James Franklin Fires Offensive Coordinator After Penn St. Loss

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Published by: Bear Acuda

Penn St. Offense Is Stifled By Defensive Juggernaut Michigan

Penn St. head coach James Franklin terminated the contract of offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich this past Sunday. The decision followed the team’s recent defeat to Michigan inside Happy Valley (a stadium boasting +100,000 crazed fans, second to only Michigan’s “Big House”)  in which the Nittany Lions managed only 15 points.

Even after boasting one of the top scoring offenses in the country (43.8 ppg before Saturday’s game which would’ve been tied for fourth best, had they maintained their excellency), Michigan’s historic defense put QB Drew Allar and the rest of the PSU offense in cement boots. Franklin needed to put the blame on somebody, and this time it fell on the OC. Franklin also alluded to the fact that his teams have a habit of being absent during big games, a major reason for his decision to part ways with Yurcich:

“It’s everything. Every unit needs to be operating at the very highest level. That is recruiting, that is development, that is offense, that is defense, that is special teams. And we’ve had times where we have done that but we’ve also had times where we’ve been really strong in certain areas and not strong enough in others. So that was a part of that decision.”

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During a press conference initially planned to discuss the upcoming game against Rutgers, Franklin ended up addressing numerous questions about his decision to fire Yurcich, the criteria for his next offensive coordinator, and the search process. This marks Franklin’s third change in the offensive coordinator position during his decade at Penn State, following John Donovan and Kirk Ciarrocca (although this is the first time such a change has occurred mid-season). Despite Penn State’s solid 8-2 record, with two more regular-season games and a bowl game ahead, Franklin felt an immediate change was necessary.

Franklin also made a revealing comment about the offensive strategy in the Michigan game, noting that it did not provide quarterback Drew Allar an opportunity to establish a consistent rhythm. When queried on Monday why he didn’t request simpler throws during the game, Franklin offered an explanation:

“I think you guys have heard me come in and talk [about], whether it’s openers, third down, starting fast, all these things are things that we’ve had lengthy discussions about and had a plan for, but a lot of the times when we got to the games, either we did not call the games that way or we did not execute the games the way we intended them to. Yeah, those things were asked for.”

Under Yurcich’s coordination, Penn State has averaged 43.8 points in their victories (albeit of weaker teams),  but only 13.5 points in their losses to big dogs like Ohio State and Michigan. The team’s performance against these opponents has been embarrassing, with an 0-6 record and an average of 19.3 points per game under Yurcich. In this season’s matchups with Ohio State and Michigan, Penn State only managed a single touchdown before their final offensive drives, where the teams were basically playing a “prevent” defense. This is otherwise known as “Garbage Time.”

With a proactive approach to scouting coaching talent, Franklin already has a list of potential candidates for the offensive coordinator position. This comes at a crucial time, as the early signing period for recruits begins on December 20, making the appointment of a new coordinator pivotal for recruitment.

Franklin is also considering the importance of having the new coordinator present during the bowl game for scouting and team building, similar to what defensive coordinator Manny Diaz did two years ago at the Outback Bowl. But even more important is getting the right fit for sustained success. Penn St. has some serious dudes already on their roster, and they’re expected to continue loading up on talent via recruiting, including coveted recruit QB Ethan Grunkemeyer out of Ohio. 

Meanwhile, they already have a “star” starting QB in sophomore Drew Allar, who I’ve been told is an absolute stud; a lock as a future lottery pick in the 2025 NFL Draft. The media hype on this guy isn’t Coach Prime-bad, but the announcers definitely jock-sniff the young signal caller. Every game is a litany of pats-on-the-back for making the most basic of throws, like the dude reinvented the “fade” route. Maybe he is all that, and it’s just James Frankl…sorry…PSU’s offensive coordinator who wasn’t able to maximize his potential. 

But Allar is not the first star QB recruit to underachieve. In 2013, PSU had superstar QB recruit Christian Hackenberg, the #7 high school recruit according to 24/7Sports. And there were some serious game breakers on that list:

Jalen Ramsey

Chris Jones

Jonathan Allen

Derek Henry

Tre-Davious White

Joey Bosa

Unfortunately for Hackenberg, James Franklin came over from Vanderbilt after the 2013 season; a 2013 season where he broke a bunch of freshman passing records at PSU on his way to “Big10 Freshman of the Year” honors. Technically, Franklin inherited the young gun, so maybe he was never his guy. But one would expect, after 3 seasons, he’d have maximized Hackenberg’s potential.

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Any good coach would. Instead, Hackenberg went into the 2016 NFL Draft the #5 QB prospect, missed out on mega-bucks by being drafted in the second round (NYJ), and was playing for the Memphis Express of the AAF by 2019. Hackenberg now makes headlines as the QB coach of Winslow Township High School in New Joyzee and when he clowns around on social media with face-fan Dave Portnoy.

Now, Hack may have a better life, and be a better man for his path taken. I’m not refuting that. 

I’m merely pointing out that Franklin has a habit of deflecting, pointing the fingers at his coaching staff when they choke rather than at himself.

How many more careers from top-tier high school quarterbacks are we going to let this man destroy?

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