Kirk Ciarrocca spent seven years as P.J. Fleck's right-hand man. He last just a season as James Franklin's.
The former Gophers offensive coordinator left the Gophers' ahead of the 2020 Outback Bowl to become Penn State's new offensive coordinator under Franklin. On Friday, Franklin announced that Ciarrocca has been fired, replaced by Texas OC Mike Yurcich.
"First, I would like to thank Kirk for his contributions to our program last year," Franklin said in a statement. "This was a difficult decision, but felt it was best for our program to make a change. We wish him and his family all the best in their future endeavors."
Ciarrocca's 2019 Gophers' offense went 11-2, producing two 1,000-yard receivers in Rashod Bateman and Tyler Johnson plus a 1,000-yard rusher in Rodney Smith. Quarterback Tanner Morgan, whom Ciarrocca also mentored as quarterbacks coach, set several school season records, including for passing yards at 3,253 and touchdowns at 30.
With the Nittany Lions in a delayed and shortened Big Ten season because of COVID-19, the team lost the first five games of the year by a 180-123 margin. While Penn State won its final four games and posted 56 points in its finale against Illinois, it still ranked 107 of 127 teams this season in red-zone conversions.
Ciarrocca and Fleck have known each other since 2010, when both worked at Rutgers. Ciarrocca had been Fleck's OC since he became a head coach at Western Michigan in 2013. Fleck hired Mike Sanford Jr., a former Utah State OC and Western Kentucky head coach. With Sanford as OC and quarterbacks coach, the Gophers offense dipped from averaging 432 yards per game in 2019 to 391 in a 3-4 year.
Another former Gophers OC, Matt Limegrover, took a job this week as the offensive line coach at Arkansas State under head coach Butch Jones. Limegrover also worked as the O-line coach at Penn State.