These are guesses, albeit educated ones, because the only person who truly knows what direction Penn State’s offense will take next is the one who will ultimately decide who replaces new Old Dominion head coach Ricky Rahne as its offensive coordinator.
These are also difficult guesses, because throughout his tenure at Penn State, James Franklin has approached hiring assistants in somewhat different ways.
He has brought in those he worked closely with during his days as an assistant, those he got to know well only on the recruiting trail and others, like former offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, whose approach impressed him long before their first handshake.
Which direction he takes when considering his next offensive coordinator remains to be seen. But here are se candidates who make some sense, given Franklin’s history and their offensive philosophies.
Current job: Penn State tight ends coach
The reason: Bowen is the seamless hire. He has been with Franklin for three seasons and knows the offense inside and out. He worked with Rahne in the press box during games the last two, and he has experience as an offensive coordinator, running Fordham’s offense in 2016 after Moorhead left the Rams to join the Nittany Lions. He is also a talented recruiter who knows the intricacies of offensive line and tight end play well, which might give him a different perspective on the offense than Moorhead and Rahne — two former quarterbacks — had.
Current job: LSU passing game coordinator, receivers coach
The reason: Watching what LSU’s offense did this season on the way to the College Football Playoff was impressive, and Brady is a motivating factor behind its innovative approaches. He’s college football’s wunderkind, and he has experience at Penn State as a graduate assistant (2015, 2016). Brady might be considered, at least by fans, as the home run hire. LSU is determined to keep him in Baton Rouge, but the last two Penn State offensive coordinators have landed FBS head coaching jobs within two years. That would have to be attractive for Brady.
Current job: Mississippi State pass game coordinator, quarterbacks coach
The reason: You’ll see a lot of speculation surrounding Moorhead disciples, and Breiner is one of them. He’s 35, knows Pennsylvania well being a Lock Haven graduate, currently works with Moorhead at Mississippi State and actually replaced him as Fordham’s head coach in 2016. That’s really strong experience. The lure of calling plays could lead Breiner to branch back closer to his roots.
Current job: Alabama associate head coach, running backs coach
The reason: Penn State players loved working with Huff during his days as running backs coach and special teams coordinator from 2014 through 2017. He knows Franklin well. He has worked with Moorhead at Penn State and Mississippi State. He has SEC experience, has learned from Nick Saban and is a tremendous recruiter, which Penn State also has to replace with Rahne gone. There’s a really good track record of success with Huff.
Current job: Memphis offensive coordinator
The reason: Johns would be an off-the-beaten-path type of candidate for Franklin. So was Moorhead, though. Memphis runs a spread offense, uses run-pass option schemes and develops playmakers. Johns’ offense looks a bit like Penn State’s, which Penn State will find out as it prepares for the Tigers in the Cotton Bowl. Johns has 12 years experience as an assistant in the Big Ten, where he helped coordinate some good Indiana offenses. He may go with Mike Norvell to Florida State, though.
Current job: Ohio State passing game coordinator, quarterbacks coach
The reason: Yurcich led the prolific Oklahoma State offenses of the mid-2010s, and Penn State fans seem to have him on the short list after his one season developing Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields into one of the nation’s most efficient passers. It will take plenty to get him away from Columbus, but word is, Franklin’s new contract last week was about more than just extra money for him. Penn State wants to be competitive financially for top assistants. They’d need to be to get Yurcich on board.