We’re counting down the days until kickoff. So, every day, we’ll try to make that time tick by just a little faster by also counting down the top 30 moments of James Franklin’s tenure so far. Up next — with 11 days left — is the No. 11 moment since Franklin took the head-coaching job.
No. 11 moment: Hiring Joe Moorhead and Matt Limegrover; promotion of Brent Pry
In a 32-day span, James Franklin made three of the biggest decisions in his coaching career.
On Dec. 12, 2015, Joe Moorhead was hired to replace John Donovan as Penn State’s offensive coordinator.
On Jan. 10, 2016, Brent Pry was promoted to defensive coordinator after Bob Shoop left for Tennessee.
And three days later, Matt Limegrover was brought in to be the Nittany Lions’ offensive line coach.
Going off the 2016 season and how Penn State is positioned moving forward, all three decisions were positive ones. Moorhead’s offense averaged 37.6 points per game, Limegrover’s patchwork line allowed only 24 sacks, and Pry’s defense had the seventh-most tackles for loss in the country last season.
But, at the time of the hires, Penn State didn’t really know what it was getting with the trio.
With Moorhead, the former Fordham head coach had a lot of success at the FCS level, but how would it translate to the Big Ten? Franklin put his trust in Moorhead’s scheme after Donovan — who was in-charge of an anemic offense — was relieved of his duties.
Moorhead’s RPO offense was totally different than what Nittany Lion fans were used to, but it worked. So did Pry’s promotion. After Shoop bolted for Tennessee, there was a feeling that Pry — then the co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach — would fill the empty role.
Limegrover’s hiring was an interesting one.
After being let go by Minnesota, the Pittsburgh native faced a tall task. Scholarship limitations ravaged the Penn State offensive line, a group that gave up 83 sacks total in 2014 and 2015.
But Franklin was confident in Limegrover’s ability — and like the Moorhead and Pry decisions, it’s worked out for the Nittany Lions.
Filling a coaching vacancy is never easy; filling three in 32 days is relatively uncommon. But with National Signing Day looming, Franklin did so swiftly and capably.
Now, Penn State is benefiting.