In recent seasons the Penn State OC position has been a conduit to vacant head coaching positions around the nation. Within the past three seasons both Joe Moorehead (Mississippi State) and Ricky Rahne (Old Dominion) have used the position to find top jobs of their own. To this end Penn State has managed to pry conference rival Minnesota’s Offensive Coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca away from the Golden Gophers.
Kirk Ciarrocca has a very interesting resume. He has made his bones by leading lesser known programs to offensive success. Ciarrocca began his coaching career at the University of Delaware where he helped lead the Blue Hens to a FCS National Championship in 2003. He eventually made his way to Rutgers where he learned under the mercurial Greg Schiano. From 2009 to 2012 he served as the OC and QB Coach during one of the most successful times in Rutgers football history.
Following his mentor’s departure for the NFL, Kirk Ciarrocca left Rutgers to become the OC for Western Michigan. During his time at Kalamazoo, Ciarrocca and head coach P.J. Fleck put the program on the national map highlighted by undefeated seasons and national rankings. Ciarrocca and Fleck would form a coaching bond that both transformed Western Michigan and earned them positions at the University of Minnesota.
During his time with the Golden Gophers the program has gotten incrementally better each and every season. The 2019 season was one of the best in the last 50 years of the program. Minnesota finished with a 10-2 record and earned a share of the Big10 West Division crown. The offensive side of the ball was a big factor in this success with 34.3 points per game. The signature win of the season was a 31-26 victory over No.4 Penn State. It was likely this victory that earned Ciarrocca his next coaching gig.
Throughout his coaching career Kirk Ciarrocca has presided over high flying offenses. Several of his top receivers have enjoyed both College and NFL success. Some of his notable pass catchers have been Mohamed Sanu (Rutgers), Corey Davis (Western Michigan), and Rashod Bateman (Minnesota). Ciarrocca’s system is inherently QB friendly and will provide a springboard to Sean Clifford to earn individual honors in his upperclassmen years at Happy Valley.
The biggest beneficiary of the hire could be KJ Hamler. If the talented player decides to come back for his Junior season he will undoubtedly hit career highs across the board. Ciarrocca’s scheme that heavily targets the top perimeter weapons will feature the dynamic speedster and likely lead to his first 1,000 yards season. The other obvious winner of this hire would be super talented TE Pat Freiermuth.
Only time will tell with Penn State is truly a good fit for Kirk Ciarrocca, but I’m optimistic. The kid who grew up in Lewisberry, PA and attended Temple has a chance to come home again. He will now be able to coach the top program in his home state. As stated earlier previous holders of his new position have used the gig as a springboard to head jobs of their own. That was undoubtedly a huge selling point for James Franklin as he seeks to win yet another Big10 championship and earn the program’s first spot in the FBS College Football Playoffs. This fan for one cannot wait to see the footballs flying around Beaver Stadium in the high flying scheme Ciarrocca brings with him.
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