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Penn State Football: Rahne Ready To Embrace Long Awaited Role

by on January 03, 2018 1:20 PM

The hills of Morrison, Colorado give the appearance of seclusion. The kind of western topography that makes everything seem twice as large, twice as far away. If anything is a reminder of the Earth's grand scale it's mountains, and Morrison sits at the base of one named after the town itself.

But for all the feelings of westward expansion, Morrison is just a 25 minute drive from downtown Colorado, a booming modern city that sits in juxtaposition to the dinosaur bones found not far away in 1877. 

Crammed between all of this was a young Ricky Rahne, growing up in Morrison just a few miles from Red Rock Amphitheater, a world famous outdoor venue that has produced iconic concerts nestled on the slops of Mt. Morrison on the eastern flank of the Rocky Mountains. 

"My first one was Bruce Springsteen. I was probably only like, four," Rahne said years later with a smile. "Dave Matthews is probably the best one I've been to yet, one that gets a little crazy but is a fun one to go to is Phish."

Of course growing up in Morrison means knowing all of the local secrets.

"We wouldn't always go inside, there is a place in the back of it where you can kind of walk up the mountain that all the locals know about but it's a great place," Rahne said with a laugh, remembering. "Actually I had my high school graduation there."

Rahne is an interesting case study in staying the course, his nearly two-decade long career has been a slew of assistant coaching positions largely in the wake of James Franklin. He's laid back, conveying his points about football with something of a blunt honesty and frankness not frequently found.

In many ways he's everything that Franklin hasn't been, his career a steady march forward, his demeanor slightly less calculated.

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Even so he has been an internal favorite, seemingly for years, to finally take a much larger role. The TaxSlayer Bowl his first foray into calling plays, the Fiesta Bowl his first as an offensive coordinator without 'interim' attached to it. 

Of course the waiting hasn't always paid off. Following the firing of John Donovan, Penn State looked outside the program, eventually hiring Joe Moorhead. As a result Rahne found himself going from quarterbacks coach to tight ends, seemingly another rung in the wrong direction.

But it didn't bother Rahne.

"Not only did I accept it, I completely understood it at the time," Rahne said. "Based on where we were, and quite frankly I embraced it because I was able to learn something new with coach Moorhead and I had two of the best years of my life being an assistant...it wasn't ever a situation where I looked at it any other way."

Whatever the case, Rahne will have his hands full in 2018 as the Nittany Lions look to replace a handful of household names that have led the program the past several years. The departure of Saquon Barkley and Mike Gesicki will be a mountain to climb all on its own. Although if Penn State is going to break in a new offensive coordinator, having something of a clean slate across the board could turn out to be a well timed convergence of events.

In either case Rahne will be having fun figuring it out.

"For me it's the football, the strategy and those sorts of things so obviously the defense comes up with things and you have to come up with things to counter it or try and dictate what we want to do. For me that's the most rewarding part," Rahne said. "To match wits against other guys I know who are putting in 100 hour weeks and those kinds of things. And quite frankly the game, it's a kids game, you get to have fun all the time. I get to coach with guys that are my best friends in the world and it's pretty rewarding."

"I told the guys right in our first meeting that I'm not Joe, I'm not going to try and be him, nobody can be him. I'm going to be myself, that's what has gotten me to this point in my career, be myself all the time and I'm going to continue to do that. I think the biggest challenge overall is still going to be attack it day by day, not trying to get ahead of ourselves. You can't score 42-points before you scores seven. We've got to go one play at a time and moving on when something goes right and moving on when something goes wrong."

It's hard to imagine Rahne's true debut having gone any better. Penn State racked up the yardage and did nearly whatever it wanted against a Washington defense among the nation's best. Where onlookers may have wondered if Rahne could continue the success Moorhead had produced with his offense, it becomes a question of if the offense will even lose a step.

It undoubtedly will as it replaces so many familiar faces, but that doesn't produce anymore pressure than what Rahne has already put on himself.

"It's a great barometer of the type of success we can have," Rahne said of Moorhead's offense. "We've got great players, we're recruiting great players and we have great coaches so yea, is it a challenge? Absolutely, but we compete in the Big Ten and fans expect us to contend for Big Ten Championships and nationally, so the challenge is always going to be there and those expectations, so I don't see it as any more or less of a challenge."

As Springsteen may have belted out to the crowd many years ago.

Talk about a dream, try to make it real.

And for one kid from Morrison, Colorado, it has.



Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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