At Conclusion Of Mike Yurcich Era, James Franklin Reaching For His Next Star
Once James Franklin had his mind made up, there was no turning back.
Offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich had come up short one too many times, and he’d dragged his Penn State football offense down with him. After a 15-point stinker against Michigan, which came just weeks after a 12-point showing against Ohio State, Yurcich was cleaning out his office.
His final play call for the Nittany Lions was a two-point conversion attempt that lined up four offensive linemen at wide receiver positions on the far left side of the field. Unshockingly, that conversion attempt was no good. He never experienced his final Penn State alma mater as he rode the elevator down from the Beaver Stadium press box one last time. Now, the man who experienced so much success at Ohio State, Oklahoma State, and Texas is searching for his next job.
Franklin was swift in his decision, he said. After he decided Yurcich was hindering Penn State more than helping, the man who brought Drew Allar to Happy Valley was gone.
“If you’ve gotten to the point where you feel like that’s what you’re going to do, I’m not great at faking it,” Franklin said Monday. “I want to be as transparent and upfront as I possibly can be. So when you get to the point you feel like that’s the right decision, then I think you make it.”
Now, for the sixth time in his reign as Penn State’s head coach, Franklin is in search of his next offensive coordinator. Franklin’s first offensive coordinator, John Donovan, followed Franklin from Vanderbilt when the pair first took gigs at Penn State. Two years later, Donovan was fired. Then came Joe Moorhead and Ricky Rahne, who left for Mississippi State and Old Dominion, respectively.
Since Rahne, things have gone downhill. Franklin gave the next job to Kirk Ciarrocca, who lasted just one year before he was fired for Yurcich. Yurcich, who had put together some successful offenses with his prior schools, couldn’t replicate that success at Penn State.
“In terms of the other end of the spectrum, you know, this is a place that’s got very, very high expectations and standards… Guys get opportunities to move elsewhere for head coaching opportunities. If they aren’t, then decisions need to be made,” Franklin said. “So for one reason or another, you’re going to have turnover in college football.”
With two weeks left in the regular season, Franklin has some time before he has to name a formal replacement for Yurcich. He said that he already has a list of names, but it’s going to take some time to work through them. Franklin already has a full-time job as a head coach and hiring a new offensive coordinator could become another workweek of 40+ hours.
Franklin also has to fit his offensive coordinator into his current roster, most specifically his quarterbacks. Drew Allar and Beau Pribula make a difficult package to manage, and the next hire has to manage both young gunslingers. Beyond those two, Franklin also has to plan for any backups or quarterbacks set to join the program in the coming months and years.
“In terms of are [the quarterbacks] a part of that decision? Yes,” Franklin said. “In terms of who I’m bringing in, why I’m bringing them in, do they fit the person that I’m bringing in? The person that I’m bringing in, do they fit with them, does everybody understand what they’re signing up for, all these things?”
Now, Franklin has several tasks at hand.
First, he can’t lose to Rutgers or Michigan State. Penn State’s fanbase is already on edge and is waiting to tear Franklin to pieces if he loses to Rutgers, a program that conveniently hired Ciarrocca after Franklin fired him.
Second, Franklin has to find the perfect hire. He may only have a few years left to convince those who pay his bills that he’s worth the time and energy. Finally finding a good offensive coordinator will be a massive part of that decision.
Lastly, it’s time for Franklin to learn. If losing to Ohio State or Michigan the first 14 times wasn’t enough, maybe losing to the Big Ten’s heavyweights for defeats Nos. 15 and 16 paired with Yurcich’s departure will cause some deep, long thoughts about what it will take to move Penn State forward.
“For us to win the way we want to win at the very highest level, every single unit needs to be producing and working at the highest level year-round, 365 days a year,” Franklin said. “So for us, the most important thing we can do, outside of all the things we have already talked about, is get the right people into the building. That’s staff and that’s players and then be able to give them all the support they need to be successful on a consistent basis.”
“The most important thing you do is, we’re in a people business,” Franklin continued. “Got to get the right people at Penn State, that believe in Penn State and what we can do and where we can go, and then give them all the support and resources they need to produce at the very, very highest level.”
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