A wild win over Washington in the Fiesta Bowl showed Penn State faithful that there was life after Joe Moorhead. But Adam McClintock recently dropped a reminder into the Land of 10 inbox of just how good the Nittany Lions really had it on the coaching front last fall.
Penn State was the only Big Ten program in 2017 to feature one of the top-5 offensive coordinators in the country and one of the top-5 defensive coordinators in the country on the same staff, according to McClintock, the co-founder of Matrix Analytical Solutions, who’s been analyzing and grading coaches for college football websites and athletic departments for a decade.
Head coaches are graded by McClintock based on results relative to the talent said coach has recruited; coordinators are marked based on the talent on hand and the per-play efficiency with which their units either score or surrender points.
The Nittany Lions featured the league’s No. 1 offensive coordinator for 2017 in Moorhead, who left after the regular season to fill the head coaching vacancy at Mississippi State, and the Big Ten’s No. 2 defensive coordinator in Brent Pry.
Moorhead was ranked No. 4 nationally while Pry checked in at No. 5 in the country. McClintock gave both 2017 coordinators an A-plus grade. Nittany Lions coach James Franklin, whose squads have posted a combined 22-5 mark over the last two seasons ― the best 24-month run in program annals since 2008 and 2009 ― finished 2017 as the nation’s No. 18 head coach and received a B-plus grade from McClintock.
Penn State ranked second in the Big Ten last fall in scoring offense (41.1 points per game) and scoring defense (16.5 points allowed per game).
Pry made the second-biggest jump in McClintock’s national rankings of any league defensive coordinator from 2016 to 2017, moving from No. 37 up to No. 5. (Michigan State’s Harlon Barnett made the largest ranking jump, hopping from No. 80 all the way to No. 35.) Moorhead was ranked No. 10 nationally in 2016, his first season as the Nittany Lions’ offensive coordinator after four seasons as the head coach at Fordham.
Moorhead’s departure for another head coaching gig started the first of what’s turned into a few ripples on Franklin’s staff over the winter. Former Nittany Lions special teams coordinator Charles Huff joined Moorhead in Starkville, while ex-Penn State wide receivers coach Josh Gattis left to become co-offensive coordinator at Alabama.
In December, Ricky Rahne was promoted from tight ends coach/passing game coordinator to offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach as a replacement for Moorhead. Franklin earlier this month hired David Corley, formerly of Army, to coach wideouts and brought in Ja’Juan Seider from Florida to coach running backs. And if the coaching report card from 2017 is any indication, the new faces have been handed some awfully tough acts to follow.