STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Minutes before Penn State began pregame warmups in Beaver Stadium on Saturday against Michigan, quarterback recruit Bekkem Kritza met with James Franklin.
The 2025 prospect came from Boulder, Colo. to Happy Valley with the intention of delivering his verbal commitment to the Nittany Lions. Graduate assistant Danny O’Brien pulled Kritza and his family into the head coach’s office area near the team’s locker room. The quarterback said he scanned the room for offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich, whom he had built a strong relationship with throughout his recruitment.
“We walked in and I realized he wasn’t in the meeting. I kind of had a feeling that something didn’t seem right,” Kritza told The Athletic. “He’s the main guy I was talking to. I kind of knew then and Coach Franklin knew that I knew so he just gave it to me straight up. I was like I don’t see Coach Yurcich.”
Penn State announced Yurcich’s firing on Sunday. Kritza went public with his commitment on Monday, a unique twist given that Penn State is in the process of hiring Yurcich’s replacement. This could be a two-quarterback class for Penn State, a detail that Kritza and Franklin both discussed. The head coach, who said Monday that when he knew it was time to part ways with Yurcich he wasn’t going to prolong the process, might’ve let the three-star quarterback in on that detail too.
“Before the game when I told Coach Franklin I was committing, he hinted to it. He kind of told me that Coach Yurcich wasn’t gonna be there,” Kritza said. “When I heard that, obviously I love Coach Yurcich, he’s a great coach, but I told Coach Franklin I committed to him and his program.”
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Franklin’s goal is to get the next coordinator in place as quickly as possible. Ty Howle and Ja’Juan Seider will serve as interim co-offensive coordinators for the remainder of the season. Franklin declined to say Wednesday night who will be calling plays on Saturday. Kritza, whose high school career has spanned stints in Colorado, California, Miami and now back to Colorado, had built a relationship with Colorado offensive coordinator Sean Lewis during his recruitment by the Buffaloes.
Lewis could be a candidate to replace Yurcich, but it surely is a lengthy list and one that should include a phone call to former Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, the current head coach at Akron. Kritza, listed at 6 feet 5 and 182 pounds, said he loved being recruited by the hometown Buffaloes, but felt that he had to go to the place that felt like home to him.
“Coach Franklin told me I’m his quarterback and that he’s gonna bring in a guy to, you know, get us right,” Kritza said. “I believe him fully, 100 percent. I believe he’ll bring in someone as good as Coach Yurcich if not even better.”
I’m home 🏠
We are 🦁🦁 pic.twitter.com/V9jw6ryr6v
— Bekkem Kritza (@stretch2025) November 15, 2023
Despite the uncertainty surrounding what Penn State’s offense will look like, Kritza said as a kid born in Arizona who moved to Boulder in fifth grade, he never imagined committing to a school in Pennsylvania. When he visited Penn State this past summer, he started to warm up to the idea of playing here. The remote location — something he was reminded of when his family flew into Philadelphia and drove three hours to State College this past weekend — appealed to him.
There’s also a strong connection between Kritza and 2024 Penn State commit T.A. Cunningham.
Kritza, who played his freshman year at Fairview High School in Boulder, then moved to California to play at Santa Margarita for his sophomore season. As the top player in Colorado Kritza said he was looking for better competition. He appeared in five games at Santa Margarita. It was in California where Kritza met Cunningham and his brother, coveted 2027 prospect T.K. Cunningham. The brothers from Georgia had moved to California to play for Los Alamitos.
Kritza said he planned to stay in California but his aunt, who has helped him throughout his recruitment and who he’s extremely close with, took a job in Miami.
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The trio ended up enrolling at Miami Central High School last spring. T.A. Cunningham moved back to Georgia ahead of his senior season while Kritza and his aunt moved back to Boulder for family reasons, putting him back at Fairview High School for his junior season.
T.A. Cunningham was among the first people Kritza called to let him know they’d be reuniting eventually in State College.
“He was really excited for me. Me and him, we’ve been friends and brothers for a long time,” Kritza said. “We definitely talked about it for sure, going to the same college, but honestly, at the end of the day we wanted to do what was best for both of us. We’re happy for each other and when it’s the same school it can’t be any better.”
While the atmosphere Saturday in Beaver Stadium — with the second largest crowd in school history — left a favorable impression on Kritza, he also took notice of the boos and of the occasional “fire Franklin” chants that came from the student section.
For someone who grew up going to games at Arizona State and then at Colorado, he found the fan reception jarring. Still, it wasn’t enough to dissuade him from going public with his commitment Monday night.
“We got people in Colorado cheering that we’re 4-6,” he said. “It was surprising, but like I said, they’re the best fans in America and obviously they want to be 12-0 and beat Michigan and Ohio State. I feel like they have a strong feeling of hate towards those two schools just because we haven’t beaten them in a long time. I understand both sides of it for sure. … It’s Penn State. Either you’re great or you’re not.”
(Photo: Matthew O’Haren / USA Today)