Moorhead’s experience PSU’s biggest loss

In my view, the one person most responsible for Penn State’s tremendous success the past two years was Joe Moorhead.

Which makes our question today easy for me to answer.

As good as Saquon Barkley was at PSU, he was part of a terrific offensive system that excelled even when he didn’t. Barkley was held under 100 yards rushing eight times last season, and the Nittany Lions still averaged 41 points in those eight games.

DaeSean Hamilton is PSU’s career receptions leader. That’s in large part because he played in Moorhead’s dynamic offense, which looked like the wheel had been reinvented compared to the first two seasons under James Franklin when John Donovan was in charge of an archaic offense.

Mike Gesicki is the best pass-catching tight end ever at PSU. And Moorhead knew how to find soft spots in defenses to get him, and everyone else, the ball.

My primary concern over Moorhead’s departure is experience. Not to take anything away from Ricky Rahne, who is a very smart coach and who should do a fine job, but Moorhead has called offensive plays in more than 150 games over the past 15 years.

Rahne has called plays in just two games — last year’s Fiesta Bowl after Moorhead left to become head coach at Mississippi State, and the 2015 TaxSlayer Bowl, after Donovan had been fired.

There’s not a single situation or defensive look that Moorhead hasn’t seen before as a playcaller. Third-and-long on a crucial series in the fourth quarter? Check. Fourth-and-short with the game on the line in his own territory? Check.

Blitzes, stunts, disguised packages. Check. Check. Check.

The beauty of Penn State’s run-pass option offense, which is still the same system Moorhead implemented, is that it’s set up for the playcaller to look at how the defense is aligned on a given play and to get the offensive personnel into the most advantageous call on each and every snap.

Again, Rahne should do a good job of that, since he knows the system and quarterback Trace McSorley very well.

But let’s remember that Moorhead was sensational at getting into the right play, so it’s almost a certainty that Rahne will not be as good as his predecessor. If the dropoff is small, then it may not matter much with regards to winning or losing any games.

But Rahne will be put to some major tests in tough games against marquee opponents and great defensive coordinators this season, and he likely will misfire on some crucial calls in big spots simply because he hasn’t been in those situations very much.

Follow @CoryGiger on Twitter for Penn State football news and analysis throughout the football season.

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