It’s Day 15…and counting…since James Franklin axed Mike Yurcich as the Nittany Lions’ offensive coordinator, the second consecutive firing in 1,038 days by CJF of an OC he also hired. Tick, tick, tick.

That was two victories by a 69-6 margin, 908 yards of offense, 2 x 100-yard rushers in 1 game, and 15 explosive plays over 20 yards ago.

In the interim? Two very loyal co-coordinators who fit hand in glove. That would be assistant head coach/co-OC and running back coach Ja’Juan Seider and tight ends coach/co-OC Ty Howle.

Are they legit candidates to replace Yurcich? Hmm, it’s a difficult question. And decision, no doubt. But, it’s a simply executed (like PSU’s new offense) answer, if Franklin decides to stay in house. It’s a short walk down the hall from his second-floor corner office in the Lasch Building.

The clock is already ticking. The regular season has ended for most teams, the transfer portal opens next Monday, Dec. 4 and National Signing Day is Dec. 20. And it’s all made more complicated by the possibility that dandy defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, who heads the No. 1 (total) defense in the country would seem to be a hot commodity on the coaching market, almost fully rehabilitated from his 21-15 record at Miami and an ignominious firing.

Let’s take a look at where things stand. Let’s call it All-11, OC Edition:

1. Here’s how Franklin planned to spend his weekend, based on what he said in Detroit minutes after his team dismantled Michigan State (which, hours later acted quickly and decisively, hiring Jonathan Smith as its next head coach):

“The obvious thing,” Franklin said then, “is I’m going to be in Saturday and Sunday Zooming a ton with prospective offensive coordinator candidates.”

1a. Franklin also said that he’ll be spending time on recruiting, doing exit interviews with players and tracking the transfer portal — all with help, of course, from his 70-plus member staff. Still, it’s a far cry from the two full-time jobs he said he was juggling back on Monday, Nov. 13: “Hiring someone is like a full-time job. Can’t really have two full-time jobs right now.”

2. How long is the search and hiring process going to take? Again, the day after Yurcich was let go, Franklin said, “Sooner rather than later, right?”

2a. Franklin was likely planning for yanking Yurcich before he pulled the plug, noting the day after the OC was fired, “I already have a list. It’s narrowing it down, running all the numbers, seeing if people are interested, and then trying to find a way to get that turned over as soon as we possibly can through maybe some Zoom calls, in-person interviews.”

3. How long does it usually take Franklin to fill a coordinator’s position? Not very. Franklin’s 10-year history at Penn State tells us that if the replacement is already on his staff, it’s usually two or three days until he pulls the trigger — which was the case when he promoted Ricky Rahne to OC after Joe Moorhead left in 2017 and when Brent Pry replaced Bob Shoop as DC after Shoop went to Tennessee in 2016.

3a. When going outside of Lasch, the process has always been completed in less than three weeks. We are now in Week 3.

4.  Here’s a timetable chart of Franklin’s offensive coordinator hires, fires and departures at Penn State:

CoordinatorFired/departedNew coordinatorHiredDaysJohn Donovanfired; Nov. 29, 2015Joe Moorhead, Fordham HCDec. 12, 201514Joe MoorheadHC job; Nov. 29, 2017Ricky Rahne, on staffDec. 1, 20173Ricky RahneHC job; Dec. 9, 2019Kirk Ciarrocca, Minnesota OCDec. 26, 201917Kirk Ciarroccafired; Jan. 8, 2021Mike Yurcich, TexasHC/staff firedJan. 8, 20210Mike Yurcichfired; Nov. 12, 2023TBA

5. Here’s a (much smaller) timetable chart of Franklin’s defensive coordinator hires, fires and departures at Penn State:

CoordinatorDepartedNew coordinatorHiredDaysBob ShoopJan. 9, 2016Brent Pry, on staffJan. 11, 20162Brent PryHC job; Nov. 30, 2021Manny Diaz, Mami HC/firedDec. 11, 202112

6. If Franklin decides to retain the Seider/Howle tandem — and perhaps bring in a QB coach to round out his offensive staff — then an announcement could be forthcoming in a matter of days.

6a. When Franklin fired Yurcich, he was likely thinking of replacing him fairly quickly. FBS schools are permitted to have 10 full-time assistant coaches and since Yurcich departed Franklin has left Assistant Slot No. 10 open. Franklin got lucky — or planned ahead smartly — in the offseason when he shifted Danny O’Brien from an analyst position to grad assistant. That has allowed O’Brien to do hands-on coaching with QBs as a GA, a practice that he continued when Yurcich was let go.

6b. Franklin could have left that No. 10 spot open — and chose not to fill it, even on the short-term from his cadre of analysts — because he counted on bringing in the new OC/QB coach quickly to spend time with the team for some pre-bowl practices. That’s helpful for acclimation and evaluation. Franklin did it when he hired OC Kirk Ciarrocca (pre-Cotton Bowl) and Diaz (pre-Outback Bowl).

7. Is Moorhead, who was the genius behind Penn State’s 2016-17 explosive offense and Big Ten title, a legit contender for the OC job? He’s had a peripatetic up-and-down journey since leaving Happy Valley, with two years as head coach at Mississippi State (14-12), two years as OC at Oregon under Mario Cristobal (who, in a cruel twist of fate left Oregon to succeed Diaz in Miami) and two woeful years as head coach at Akron — going 4-20 overall, 2-14 in MACtion in 2022-23.

7a. Maybe. At this point I doubt it. But perhaps Pitt’s Pat Narduzzi, who loves to troll PSU and CJF, might come calling for Moorhead, a Pittsburgh native.

8. Franklin has thrown the Loyalty Card around a lot the past two weeks. Last Monday, Franklin said, “I think the biggest thing that I said to you guys before is both Ja’Juan and Ty are loyal and appreciative to Penn State, loyal and appreciative to our players, and to the staff. They’ve created an environment like that I thought was really good last week, and I think we’ll refine the process even more this week,” leading up to the Michigan State game.

8a. Loyalty is a two-way street, one would think. (Let’s not forget that Franklin fired three OCs and two WR coaches at PSU.) Does he owe Seider and Howle a shot? Both are rooted in the Penn State program, almost as much as anyone on the coaching staff. Only Terry Smith, a former captain, has been on Franklin’s staff longer. Seider was hired in January 2018 and Howle is also a former Nittany Lion captain, who returned in 2020, then was named tight end coach in 2021.

8b. Both Seider and Howle were actually named co-offensive coordinators for the 2022 season, in support of Yurcich, who held the coordinator title. Seider was named assistant head coach in 2023. (Smith has been associate head coach since 2021.)

9. Which of the two actually called the plays vs. Rutgers and Michigan State? (Seider was on the sidelines, Howle in the booth, as was the case all season.) I asked Franklin this very question last week. His reply, basically: I ain’t sayin’.

10. Let’s look how the two fared in their two games together — Rutgers and Michigan State — compared to the Ohio State/Michigan debacles when Yurcich was OC and the other eight games of 2023, when Yurcich was also OC. (And yes, I know the Rutgers stats include the second half of that game, when Beau Pribula literally ran the offense.)


GamesPointsRushPassTotal Yards3rd downPlays 20 yards/+Rutgers/MSU34.539-258.513-21-195.54544-104 run / 3.5 passOhio St./U-M13.530.5-106.514.5-32.5-132.52392.5-151 run / 0 passOthers (8)43.843.5-18921.4-33-2043937-15.6 run / 2.1 pass

11. In June 2022, I asked Seider what his career goals were. Seider said then he’s ready for the next step — be it as an offensive coordinator or as head coach. His reply, in full:

“We’ve had a very loyal staff, but you also have to be loyal to where you want to go in this profession… There are parameters that make sense where I feel like I can grow, where it makes sense for me to uproot my family. I have a son on the team who is going to be a senior. I got a daughter who is going to be in high school as a senior. For me to take them into an environment that I don’t think is the right situation, I won’t do it.

“But if I think it was a situation that’s going to help me get a next step, the next step to have a better chance to be head coach or call plays, then I’ll do it. I’m not just going to leave here for a lateral move; I don’t think that will benefit me down the road. And then I got a great situation here. I got a head coach with stability. He has a 10-year contract; that’s rare in college football. And as an assistant coach, the most important thing you have is stability.

“Do I always think I’m ready to get another job? Yeah, I got a good reputation. If you know me and where I come from and how I was raised and how I was brought up in this game and how I recruited and how I motivate my guys I my room, to speak in a volume so I mean what I’m talking about if I’m a head coach, to galvanize a room right to get them ready to play, to recruit right, to engage people to make them want to play for you — I am ready do that.

“So, when that opportunity comes, I’ll be prepared. It’s the reason why I stay with one of the best head coaches in college football, to learn those tools. So, if I get that opportunity, I’m prepared for it. To me, that’s why I’m here.”

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