By: Thomas Frank Carr
In the back of his mind, James Franklin knew this day was coming. In fact, the thought of replacing Joe Moorhead has probably been at the forefront of his thoughts since last season after Moorhead’s offense exploded at Penn State. Since then the former Fordham coaches name to the top of head coaching search lists.
The Nittany Lions head coach has made it known before that he always has a list of names for coaching hires that he would like to make, given the opportunity. Therefore it’s easy to assume that Franklin is ready to make a change now that Moorhead has accepted the head coaching job at Mississippi State. Franklin already feels like he has an ace up his sleeve in tight ends coach Ricky Rhane,
“I’m fortunate because I’ve been with some really good people for a long time. I think you know that I want to surround myself with really smart guys. Ricky is a really smart guy, played QB at Cornell, was a really good player. He’s a guy that could coach the running backs, tight ends and has done it at a very high level. , I know Mike Gesicki things the world of him. I think he can coach the quarterbacks. I think he’s a future coordinator,” Franklin said this summer during training camp.
Franklin is a notoriously loyal coach who has promoted assistants on his staff rather than hire outside help when the opportunities arise. When he moved from Vanderbilt to Penn State, he retained nearly all of his staff. When defensive coordinator Bob Shoop left for Tennessee, he promoted Brent Pry to defensive coordinator. Rhane has been with Franklin for over a decade, going back to Kansa State, when Franklin was the offensive coordinator and Rhane was the running backs coach.
But when John Donovan was fired as offensive coordinator after the 2015 season Franklin hired Moorhead instead of promoting Rhane. Apparently Rhane was not ready to assume the role just yet. but it’s something he aspires to,
“Yeah, I want to be an offensive coordinator someday,” said the 37 year old coach.
“I feel blessed to learn from the people I’ve been able to learn from. Right now, Joe Moorehead and his leadership style and his play-calling and his offense and all those things. I’m the luckiest guy in the world to be able to learn from a guy like that.”
Is two years enough time to learn all of those things? Franklin will have to decide if his young protege is ready to take over the reigns in a critical position for the Nittany Lions.
Expect his name to be called because Franklin has liked what he’s seen,
“He’s a guy in spring games, he’ll call the offense on the other field with the other guys. He’s been fiercely loyal, a relentless recruiter. He just gets it. He’s a team guy, he doesn’t care who gets the credit. We’ve got a a great staff and I’m blessed to work with these guys and have him.”
This is a critical time for Penn State. They missed what was widely regarded as their best shot at a national championship run with two losses to Ohio State and Michigan State. This winter the defense will graduate seven starters and several key reserves. On offense the team will graduate Mackey Award Finalist Mike Gesicki, all-time receptions leader DaSean Hamilton, and will likely lose Saquon Barkley to the NFL. Next season will be one of change during the middle of what felt like a big run for the Nittany Lions. With all of the change that happens in college football it’s familiar faces that matter to Franklin,
“It’s stability on your staff and having the ability to retain your staff. If you lose guys being able to attract high level guys to replace them and being ready for that when it happens. To be honest with you, I make the argument, it’s every single day it’s willing to fight and battle to keep the program going. You lose a battle here, here and here and in five years you look back, those things added up.”
Franklin won when he hired Joe Moorhead. He won when he promoted Pry to defensive coordinator and hired Matt Limegrover for his offensive line coach. It’s time that we give Franklin the benefit of the doubt that he knows what he’s doing when it comes to talent evaluation. If Rhane is ready and can replace Moorhead, Franklin will have won this moment years before it came.