Penn State football coach James Franklin announced a change in offensive coordinators Friday with the firing of Kirk Ciarrocca after one season and the hiring of Mike Yurcich.
“First, I would like to thank Kirk for his contributions to our program last year,” Franklin said in a statement. “This was a difficult decision but felt it was best for our program to make a change. We wish him and his family all the best in their future endeavors.”
Franklin hired Ciarrocca during Cotton Bowl week last season away from Minnesota, where, in his third year as offensive coordinator, he helped lead the Golden Gophers to their first 10-win season since 1905. One of those wins came over Penn State when quarterback Tanner Morgan went 18-for-20 for 339 yards and three touchdowns.
However, with the pandemic causing the cancellation of spring practice and early summer workouts, Ciarrocca had to work primarily through Zoom and Facetime calls with quarterback Sean Clifford and the offense. He also had to develop working relationships with the Nittany Lions’ two other first-year offensive coaches – line coach Phil Trautwein and wide receivers coach Taylor Stubblefield.
The Lions struggled early with turnovers, committing 13 during their 0-5 start. For the season, they scored touchdowns on a little more than half of their red zone trips (19 of 37). Their scoring average of 29.8 points was six points lower than the year before, and they reached the 30-point mark in regulation only in the season’s last two games.
Late in the season, Ciarrocca expressed optimism that the offense could be consistently good.
“Am I happy with the results? Absolutely not,” he said during a Dec. 3 conference call. “But I do trust the process. And I’ve been in a lot worse situations than this from a productivity standpoint, and we’ve always managed to come out the other side and be really, really good. I’m very confident. I see the pieces here, that we can be really good.”
Yurcich spent the past season as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Texas. He has 22 years of college coaching experience, 15 as an offensive coordinator at Texas, Oklahoma State, Shippensburg and Edinboro. He also will be Penn State’s quarterbacks coach.
“We are excited to have Mike join our staff,” Franklin said. “He is an impressive offensive mind and talented play-caller who has set records everywhere he has been as an offensive coordinator. I look forward to seeing what he can do with all of the offensive weapons we have here at Penn State.”
During Yurcich’s season at Texas, the Longhorns ranked eighth in FBS in scoring offense at 42.7 points per game, a total that ranked second in program history, and 19th in total offense at 475.4 yards per game. They were 27th in passing offense at 280.1 yards per game, with nine players catching at least 10 passes and 12 players with a touchdown reception.
Texas finished the season 7-3 but fired head coach Tom Herman last Saturday.
“Having spent 11 years in the state of Pennsylvania as a player and coach, I understand the significance of this duty and will represent properly and with humble pride,” Yurcich said in the statement.