What if I told you that Penn State could welcome back one of its own to overhaul a maligned offense into a highly-productive unit that would lift the team to championship caliber? Sound too good to be true? Well, it may not be out of the realm of possibility if James Franklin gives serious consideration to Penn State legend and current Baltimore Ravens wide receivers coach Bobby Engram.
As you likely already know, Engram is arguably the greatest wide receiver to ever play for the Nittany Lions. Engram finished his career with an incredible list of accomplishments, including being named a three-time All-American while shattering the Penn State record books. Although he graduated in 1995 when college football wasn't quite the pass-happy affair it is today, Engram remains the school record-holder for career receiving yards (3,026), receiving touchdowns (31) and 100-yard receiving games (16). Engram remains as the only Nittany Lion to claim the Biletnikoff Award for his performance during his junior season in 1994, where he was Kerry Collins' favorite target on the greatest offense in Penn State history. If you weren't fortunate to watch Engram as a Nittany Lion, or just want to reminisce with some of his incredible performances, check out his career highlights here and here. (If you are still reading and did not click, be noted that the very first highlight is Engram's bonkers game-winning touchdown against Michigan State in 1995).
After slipping to the second round of the 1996 draft, Engram went on to a long and prolific NFL career with the Chicago Bears, Seattle Seahawks and Kansas City Chiefs, which included an appearance in Super Bowl XL, where he caught six passes for 70 yards in the Seahawks loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Engram hung up his cleats for good in 2009 after a 14-year career that included 650 receptions, 7,751 yards and 35 touchdowns.
While Engram is still considered an up-and-comer, he is quickly moving up the coaching ranks, where he has learned from some of the games top offensive minds. His coaching career began in 2011 as an offensive assistant under Jim Harbaugh with the San Francisco 49ers, where he helped lead the team to the NFC Championship Game. He then made a name for himself as the wide receivers coach at Pitt in 2012 and 2013, where he made an immediate impact with a young group of receivers. In 2012, he guided Devin Street and Mike Shanahan to All-Big East accolades, the first time in program history the Panthers had two receivers receive all-conference honors in the same season. He followed that up by mentoring freshman Tyler Boyd, helping him to gain All-ACC and Freshman All-American honors. Boyd would finish his freshman campaign with 85 receptions for 1,174 yards, while breaking several team records by surpassing Larry Fitzgerald, who is easily one of the greatest wide receivers in the history of the game at any level.
Engram departed Pitt for the greener pastures of the NFL, and is currently in his second season as the wide receivers coach for the Baltimore Ravens, learning under the tutelage of Super Bowl champion John Harbaugh. Once again, the receivers thrived under Engram in Baltimore. Receivers Steve Smith Sr. and Torrey Smith shined under Engram, helping the team set franchise records for most points and yardage in a single-season.
The biggest knack against Engram is that he has no experience as an offensive coordinator, something Franklin reportedly desires for the position. However, there is no denying that Engram has enjoyed immediate success at each of his stops thus far in his coaching career. The timing for Engram to return to State College could no be any more perfect, considering Engram's ability to get the most of his players coupled with Penn State's large group of gifted receivers. There is little doubt that Engram would tap the full potential of overlooked but talented receivers like Saeed Blacknall, Geno Lewis, Brandon Polk and DeAndre Thompkins, something John Donovan seemed completely incapable of doing. He could likely further develop breakout star Chris Godwin into an All-American and top 20 draft pick. And who wouldn't want to see what he could do with Juwan Johnson and Irvin Charles, each who seem to have unlimited potential heading into their redshirt freshman campaigns in 2016?
Engram would also be a boon on the recruiting trail. As a young and energetic individual who has found major success in all capacities as a player and coach, what high school prospect wouldn't welcome hearing from a Biletnikoff winner with a long NFL career and the ability to bring out the very best in his players?
Something to consider is if Engram would even want the job. After spending 17 of the last 20 years in professional football, perhaps he prefers to work his way up the ranks in the NFL. But the call to come home and right the ship at one's alma mater is a powerful thing that is often difficult to turn down. Heck, who would want to coach in a half-empty NFL stadium where the majority of fans are more interested in their smartphones when you can be calling the shots in front of a jam-packed whiteout in Beaver Stadium?
It seems that Engram is more than worthy of serious consideration to return to Penn State as the new offensive coordinator who will be responsible for overhauling an offense that can compete with the likes of Urban Meyer, Mark Dantonio and Jim Harbaugh. Now, does James Franklin agree?