MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota re-hired Kirk Ciarrocca as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, after sagging production during the two seasons he was elsewhere.
Coach P.J. Fleck‘s reunion with Ciarrocca was initiated after Mike Sanford was dismissed following the expiration of his contract. Sanford held the dual role for the Gophers the last two years.
Ciarrocca was Fleck’s offensive coordinator at Western Michigan from 2013-16 and at Minnesota from 2017-19 until taking the same position at Penn State in 2020. He was fired after one season there and spent 2021 with West Virginia in a non-coaching role as an offensive analyst.
Coincidentally, Minnesota and West Virginia are matched up in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl in Phoenix on Dec. 28. Ciarrocca agreed to take the job before the bowl pairings were revealed.
The Gophers announced that Ciarrocca will not coach in the bowl game, after conversation between Fleck and West Virginia coach Neal Brown. Wide receivers coach and co-offensive coordinator Matt Simon will be the play-caller for Minnesota in the bowl game.
In 2019, with future NFL wide receivers Rashod Bateman and Tyler Johnson in the lineup, the Gophers were second in the Big Ten in scoring and third in yardage. Ciarrocca was named one of 15 semifinalists for the Broyles Award, presented annually to the top assistant coach in college football. Quarterback Tanner Morgan set several single-season program records including passing yards (3,253), touchdown passes (30) and completion percentage (66.0).
In 2021, the Gophers dropped to eighth in the Big Ten in scoring and ninth in yardage. Morgan’s production was well off his 2019 pace, with 1,935 passing yards, 10 touchdown passes and a 59.5 completion percentage. Morgan has decided to return for a sixth season in 2022.