It was just about two years ago to the day that James Franklin made what is arguably his biggest decision since arriving in State College. The Sunday after a blow out loss in East Lansing, Penn State's head coach dismissed John Donovan as the program's offensive coordinator, and began a search for his replacement. About two weeks later, he found his man, hiring Joe Moorhead away from his position as head coach of the Fordham Rams.
Now, just a few days after perhaps Penn State's best offensive performance in Moorhead's tenure, he is reportedly off to the SEC to take over the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Beyond the 21-5 record during his time in Happy Valley, and record setting offensive performances by a number of Nittany Lions, his impact will be more lasting in what comes next for the Nittany Lions.
When Joe Moorhead arrived in December of 2015, James Franklin's seat was warming quickly. Franklin's hold on his own job as head coach was slipping, just two short years after arriving in Happy Valley. Eleven wins and a Big Ten title later, he is armed with a new contract, and an influx of talent that is among the best in the nation. While that certainly doesn't all come back to Moorhead's offense, it's hard to imagine any of it without his presence.
Where the Nittany Lions go from here is anyone's guess. There are internal candidates such as Ricky Rahne, Josh Gattis, and Matt Limegrover. Moorhead's successor at Fordham, Andrew Breiner, was a hot name heading into this season. And there will certainly be no shortage of names linked to the job in the coming days.
That last part is what sticks out most to me. In just two years, Penn State's offensive coordinator position is arguably one of the most desirable assistant coaching positions in the country. You will work with a head coach that has as much long term stability as anyone this side of Saban and Meyer. You will arrive to a senior quarterback that is on pace to own just about every relevant record in program history. Your running back room will consist of two five-star prospects, and your wide receivers will be led by former four-star players, and the 2018 class' best at the position. And you will work for a coach that brought Joe Moorhead in two years ago, and gave him the keys to the offensive car. There aren't many offensive coordinator positions that can offer all of that.
Is it a lock that whoever takes over in 2018 doesn't miss a beat? Of course not. College football is weird and nothing is ever guaranteed, other than Pitt being irrelevant for the rest of eternity. But, when James Franklin picks up the phone in the coming days, or when his phone starts ringing, he will have a totally different product to sell to whoever joins the Nittany Lions staff, and one that will appeal to plenty of talented coaches.