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Let’s wait and see before anointing new Penn State OC as a savior [opinion]

Penn State received rave reviews by hiring an offensive coordinator who built an outstanding reputation in the Big 12 for his creativity.

That was this week when the Nittany Lions hired Andy Kotelnicki and it was three years ago when they hired Mike Yurcich.

Although the news of Yurcich joining the Penn State staff was universally acclaimed in December 2020, the results were mixed. He wound up being fired last month by coach James Franklin.

Kotelnicki has been lauded for his success and innovation under mentor Lance Leipold at Division III power Wisconsin-Whitewater, Buffalo and Kansas for the last 11 seasons.

The Jayhawks, historically doormats in the Big 12, have improved from 2-10 to 6-7 to 8-4 with Kotelnicki calling plays the last three seasons. Their offensive numbers are impressive, but so were Yurcich’s numbers at Oklahoma State and Texas and so were Kirk Ciarrocca’s numbers at Minnesota when Franklin hired him as OC in 2019.

Andy Kotelnicki might be a great hire. He might increase the number of explosive plays for the Lions. He might help them be better on third down. He might help them make the College Football Playoff next year and win a championship.

But before we anoint him the second coming of Sean McVay or Kyle Shanahan, let’s see how he does next season against UCLA, USC, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Washington in the expanded Big Ten.

Make no mistake that this was the most important coordinator hiring of Franklin’s tenure at Penn State. Even College Football Hall of Famer LaVar Arrington, one of his most ardent supporters, said that last month.

“I think this dictates his job,” Arrington said. “If he gets it wrong with his offensive coordinator this time, it will cost him his job.”

Kotelnicki is Franklin’s sixth offensive coordinator in 11 seasons. Two, Joe Moorhead and Ricky Rahne, left to become Division I head coaches. Franklin fired three others.

There will be immense pressure on him to make the 12-team CFP next year. He can’t afford the Lions to go, say, 9-3.

It became very clear over the last two months that there was a disconnect between Franklin and Yurcich. Since firing Yurcich the day after a 24-15 loss to Michigan, Franklin mentioned the word “collaborative” many times when referring to the offensive play calling and hinting that it was lacking.

“It also would probably help if it’s somebody you have a relationship with already because you’re not trying to figure that out,” Franklin said last week. “Are they a cultural fit, too?”

It seemed like he wanted to hire an offensive coordinator that he knew and that he could trust. It’s still unclear what his connection is with Kotelnicki, other than that he coached twice against Penn State when he was at Buffalo with Leipold.

One of Kotelnicki’s most important tasks is developing sophomore quarterback Drew Allar, who has thrown for 23 touchdown passes against one interception but who struggled miserably in losses to Ohio State and Michigan, just like the rest of the offense.

At Kansas, Kotelnicki called plays and coached the tight ends. Penn State’s announcement of his hiring did not include a position, other than offensive coordinator. Could that mean there are more staff changes to come on offense?

The numbers at Kansas and Buffalo suggest that Kotelnicki’s hiring is good news for running backs Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen, whose numbers are down from last season.

Those who have covered the Jayhawks say that Kotelnicki adjusts his scheme to fit the team’s personnel, something Franklin said he wanted in his new OC.

Franklin also said last week he wanted someone who coached a team that has been “able to score against their best competition, the best competition in whatever leagues they come from.”

Kansas has gone 2-8 against Top 25 teams since Leipold and Kotelnicki arrived. This year, without injured star quarterback Jalon Daniels, the Jayhawks have lost to Texas (40-14), Oklahoma State (39-32), Texas Tech (16-13) and Kansas State (31-27) and have beaten Oklahoma (38-33) and Iowa State (28-21) in their six biggest games, averaging a tick more than 25 points.

Kotelnicki signed a four-year contract that will pay him $1.6 million in 2024, $1.7 million, $1.8 million and $2 million. He will be expected to deliver.

Franklin’s future at Penn State could depend on it.


Source: Berkshire mont

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