Continuity is rare in college football. But it’s something James Franklin is trying to keep in Happy Valley.
It was a driving force behind Ricky Rahne’s promotion from tight ends coach to offensive coordinator in the wake of Joe Moorhead’s Mississippi State exit a few days ago. Same goes for the hiring of former Nittany Lions graduate assistant Tyler Bowen as Rahne’s replacement, and bringing on defensive consultant Phil Galiano full-time as the special teams coordinator.
Oddly enough, Chris Petersen — the head coach of Washington, Penn State’s Fiesta Bowl opponent — has been a model of continuity within the business.
“When I look at guys like Coach Petersen and the way we’re trying to build it, it’s interesting,” Franklin said on a Sunday teleconference, hours after the Fiesta Bowl matchup was announced. “You have one aspect of going out and making the sexy hire that everybody’s excited about from school X or school Z or the NFL. But at the end of the day, you have to make the right decision for Penn State that’s going to keep the program moving forward.
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“In a perfect world, I’d like to promote from within and keep the same schemes so it’s less change for the players. I’d love to keep this staff together forever, but there’s going to be change. Players have to handle that, coaches have to handle that, and we’ve got to keep moving forward.”
Ahead of the Nittany Lions’ Dec. 30 appearance in Arizona, Rahne is taking charge, while Bowen and Galiano are getting acclimated to their new gigs. Offensive graduate assistant Mark Dupuis is stepping up and coaching the running backs after Charles Huff followed Moorhead to Starkville. A permanent position coach will be added when a new 10th assistant can officially start in January.
It’s never ideal to replace coaches. But as far as times to do it, this four-week bowl prep works out rather well. It gives Franklin and Rahne time to discuss whether the latter will coach from field-level or the booth, among other topics. Rahne spent this season in the booth as a set of eyes from the sky for Moorhead, who was down on the sideline.
Regardless of where Rahne may be, Franklin said he and the players reacted positively to Rahne’s promotion. After all, Franklin added, the assistant recruited every single quarterback on Penn State’s roster.
“If you go out and hire someone new, you’re starting all over. You don’t go out and hire someone to run someone else’s offense,” Franklin said. “I don’t know if it’s fair to Trace McSorley, a senior quarterback, coming up this year, to change the offense and have him start all over again. Same thing with Tommy Stevens and the young guys.”
But with Rahne — and to a degree, Bowen and Galiano — continuity is important. It’s hard to come by.
And largely because of it, Franklin and the Nittany Lions are able to move on.
“Although we’re going to keep the offense the same,” Franklin said, “I want Ricky to take it and run with it. And I know he will.”