On Monday, Ricky Rahne officially accepted the head coaching job at Old Dominion University. As a result, James Franklin and the Nittany Lions are now in the market for a new offensive coordinator.
Luckily for Coach Franklin and company, the Penn State offensive coordinator gig should be an attractive one. Franklin’s last two offensive coordinators are now FBS head coaches. Also, the Nittany Lions will return 10 starts on offense, 9 if KJ Hamler goes pro, on offense and will enter the 2020 season as a tip 5-10 team. So, there should be not shortage of interested candidates for the job.
That said, who should Coach Franklin be targeting for his new OC? Well, let’s take a look!
Joe Brady, LSU WR Coach/PCG
Let’s get the pipe dream out of the way early.
The 30-year-old Brady was a graduate assistant on Franklin’s staff in 2015 and 2016. After spending two seasons as an offensive assistant with the New Orleans Saints, Brady became arguably the hottest assistant coach name in college football with the work he has done as wide receivers coach/passing game coordinator with LSU this season. Brady is given a bulk of the credit for LSU’s offense being one of the best in both program and SEC history this season.
Brady would not be a home run hire as offensive coordinator — he would be a grand slam. While LSU is prepared to offer Brady $1M+ to remain on staff, money shouldn’t be much of an issue on the Nittany Lions’ side of things. Additionally, Penn State can offer the opportunity to coach *quarterbacks and call plays. Two big perks, that right now, LSU can not offer.
Penn State will be far from the only suitor for Brady this offseason. There have already been reports that Texas is ready to throw the house at him to be their offensive coordinator. Due to the price tag, Brady is likely a pipe dream. But with his ties to Franklin and Penn State we can dream, right?
*A lot of fans and pundits are pointing out how Brady has never coached quarterbacks before, which sure, he’s never been a QB coach, but his main role as a GA at Penn State was working with the quarterbacks.
Kirk Ciarrocca, Minnesota OC/QB Coach
Dating back to their time at Western Michigan, Pennsylvania native Kirk Ciarrocca has spent the past seven seasons as PJ Fleck’s offensive coordinator. As the Nittany Lions painfully witnessed last month, his Golden Gopher offense is very good.
Under his guidance, Minnesota quarterback Tanner Morgan burst onto the scene this past season completing 66.1% of his passes for 2,975 yards, 28 touchdowns, a 180.4 QB rating, and just 6 interceptions.
Ciarrocca’s RPO attack is efficient, potent, and tough to defend. His offense is similar to what the Nittany Lions run, and should make for an easy transition for Sean Clifford and company. With the coaching of Ciarrocca, Clifford and the Nittany Lion offense could be one of the best in the Big Ten in 2020.
During the 2019 season, Ciarrocca made $710,000. This is a number that Penn State can easily out bid if they would wish to do so. Ciarrocca could also be someone that may stick around as an offensive coordinator for more than just two or three years, which could be a plus.
Phil Longo, UNC OC/QB Coach
Much like Coach Franklin, Phil Longo is a former East Stroudsburg University quarterback. Since then, the New Jersey native has been all over college football making a name for himself as a great offensive mind.
After spending two seasons as offensive coordinator at Ole Miss, Longo joined Mack Brown in the same role at North Carolina for this past season. Longo coordinated a Tar Heel offense that finished 40th nationally in offensive S&P+. This, however, does tell the entire story.
North Carolina was a young team that lacked play makers on offense. Despite this, the Tar Heels still average 31.3 points per game. Coaching quarterbacks, Longo also helped Sam Howell develop into one of the best true freshman QBs in the country.
Longo also runs a spread scheme that is similar to what Penn State has run the past four seasons. He also brings PA ties, having spent three seasons as a coach at Slippery Rock in addition to his time at his alma mater. With a salary of just $700,000, money would not be an issue with Longo.
Sean Gleeson, Oklahoma State OC/QB Coach
In the mold of Joe Brady, Sean Gleeson has quickly risen the ranks in the college football coaching world. Just three seasons ago, he was the RB Coach at Princeton, but since then, Gleeson has taken off. He took over offensive coordinator duties for Princeton in 2017 and 2018, put up some ridiculous numbers, and parlayed that into his current role: running the offense for Oklahoma State.
Here’s what Bill Connelly said about Gleeson earlier this summer:
This is a system built to take advantage of whatever you can’t stop, be it the run or the pass. And make no mistake: if you can’t stop Princeton from running the ball, Princeton won’t stop running the ball.
Read more about Gleeson here.
As it turns out, the same was the case for Pokes under Gleeson: they did not stop running the ball, leading the Big 12 with 44.25 rushing attempts per game.
Gleeson is a young dude (he’s only 34 or 35) with a unique background (he was a high school teacher/coach in New Jersey in 2010), but the proof is in the pudding — the guy knows offense.
James Perry, Brown Head Coach
Sticking with the Ivy League connection, Perry was the offensive coordinator at Princeton prior to Gleeson, serving as the Tigers OC from 2010-2016. He left the program to become the head coach at Bryant in 2017 and 2018, and is now fresh off his first season as the head coach at his alma mater, Brown.
Here’s the thing: Brown sucked this year. They went 2-8. Totally stink. But, on the positive side of things, Brown’s offense did not suck. They had the 15th ranked total offense in the FCS this year, putting up 454.5 yards per game.
The other interesting nugget — Perry was a GA for Maryland during 2004-2005, which coincides with Franklin’s last year during his first stint in College Park.
Jeff Nixon, Baylor Co-OC/RB Coach
A State College high graduate and former Nittany Lion, Jeff Nixon has spent the last three years with Matt Rhule and Baylor as the Co-OC. While the Bears calling card was defense this year, no one can doubt the strides they’ve made offensively, as they came in ranked No. 25, according to S&P+.
One of the things that could potentially hold Nixon back? He doesn’t have any experience with coaching quarterbacks, which for Penn State’s hiring process, might be just as important as the offensive coordinator side of things.
Brennan Marion, William & Mary OC/QB Coach
Marion is probably another year or two away from making the jump to FBS, but the first-year William & Mary OC/QB Coach is highly thought of in coaching circles, and for that reason, we’ll list him here. A former wide receiver at Tulsa, Marion was previously the OC/QB Coach at Howard, where his “Go-Go” offenses posted top 15 offenses in 2017 and 2018.
Like Gleeson, Marion is a young dude with a unique background. In all likelihood, the jump from William & Mary to Penn State isn’t going to happen, but weirder moves have happened.