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Penn State Football: Franklin Lures High-Profile Assistant for High-Profile Job

by on December 26, 2019 11:30 AM

DALLAS — When you boil it all down, Penn State's hire of now former Minnesota offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca is perhaps the strongest James Franklin could have made.

Ciarrocca brings with him decades of experience, success at the collegiate level and, as a Lewisberry product, Pennsylvania roots that find him back in familiar territory with immediate recruiting connections to Penn State's footprint. 

Yes, there is something flashy and exciting about Joe Brady's rising star at LSU, and sure, everyone wants to hire Mike Yurcich away from Ohio State. But those were long shot dreams fans were hoping to speak into existence without any real proof of likelihood.

Like all things, time will only tell how Ciarrocca's tenure at Penn State will unfold, but from Day 1 it's hard to give the hire anything but an A.

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In the broader spectrum, the hiring of Ciarrocca, announced Thursday as the Nittany Lions get ready for Saturday's Cotton Bowl, also ever so slightly changes the tide of a separate narrative which has stretched over the past several seasons: the departure, not accumulation, of high profile assistants.

Whatever you might think of former wide receivers coach Josh Gattis, running backs coach Charles Huff, defensive coordinator Bob Shoop or offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, nearly all found themselves headed for greener pastures, but pastures of comparable value to Penn State.

Of course all of these can be explained away to some extent: Moorhead had a chance to become an SEC head coach, and rising post-Saquon Barkley assistant in Huff followed to join his staff. A disgruntled Shoop left for the same job at Tennessee and later joined Moorhead at Mississippi State. Gattis would stick it out with Franklin but the eventual opportunity to coach elsewhere (Alabama and then nearly Maryland at first but ultimately to call plays at Michigan) moved his title and pay up a scale, perhaps in no small connection to Ricky Rahne's appointment as offensive coordinator. Most recently, Rahne a chance to become a head coach.

Equally true, the development of assistant coaches that go on to become head coaches is not a bad thing, in the long run, for the program.

Whatever the individual situations may have been, Penn State was losing quality assistants at a fairly consistent clip. Franklin's ability to develop his staff is a key attribute, but a somewhat risky business model when it comes to sustaining annual success in the face of attrition.

The hiring of Ciarrocca changes that tide. Penn State has now brought in a well-known, high-profile assistant coach in a moment of need. While the terms of his contract are unknown at this time, it's not hard to imagine Penn State flexed its monetary muscle and Franklin his ability to sell the program's future and potential against that of Minnesota's.

One staff change does not a trend make, but after years of losing his assistants to programs not much different than his own, Franklin was able to punch back, and land a coordinator with a proven track record, instead of the warm promise of a developing future.

And if Penn State can win on this recruiting trail as well, the Nittany Lions are in very good shape.

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
Next Article
Minnesota’s Kirk Ciarrocca Named Penn State Offensive Coordinator
December 26, 2019 10:18 AM
by Anthony Colucci
Minnesota’s Kirk Ciarrocca Named Penn State Offensive Coordinator
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