guy to go from "Group of 5 head coach" to "Power 5 coordinator." Anyway, Fleck and Brohm are both interesting hires, because they're high-energy guys who are just really good football coaches. Brohm is especially intriguing, as his offense is unreal, but I would eat my hat if it's either of these fellas.
It almost certainly won't be Richt, either. Georgia's former coach was fired shortly after Donovan was let go, and he will almost certainly land on his feet with a head coaching job somewhere, because he's an excellent coach. If, for some reason, he decides to work as an offensive coordinator for a year or two, he'd be an amazing addition to any staff. Odds are he'd leave within two years, though, so there would be plenty of reasons for skepticism about bringing him on board.
Golden would be an interesting choice for about a zillion different reasons – played at Penn State, is a former tight end (so he can fill in that job, too), etc. However, he's also probably landing a head coaching job somewhere, and if he did decide to go the coordinator route, he came through the ranks as a defensive guy.
Locksley took over as an interim head coach and could possibly bring a recruit or two with him to Happy Valley if a few things bounce the right way. Plus Locksley and Franklin have a history together, as the two were both coaches at Maryland for a few years. On the recruiting note, there aren't many guys who are better than Locksley. The downside to hiring him is, uh, well you can ask a Maryland fan about Locksley's ability as an offensive coordinator and see what happens.
- Bob Stitt (head coach, Montana)
Consider Stitt the silliest and most gamechanging possible hire Penn State can make. Yes, he's a head coach, but it's at an FCS school, and this is a simple way for him to break into FBS and show that his funky way of thinking on the offensive side of the ball can translate to FBS. His base salary ($175,000) is something Penn State can quadruple, and calling his offensive approach "outside the box" is an understatement. The big question: would he be willing to take a lesser job in a greater level of football when he's proven that he can be a great head coach?
- Brock Huard (ESPN)
- Mike Martz (Fox Sports)
If Martz has any desire to get back into coaching, he'd be an outstanding hire. He was the mad genius behind the Greatest Show on Turf, and if Franklin wants a short-term hire, who wouldn't want to see what Martz could do with the skill position players in Happy Valley? As for Huard, he watched more Penn State than just about anyone this year and you could tell that he had ideas for how to make the offense work. Why not give him the chance to show off what he knows?
- Charlie Fisher (Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach, Richmond)
- Brett Elliott (Co-Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach, JMU)
- Zak Kuhr (Co-Offensive Coordinator (Run Game)/Running Backs Coach, JMU)
Really this list can be as long as the list of FBS coordinators that we'll drop on you in a second, but we decided to cut it down to only three guys.
First, there is the one we're all familiar with: Charlie Fisher. You may remember him as the guy who was Penn State's quarterbacks coach under Bill O'Brien and, oh yeah, was the lead recruiter on some quarterback named Christian Hackenberg. Before you get ahead of yourselves – no, a potential hiring of Fisher doesn't mean that Hack stays for his senior year, so let's not think of that. What we should think of is that Fisher has built a brilliant FCS offense, one that ranks in the top-20 in third down offense (ninth), total offense (14th), scoring offense (23rd), passing offense, and rushing offense (27th). The most intriguing part? His job before coming to State College just happened to be at Vanderbilt, which didn't coincide with Franklin's tenure, but it's still interesting.
If you want even better offensive coordinators from FCS than Fisher, there's a good chance that Elliott and Kuhr will be the hottest names on the market within the next three years. James Madison had the best offense in FCS this year in terms of total offense and the second-best scoring offense in America. Long story short, these guys are studs, and considering that they are young, brilliant, energetic young minds from a smaller school, there is a chance that either of them could be Penn State's version of Oklahoma's Lincoln Riley.
- Joe Philbin (former head coach, Miami Dolphins)
- Kurt Roper (Senior Offensive Assistant, Cleveland Browns)
- Bobby Engram (Wide Receivers Coach, Baltimore Ravens)
Let's go bottom to top: Engram is a Penn State guy who has coached in college in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania before. This hiring would seem very similar to the hiring of Terry Smith, only Engram has professional experience and has coached under both Harbaugh brothers. If you're going to fill the spot, and there's no clear cut person to take the position, you might as well look at Penn State royalty.
Yes, Roper was the offensive coordinator at Florida in 2014, but that shouldn't count against him too much, as though Florida was horrendous in 2014, he has a track record of being a good offensive coordinator. He was instrumental in turning Duke's offense into a respectable unit from 2008-2014. Roper has also coached some spectacular players during his time in college, as he was Eli Manning's position coach at Ole Miss, Arian Foster's position coach at Tennessee, and Thad Lewis' offensive coordinator at Duke.
Philbin hasn't been in college since 2002, but if he wants to rehabilitate his image after a rough stint in charge of the Miami Dolphins, it could be prudent him to get back to his roots and return to college. He worked with Franklin for a spell in Green Bay, and his heyday as the team's offensive coordinator culminated with the Packers winning a Super Bowl.
High School Coaches
- Mike Sherman (head coach, Nauset Regional High School)
Hey, guess who is: A) currently not doing anything better than coaching at Penn State, B) has experience coaching in college, B) coached in the NFL, and D) worked with Franklin in the past? Do you seriously think that if someone offers Sherman the job, he'd say no?
- Mike Yurcich (Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach, Oklahoma State)
- G.A. Mangus (Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach/Tight Ends Coach, South Carolina)
- Jason McEndoo (Tight Ends/Cowboy Backs Coach, Oklahoma State)
- Sean Lewis (Co-Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach, Bowling Green)
- Mike Lynch (Co-Offensive Coordinator/Running Backs Coach/Offensive Line Coach, Bowling Green)
- Tee Martin (Wide Receivers Coach/Pass Game Coordinator, USC)
- Seth Littrell (Assistant Head Coach for Offense/Tight Ends Coach, North Carolina)
- Tim Brewster (Recruiting Coordinator/Tight Ends Coach, Florida State)
- John Shoop (former Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach, Purdue)
- Eddie Gran (Offensive Coordinator/Running Backs Coach, Cincinnati)
- Tyson Helton (Offensive Coordinator, Western Kentucky)
- Darrell Dickey (Co-Offensive Coordinator/Running Backs Coach, Memphis)
- Brad Cornelsen (Co-Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach, Memphis)
- Eric Morris (Offensive Coordinator/Wide Receivers Coach, Texas Tech)
- Kirk Ciarrocca (Offensive Coordinator, Western Michigan)
- Tony Petersen (Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach, Louisiana Tech)
- Tate Wallis (Wide Receivers Coach, Baylor)
- Chip Lindsey (Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach, Southern Miss)
- Morgan Turner (Tight Ends Coach, Stanford)
- James Coley (Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach, Miami)
- Jason Candle (Associate Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach, Toledo)
Finally, we have the longest group of people we'd like to see Penn State target. I won't go into detail on any of them, but this is a list of guys who have had some level of success as position coaches and/or coordinators in offense and could bring a spark to the Nittany Lion offense. Personally, I like Martin, Littrell, Candle, Coley, and Wallis the most out of the people in this group, but if you ask other people on staff to throw together the five people they like the most, I'm sure their lists would be different. Still, look into the people on here, because I promise you'll find someone you like.
So what about you? Does anyone we presented on this list interest you? Is there anyone you think we overlooked? Let us know in the comments, because the next month or so is going to be crucial for the future of Penn State football.