Ricky Rahne has long been his own toughest critic and the Penn State offensive coordinator’s attention to detail has been on display for James Franklin for years as they climbed through the coaching ranks together.
This spring, as Rahne roams the hallways in the Lasch Football Building no longer as just the quarterback’s coach or just the tight end’s coach, he’s looking for input from everyone else. It won’t be just his stamp on the offense as Penn State looks to continue lighting up the scoreboard in life after Saquon Barkley and Joe Moorhead.
“The biggest thing with Ricky, and somebody said it the other day is, he’s too smart and he works too hard not to be successful,” Franklin said this spring. “When you have that combination you have a chance.”
Perhaps the quarterbacks should do something different with their footwork during practice, something Trace McSorley said Rahne will run by him or Tommy Stevens. Maybe it’s something that should be tweaked in Rahne’s stack of meeting notes, which he has penned down to every last detail. That, he picked up during his tenure at Kansas State working for Bill Snyder and certainly his time working under Franklin — who plans out every scenario under the sun — has only reaffirmed Rahne’s knack for the finer details.
“It’s been a real seamless transition,” McSorley said this spring. “Really, a lot of other guys in our offense he’s been here for the same time we have and maybe not necessarily as a coordinator but as our position coach so he knows everyone on this offense, he knows what positions they’re in, what situations where some guys might need to get a little better and everyday he comes out here he’s extremely competitive and he wants us winning every single period, every single rep and he’s going to push us to be as good as we can be. He wants that out of this offense every day.”
It was Rahne’s willingness to embrace whatever position he coached that helped groom him for this opportunity and spending two years bouncing ideas around with Moorhead helped Rahne become Moorhead’s successor. This move, should it go well for Penn State, could mean longevity between the head coach and his offensive coordinator as Rahne previously expressed a desire to not become a head coach. That’s advantageous for Penn State in the long run and also this spring as the offense after Barkley includes one less transition.
“It helps when you’re in a situation like this and you have a transition,” Franklin said. “It helped Trace McSorley that we made the decision that we made so they’re not all having to learn something new, but let’s be honest, it also helps Ricky Rahne that he’s got Trace McSorley, a veteran quarterback, and probably the strongest offensive line we’ve had since we’ve been here so I think that is kind of ideal in terms of if you have to go through transition.”
Keep in mind it was Rahne who a few years back headed to a Virginia high school for an early-morning workout where he watched the player many projected as a collegiate safety complete a sharp workout as a quarterback. That player was quickly offered a scholarship as a quarterback and ended up being the one who helped lead Penn State to a Big Ten title, Rose Bowl berth and a Fiesta Bowl victory.
While there inevitably will be tweaks to this offense, mostly in the form of input from the other position coaches and Franklin, expect many of the same concepts that helped the offense thrive the last two seasons to be on display this year.
Stevens in the versatile Lion role will likely open up the playbook even more, but just don’t look for any of those wrinkles to appear in a couple weekends during the 15th and final practice of the spring, also known as the Blue-White game.
“We haven’t really added too much. Right now the spring is just basics. We haven’t really spiced anything up yet, that comes with the season,” wide receiver DeAndre Thompkins said. “But, I would say there is a different kind of environment. It’s very competitive. We go out with a chip on our shoulder every practice and it’s kind of a you vs. the world type of mentality for us as an offense. I wouldn’t say there’s any different plays or anything like that, just new ways to attack every practice and every team period.”