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Report: Kirk Ciarrocca to return to Minnesota as offensive coordinator

P.J. Fleck is getting the band back together

Brad Rempel

Yahoo Sports' Pete Thamel reported Thursday night that Minnesota Golden Gophers head coach P.J. Fleck is reuniting with former offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Kirk Ciarrocca.

Ciarrocca was Fleck's offensive coordinator at Western Michigan for four seasons before following him to Minnesota, where Ciarrocca led the Gophers' offense for three years. His tenure culminated in a record-breaking 2019 season that saw the Gophers record the program's first 11-win season since 1904 thanks in large part to an offense that ranked 21st in the country in scoring offense, averaging 34.1 points per game.

Ciarrocca left at the end of 2019 to take the same position at Penn State, citing a desire to be closer to family in the Pennsylvania area. He was fired after one season in State College. The Nittany Lions started the season 0-5 before winning their final four games. They finished the year ranked 37th in total offense (430.3 yards per game) and 54th in scoring offense (29.8 points per game). Ciarrocca spent the 2021 season as an offensive analyst at West Virginia.

Rumors of a contentious split with Minnesota cast doubt on a possible return to the Twin Cities after the firing of Mike Sanford Jr., but perhaps time heals all wounds. No one will be more excited about his hiring than quarterback Tanner Morgan, who opted to come back next season for a sixth and final year. Morgan struggled mightily in two seasons under Sanford, failing to recapture the magic of his 2019 season. With Ciarrocca at the helm, Morgan set single-season school records for passing yards (3,253), passing touchdowns (30), completion percentage (66.0%), passing yards per game (250.2), and pass efficiency rating (178.7).

In addition to Morgan, the Gophers are also bringing back Mohamed Ibrahim, who was named Big Ten Running Back of the Year in 2020 before suffering a season-ending lower leg injury this year. The team is awaiting decisions from wide receiver Chris Autman-Bell and offensive linemen Blaise Andries and John Michael Schmitz, all of whom have an extra year of eligibility.

As far as Matt Simon is concerned, it is assumed he will retain his position as co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach. Insiders are reporting that he is on board with the decision to bring back Ciarrocca, but we’ll see if another program tries to poach him this offseason.