P.J. Fleck’s right-hand man might be on the move.
Kirk Ciarrocca, the Gophers offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, is being pursued by West Virginia for a position on its coaching staff, but a source close to the situation said no decision has been made.
The West Virginia-based “Eer Sports,” a 247Sports.com affiliate, reported that new Mountaineers coach Neal Brown is in the process of adding Ciarrocca to his staff.
In addition, Yahoo Sports reported that Gophers defensive line coach Marcus West is joining Charlotte, of Conference USA, to become defensive coordinator, assistant head coach and defensive line coach.
West joined the Gophers last February, but Ciarrocca has coached under Fleck since 2013 at Western Michigan. Their coaching relationship goes back to 2010, when Ciarrocca was offensive coordinator and Fleck receivers coach at Rutgers.
Under Ciarrocca, the Gophers offense finished strong in 2018, averaging 32.5 points in the final six games, including a 3-1 stretch that secured bowl eligibility and a 7-6 record. Minnesota’s offense operated so efficiently that it didn’t have to punt at all in the 34-10 victory over Georgia Tech in the Quick Lane Bowl and went the final 41:48 of a 37-15 romp at Wisconsin without punting.
The offense made big strides from 2017, the first year under Fleck and Ciarrocca who is known for his work with quarterbacks. Minnesota averaged 28.9 points per game overall last season, which ranked 65th nationally. That was a jump from 2017, when the Gophers were 108th at 22.1 points per game.
In total offense, the Gophers went from 308.5 yards per game (123rd nationally) in 2017 to 379.6 this year (86th). Ciarrocca’s work with freshmen quarterbacks Tanner Morgan and Zack Annexstad was impressive, too. Minnesota passed for 208.8 yards per game, which ranked 90th. In 2017, they passed for 126.1 per game, 122nd in the nation.
The Gophers rushed for more yards in 2017 (182.4 yards per game) than in 2018 (170.9), but their yards per carry increased from 4.17 to 4.24 in 2018. That was despite having their top two running backs, Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks, for only three games combined this fall.
Ciarrocca also has a history with West Virginia’s new coach. Brown, who parlayed success at Troy to the West Virginia job, was wide receivers coach at Delaware in 2005 while Ciarrocca was offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
Ciarrocca made $710,000 this season, a figured that tied for the most among Gophers assistants with since-fired defensive coordinator Robb Smith.
A Lewisberry, Pa., native, Ciarrocca has deep roots in the East. He was a defensive back at Juniata (Pa.) College and is a graduate of Temple in Philadelphia. His coaching stops include Temple, Western Connecticut State, Delaware Valley College, Princeton, Pennsylvania, Rutgers and Richmond.
West began the season as pass rush specialist coach after spending the previous two seasons as Austin Peay’s co-defensive coordinator. When the Gophers promoted Joe Rossi to defensive coordinator during the season, West took over the defensive line duties.