KU promotes two assistant coaches; Kotelnicki reportedly leaving for Penn State

Offensive Coordinator Andy Kotelnicki talks with media members on Tuesday, May 18, 2021 at the Anderson Family Football Complex.

The vaunted continuity of Lance Leipold’s Kansas coaching staff could soon be dealt a significant blow.

KU offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki — the architect of the motion-heavy offense with spread concepts that helped restore the Jayhawks to national prominence over the past several years — is expected to assume the same position at Penn State, The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman first reported Thursday afternoon, citing a team source.

KU Athletics did not confirm the report of Kotelnicki’s departure. KU did announce, though, that quarterbacks coach Jim Zebrowski has been elevated to co-offensive coordinator.

Zebrowski served as Leipold’s first offensive coordinator at Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater prior to Steve Dinkel and then Kotelnicki. This season, Zebrowski got production out of three separate quarterbacks for KU, and was a nominee for the Broyles Award for the nation’s top assistant coach.

KU also promoted defensive backs coach and defensive pass game coordinator Jordan Peterson to co-defensive coordinator Thursday, a capacity in which he will presumably work alongside current coordinator Brian Borland. Borland’s title will remain “defensive coordinator,” a KU Athletics spokesperson told the Journal-World.

“Both Jim Zebrowski and Jordan Peterson have been vital to the Kansas football program and will continue to elevate us in their new roles,” Leipold said in a press release. “In working with both of them, their relationship building, coaching ability and commitment to Kansas football is extremely strong.”

KU athletic director Travis Goff posted on X: “Exceptional leaders, teachers, mentors and innovative coaches. Two critical pieces for our program build thus far. Let’s go!”

Since Kotelnicki has worked with the tight ends during his KU tenure, the Jayhawks could need to hire a new position coach if he departs.

More on Kotelnicki

If officially hired at Penn State, Kotelnicki will serve as the sixth offensive coordinator under the Nittany Lions’ head coach James Franklin. Penn State fired its previous coordinator, Mike Yurcich, on Nov. 12.

This would mark the first time since 2012 that Kotelnicki has served under a head coach other than Leipold, whom he followed from Wisconsin-Whitewater to Buffalo and then to KU in 2021.

Kotelnicki signed a contract extension in December 2022 that was expected to keep him in Lawrence through the end of the 2027 season.

Under Kotelnicki, KU’s offense averaged 7.0 yards per play during the 2022 season and has again done so during the 2023 regular season, something it had not accomplished previously since at least 1996. Both marks have put the Jayhawks among the top offenses in the country.

Kotelnicki frequently describes the goal of his scheme as putting as much stress as possible on defensive players. He accomplishes that goal by lining up skill-position players — and occasionally even linemen — all over the field, though has always emphasized that his goal is to tailor his work to the skill sets of individual players.

Prior to this season, he even let his players submit their own plays for consideration and eventual use as part of the offensive scheme. An unbalanced look proposed by Ar’maj Reed-Adams got deployed on more than one occasion.

While the bells and whistles make Kotelnicki’s scheme appear complicated to a layperson, he has compared his offense to a “giant bucket of Lego pieces,” where every added piece is just a single wrinkle layered on top of a base concept with which his players are well acquainted.

Option concepts are often at the center of Kotelnicki’s scheme. Opponents have frequently noted this; in 2023 alone, BYU defensive coordinator Jay Hill compared preparing for KU to preparing for Air Force, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy called Kotelnicki a “traditional wishbone guy” with run plays “tied into triple option” and Texas Tech DC Tim DeRuyter said KU was “in a lot of ways running triple-option football,” which requires opponents to be sound in their assignments and helps Devin Neal get in a lot of one-on-one situations with defenders.

Kotelnicki, for his part, said the option was just “a part of what we do,” though added that he did play in a wishbone offense in college at Wisconsin-River Falls.

He served as an assistant at Western Illinois, River Falls and the University of Mary before joining Leipold at Whitewater.


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