Penn State coach James Franklin hopes to have a new offensive coordinator in place before the Nittany Lions face Georgia in the TaxSlayer Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., Jan. 2.
But the new man won’t be calling plays in the bowl.
On a bowl announcement conference call Sunday evening, Franklin said quarterback coach Ricky Rahne is now the interim offensive coordinator and will serve in that role for the bowl.
“At this point, Ricky Rahne is filling those responsibilities on our staff,” Franklin said. “And then I hope to have the position filled in the next week and a half or two weeks or so. We’ll see how the process plays out. But that person will probably come on and spend that time evaluating our players, evaluating our staff and being able to have some input. But it’s not like we’re gonna put in a new system right before the bowl game.
‘We’re going to try to keep things as normal as we possibly can,” he added. “And it will be a great opportunity and a great experience for Ricky Rahne as well, to call a game and also put in a game plan.”
Franklin fired offensive coordinator and tight ends coach John Donovan following PSU’s regular-season ending loss at Michigan State. On the conference call Sunday, he was not asked why he dismissed Donovan.
But he did address why he wanted the new staffer on board before the bowl.
“If we can get somebody in place to evaluate our players, to be around our staff, so that right after the bowl game they’re able to jump right in from Day One in terms of moving forward with the program and what we’re gonna be doing on offense,” Franklin said. “I think the other thing, too, that is helpful, is for our players not to have that in the back of their mind and be concerned or worried about the future and what it holds. They’ll be able to set up meetings with that guy and sit down with him, as well, and just try to get to know each other on a personal level. It really allows them to be focused on the game and not be concerned or distracted about what the future holds or what it’s gonna look like.
“And to be honest with you, the same with me,” he added. “As coach you constantly have 25 things on your desk that need to get done, and as long as we can find the right person and make the right hire — and I can get that off my desk, it’s one less thing we’re focused on — the better. Now I can make sure that our guys are finishing strong academically, making sure that we’re out in the community having a positive impact that way, finishing this recruiting class the right way, and we’re starting to move forward in every way possible.
“If it takes more time than that, then I’m perfectly comfortable taking that time to make sure we get it right. This is an important position for us, obviously. So we’ll see how the thing plays out. But in a perfect world, that’s what you’d like to see.”
Franklin said his phone has been “ringing off the hook” since the job became open. He always has a list of prospective replacement assistant coaches, and said that has become even longer with the additional people who have become available in recent weeks.
“There’s been conversations going,” Franklin said. “There’s been a lot of research and studies being done in terms of looking at what people have been able to do in their history in terms of putting an offense together, in terms of scoring points, in terms of finding ways to be successful and winning on the football field and putting our players in position to be successful.
“So all those things are happening right now,” he added. “Conversations, doing some statistical analysis and obviously looking at finding a time and place to sit down in person and work through some of these things.”
One person not in the running for the position is Rahne. Franklin said he is looking outside of the program for the new offensive coordinator, and the hire could come from the college or NFL ranks. The candidates must have experience calling plays and putting offenses together.
“The more important thing is to find someone whose gonna be a great fit for Penn State,” Franklin said. “Got great experience calling the plays and putting an offense together. Then obviously a guy that’s gonna be a great fit for our players and staff.”