WVU’s offensive presence during this season’s iteration of the Guaranteed Rate Bowl is about to take a beating.
Sources: Minnesota has targeted Kirk Ciarrocca as the school’s new offensive coordinator. He worked as P.J. Fleck’s OC for seven combined seasons at Western Michigan and Minnesota. He was the OC for Minnesota’s 11-2 2019 season and worked last year as a West Virginia analyst.
— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) December 3, 2021
One of head coach Neal Brown’s trusted offensive analysts, Kirk Ciarrocca, is potentially on the move. Ciarrocca only joined the Mountaineers nine months ago, after spending a season in Happy Valley as James Franklin’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. His previous boss is slightly more concerning: Minnesota Golden Gophers head coach P.J. Fleck. Now, Fleck is luring he and his in-depth knowledge of WVU’s run and pass game back to Minneapolis, just in time to face Ciarrocca’s former confidante.
Fleck is poised to enter the bowl game down an offensive coordinator, after the team and former OC Mike Sanford Jr. parted ways.
“I just felt like we needed a change on offense,” Fleck said. “Mike is a tremendous person and a wonderful football coach. I just felt like we needed a new direction in the leadership at the position, and we are working our way toward making a hire here very shortly.”
The aforementioned hire is most likely Ciarrocca, though it’s not a particular surprise. During the course of the past decade, Fleck has had Ciarrocca’s input in his ear for seven of those seasons, spanning both Western Michigan and then Minnesota. Most recently, a Fleck and Ciarrocca-lead 2019 Golden Gopher team produced the program’s first 10-win season since 1905.
“We made a decision, but I’ll keep that internal right now as we continue to go forward on how we’re going to do that, but our staff knows what we’re going to do and how we’re going to do it,” Fleck said when asked if current co-OC Matt Simon or an unnamed entity would step up into the position for the bowl game. “I’ll keep that internal as of right now. I really like our plan as we move forward.”
When Brown was directly questioned about the potential for Ciarrocca to head into enemy territory, he said, “It’s a unique situation, so we’re going to kind of work through that. This is maybe a first in my career and we’re going to work through that. I don’t have a good answer for that right now. It’s a unique match-up and we’ll figure it out in the next day or so.”
Although the combination of those perspectives isn’t technically definitive, Ciarrocca seems to be the man of the hour. Armed with WVU’s entire offensive playbook, his movement adds yet another layer of complexity to West Virginia (6-6) and Minnesota (8-4)’s Dec. 28 meeting.