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Getting To Know Penn State’s New Offensive Coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca

kirk ciarrocca mikey mandarino

James Franklin made some significant changes to his coaching staff this offseason, most notably adding Minnesota offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca to the same position.

Ciarrocca boasts a ton of experience in the offensive coaching world. If you watched PJ Fleck climb up the coaching ranks the past few season, chances are you witnessed Ciarrocca’s offenses help lead the way. Ciarrocca has been on Fleck’s staff for the past seven seasons as offensive coordinator of Western Michigan and Minnesota. The Golden Gophers’ offense drastically improved after Ciarrocca took over, making a leap from 22 points per game when he first arrived to 34.3 this past season.

Although he is only recently receiving national recognition, Ciarrocca established himself as an offensive mastermind a while back. At Western Michigan, he led its offense to back-to-back record breaking seasons in 2015 and 2016, and helped current Tennessee Titans wide receiver Corey Davis earn 2016 MAC Offensive Player of the Year and NCAA All-American honors. In 2016, the Broncos were ninth in the FBS in points per game [41.57] during their historic run to a 13-1 record and a trip to the Cotton Bowl Classic.

Before Western Michigan, Ciarrocca was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Delaware from 2002-2007. There, he helped groom Blue Hens quarterback Joe Flacco into an elite Super Bowl-winning quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens.

“The first thing that I was looking for was a head coach that I respected and that I thought could help me grow as a coach and that he had a great culture, a culture that I believed in,” Ciarrocca said at his first media availability as a Penn State employee. “Coach Franklin met that criteria.”

Penn State being a national contender every year was very attractive to Coach Ciarrocca when considering the job.

“I really wanted to coach at a school where I felt like we had a legitimate chance to win a national championship,” Ciarrocca said. “When I looked at Penn State, [Franklin] has done a great job of getting the team to that cusp where they’re going to be considered and talked about in August every year about the possibility of them being in the College Football Playoff.”

A native of Lewisberry, Pennsylvania, Ciarrocca said he grew up wanting to play for the Nittany Lions, but wasn’t good enough to do so, so it’s been a dream come true to work here.

At Minnesota, Ciarrocca’s offensive system was very tough for teams to stop, including Penn State. This system led to the Golden Gophers having two 1000-yard wide receivers this past season in Rashod Bateman and Tyler Johnson. Ciarrocca will look to merge this system with Penn State’s personnel.

“We are taking the things that I’ve noticed they’re already doing here that I think would really compliment and add to the system of what we had done at Minnesota,” Ciarrocca said. “Ultimately, it’s about what your players do best. Accentuate their strengths. Limit their weaknesses.”

Throughout his coaching career, it’s evident that Ciarrocca hasn’t had too many dual-threat quarterbacks, but according to him, this is essentially a coincidence, not a matter of preference.

“Most places I go, the recruiting guys want to talk to me about what I’m looking for in a quarterback,” Ciarrocca said. “I always tell them I want a good one. We’ve always been able to build around the strengths of our players, and if you went all the way back to when I was at the University of Delaware I did have a running quarterback, who ended up being a sixth-round draft pick. I just haven’t been around one in awhile.”

One aspect fans are excited to see Ciarrocca in this season is how he incorporates Sean Clifford, who certainly can do some things in the ground game, into his high-powered offensive scheme. The two met for the first time at the Cotton Bowl, and the two seemed to hit it off, which should bode well for the Nittany Lions this season.

“I felt a real connection right away with him, very intelligent, very hardworking, absolutely wants to be great,” Ciarrocca said about Clifford. “I’m really excited to work with him, and help him realize his potential.”

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About the Author

Trevor Grady

Trevor is a junior majoring in management information systems, minoring in journalism, and is a writer for Onward State. He is from Dublin, Ohio but is the furthest thing from an Ohio State guy. He is a college football fanatic, and loves everything about the show Prison Break. His parents are both from Boston, so he is a Boston sports fan which is understandably and unapologetically unpopular.

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