It didn’t take long for Kirk Ciarrocca to help P.J. Fleck and Minnesota ascend to the top of the B1G West. In just three short years, the Golden Gophers produced one of the best seasons in program history and fell just one win short of playing in Indianapolis with a conference championship on the line.
Minnesota’s offense, which was one of the top passing attacks in the B1G, was a huge reason behind the team’s success. So when Ciarrocca decided to leave the Twin Cities to return to the East Coast and become the offensive coordinator at Penn State, it was a bit of a surprise.
On Wednesday, Ciarrocca met with reporters for the first time since joining James Franklin’s staff at Penn State. He explained why he decided to leave Minnesota for the Nittany Lions.
There were a few things he was looking for in a program.
“The first thing I was looking for was a head coach I respected and who I thought could help me grow as a coach and had a great culture, a culture I believed in,” Ciarrocca said, according to Erin McCarthy of the Philadelphia Inquirer. “Coach Franklin met that criteria.”
Ciarrocca also said he wanted to coach at a place where the program had a shot to make run at a national title.
“I wanted to coach at a school where I thought I had a legitimate chance to win a national championship,” Ciarrocca said.
That’s an interesting comment from the former Minnesota offensive coordinator, which just enjoyed an 11-2 season. But that may be reading too much into the statement.
Penn State certainly has a chance to win a national title in 2020, assuming all the pieces fall in place. The Nittany Lions return Sean Clifford at quarterback, Pat Freiermuth at tight end and a slew of talented running backs, which includes Journey Brown, Noah Cain and Devyn Ford.
Wide receiver will be a spot that needs developed, but Ciarrocca was the mastermind who was able to get Tyler Johnson and Rashod Bateman over 1,000 yards receiving this season in Minnesota, as the two ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the B1G in yardage.
Ciarrocca was at Minnesota for three seasons and on Fleck’s staff for seven years before moving on.