Blue White Illustrated

March 2024

Penn State Sports Magazine

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Page 9 of 75

1 0 M A R C H 2 0 2 4 W W W . B L U E W H I T E O N L I N E . C O M P enn State hired three new co- ordinators following the 2023 regular season, with Andy Ko- telnicki taking charge of the offense, Tom Allen doing likewise on defense and Justin Lustig assuming control of the special teams units. Speaking to reporters on Feb. 13, his first media availability since the Nittany Lions' 38-25 loss to Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl, head coach James Franklin explained that his priority amid the change in leadership was to maintain as much continuity as pos- sible while still improving in the areas where PSU needs to get better. "What I'm saying is, what are the things, terminology-wise, that can stay the same? What are the things that should change and need to change? What are the non-negotia- bles for the coordinators?" Franklin said. "All these things were discussed in the interview process, but it's an- other thing to actually do it. We've had good discussions on offense, defense and special teams." When it comes to Penn State's fu- ture direction, the most persistent questions have concerned the of- fense, which ranked second in the Big Ten last year with an average of 400.2 yards per game but faltered in the team's regular-season losses to Ohio State and Michigan. Speaking at a Feb. 17 media event held in connection with THON, junior quar- terback Drew Allar echoed his coach's ap- praisal, noting that there's been plenty of continuity even with Kotelnicki, formerly the offensive coordinator at Kansas and Buffalo, taking over the full-time job fol- lowing Mike Yurcich's dismissal in No- vember. "One of the big things Coach Frank- lin told the whole offensive unit was that he wasn't hiring Coach K to come in and revamp the whole offense," Allar said. "They're doing what's best for Penn State. It's a lot of carryover from last year. There have been some tweaks and changes, kind of simplifying some things down, like putting things into more family group- ings to make it easier for us to learn and pick up on." Still, there has been a learning curve, and Kotelnicki has been highly engaged with the quarterbacks in an effort to help them learn the details. "He's been great, just asking all the quarterbacks' opinions on things, quiz- zing us when he gets a chance to quiz us," Allar said. "I love being around Coach K. He brings a great energy to our offensive unit." One of the reasons why Penn State targeted Kotelnicki was his success at producing explosive plays during his tenure at Kansas. Over the past three seasons, the Jay- hawks ranked 12th nationally with 8.3 percent of their plays yielding 20 or more yards. They ranked 15th in plays of 30 or more yards (3.89 percent) and 11th in plays of 40 or more yards (2.12 percent). The tradeoff when offenses strive to produce big plays with regularity is that they often pro- duce turnovers, too. Last year, Kansas tied for 47th in the FBS with 17 giveaways (11 intercep- tions, 6 fumbles). Penn State, by contrast, was tied for third with only 8 giveaways (2 interceptions, 6 fumbles). Franklin hopes that Kotelnicki's arrival will give Penn State the best of both worlds. "What you're trying to do is marry those two things, the pro- tection of the football on offense and the explosive plays from Kansas," he said. "That's where I think coming here made sense to him and made sense to us. As we all know, the explosive plays were a big, big part of that." Allar will be the focal point of what- ever comes next. To prepare for his sec- ond season as starter, he's been watching NFL tapes with an eye toward refining the elements that Penn State has incor- porated into its own attack. "I just love watching those systems because of how the NFL is using a lot of the West Coast [offense], like the Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan coach- ing trees right now," Allar said, referring Drew Allar Sees Continuity In PSU's Transition To New Coordinator THOMAS FRANK CARR | T F R A N K . C A R R @ O N 3 . C O M NEWS & NOTES Allar threw 25 touchdown passes and just 2 interceptions in his first season as Penn State's starting quarterback. PHOTO BY FRANK HYATT

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