Penn State Football

Life in the booth: Penn State assistant Ricky Rahne describes being Joe Moorhead’s eye in the sky

Penn State assistant coach Ricky Rahne, seen here earlier in the season, coaches his team from the booth on Saturdays.
Penn State assistant coach Ricky Rahne, seen here earlier in the season, coaches his team from the booth on Saturdays. Centre Daily Times, file

Assistant coach Ricky Rahne, Joe Moorhead’s eye in the sky, learned a valuable lesson early on at Penn State: Keep the windows in the booth shut.

No, Rahne wasn’t concerned with what fans below might say about the Nittany Lions’ offense. It’s more the other way around.

“Sometimes my vocabulary can dip into some areas where I wish it didn’t,” Rahne said as he and reporters chuckled on a Thursday teleconference, “so we’ve learned to keep the windows closed.”

Naturally, that means it’s hot in the booth. Rahne said it’s “120 degrees in there no matter what.” But outside of that discomfort, Rahne loves it up there. Penn State’s passing game coordinator and tight ends coach gets an All-22 view that Moorhead, James Franklin, Trace McSorley and anyone on the field just doesn’t have.

Rahne, who joined Franklin’s staff in State College in 2014, spent a season in the booth and a season on the sideline during their first two years at Penn State. When Moorhead replaced John Donovan as Penn State’s offensive coordinator, Rahne moved back to the booth in 2016 and has stayed there ever since.

From there, he’s able to make suggestions from a wider lens. Wide receivers coach Josh Gattis might know from the sideline what kind of leverage opposing corners are using, but Rahne can see any big-picture tendencies from a secondary and offer adjustments or thoughts at halftime.

It’s a system that works for Rahne and the coaching staff.

“It’s definitely a group process,” the assistant added. “We’ve been pretty lucky that we’ve gotten it right most times, and I think that’s what’s helped us in the second half of games.”

Of course, there’s another reason why Rahne is up in the box: He’s a “fairly excitable person,” the assistant said, so him being on the field isn’t always ideal.

But that doesn’t mean Rahne’s tame in the booth. Not in the slightest.

“Some of the happiest coaching moments I’ve had was the overtime win against Minnesota last year,” Rahne said. “I’m 6-foot-4 and the roof in there is not real big and you’ve got GAs who are really big. ... Last year Tommy Galt hit his head and was just bleeding everywhere, but it was still obviously exciting. There’s things like that. Those are the moments when you work 100 hours per week with these guys and you’re able to see the fruits or your labor and I think a win like that, a moment like that, there’s a lot of emotion.

“There’s some great moments up there, no doubt about it.”

What makes JoeMo great

Rahne firmly believes Moorhead is the best offensive coordinator in the country — and it’s not just because he calls the right plays at the right time.

Yes, Moorhead is a wizard at dialing up the correct call. Penn State is averaging 42.8 points over its last 13 games largely because of his decision-making.

But in Rahne’s mind, there’s an aspect of Moorhead’s brilliance that’s overlooked.

“The one thing that is underestimated with Joe is his ability to get the players to play hard for him and believe in him and believe in our system,” Rahne said. “Obviously he calls a lot of great plays, and I think we as a staff do a great job of designing plays and making adjustments, but none of that matters if the kids don’t believe. And he does a great job of motivating our team, and I’ve learned that from him.”


“Everyone can see a guy who is wide open down the field, but if that guy wasn’t in the quarterback’s progression, he’s not going to throw him the ball. I think a lot of times people say, ‘How did he miss that guy?’ Well, because the defense busted and the coverage would never indicate that that guy would be open, and they were going through a progression based on coverages so the quarterback’s doing what he’s taught and what he’s told.” — Rahne, on one of the biggest misconceptions he sees from fans and media

John McGonigal: 814-231-4630, @jmcgonigal9