STATE COLLEGE — Penn State offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne immersed himself as an assistant for four years before finally getting his opportunity to run the offense last season.
Under his direction, the Nittany Lions finished 2018 45th nationally in total offense with 423 yards per game. Penn State scored 55 touchdowns and averaged 33.8 points per game.
Following an offseason of reflection, Rahne is back and says he’s gotten perspective on his first year in the position.
“There’s obviously plays that you’re going to look at that you wish you would have called something else and sometimes they are ones that you guys may notice and sometimes they are not,” Rahne said.
“I think that the main thing for me is going in there, and sometimes it’s just mentality and presentation to the offensive players and the offensive staff.”
Penn State’s numbers on offense last year were down from 2017. Under offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead — who left after the season to become the head coach at Mississippi State — the Nittany Lions finished 2017 ranked No. 19 in total offense and generated 17 more touchdowns.
In addition to losing Morehead, Penn State was without decorated running back Saquon Barkley last season, so the loss in offensive production was not surprising.
Penn State coach James Franklin has worked with Rahne since the two were on staff at Kansas State in the mid-2000s. Rahne joined Franklin at Vanderbilt and followed him to Happy Valley as passing game coordinator/quarterbacks coach in 2014.
“I think in year two, Ricky learned a lot over the last 12 months,” Franklin said. “As you know, I’ve got a tremendous amount of belief and faith in Ricky. We’ve been together for 11 years and I’ve watched him develop, and I know how talented he is. I think everybody in our program, within our walls, is extremely excited about the steps that we can take offensively.”
Penn State’s wide receiving corps was plagued by a high number of drops last year, attributing in part to Trace McSorley’s lowest completion percentage (53.2) as a starter. Penn State hired wide receivers’ coach Gerad Parker from Duke in January to replace David Corley.
Parker helped Duke produce the ACC’s fifth-best receiver in yards in T.J. Rahming, who accumulated 811 yards receiving and eight touchdowns last year. Rahne will look to Parker to help progress a young, but talented receiving corps this season.
“He’s a great coach,” Rahne said of Parker. “He knows how to simplify things, very complicated things, and he knows how to simplify it so that he can teach it fast and teach it consistently. (I’m) really excited about the way he teaches and what he brings to practice and all those sorts of things.”
KJ Hamler, Penn State’s yards receiving leader last year (754 yards and five touchdowns), said Parker’s early influence has spanned the practice fields.
“He’s been more involved in our lives,” Hamler said. “He’s my third coach, but I think he’s been the most involved with us as a family – interacting with us. Just trying to get more of a bond with us.”
Beyond adding Parker, Rahne and Franklin have looked beyond the program and in-house during the offseason for ideas and ways to further enhance the offense.
“We always try to do that,” Franklin said. “We try to go outside, but we also do it inside. We bring a lot of people in. We have two NFL coaches with us right now. We had an NFL coach with us yesterday. Friends that I have, friends that Ricky has, guys that I’ve worked with, you know, that have the opportunity to be able to visit with us. We went and visited other programs, as well.”
Rahne will be without McSorley, the record-setting quarterback drafted in the sixth round by the Baltimore Ravens, as well as second-round Philadelphia Eagles NFL draft pick running back Miles Sanders and offensive lineman Connor McGovern, who was selected in the third round by the Dallas Cowboys.
With one year of experience as a full-time play-caller, Rahne said he is ready to take his job and the Penn State offense to the next level. With the knowledge he gained last year, coupled with his growth this offseason, Rahne said he’s comfortable and confident heading into the 2019 season.
“I feel really good about where our offensive staff is and where our offensive plan is,” Rahne said. “And the players had an extremely good summer, so you know, (I’m) really excited about where we’re going right now.”