According to reports, the Penn State Nittany Lions have a new leader of the offense. Head Coach James Franklin parted ways with Mike Yurcich after the Michigan loss. Now, Penn State will have a new offensive coordinator at the helm before National Signing Day and at the perfect time to navigate the transfer portal. Penn State has hired Kansas offensive coordinator, Andy Kotelnicki.
Franklin Parts Ways With Yurcich
Yurcich was hired by Penn State in January 2021 with the promise to bring explosive offenses and elite quarterbacks to the Nittany Lions. Sophomore quarterback Drew Allar is a former five-star recruit and has the potential to be a Penn State great, but the offense unexpectedly sputtered under Yurcich. The big plays were few and far between and the young stars on the offense weren’t developing as expected. In his third year, 2023, Penn State’s offense was ranked 90th in the country in passing offense. This is seventh in the Big Ten. Further, the Nittany Lions are currently tied with Illinois for 60th in the nation in total offense. The lack of creativity and explosiveness is likely part of what led Franklin to move on and find someone new to lead this group.
Penn State Hires Kotelnicki to Take Over
Kotelnicki will be leaving Lance Leipold for the first time in a long time. The duo has been together since Division III and turned the Kansas program around in a big way. In 2022 and 2023, the Kansas offense was arguably more efficient than the Nittany Lions. Sure, Penn State had several high-scoring games, but couldn’t get the job done against Ohio State and Michigan. The Jayhawks finished eighth and sixth in yards per play the last two years. In addition, Kotelnicki led the Kansas offense to its first bowl appearance since 2008.
The Nittany Lions will return Allar and hopefully running back duo Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen. Singelton and Allen are also former five-star recruits and had very productive freshman campaigns. Even with these two, the Penn State offense was not able to formulate big plays and often got stuck on third down. Under Kotelnicki, Kansas ranked eighth in rushing yards per game this season. Whereas, Penn State ranked 26th in the nation in this category. Yurcich failed to get Singelton and Allen in open space, which limited the big-play production of both backs. However, Kotelnicki’s creativity is evident when watching the Kansas offense. He utilizes misdirection and spreads the offense, getting the rushers in space. This is something that will benefit both Singleton and Allen next season.
Kotelnicki’s Proven Success
As we mentioned, Kotelnicki has been with Leipold since Division III at Wisconsin-Whitewater. He was then at Buffalo when running back Jaret Patterson had three 1,000-yard rushing seasons from 2018-2020. This was also the stint of winning seasons for Buffalo. From there, Kotelnicki followed Leipold to Kansas. The first season was rocky, but things started to look up in 2022. In 2022, the Kansas offense averaged 438 yards per game. Then again in 2023, the Jayhawks averaged 434 yards per game of total offense. This is all with short seasons for starting quarterback Jalon Daniels.
A change that Kotelnicki will be faced with is a pocket passer at the quarterback position. Allar can run when he needs to but definitely needs to work on sliding at the end of a run. He is not a true dual-threat quarterback. This is something that will be a change from the resurgence of the Kansas program. However, with Penn State’s depth at running back, this shouldn’t be a major issue for Kotelnicki.
Will This One Stick?
This will be the sixth offensive coordinator for Penn State under Franklin. Three of them were fired due to lackluster performance. The last offensive coordinator who was up to the standard for Penn State fans was Joe Moorhead. Moorhead came to Penn State as advertised and took the Nittany Lion offense to new heights before leaving for a head coaching job. He was the one who led Penn State to the Big Ten Championship in 2016 with lead-back Saquon Barkley. Fans are hoping that Kotelnicki is the one who can do what Moorhead did. Create space for the elite running backs and put this offense in positions to succeed. Kotelnicki will have to do this in the new-look Big Ten. Especially if Defensive Coordinator Manny Diaz leaves for a head coaching position elsewhere.