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Penn State offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne hired as head coach at Old Dominion

Rahne was on James Franklin's staff for each of the last nine seasons, the last two as offensive coordinator. He becomes the second head coach in the history of the ODU program.

Penn State football offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Ricky Rahne in August.
Penn State football offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Ricky Rahne in August.Read moreCRAIG HOUTZ / For the Inquirer

Penn State offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne, a member of James Franklin’s coaching staff at Vanderbilt and with the Nittany Lions for the last nine seasons, was named Monday as the new head coach at Old Dominion.

Rahne, 39, will succeed Bobby Wilder, who launched the Old Dominion football program in 2008 and spent 12 seasons there but resigned on Dec. 2 after a 1-11 season. Rahne will be formally introduced Wednesday at the university.

Rahne was quarterbacks coach for Franklin at Vanderbilt from 2011 through 2013, then accompanied him to Penn State where he began as quarterbacks coach for two seasons. He moved to tight ends coach in 2016 after Joe Moorhead was hired as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

When Moorhead left the Nittany Lions after the 2017 season to take the head coaching job at Mississippi State, Rahne succeeded him.

In an Old Dominion news release announcing Rahne’s hiring, Franklin called Rahne’s departure “a bittersweet moment for our program."

“I am forever indebted to Ricky for his loyalty and drive in helping us succeed at Vanderbilt and Penn State,” Franklin said. “Ricky is a rising star in the industry and is built for this opportunity. He is a smart, open-minded and talented coach. His humble leadership style will resonate well with Old Dominion’s leadership and players.”

Franklin and Rahne also coached together at Kansas State in 2006 and 2007.

Rahne, who was a record-setting quarterback at Cornell, has taken his share of criticism the last two seasons. He came under fire for a crucial fourth-down call late in a 27-26 loss to Ohio State in 2018, and received the same comments this season for red-zone issues in the Lions’ 31-26 defeat at Minnesota.

But one current and one former Penn State player went on Twitter to congratulate Rahne and thank him for what he did for them.

“I want to thank Ricky Rahne for everything he has done for me these past few years,” Lions quarterback Sean Clifford said. “Not only is he a great coach, but he has been a great mentor to myself and my teammates. I will miss ya, coach. ODU football is getting a great one! Much love.”

Tight end Mike Gesicki, now of the Miami Dolphins, wrote, “Old Dominion just go the smartest, most determined, cool, calm and collected coach in the entire country. So happy for him, wouldn’t be where I am today without Ricky Rahne, and now I am officially a Monarch fan.”

Four-star tight end from Canada commits

Theo Johnson, a tight end from Windsor, Ontario, gave an oral commitment to become part of Penn State’s 2020 high school recruiting class.

The 6-foot-6, 242-pound Johnson made the announcement at his high school.

Johnson, rated at four stars by both 247Sports and Rivals and ranked as the No. 3 or No. 4 tight end in the class, chose the Nittany Lions over his other three finalists, Georgia, Iowa, and Michigan. He made his official visit in October during the “White Out” game against the Wolverines.

Johnson is the 28th member of Penn State’s class of 2020, which will be signing national letters of intent on Dec. 18, and its second tight end. He is expected to enroll at the university in January.