Penn State football's new offensive coordinator has already coached in Beaver Stadium.
Sure enough, Andy Kotelnicki worked one September night in State College four years ago as a member of Buffalo's coaching staff and has risen in stature and reputation ever since.
On Thursday, multiple media outlets, including The Athletic and Football Scoop are reporting that Penn State officials expect to add the highly-regarded offensive coordinator of the Kansas Jayhawks to James Franklin's staff. Though a lateral move in terms of job responsibilities, Kotelnicki certainly will receive an upgrade in pay and in exposure at Penn State and in the Big Ten — particularly valuable in his quest to run his own program.
The position opened 2 1/2 weeks after Franklin fired OC Mike Yurcich following the Nittany Lions' loss to undefeated Michigan, the second high-profile offensive meltdown of the season.
Kotelnicki, 43, will be Franklin's sixth offensive coordinator in a decade at Penn State. Franklin also fired Bob Shoop and Kirk Ciarrocca after the 2015 and 2020 seasons. Joe Moorhead and Ricky Rahne left for head coaching jobs.
Kotelnicki arrives with a reputation for creative, smart offenses that have the reputation of making the best use of his players' abilities. His Kansas units have finished in the top 30 nationally the past two years under his longtime mentor and Jayhawk head coach Lance Leipold.
Kotelnicki has worked under Leipold for a decade, which includes a stint as his coordinator at Buffalo when the Bulls were ultimately worn down in a 45-13 defeat in Beaver Stadium in 2019. Kotelnicki's offense produced more total yards than Penn State that night (429 to 357).
This year, Kansas is ranked 29th in total offense (434.0 yards per game) and ninth nationally in rushing offense, both marks better than Penn State.
At Penn State, Kotelnicki will be in charge of arguably the nation's top quarterback prospect, calling plays and organizing a system that has been highly erratic under Franklin.
While Penn State is looking to play in its fifth New Year's Six bowl games in eight years, it still has not been able to win 11 regular season games and has been dominated by Big Ten East rivals Ohio State and Michigan. The Lions never qualified for the four-team playoff in its 10-year run − much of that, including a couple of near-misses, have been blamed on the offensive not producing as expected.
It came to a head this past season with the unit looking aimless and QB Drew Allar struggling mightily in bitter defeats to Ohio State and Michigan. The Lions combined for just 27 points in those two games − bolstered by a meaningless, late touchdown drive in each.
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When asked about this recently-opened position in November, Franklin said he's looking for "someone who's done it long enough that you have a true indication.
"Because where you have to be careful is, somebody could have a special quarterback, or somebody could have a generational wide receiver, and it skews all the stats. That’s what makes it hard, right? So, that’s where the bigger sample size, the bigger body of work allows you to eliminate some of that risk and feel more confident in the decision.
“That would also probably help if it’s somebody that you have a relationship with already, too," Franklin added. "Because you’re not trying to figure out, 'Are they a cultural fit, too?'"
Early reports had surfaced that Franklin could be interested in UNLV offensive coordinator Brennan Marion or bringing back Joe Moorhead, a Penn State player and fan favorite — both Pittsburgh-area natives.
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Marion, just 35, quickly became one of the hottest names on the coaching market after building the Rebels' "Go-Go Offense" into one of the top units in the nation.
Meanwhile, Moorhead was a winner in his first go-around at Penn State. He oversaw two of the program’s most memorable offensive units led by quarterback Trace McSorley, running back Saquon Barkley and tight end Mike Gesicki. His first group in 2016 won nine-straight before dropping a stunning shootout in the Rose Bowl. His second, in 2017, scored 41 points per game, tied for No. 6 nationally.
He's certainly has fared better running offenses than entire teams. After leaving Penn State Moorhead was fired two seasons into a head coaching job at Mississippi State. Most recently, he's produced an unsightly 4-20 record leading Akron the past two seasons.
Frank Bodani covers Penn State football for the York Daily Record and USA Today Network. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on X, formerly known as Twitter, @YDRPennState.
This article originally appeared on York Daily Record: Penn State football, James Franklin hire Andy Kotelnicki of Kansas