Penn State: Fiesta Bowl Biggest Storylines
Penn State faces off with Washington in the Fiesta Bowl in just a few weeks. Kickoff from Glendale, Arizona comes on Dec. 30 at 4:00pm EST. Before the festivities begin, I take an early look at Penn State’s biggest story lines.
Breaking In New Offensive Coaches
For James Franklin and his staff, the last few weeks have been pretty hectic. Things kicked off when the news broke that offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead would be leaving Penn State and taking the head coaching job at Mississippi St. This comes not much of a surprise as Moorhead’s turn around of the Penn State offense was impressive, making him unsurprisingly coveted for head coaching jobs around the country.
Moorhead is gone and with him goes running backs coach and special teams coordinator Charles Huff who will join the Mississippi St. staff. Neither will coach in the Fiesta Bowl, leaving the newly hired coordinators to make a mark in the coming weeks.
Franklin has opted to hire internally to fill Moorhead’s offensive coordinator vacancy as quarterbacks coach Ricky Rahne will take over. He has been with Franklin dating back to his Kansas State days and seemed poised to finally score a promotion. He is also no stranger filling the vacancy for Bowl games as it was him calling plays in the Tax Slayer Bowl a few years ago when John Donovan was fired prior to the game. That time it was on an interim basis but this time it will be a permanent position. It is yet to be seen how Rahne will call the Fiesta Bowl game but Nittany Lion fans should get an initial taste of his offensive style.
As for running backs coach Charles Huff, he receives a promotion in his move with Moorhead. Huff will fill several roles as assistant head coach, run game coordinator, and running backs coach. Back at Penn State, Phil Galiano will take over for Huff as special teams coordinator. Galiano spent the 2017 season as a defensive consultant for Penn State.
New Defensive Coordinator?
Reports earlier this week suggested that defensive coordinator Brent Pry would be departing Penn State to take the head coaching job at University of Louisiana-Lafayette. Those rumors have seemingly cooled off for the time being as it appears Arizona St. offensive coordinator Billy Napier will be taking that head coaching job there and Pry says he’s staying in Happy Valley. Other rumors may arise between now and then but for the time being, Pry will be coaching the Penn State defense in the Fiesta Bowl.
Barkley’s Last Hoorah
Running back Saquon Barkley hasn’t officially announced he’s dashing early for the NFL Draft but it is all but expected that the Fiesta Bowl will be his last game in a Penn State uniform. Barkley had a roller coaster season as his hot start had him leading the Heisman race. However, a combination of several different factors caused him to struggle to put up Heisman caliber numbers down the stretch. That led to his eventual fall from the top of the Heisman ranks to the point where he didn’t even get an invite to Heisman award ceremony in New York last Saturday evening. The debate whether he deserved to be there or not is for another day but for now Penn State fans should prepare to see a generational talent play his last game in those iconic Penn State uniforms.
Bowen Not Available
Linebacker Manny Bowen hasn’t played in the last few games which is most likely due to some violation of team rules. That streak will continue as the season concludes. Franklin officially announced at the Fiesta Bowl media day that Bowen will also not be available for the bowl game. The linebacking core takes a hit without him but like the past few games Brandon Smith and Cam Brown should continue to see the field more in his absence.