Ricky Rahne — Joe Moorhead's replacement and a critical piece to Penn State's playoff push in 2018 — is "too smart" not to succeed, according to head coach James Franklin. And perhaps the smartest thing Rahne's done so far is not change a thing.
Sometimes, when a new offensive coordinator enters the fold, they selfishly want their fingerprints all over the offense. Not Rahne. As expected, he has kept Moorhead's offense in place — the same scheme that led the Nittany Lions to average 39.3 points per game over the past two seasons and the same scheme Rahne used in Penn State's 35-28 Fiesta Bowl win over Washington.
This spring, his first as play-caller, Rahne is valuing continuity.
"I don't think there's any difference," Penn State wide receiver Brandon Polk said. "I think the play-calling is the same, same mentality. We'll just go out there and try and put points on the board. I just don't think there's a huge difference for me."
Added quarterback Trace McSorley: "If it's not broke, don't fix it. That's kind of the method that we're going with there."
For stability's sake, that may be best for an offense in transition.
Saquon Barkley, tight end Mike Gesicki and wideouts DaeSean Hamilton and Saeed Blacknall are gone. As a result, the Nittany Lions lose 3,612 of 5,984 yards from scrimmage and 41 of 68 touchdowns from last year. That's 60.4 and 60.3 percent of the offense, respectively.
Don't forget about the staff changes, either. Running backs coach Charles Huff followed Moorhead to Mississippi State, and wide receivers coach Josh Gattis left for Alabama. With Ja'Juan Seider, David Corley and Tyler Bowen coming in, Rahne is one of two returning members of Penn State's 2017 offensive staff, alongside offensive line coach Matt Limegrover.
"It helps when you're in a situation like this and you have a transition," Franklin said. "It helped Trace McSorley that we made the decision that we made so they're not all having to learn something new. But let's be honest, it also helps Ricky Rahne that he's got Trace McSorley, a veteran quarterback, and probably the strongest offensive line we've had since we've been here. So I think that is kind of ideal if you have to go through transition."
McSorley called Rahne's promotion "a real seamless transition."
"He knows everyone on this offense," the senior signal-caller said. "He knows what positions they're in, what situations where some guys might need to get a little better, and every day he comes out here, he's extremely competitive, and he wants us winning every single period, every single rep, and he's going to push us to be as good as we can be. He wants that out of this offense every day."
It helps already being so familiar with the quarterbacks. Before Moorhead's arrival, Rahne served as quarterbacks coach. He mentored McSorley through two years of being Christian Hackenberg's backup and recruited 2019 starter Tommy Stevens.
Rahne's rapport runs deep with the quarterbacks — and this spring, it has extended to the rest of the offense.
Polk said he is "enjoying" how Rahne runs the offense, offensive lineman Connor McGovern called the coach "energetic," and wideout DeAndre Thompkins believes there's "a different kind of environment" this spring.
"We go out with a chip on our shoulder every practice, and it's kind of a you-versus-the-world mentality for us as an offense," Thompkins said. "I wouldn't say there's any different plays or anything like that. Just a new way to attack every practice."
Added McGovern: "He wants to score a lot of points, keep the ball on the ground and keep it moving. I don't feel like we'll miss a beat from last year."