In case you hadn’t heard, Penn State is currently searching for a new offensive coordinator, after Ricky Rahne left the position to become Old Dominion’s new head coach.
Rahne took over the OC reigns from Joe Moorhead, who was largely responsible for Penn State’s offensive resurgence in 2016, keying on explosive plays. Moorhead, who in turn had taken over from John Donovan, revamped the offense so starkly that Rahne (and James Franklin) mostly kept it the same, even after Joe departed to become the Mississippi State head coach.
The biggest tweaks that Rahne made to the offense were a reduction in true run-pass option (RPO) plays, more designed run plays, and in 2019 added in some more efficient four-minute offense plays, enabling Penn State to grind out wins over Iowa and Michigan. If there were a critique of the Moorhead offense, it would be that it was very boom or bust, in that it would score a touchdown every drive, or go 3-and-out, with no in-between.
As for Rahne himself, his scripted offenses to start a game or the second half were often quite good, but his biggest issue seemed to be a lack for “feel of the game” after completing that initial script. How to adjust to what an offense is doing is supremely important for an OC, and Ricky sometimes left something to be desired.
So, if you were James Franklin, and you were given a blank check by Sandy Barbour to go find the offensive coordinator of the future, what would your offense look like? We’re not talking about specific coordinator names, but what sort of scheme would you go with?
Personally, I wouldn’t change much from what we do currently. I would make it a point of emphasis to include the WR-X position (the Justin Shorter position) more often, rather than relying on just Pat Freiermuth and KJ Hamler in the passing game. I’d also look for more slants and short crossing routes, as well as a heavier reliance on wheel routes and other passes to running backs coming out of the backfield.
Speaking of the running backs, Penn State has a metric buttload of them. Franklin discussed ad nauseum about rotating the backs until a hot hand developed. That proved to be a bit hit or miss, as Noah Cain very clearly established himself as the best running back on the team, but the rotation continued on regardless. Or, we also witnessed the flip side, when RBs were rotated throughout a single drive, rather than given the opportunity to get into a rhythm.
While I would keep the rotation, I would move fairly quickly to give the ball to the best back as soon as they separated themselves, and I’d keep the hot hand on the field for more than a few plays - and for more than a single drive. To counter a lack of playing time, I’d use a whole bunch more 2-back sets, with the aforementioned hot hand on the field, and the #2 guy ready and waiting as well.
But that’s really it - I wouldn’t go crazy and completely revamp the offense. I’d keep the explosive plays and RPO setups that were a staple of the Moorhead offense, and I’d keep the designed runs and 4-minute offense that Rahne added on. But I’d use more two-back sets, actually ride the hot RB hand more, and use RB passes more often. I’d modify the passing game reads/progressions so that the WR-X isn’t completely ignored, and add in more slants and high percentage throws.
But what say you? What sort of offense would you run if you were James Franklin?