James Franklin fired offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich — what comes next for Penn State?

Penn State head coach James Franklin made an in-season coaching staff change for the first time with the program when he fired offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich this weekend.

Franklin spoke to the media Monday about the decision, discussing why the choice was made and what comes next.

Here’s everything he said about the situation.

Why the decision came now

The move to fire Yurcich was made one day after the Nittany Lions scored only 15 points against the Wolverines, and just over three weeks after they scored 12 points against Ohio State. Those struggles against elite teams played a role in Franklin’s decision to seek a replacement.

“That was a big part of that decision,” Franklin said about closing the gap with OSU and Michigan. “... It’s everything. It’s kind of what I just talked about. Every unit needs to be operating at the very highest level: Recruiting, development, offense, defense, special teams. We’ve had times where we have done that, but we have also had times we’ve been really strong in certain areas and not strong enough in others. So that’s how you do it. That was a part of that decision, yes.”

But that doesn’t explain why it was made now. That has more to do with Franklin wanting to be upfront about his decision making.

“I just think for most people and most situations, if you’ve gotten to the point where you feel like that’s what you’re going to do, I’m not great at like faking it, you know,” Franklin said. “I want to be as transparent and upfront as I possibly can be. So when you get to the point you feel like that’s the right decision, then I think you make it. Part of this also is the belief of the rest of the staff and the guys in the Lasch Building and the locker room. But to me, when you feel like that’s the decision, in my opinion you don’t delay that decision as long as you feel like you have some internal options that can do it.”

Firing Yurcich before the season is out will allow the Nittany Lions to get a head start on other programs who may come to the same conclusion when the year ends. Instead of waiting and trying to narrow the team’s options down in two weeks, Franklin will be able to start the process now when there aren’t other teams fighting to hire the same coaches.

Penn State football coach James Franklin and offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich talk during the game against Ohio State on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022.
Penn State football coach James Franklin and offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich talk during the game against Ohio State on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022.

Impact on Drew Allar

The decision may not impact any player more than sophomore quarterback Drew Allar. Allar was recruited by Yurcich and came to Penn State in large part because of his relationship with him. Now that he’s gone, there will be plenty of questions about what it means for Allar and how he moves forward. For the time being, Franklin said it was handled well given the circumstances.

“The quarterbacks heard from me, the players heard from me,” he said. “It’s something that we don’t take lightly. These are tough decisions that have to be made. They affect a lot of people. I want to be super respectful of that. I also have a responsibility to everybody in that locker room and everybody in the Lasch Building and fans and everybody else. Graduates, alumni, lettermen. So the quarterbacks, I think the discussion was good. Met with them before practice and met with them right after practice to see if they had any more questions or concerns. And, again, tough conversations. Tough decisions. But I think handled as well as you can under tough circumstances.”

Franklin said Allar won’t have any say in the new hire, but he will have an impact on the choice.

“In terms of who I’m bringing in, why I’m bringing them in, do they fit the person that I’m bringing in, the person that I’m bringing in, do they fit with them, does everybody understand what they’re signing up for, all these things, yes,” he said.

Penn State offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich talks to quarterback Drew Allar during warm ups for the game against Indiana on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023.
Penn State offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich talks to quarterback Drew Allar during warm ups for the game against Indiana on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023.

The plan moving forward

With Yurcich no longer in the building, plenty will change for the Nittany Lions in their final two regular season games and the bowl game. Some of that has already been determined, but some will be worked out throughout the week.

Among the known changes, tight ends coach Ty Howle and running backs coach Ja’Juan Seider will take care of the game-planning, with the former staying in the booth in the games and the latter staying on the sideline — where they’ve been all season. Graduate assistant Danny O’Brien and Franklin will be the coaches who work with the quarterbacks the rest of the way.

“I’m going to make sure that I’m in every single one the quarterback meetings with Danny,” Franklin said. “And then it allows us to get somebody else on the headsets as well in terms of bumping somebody up into that full-time role or headset role or whatever it may be, another voice.”

Who that person will be that is on the headset or in a full-time role is one of the aspects that is to be determined. That is also true for who will call plays, although Franklin said Howle and Seider will both have a role.

As for the search itself, the head coach said conducting this type of search is a full-time job, but he wants a choice to be made sooner rather than later. He has a list of candidates for the position, and said he’ll narrow it down, run the numbers, determine interest levels and get to interviews.

Franklin said the ideal scenario is one that emulates the timing of when he made his last major hire — defensive coordinator Manny Diaz.

“And then in a perfect world, I think you would like if you could to have a situation like we did with Manny where we hired him, had him here for the bowl game,” Franklin said. “I think we have done that at other times as well. Now they’re here, around the guys, see how we operate, meet, get a feel for the culture, be able to watch and evaluate the players and say, OK, here are areas we’re strong, here are areas we need to maybe find some solutions. I think there is value in doing that if possible, but that’s not always the case. With Manny it just worked out where he was available and could be hired and was willing to come. Some people are still in positions they need to finish out their seasons.”