Early Potential Offensive Coordinator Candidates for Penn State

By Nick Polak on December 9, 2019 at 5:15 pm
Oct 26, 2019; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger and passing game coordinator Joe Brady (right) watch during warm ups prior to kickoff against the Auburn Tigers at Tiger Stadium.
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

According to several reports on Monday, Penn State offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne will be named the next head coach at Old Dominion. With that news, James Franklin obviously has a major opening to fill within his coaching staff.

Though his search has only just begun, Franklin has spoken repeatedly in the past about how he always keeps a list of coaches to reach out to for situations just like this one. And with a few extra dollar bills coming his way, likely earmarked for assistant coaches, the Penn State head coach should have plenty of options on the table. The amount of talent set to return, and the fact that Sean Clifford will be a redshirt junior who already has a year of starting experience under his belt, offers an appealing situation for whoever ends up with the gig.

Here are some of the candidates that we here at Roar Lions Roar would like to be included on that list...

Joe Brady, Passing Game Coordinator/Wide Receivers Coach - LSU

The first name on every school's list with an offensive coordinator spot open is going to be Joe Brady. In his first year with the Tigers as passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach, he has proven to be a key factor in turning LSU's offense into an unstoppable juggernaut.  

Brady also has ties to Franklin and Happy Valley. He served as a graduate assistant on Franklin's staff from 2015-2016, with the second of those two seasons coming under Joe Moorhead. There's an existing familiarity between school and coach already, and Brady would be very familiar with what he would be walking into at Penn State. Prior to joining Ed Orgeron's staff, he worked for two years under Sean Payton with the New Orleans Saints as an offensive assistant.

Of course, nothing is guaranteed here. First, LSU is reportedly prepared to do everything it can to keep Brady in Baton Rouge, whether it be money, a new title, or a combination of both. Texas is also expected make an offer should they fail in prying Graham Harrell away from USC.

It should also be noted that for all of his success, Brady has yet to run an offense himself, with Steve Ensminger having that responsibility for the Tigers. Sure, his passing game has been outstanding with Joe Burrow and company, but is he ready to take on the big job?

Charlie Frye, Offensive Coordinator/QB Coach - Central Michigan

Frye was in charge of the high-powered Central Michigan offense in 2019. The Chippewas averaged nearly 450 yards per game and 31.9 points per contest en route to the MAC championship game. Frye is also young (38 years old) and looks to be another fast-rising star in the game. Frye was the quarterback at Akron and worked with Moorhead during his senior season.

Of course, that connection alone might not be enough for Franklin to have Frye on his list. The Ohio-native also spent time down in Florida as a high school coach before making the jump to college, which potentially gives him an interesting combination of mid-west and Florida-based connections.

This could be a bit of a longshot, however. Frye has just one year of collegiate experience to date, and the Lions could be looking for a bit more of a track record.

Kirk Ciarrocca, Offensive Coordinator/QB Coach - Minnesota

Ciarrocca, who has been in charge of the offense in Minneapolis since 2017, is another interesting name to add to the list. It's hard to say whether he'd be willing to jump ship from a Minnesota team that just had its best season in years. He also has Tanner Morgan and Rashod Bateman set to return in 2020. Still, Ciarrocca is a Pennsylvania native (Lewisberry) and attended Juniata and Temple, so there are strong Keystone State connections.

The Gopher offense was very strong in 2019, averaging a tick over 425 yards per game as well as 34.3 points per contest. They benefitted from incredible wide receiver play from Tyler Johnson and Bateman, but Penn State also got to see first-hand (at least in the first half) how well Morgan and the rest of the offense were able to neutralize the Nittany Lion pass rush with quick-hitting pass patterns.

Ciarrocca's success goes back to before arriving in Minneapolis. He served as PJ Fleck's offensive coordinator from 2013-16 when both were in Kalamazoo with Western Michigan.

Andrew Breiner, Passing Game Coordinator/QB Coach - Mississippi State

Breiner has been a name linked to this job before, given his strong ties to former coordinator Joe Moorhead. After Moorhead took the Penn State offensive coordinator job, Breiner took over at Fordham for two seasons. His former boss brought him back into the fold with Mississippi State Starkville as his quarterback coach and passing game coordinator.

The passing game in his time at Mississippi State hasn't been much to speak of, but his passers were Nick Fitzgerald (a glorified running back), an injured Tommy Stevens (poor Tommy), and true freshman Garrett Shrader. Bringing Breiner in would certainly keep things consistent, though the eternal battle with trying to replace Joe Moorhead will forever be finding someone who can adapt the way Moorhead could. Still just 35, Breiner also fits the bill of a young, motivated up-and-comer.

Sean Gleeson, Offensive Coordinator/QB Coach, Oklahoma State

Gleeson was named the Oklahoma State offensive coordinator ahead of the 2019 season and preceded to lead the Cowboys to average 464 yards per game with 33.4 points per game. Led by star running back Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma State hung around the top-25 all year long.

Gleeson, a northeast guy through and through, would get the chance to move back to a part of the country he knows well. He grew up in New Jersey, coached high school ball in the Garden State, and coached collegiately at Farleigh Dickinson-Florham and Princeton before heading out to Stillwater. 

Internal Options

Though another internal promotion seems unlikely, as there is not a clear-cut candidate like there was when Rahne got the job, there are a couple of options that would fit.

Matt Limegrover, Offensive Line Coach

Limegrover was the offensive coordinator at Minnesota before joining James Franklin's staff in Happy Valley. He has also stated previously that he prefers to focus on just the offensive line. It would be very surprising to see him assume the coordinator role for Penn State, but stranger things have happened. He may be a candidate to call plays in the Cotton Bowl should Rahne opt to devote all of his time to the Monarchs.

Tyler Bowen, Tight Ends Coach

Bowen also has previous experience as an offensive coordinator, as he was Breiner's coordinator for a year at Fordham before joining Maryland's staff as an offensive line coach. This would be a surprising move as well, as the 30-year-old Bowen likely has another few years before getting a shot at the big job. He is a very valued member of the staff, and should things not progress with other candidates, he could get a look.

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