Unbeknownst to any of us at the time, Penn State's 31-26 loss to Minnesota earlier this year might have been a job audition. A report by Andy Greder of the Pioneer Press indicated that Gophers offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca was James Franklin's pick to take over for Ricky Rahne as the Nittany Lions' offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, and shortly after that hit the Twitterverse, the program announced the news on its official Twitter account.
"I couldn't be more excited about the opportunity to work at a program as rich in tradition as Penn State University," Ciarrocca said in a statement released by the program. "It is an honor and a privilege to join Coach Franklin's staff and to work alongside such a successful head football coach. Having grown up a Penn State fan, I am humbled by the opportunity to serve as your offensive coordinator. My family and I are overjoyed to be coming home to Happy Valley."
Ciarrocca — a native of Lewisberry, Penn. and a former college football player at Juniata College and Temple — was one of P.J. Fleck's most trusted assistants over the last few years, as he's served as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in the Land of 10,000 Lakes for the last three seasons. Prior to that, he was the offensive coordinator at Western Michigan for four years, and has playcalling experience at Rutgers (2008-10) and Delaware (2002-07).
"We couldn't be more excited to bring in someone of Kirk's caliber to our Penn State football family," Franklin said in a statement. "He is a veteran coordinator who also has deep Pennsylvania roots and ties. His most recent successes as an offensive coordinator caught our eye. What impressed me most about Kirk in the hiring process was his humility and his willingness to make this an easy transition for our players. We are thrilled to welcome Kirk and his family home to Pennsylvania and to Happy Valley!"
Under Ciarrocca's watchful eye this year, the Gopher offense was among the most prolific in all of college football. Minnesota was eighth nationally in offensive SP+ and 22nd in scoring offense (34.3 points per game), while starting quarterback Tanner Morgan, a second-team All-Big Ten selection, set school records in passing yards and touchdowns. Now, Ciarrocca will try to help Sean Clifford take the next step in his development.