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NCAA Football: Peach Bowl-Mississippi at Penn State Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The dust has settled on the early part of the off-season. The recruiting class has signed on the dotted line, the transfer portal has both given and taken away, and the coaching carousel has mostly stopped spinning.

And Penn State will be entering 2024 with three new coordinators.

First, offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki was brought on board to replace the fired Mike Yurcich.

Second, defensive coordinator Tom Allen was hired to replace Manny Diaz, who left to take over as Duke’s head coach.

Third, special teams coordinator Justin Lustig came in to replace Stacy Collins, who left for Boise State for some additional responsibilities.

Let’s first chat about the manner in which the three previous coordinators left.

I feel best about Diaz, who left a coordinator position to be a head coach again; no problems there.

I’m so-so about Collins, whose departure could perhaps be seen as a downgrade (Power 5 (4?) coordinator to Group of 5 (6?) coordinator but with “assistant head coach” title doesn’t seem like a step up, in my humble opinion); feels like he might have been able to stay on and get a better gig in a year or two.

Obviously I feel worst about Yurcich, because I really thought he was going to take the Penn State offense to the next level. It was the right move to replace him, but disappointing that things didn’t pan out.

Now, as for the new hires.

I’m most excited for Kotelnicki. The Lions offense had been effective against lesser teams (the Lions had the #12 scoring offense in 2023, at 36.2 points per game), but struggled against quality opponents (just 13.5 PPG against OSU and Michigan). Kotelnicki is allegedly a genius at scheming around both his roster and his opponent, so the hope is that he can find something that works regardless of who is lining up. Many times it felt like Yurcich would find something that worked, then go away from it for half a game before remembering that one play that was successful and returning to it. Will Kotelnicki improve on 36.2 PPG? Who knows. Will he improve on 13.5 PPG against the good teams? Here’s hoping!

I’m in wait-and-see mode on Allen. From all accounts he’s an incredibly well-liked guy, whose players all like playing for him, and he gets great buy-in into his scheme. His scheme creates less havoc up front, but makes up for it with confusing secondary coverage, baiting the opponent into plays that aren’t actually there. But Diaz was a mad scientist, and Allen gives off more goofy dad vibes. Will it work? Maybe! But I’ll have to wait and see what happens.

I’m completely unsure on Lustig. He was a Broyles semifinalist for best coordinator in the country, which absolutely bodes well. But I thought Collins had done a pretty solid job, and had gotten pretty reasonable production in kicking, punting, and returns. I won’t pretend to know enough about special teams to say that I’m hoping to see one thing or another, or that I can easily gauge special teams success by eye. Kind of like an offensive lineman, I only notice special teams when things go bad. To that end, it’s possible Lustig does just fine and I never really notice it. So yeah, here’s hoping that I don’t notice his hire? Odd thing to root for.

James Franklin has a track record of hiring coordinators that is more positive than negative, in my mind. John Donovan comes to mind as the worst hire, but after that? Maybe Mike Yurcich? Maybe Bob Shoop? On the flip side, you’ve got Joe Moorhead, Brent Pry, Manny Diaz. So I suppose I’m more hopeful than not that the overhaul of the coaching staff will bring positive changes in 2024. I feel like the offense has to be better, or at least less dysfunctional; the defense has a boatload of talent that should be able to excel regardless of the system; the special teams can hopefully continue to be a non-issue.

But what do you say? Will the Lions succeed in 2024? Or will the coaching changes prove to be too much.