Leah Still, daughter of former NFL player Devon Still, a Delaware native and Penn State star, gained national attention during her fight with cancer. Delaware News Journal
Penn State’s new offensive coordinator smiled when talking about his extra-busy quarantine life.
The new coronavirus shutdown caught him in the process of working into a new coaching position. Of moving into a new house. Of developing relationships with peers and players he never knew before.
He is, after all, trying to install and smooth out a new Big Ten offense without any practices or workouts.
Without even talking to his get-acquainted Nittany Lions face-to-face.
“My wife said you’re going to be working now more than ever at this time of year,” Kirk Ciarrocca said on a Tuesday video conference with reporters.
“Everything takes longer to do right now when doing it remotely. Even a simple phone call. If you were in the office you could stick your head in somebody’s door and ask them a question and it would take you 20 seconds.”
Now, Ciarrocca is working on developing his new relationships from afar and melding his own offensive views from coaching stops at Minnesota, Western Michigan and Delaware to Penn State’s style.
Actually, he sounded quite confident in how things are going. No matter the unconventional means.
It helped that the offense at his most recent Minnesota job was not drastically different from what Penn State was running.
“We got a lot done. We put the system in before this happened,” Ciarrocca, a Red Land High grad, said of their work before COVID-19 began shutting down sports in early March.
“I knew when (coach James Franklin) offered me the job that this would be a smooth transition. … This wasn’t gonna be like they were speaking English and we were going to come in and teach them how to speak French, right? We’re already speaking the same language, same beliefs.
“I honestly can’t wait to see this offense in motion.”
And running the quarterback will still be a part of it — even though his previous developmental star, Minnesota’s Tanner Morgan, rarely tried that.
Ciarrocca said his staff must simply be “prudent” with how often Sean Clifford or Will Levis runs, exposing them to extra hits and injury. Clifford, and Trace McSorley before him, seemed to wear down in the second half of the past two seasons.
“We’d be crazy not to run our quarterbacks,” Ciarrocca said. “One thing about these quarterbacks … I’ve really been impressed with is their work in the weight room and the way their bodies are built … how they’re built physically. They look different than Tanner did. They’re built differently to take more of a pounding than maybe he could of.”
For now, Ciarrocca said his video conference and phone work with the Penn State staff, players and recruits goes from 7 each morning until about 5 each afternoon with more recruiting evaluations in the evening.
He meets with his quarterback group via conferencing at 3 p.m. He said he’s allowed eight hours conversing with players per week. That includes quizzes on his “discussion-oriented” lessons that he says helps grade himself as a teacher as much as anything.
When asked about Clifford, the returning starter, he offered one more answer about his great potential. He will be a junior whenever the games begin again.
“The key to have an elite-level quarterback is being able to learn from your mistakes,” Ciarrocca said. “And apply that knowledge to the next time you’re in that same situation.
“The one thing Sean has, he wants to be great. And he’s very eager to learn new things, new approaches, new ways to maybe see a situation. So I’m just excited to see him apply what he’s learned from his experiences.”