It’s no secret, Penn State’s offense had a rather disappointing 2018 season. After leading the nation in points per game at 55.5 through four contests, everything seemed to go steadily downhill.
The Nittany Lions were not expected to uphold this level of production, especially with the elevated level of competition in Big Ten conference play. Still, Penn State only averaged a mere 20.4 points per game against Big Ten opposition that finished with a winning record. These results have some fans calling for a changing of the guard within the offensive coaching staff.
If changes are to be made by coach James Franklin in the offseason, it is expected to be in the form of a new offensive coordinator and wide receivers’ coach. The Nittany Lions suffered from questionable play calling, inconsistent line play and countless drops by receivers, especially during the biggest moments of their season.
There are plenty of suitable candidates for Franklin to choose from if he decides they are needed. Here is a shortlist of the most ideal options, beginning with those who could take Ricky Rahne’s spot as offensive coordinator.
When looking for the next Joe Moorhead, one may need to search beyond the power five conferences. Current Utah State offensive coordinator David Yost brings the perfect balance of consistent coaching success and a small market to the table.
In Yost’s second season at Utah State, the Aggies went 10-2 and ended the regular season with the fourth ranked offense in college football. Prior to joining Utah State, Yost ran the passing game at Oregon, where the Ducks averaged 491.7 yards per game in 2016, proving he can create results at a high-profile program as well.
Given that the Aggies head coach, Matt Wells, has already departed to fill the void left at Texas Tech, this may be the opportune time for Penn State to offer Yost during the period of turnover.
Another quality, small market option is Toledo coach Jason Candle. He runs a similar offensive system to that of the Nittany Lions.
This season, the Rockets have averaged 41.1 points per game, good for second in the Mid-American Conference. Toledo also ranked in the top five in rushing offense, passing offense, total offense and passing efficiency, attesting to its great balance between the run and pass accompanying consistent results.
Candle is rumored to be after a power five head coaching job, but with no offers currently on the table, Penn State might be able to provide him with an opportunity to help them fill the holes on offense, while improving his resume. Regardless, Candle may only be a short-term solution for the Nittany Lions, especially if he finds early success in State College.
Kliff Kingsbury might be a long shot to say the least. The former Texas Tech coach has multiple links to prestigious college programs such as USC and numerous NFL teams.
Still, Kingsbury is easily the highest quality candidate for the job. Despite his inability to compete for a Big 12 Championship with the Red Raiders, he consistently led one of the greatest offenses in college football year after year.
Kingsbury also helped develop two of the best first-year starters in the NFL this season: Patrick Mahomes and Baker Mayfield. Tommy Stevens, who is expected to be under center for the Nittany Lions next season, has a similar build to Mahomes and impressive arm strength to follow suit. Although he is not likely to mirror Mahomes’ ceiling in college or the NFL, Stevens would still thrive under a brilliant mind like Kingsbury.
Moving on to replacements for wide recievers’ coach David Corley, JaMarcus Shephard is one of a few seemingly perfect fits at Penn State. In just two seasons at Purdue, Shephard has helped recruit and develop some of the best receivers in college football. This includes Rondale Moore, the freshman sensation who took the Big Ten by storm and won first team all-Big Ten honors.
The use of Moore in the slot mirrors that of Penn State redshirt freshman KJ Hamler. He followed in Moore’s footsteps, leading his offense by example despite his inexperience. Shephard would know how to utilize Penn State’s most dangerous weapon, while also being accompanied by better quarterback play and a deeper running game than he’s had at Purdue.
The final candidate is Ole Miss assistant Jacob Peeler. The Rebels have had access to one of the best receiving corps in the SEC. Peeler has been at the center of everything and proven himself over the years as an elite recruiting chip and developer of talent.
Prior to joining Ole Miss, Peeler was part of a staff at Cal which brought elite level success on offense. Peeler worked especially well with tight ends, including NFL standout Richard Rodgers. At a school like Penn State, that has had a knack for creating star tight ends over the past decade, such as Jesse James, Mike Gesicki and another budding talent already showing potential in Pat Freiermuth, who better to take the reigns than a specialist at the position like Peeler?
There are many more candidates prime to fill either or both the positions in question. With that said, it will be up to James Franklin to pull the trigger and make the change, deciding what is necessary to get his program to the coveted “elite” status.
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