Not all spread offenses are the same, and James Franklin’s vision for the Penn State offense in 2021 did not include a repeat of 2020.
Franklin, the eighth-year Lions head coach, made it quite clear on several occasions during his press conference on Monday. And so Mike Yurcich is the new Penn State player and Kirk Ciarrocca is out after a season.
Penn State’s offense was not to be feared last fall. The numbers were ordinary.
Franklin wants an offense that will create more big plays, score more points and limit turnovers.
Penn State finished third in the Big Ten in scoring last season, averaging 29.8 points per game. Ohio State, the conference champion, led the Big Ten with 41 points per game.
The Lions returned the ball 13 times in their five-game losing streak to open the season – seven interceptions, six fumbles.
“A few years ago we were using the spread that we were tempo mixing, we were doing a bunch of these things and we had it and had a lot of success,” Franklin said.
Franklin hired Ciarrocca, the former Minnesota OC, after the 2019 regular season. Ricky Rahne, the 2018 Lions OC, has left to take on the Old Dominion head coach position.
“And then, obviously, with the decision we made in the last hiring cycle,” Franklin said, referring to Ciarrocca’s hiring. “It was a little different from his past.
“So that’s where we thought the (offensive) mix needed to happen, so that we could balance those two things and make sure that we were still carrying out an attack similar to what we had done in the past.”
The amalgamation of Franklin’s vision for spread and Ciarrocca’s offensive philosophy produced an offense that was a far cry from, say, the 2017 Penn State offense led by Joe Moorhead. This 2017 Penn State group averaged 41 points per game and 6.6 yards per game. Penn State threw 32 touchdown passes, rushed for 36 scores and averaged 4.9 yards per carry.
The number 40 appeals to Franklin when he speaks of offense.
“In college football today, given the trend, there will be games where you have to score 40 points,” Franklin said.
The Lions scored 35 in an overtime loss to Indiana, 25 to Ohio State, 19 to Maryland, 23 to Nebraska and 21 to Iowa.
Yurcich, who coached in Texas last season, has already coached the offense at Ohio State and Oklahoma State.
In the Penn State statement announcing his hiring, the program noted that Yurcich’s offenses averaged 6.49 yards per play during his tenure as FBS offensive coordinator. And since 2013, Yurcich’s teams have scored 50 or more points 26 times and 40 or more points 51 times. The 2020 Longhorns averaged 42.7 points per game.
“We want to be able to put people in conflict and make people uncomfortable and make people stand up for the pitch and there are a lot of different ways to be balanced,” Franklin said. .
“It’s the ability to run or pass and multiple situations is the ability to perform a traditional style running game with your running back,” he continued.
“This is also the case with the quarterback. But the other part of the balance is getting everyone involved and getting a bunch of people touched, so the defensive coordinator can’t sit there and say … this is the guy they’re trying to get. to retrieve the ball.