All available Penn State players confirmed after Thursday’s practice that quarterbacks coach and interim offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne is adding a bit of “his own flair” to the offensive scheme for Saturday’s TaxSlayer Bowl matchup against Georgia.
Rahne echoed it himself, as he stood, loose-shouldered despite audibly expressing his discomfort, in the center of a media scrum in the dense Florida air after practice that day.
What they couldn’t really describe, however, was what exactly that means.
James Franklin offered his thoughts on the young coach in Friday afternoon’s final bowl press conference at EverBank Field.
“I’ve known Ricky for a long time,” said Franklin, hands folded on a long, velvet-covered table with the TaxSlayer Bowl trophy on it, flanked on either side by a helmet from each team.
“Me and Ricky have been together since he was a graduate assistant for me at Kansas State. Ricky’s a very, very intelligent guy, he’s a smart guy. He’s a little quirky in his ways, like we all are.
“But what I love about Ricky is that he’s very comfortable in his own skin, and in who he is. All Ricky can do is be himself. And I think our players have embraced that.”
We didn’t sit there and reinvent the wheel. But he has done some things out of formation, by personnel, by tempo, by motion, things like that. So we’re really running a lot of the same plays, but we’ve been creative in the window-dressing on it.
Head coach James Franklin on Ricky Rahne
Quarterback Christian Hackenberg is very close with Rahne ( “I love Hack,” the coach exclaimed Thursday, alongside expressions of admiration for the patience and character of the junior quarterback), and said he and the rest of the team admired how Rahne immediately stepped up to the helm of the offense.
“I think he did a really good job of just coming in and grabbing the reins and telling the guys, ‘This is what we’re going to do, this is how we’re going to do it,’ ” Hackenberg said. “I think a lot of the guys really responded to that well and it’s created a good environment for us ... We all resonated really well with that, I think that was huge.”
Execution will be a different story — it is, after all, the same playbook and personnel on the field. But with a little flair, and a few different looks, the results could be different than the bottom-ranked and sluggish stats Penn State’s offense produced all season.
“We didn’t sit there and reinvent the wheel,” Franklin said. “But he has done some things out of formation, by personnel, by tempo, by motion, things like that. So we’re really running a lot of the same plays, but we’ve been creative in the window-dressing on it.
“I think the players know as well as the coaches that Ricky’s a grinder, and he’s going to be prepared. So every run play out of every formation we have, and every pass play that we have out of every formation, he’s watched every single play or defense that we could see, and makes sure that the play makes sense.”
But staying loose and confident, especially when faced with the opportunity to design a game plan and call plays in a bowl game between two Division I programs, is a hugely important factor — and one Franklin said Rahne has down.
“Ultimately, Ricky’s very comfortable with being Ricky Rahne in this role,” he said. “And I think that’s a mistake that a lot of young coaches or first-time coordinators make is you try to be something you’re not. And Ricky’s not doing that.”