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Andy Kotelnicki Has Means To Succeed At Penn State With Creativity & Offensive Talent

Welcome to Penn State (reportedly), Andy Kotelnicki.

James Franklin made waves in the college football world Thursday when The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman reported that Penn State football was hiring Kansas offensive coordinator Kotelnicki to fill its vacant offensive coordinator role.

For many, Kotelnicki is a great hire. He’s an offensive guru who took an untalented Kansas team to an 8-4 record on the back of his offense. For others, he’s another hire by Franklin that just won’t pan out. So what is Kotelnicki, really?

At first glance, Kotelnicki isn’t a big hire. His Kansas offense was ranked No. 30 in scoring offense this season. It’s not a number that jumps off the page, especially given that Mike Yurcich’s offense was ranked No. 14 in the same category. So isn’t this just a step sideways for Franklin, or even a step back?

The beauty is that this isn’t a lateral move, or at least it shouldn’t be. There’s no way to be sure what Kotelnicki will do once he arrives on campus, but so much about Franklin’s latest hire says that Penn State’s head coach made the right call.

Kotelnicki’s Kansas offense was ranked higher than Penn State in total offense. In addition to being better in total offense (No. 29 vs. No. 62), Kansas was also better in rushing offense (No. 8 vs. No. 27) and passing offense (No. 68 vs. No. 92).

Yurcich can be granted some leniency by noting that with Manny Diaz as the team’s defensive coordinator, Penn State didn’t always have a lot of ground to cover with some good starting field position. Penn State’s defense put the offense at a comfortable spot on the field to start its drives, os fewer yards to travel to the end zone means fewer yards recorded, period. But even when you get into some advanced stats, Kotelnicki takes the cake.

Kotelnicki also took one of the worst teams in Power Five football and made it a contender. Per 247Sports’ Talent Composite, the Jayhawks took the field this year with the 62nd-worst team in college football, and that group leaned heavily on defensive talent more than offensive talent. Kotelnicki had 34 players on his offense ranked as three-stars or better, including five-star offensive lineman Logan Brown. All of Kotelnicki’s quarterbacks were three stars or worse.

For reference, Yurcich coached the 13th-best team in the country, which was stacked with offensive talent. Even without mentioning five-stars Drew Allar and Nick Singleton, who were stifled in Yurcich’s offense, Penn State still had Caedan Wallace, Kaytron Allen, Olu Fashanu, and three tight ends rated as four-stars.

For everything that Kotelnicki did well, he did it with incredibly low levels of talent. A Kansas team rated as the third-worst in the Big 12 finished 8-4 with a couple of nice wins. The Jayhawks were never going to win the conference, but they reached bowl eligibility and then some, all while heavily relying on Kotelnicki’s offense, which put up significantly better numbers than the defense.

It’s not hard to see why Kotelnicki succeeded at Kansas — he’s a very creative coordinator. Kotelnicki’s highlight reel includes looks with two quarterbacks on the field, an offensive lineman lining up in the slot before pulling to make a crucial block, and a play with three tight ends on the field. While Yurcich’s offense was often predictable, Kotelnicki’s philosophy seems to be anything but.

That creatively not only pushed Kansas tp an 8-4 record, it paired that with a signature win over No. 12 Oklahoma. That type of victory is exactly what Penn State needs against conference opponents Ohio State and Michigan. Kotelnicki’s offense paved the way to a big win over a traditionally superior conference opponent en route to a historic year.

Sure, there’s reason to think that Kotelnicki won’t pan out. Yurcich was supposed to be a splash signing at offensive coordinator but just didn’t put up the results he was expected to. Yurcich was a top talent with experience at Ohio State and Texas, but he just never reached the heights at Penn State he was supposed to.

So what makes Kotelnicki different? It’s hard to say. There might be nothing at all that differentiates him from Yurcich, Kirk Ciarrocca, or any of the other offensive coordinators Franklin’s hired over the years. Yurcich had such a poor run that when Ja’Juan Seider and Ty Howle took over as interim offensive coordinators, they looked like offensive guru Mike Leach against Michigan State.

Most people commenting on Kotelnicki’s hiring are adding their endorsement with a caveat: they said that Yurcich would be a great hire, so who’s to say that Kotelnicki will actually be Penn State’s knight in shining armor?

Still, Kotelnicki just seems right. He’s a fast-rising offensive coordinator who’s worked his way up the system. Just three years ago, he was coaching at Buffalo. Before that, he was at Wisconsin-Whitewater, University of Mary, Wisconsin-River Falls, and Western Illinois. Now, he’s earned the biggest job of his life. Only time can be the judge of whether or not he’s the right man.

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About the Author

Joe Lister

Joe is a junior journalism major at Penn State and an associate editor at Onward State. He covers Penn State football and enjoys yelling on Twitter about Philadelphia/Penn State sports. He also listens to Mac Miller more than you. If you want to find him, Joe's usually watching soccer with his shirt off or at the gym with his shirt on. Please send all positive affirmations and/or hate mail toward him on Twitter (iamjoelister) or via email ([email protected]).

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