New Penn State Coordinator Ricky Rahne Answers: ‘Whose Offense Is It, Anyway?’
Whose offense will the Nittany Lions run in 2018?
Is it still Joe Moorhead’s, who brought it from Fordham to a newly pass-Happy Valley and left it as a parting gift when he departed for Stark Vegas?
Or is it Trace McSorley’s, the triggerman who has run and passed for 8,040 yards and accounted for 75 touchdowns over the past two seasons?
Is it James Franklin’s, who runs The Show and brought the RPO game to town when he hired Moorhead?
Or, is it Ricky Rahne’s, the Nittany Lions’ new offensive coordinator and new (again) quarterbacks coach, who will be calling the plays from the press box in 2018?
None of the above, says Ricky Redux.
“I think it’s always going to be Penn State’s offense,” Rahne told me on Saturday.
“No matter who comes or who goes, it’s always going to be Penn State’s offense,” Rahne added. “It’s one of the beauties of this place and the Penn State football program: No one person is bigger than the program. That’s something Coach Franklin really preaches. That’s what I believe in and that’s what I know the quarterbacks believe in as well.”
An even-keeled guy, Rahne also believes in a balanced offense.
By at least one set of metrics in 2017, Moorhead was dead-on in that direction. Last season, the Nittany Lions ran the ball 451 times and passed it 458. It doesn’t get more balanced than that. Yardage-wise, Penn State’s run game last season accounted for 37% of the offense (2,212 yards), while the passing game produced 63% (3,772 yards).
In 2016, the initial year of Moorhead’s — er, Penn State’s — offense, the breakdown was this: PSU ran the ball 58% of the time and passed it 42% (540 runs, 391 passes). Yardage-wise, 39.7% (2,406 yards) came on the ground, and 60.3% came through the air (3,650 yards).
WHAT RICKY SAYS
Rahne made the above comments and more in a one-on-one interview we did during media day. He talked about his goals for his quarterback — be he named Trace, Tommy or Cliff — and some of the logistics for calling the plays in 2018. That Q&A follows:
SC.com: How much will the offense change in 2018?
Rahne: “It’s an ever-evolving thing. Obviously, I’m taking things I learned from Joe that I really liked. I’m not going to fixed something that isn’t broke. Our players respond well to this system. I think it has answers. It’s something we’re going to run.”
SC.com: Are there some things that are signature Ricky Rahne? You said that in the first 21 plays in the Fiesta Bowl, nine players touched the ball. There were the shovel passes. Are there some things in this offense that are distinctly yours?
Rahne: “No, no. I would hope not. I’m going to take what the defense gives us.
“If there is one signature that I’d like to be known for it’s putting the players in the best position to succeed. That’s my main thing. I’ve learned that from being around a bunch of good coaches. That would be the one signature, I’d say.
“It’s about making sure they have answers to what is being shown to them. They need to have a concept so that no matter what happens to them on the field, they have an answer. That’s all I’m trying to do. There are going to be things that happen in a game that we didn’t plan for throughout the week — things that their defense hadn’t shown before — and our schemes still need to account for that.”
SC.com: Going back to your Cornell playing days, through your time coaching quarterbacks all the way back to Kansas State, what’s in your book — what are your basic offensive tenets for quarterback play?
Rahne: “No. 1 is, Always be prepared. No. 2 is, Leadership is the key for a quarterback. My last thing in terms of a basic fundamental is balance.
“You want to be balanced when you’re passing the ball. You want to be balanced in the run game. It’s all about playing with a good balance. Frankly, that’s in all positions — it’s not just with quarterbacks. That’s what I constantly remind these guys, that ultimately they’re football players first.”
SC.com: What’s the No. 1 job of a quarterback? Matt McGloin once told me it was producing touchdowns.
Rahne: “It’s being a leader. They are always a leader. Even in a no-huddle offense like ours, their No. 1 job is being a leader. They need to take control. Their attitude turns into the attitude of the offense. Touchdowns are the by-product of that leadership.”
SC.com: Where are you going to be on game day?
Rahne: “I’m going to be in the (press) box. One, you’re a little bit away from the emotions of the game. Two, I can see a little bit better. And quite frankly, I’ll have a table in front of me where I can be organized a little better.
“A disadvantage is, obviously, that I don’t get to look in the eye of the players. Again though, it’s an advantage and a disadvantage, since I’m away from the emotions of it. It’s a little bit more difficult to communicate with the quarterbacks, but obviously technology helps with that.”
SC.com: The NCAA has reduced the number of headsets teams may use during a game (to 20; click here for the complete rule). How are you going to handle that?
Rahne: “All of the coaches are on there. All of offensive staff. The offensive and defensive coaches have different stations, so we don’t hear them at all. For us, all the full-time offensive coaches (Matt Limegrover, Ja’Juan Seider, Tyler Bowen and David Corley) and the two GA’s (Sean Cascarano, Mark Dupuis) will be on there. Coach Franklin can switch back and forth. We’re still working through on exactly who else is going to be on.”