The search for Penn State’s next offensive coordinator is ongoing, with the hope that we’ll hear something much sooner than later. Being one of the first teams to fire their OC, the Lions are in a pretty good spot to look at options. Also, they’re a top 10, fringe playoff team, with loads of talent on the roster, which has to be appealing.
So what should we be thinking about when it comes to an OC? My personal preference is an offensive coordinator who is, well, offensive.
There is absolutely something to be said about controlling the ball, controlling the clock, and absolutely demoralizing your opponent. Kirk Ciarrocca 100% lived in this realm, and the Lions dabbled in it back in 2020. You’ll recall, however, that the Lions finished with a losing record that year, and fired KC after just one season.
The problem with that style offense, in my opinion, is that it relies entirely too much on a bunch of college kids not to make mistakes. Which, with enough practice, is more likely than not on any given play. But there’s always a chance something goes wrong - a bobbled snap, a dropped handoff, an intercepted ball, a missed block, or everyone’s favorite, a penalty. Asking the players to be 100% perfect on 100% of snaps is pretty faulty logic.
Hence, the removal of Mr. Ciarrocca in favor of Mr. Yurcich.
Mike Yurcich was allegedly an offensive innovator, known for slinging it at Oklahoma State, Ohio State, and Texas before coming to Penn State. Particularly at OK St, Yurcich offenses lit up the scoreboard. The passing was explosive, the run game was methodical, and generally things went well.
That didn’t always translate at Penn State, however, and it came to a head this past season when the offense looked dysfunctional more often than not. It was particularly evident against the two toughest teams on the schedule, Ohio State and Michigan. Now, I’m still not 100% sure why a similarly talented defense in Iowa got toasted for 31 points, while PSU could only muster 12 points and 15 points against OSU and UM, respectively. Leading theory is that Iowa’s offense couldn’t stay on the field, and so the Hawkeye defense tired out, but the dropoff against the best teams was stark.
Which brings me around to my own personal preference for offensive coordinator. And that is someone who relishes running up the score. Not that every play needs to be a touchdown, mind you, planning for 100% explosive plays is likely an even worse strategy than 100% ball control. But I absolutely want an OC who goes out and actively seeks to make the opposing defense suffer.
Much like Manny Diaz’s defense has seemingly enjoyed inflicting negative, chaotic plays on their opponents, I want an OC that will exploit every weakness presented. Who sees a tendency and ruthlessly goes after it. A boxer that sees his opponent leaving his left side unguarded, and delivers nonstop, vicious body blows until they finally dip their guard, at which point the boxer delivers a knockout haymaker.
The closest I’ve seen the Lions get to that was when they had Joe Moorhead, who famously called four straight touchdown plays in the Rose Bowl against USC. But as I alluded to earlier, JoeMo’s offenses could swing for the fences, but oftentimes couldn’t pick up a simple first down when asked to. The anti-Kirk Ciarrocca, if you will. A happy medium between the two would be nice - JoeMo’s scheming and explosive plays, taking advantage of any weakness presented, paired up with KC’s ball control, 3-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust approach when needed.
Also, while we’re talking about it, I’d like the Lions to score eleventy-billion points per game, and for the team to never lose another game as long as college football exists.
Regardless, I’d just like to see a similar level of swagger on the offensive side of the ball that the 2023 defense has. Whether that happens remains to be seen, but it’s obviously something that James Franklin knows is a problem, and is actively working on addressing.
Let’s hope his next OC hire is as successful as his most recent DC hire.