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James Franklin names an interim offensive coordinator for Cotton Bowl, seeks a full-time OC from outside

Tight ends coach Tyler Bowen will handle the offensive coordinator duties against Memphis on an interim basis.

Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford (14) during the Nittany Lions' last practice in State College on Friday. They'll be leaving for Texas to face Memphis in the Cotton Bowl next Saturday.
Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford (14) during the Nittany Lions' last practice in State College on Friday. They'll be leaving for Texas to face Memphis in the Cotton Bowl next Saturday.Read moreCRAIG HOUTZ / For the Inquirer

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Penn State head coach James Franklin said Friday that tight ends coach Tyler Bowen will assume the duties as interim offensive coordinator and will call plays in next Saturday’s Cotton Bowl game against Memphis.

At the same time, Franklin said he has been looking outside the program for a full-time offensive coordinator to replace Ricky Rahne, who left the team earlier this month to accept the head coaching job at Old Dominion. He said the search has included interviews, watching tape and “different studies from a data perspective.”

“We don’t really want someone to come in and start all over again,” Franklin said at a media availability in advance of the bowl game. “We’re looking for somebody that has the experience as well as the humility to come in and blend, to say, ‘OK, what are the things that I have conviction about for me to run my offense that I can’t really change.’”

Bowen, who is just completing his third season on Franklin’s staff counting his year in 2014 as a graduate assistant at Penn State, has experience in the role. He served as Fordham’s offensive coordinator in 2016.

Asked if Bowen was being considered for the full-time position, Franklin compared it to after the 2015 regular season, when Rahne was named interim offensive coordinator for the TaxSlayer Bowl after the firing of John Donovan, and the Nittany Lions hired Joe Moorhead for the post.

“It’s probably more similar to that right now at this stage,” he said.

Clifford’s health

Quarterback Sean Clifford said he was “battling a lot of pain” after getting hurt in the Nov. 9 game against Minnesota, and that he underwent what he called “some necessary procedures” to recover from the pain and get back to normal.

“I wasn’t playing at the same endurance level and my speed was not there,” he said. “It probably mostly started at the Minnesota game and carrying on from there with Indiana and Ohio State. It’s not something to harp on. I actually heard Saquon (Barkley) talk about it a few days ago, how everyone is going to have injuries and it’s just one of the things that comes with the sport.”

Clifford sat out the final game of the regular season against Rutgers, and Will Levis led the Lions to a 27-6 win over Rutgers.

Franklin said Clifford still was not 100% but was taking most of the reps in practice. He said he anticipates he’ll be 100% for next Saturday’s game against Memphis.

“He’s better right now than he was at the end of the year,” he said.

Parsons a consensus All-America

Sophomore linebacker Micah Parsons, the Nittany Lions’ leading tackler, has become a consensus All-America, the 43rd player in program history to earn the honor and first since Saquon Barkley in 2017.

Of the five outlets that comprise the consensus All-America team, Parsons earned first-team honors from the Associated Press and the American Football Coaches Association, and second-team recognition from the Football Writers Association of America, the Walter Camp Football Foundation and the Sporting News.