After coaching together at Kansas State and Vanderbilt, Ricky Rahne is now in his third season at Penn State working with James Franklin.
This year has gone pretty well for the Nittany Lions, and that extends to Rahne, the passing game coordinator and tight ends coach.
Rahne discussed quarterback Trace McSorley, tight end Mike Gesicki and more with reporters on a conference call Thursday.
Q: We’ve seen so much of a transformation from Mike this year, particularly as a leader he was saying that he kind of changed in that aspect. Have you noticed any change in that regard, and is he more vocal on the sidelines and in meetings?
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A: He has more confidence in probably his knowledge of the overall scheme and in his techniques, fundamentals and in his production. I think that has helped him to be more vocal and things like that. I think the main thing where he shows vocal leadership the most is probably in his belief that we’re going to win every game. He is a guy who really has confidence and faith in himself and if there’s a game where we’ve been behind, he’s right there telling me on the headset saying, “Hey coach we’re going to win this game.” I’ve been really pleased with that and I think it has been his confidence has grown and his leadership has grown with it.
Q: When you guys were at Vanderbilt, what did you guys see in Trace that made you think he could compete at the major college level as a quarterback, and is it true that you guys were initially recruiting him as a safety?
A: I watched his tape and I liked him as a quarterback. I wasn’t quite sure, but I loved him as an athlete. As a safety, I gave him to our defensive coaches and they liked him and they offered him as a safety. I still liked him as a quarterback so I went down and watched him in the spring and the thing that sold me was just his accuracy. He was so accurate with the ball. The ball came out really tight off of his hand, and it showed that even though he’s not the biggest guy in the world, he has a very strong arm. No. 1, it was just his accuracy and then as you got to know him, just how competitive he is and how much of a winner he is. When you look at his high school stats, how many games he has won, taking his team to four state championship games and winning three of them. You could just see it. When I watched him play in person a couple of times, the belief everybody had in him, the belief in himself and just to watch everyone follow him, it was pretty easy to see that he was a natural born leader and he also possessed some great skills in throwing the ball and being able to run around.
Q: If you were an opposing defense looking at your offensive film over the first six weeks, how differently does it compare to now? How have you guys evolved?
A: I think, not to beat a dead horse, but we’re playing with more confidence. They all kind of know their role in the scheme. We can make in-game adjustments on things we may or may not have practiced during the week and the guys understand the overall concepts and can quickly make those adjustments. I think that’s been one the things that’s helped us to make second half adjustments as a coaching staff, it’s knowing that our guys understand the overall scheme and concepts of the plays where you can do some things a little bit different than what we’ve been doing in practice. Teams are giving us some different looks and we’ve been able to adjust. I think that when the defense would be looking at our film, that’s the No. 1 thing, our guys are playing with a lot of confidence, but also that a lot of different guys touch the ball.
Q: Ricky, I was wondering if you could take me back to the third quarter against Minnesota — Trace to Irvin Charles (for an 80-yard touchdown). What do you remember about that play, and what went into that call?
A: It was a play that (offensive coordinator Joe) Moorhead had run at Fordham and we made a couple of adjustments on it that we thought could make the play better. Trace read it correctly and then made a good throw. Anytime the ball is in the air on those deep balls, I feel pretty good about it with our receivers, in particular with Irv. I know Coach Franklin talked about it earlier this week, how talented of a player he is and when he gets the ball in his hands, you just kind of hold your breath. It was nice to be able to get him involved in the game and get him going down the field. Obviously, that was a play that helped turn that game around and on hindsight, it probably helped to turn our season around and in a positive direction. Coach Moorhead is a great play caller and he sees some things out there and we try give input to him as much as we can to help him out. He can see some things happening and he can just kind of see that we had that chance with that play.
Q: Going back to Trace, what was it about him that you like him as a safety from the beginning, and how have those skills helped him at quarterback?
A: At safety, it was his quickness. He had good speed, quickness. He was always around the ball. He had great instincts. The other thing — he was tough. I think with that toughness, you can see week in and week out. That’s probably the thing that helps him the most and it endears him to his teammates. There’s nothing that will get guys behind you as a quarterback more than being tough. Being tough and competitive are things he has in spades. Those are probably the main qualities.”