Penn State Football: Profiling James Franklin's Nittany Lions Coaching Staff

Tim TolleyContributor IJanuary 25, 2014

Penn State Football: Profiling James Franklin's Nittany Lions Coaching Staff

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    Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

    After accepting the job at Penn State in early January, new Nittany Lions head football coach James Franklin began assembling his coaching staff.

    On Friday, that staff was introduced to the world, according to John Taylor of

    Only defensive line coach Larry Johnson, offensive line coach Mac McWhorter and tight ends coach John Strollo remained from the Bill O'Brien era and now each of them has been replaced.

    In his introductory press conference, James Franklin repeated that he is "fiercely loyal" when asked about the staff he'd bring to Penn State, and in bringing six of his assistants from last year's staff at Vanderbilt, he proved it.

    Though many fans are upset about the loss of Larry Johnson, a proven coach and recruiter who has been with Penn State for nearly two decades, it's important to remember that many of the new faces are ones that have helped Franklin attain the success that ultimately earned him this job.

    Franklin put an emphasis on hiring coaches from the region who double as strong recruiters with strengths in different regions.

    Including the head coach, Penn State now has four coaches from Pennsylvania in addition to one each from Maryland, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina and Connecticut—each one a prime recruiting state for the Nittany Lions.

    Terry Smith will be called upon to break into western Pennsylvania, while many of the coaches have developed relationships throughout Tennessee, Georgia and Florida over the past few years.

    Much like everything else James Franklin has done since taking over at Penn State, the staff he has assembled is intriguing and impressive. Let's meet the new Penn State coaching staff. 

    All Stats courtesy of unless otherwise noted.


John Donovan: Offensive Coordinator, Tight Ends

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    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    Hometown: River Edge, N.J.

    Alma Mater: Johns Hopkins University

    Coaching Career (from

    1997 - Villanova (assistant secondary) 
    1998-2000 - Georgia Tech (offensive graduate assistant)
    2001-04 - Maryland (assistant recruiting coordinator)
    2005 - Maryland (running backs) 
    2006-07 - Maryland (quarterbacks)
    2008-10 - Maryland (running backs)
    2011-2013 - Vanderbilt (offensive coordinator/running backs)

    I think these numbers speak for how well James Franklin, QB Coach Ricky Rahne & OC John Donovan can utilize QBs.

    — VandySportscom (@VandySportscom) November 19, 2013


    • Donovan's offenses improved against the SEC in each year while at Vanderbilt.
    • Vandy produced a 1,000-yard rusher in 2011 and 2012.
    • In 2006, Donovan coached Maryland QB Sam Hollenbach to an All-ACC season.
    • Donovan got his first shot as a play-caller in the 2010 Military Bowl. Maryland scored a school bowl record 51 points.
    • In three seasons in Donovan's offense, WR Jordan Matthews had over 3,500 receiving yards.

Josh Gattis: Wide Receivers, Offensive Recruiting Coordinator

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    Birthplace: Durham, N.C.

    Alma Mater: Wake Forest

    Coaching Experience (from

    2010 - North Carolina (0ffensive graduate assistant)
    2011 - Western Michigan (wide receivers)
    2012-13 - Vanderbilt (offensive recruiting coordinator/wide receivers)


    DID YOU KNOW #PennState's new WR coach Josh Gattis coached All-American receivers at both Vanderbilt and W. Michigan?

    — (@FightOnState) January 15, 2014


    • Gattis coached All-American wide receivers at both Western Michigan (Jordan White) and Vanderbilt (Jordan Matthews).
    • After playing safety at Wake Forest, Gattis was drafted in 2007 by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
    • In 2012-13, Vandy WR Jordan Matthews had 206 receptions and 2,800 yards.
    • In three years as a WR coach, Gattis' top pupils have compiled reception totals of 140, 94 and 112 catches.
    • Gattis was named one of 247Sports top 50 recruiters in 2013.


Herb Hand: Offensive Line, Run Game Coordinator

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    Hometown: Westmoreland, N.Y.

    Alma Mater: Hamilton College

    Coaching Experience (from

    1991-93 - West Virginia Wesleyan (defensive graduate assistant)
    1994-96 - Glenville State College (defensive coordinator)
    1997-98 - Concord College (defensive coordinator/special teams)
    1999-2000 - Clemson (offensive graduate assistant)
    2001-06 - West Virginia (TEs/recruiting coordinator)
    2007-08 - Tulsa (co-offensive coordinator/OL)
    2009 - Tulsa (assistant head coach/offensive coordinator/OL)
    2010-12 - Vanderbilt (OL)
    2013 - Vanderbilt (OL/Run Game Coordinator)

    Great addition for #PennState: #Vandy's Herb Hand is set w James Franklin's staff as OL coach & Run Game Coordinator, per source

    — Bruce Feldman (@BFeldmanCBS) January 22, 2014
    • Vanderbilt scored 34 rushing touchdowns in 2013.
    • In 2011-12, RB Zac Stacy rushed for 2,334 yards and 24 touchdowns before moving on to the NFL.
    • In 2013, sophomore RB Jerron Seymour scored 14 rushing touchdowns on just 164 carries.
    • Offensive tackle Wesley Johnson was named 2012 All-SEC Honorable Mention.
    • Offensive guard Ryan Seymour was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in 2013.











Ricky Rahne: Quarterbacks, Passing Game Coordinator

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    Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

    Hometown: Morrison, Colo.
    Alma Mater: Cornell 

    Coaching Career (from
    2011-current - Vanderbilt (quarterbacks)
    2009-10 - Kansas State (tight ends) 
    2007-08 - Kansas State (running backs)
    2006 - Kansas State (offensive graduate assistant)
    2005 - Cornell (running backs)
    2004 - Holy Cross (assistant defensive line)

    PSU QB Coach Ricky Rahne:"There has 2 be energy b/c Coach Franklin demands it. If he doesn't feel like we're bringing it, he'll let us know"

    — Mark Horgas (@MarkHorgas) January 25, 2014


    • In 2012, Vandy QB Jordan Rodgers threw for 2,539 yards, 15 touchdowns and five interceptions.
    • In 2013, Austin Carta-Samuels completed 68.7 percent of his passes—the highest rate for a Vanderbilt QB in 60 years.
    • Rahne served as a graduate assistant to Franklin at Kansas State when Franklin was the QB coach. Together they worked with Josh Freeman, who was drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft.
    • Rahne set several school passing records as the QB at Cornell.

Charles Huff: Running Backs, Special Teams Coordinator

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    Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

    Birthplace: Denton, MD

    Alma Mater: Hampton

    Coaching Experience (from

    2006 - Tennessee State (offensive line)
    2007-8 - Tennessee State (tight ends, special teams)
    2009 - Maryland (assistant offensive like coach)
    2010 - Vanderbilt (assistant special teams coordinator)
    2011 - Duquesne University (assistant coach)

    2012 -Buffalo Bills (assistant running backs coach)
    2013 - Western Michigan (running backs)

    Charles Huff calls James Franklin "my professional Dad." joked that he almost dropped the phone when JF asked him to join #PennState staff.

    — York Daily Record (@YDRPennState) January 24, 2014


    • Huff played center, guard, tight end and fullback in college while winning three conference championships.
    • In 2013, Western Michigan's top two running backs combined to rush for 1,266 yards at 4.2 yards per carry.
    • In 2012, the Buffalo Bills rushed for more than 120 yards in 10 of the 16 games, according to


    #1 recruiter in MAC according to 247. RT @footballscoop: At Penn State, WMU running RBs Charles Huff will join Franklin’s staff

    — Tomathy (@Tomathy87) January 16, 2014



Bob Shoop: Defensive Coordinator, Safeties

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    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    Hometown: Oakmont, PA

    Alma Mater: Yale

    Coaching Career (from

    1989 - Yale (graduate assistant)
    1990 - Virginia (graduate assistant)
    1991-93 - Northeastern (defensive backs)
    1994-96 - Yale (defensive coordinator)
    1997 - Villanova (defensive coordinator)
    1998 - Army (defensive secondary)
    1999-2002 - Boston College (defensive secondary)
    2003-05 - Columbia (head coach)
    2006 - University of Massachusetts (defensive backs)
    2007-10 - William & Mary (defensive coordinator, secondary)
    2011-13 - Vanderbilt (defensive coordinator/safeties)


    DC Bob Shoop: "I truly believe we have the best defensive staff in America."

    — Onward State (@OnwardState) January 24, 2014


    • In 2013, Vanderbilt gave up an average of 13.5 points per game to Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee and Wake Forest.
    • Vandy ranked 44th in scoring defense last year, ahead of Auburn, Nebraska, Michigan and Penn State.
    • In 2013, Vandy ranked 42nd in rushing yards allowed per game and 23rd in passing yards allowed per game.
    • Vanderbilt had the 13th most interceptions in the country last season.


Sean Spencer: Defensive Line

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    Hometown: Hartford, CT

    Alma Mater: Clarion University

    Coaching Career (From

    1996-97 - Shippensburg University (running backs)
    1998-2000 - Trinity College (running backs, passing game coordinator, defensive line)
    2001-03 - University of Massachusetts (defensive line)
    2004 - College of Holy Cross (defensive line)
    2005 - Villanova (linebackers)
    2006 - Hofstra (defensive line)
    2007-08 - University of Massachusetts (defensive line, special teams coordinator)
    2009-10 - Bowling Green (defensive line) 
    2011-13 - Vanderbilt (defensive line)

    Two interesting notes from #PennState DL coach Sean Spencer: expect to see four man DE fronts at some point, and he prefers 2 3-tech tackles

    — Greg Pickel (@GregPickel) January 24, 2014


    • Vanderbilt had 88 tackles for loss in 2013, 29th most in the country.
    • DE Tim Fuggar was named 2nd Team All-SEC in 2011 before being drafted by the Indianapolis Colts.
    • Penn State is the eighth team that Spencer has coached the defensive line.
    • In 2013, Vanderbilt held Florida to 39 yards rushing on 34 attempts.



Brent Pry: Linebackers, Assistant Head Coach, Co-Defensive Coordinator

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    Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

    Hometown: Altoona, PA

    Alma Mater: University of Buffalo

    Coaching Career (from

    1993-94 - East Stroudsburg University (outside linebackers and defensive backs)
    1995-98 - Virginia Tech (graduate assistant, defensive line)
    1998-99 - Western Carolina (defensive line)
    2000-01 - Western Carolina (defensive backs and special teams)
    2002-03 - Louisiana-Lafayette (defensive coordinator and linebackers)
    2004-06 - Louisiana-Lafayette (assistant head coach, defensive coordinators and linebackers) 
    2007-09 - Memphis (defensive line)
    2010 - Georgia Southern (defensive coordinator and safeties)
    2011-12 - Vanderbilt (co-defensive coordinator/linebackers)
    2013 - Vanderbilt (assistant head coach/co-defensive coordinator/linebackers)

    #PennState Asst. head coach Brent Pry's father, Jim, was offensive coordiantor when James Franklin played at East Stroudsburg Univ.

    — Jeff Nelson (@GoPSUJeff) January 24, 2014


    • Vanderbilt's top two tackling linebackers in 2013 were sophomores.
    • In 2011, Chris Marve was named an All-SEC second team LB.
    • The 2011 Vanderbilt defense ranked 18th in total defense.
    • The 2005 Louisiana-Lafayette team that Pry served as assistant head coach for sent five players to the NFL.







Terry Smith: Cornerbacks, Defensive Recruiting Coordinator

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    Terry Smith in his PSU playing days.
    Terry Smith in his PSU playing days.Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

    Birthplace: Aliquippa, PA

    Alma Mater: Penn State

    Coaching Experience (from

    1997-2000 - Duquesne University (assistant coach)
    2001-12 - Gateway High School (assistant coach, head coach, athletic director)
    2013 - Temple (wide receiver coach)

    #PennState asst. Terry Smith, who coached at Gateway: "My role is to secure Pittsburgh. Any top talent in western Pa., I've got to get it."

    — Mark Wogenrich (@MarkWogenrich) January 24, 2014


    • Smith was a four-year letterman with 15 touchdown receptions at Penn State.
    • Terry Smith is the father of Penn State standout WR/CB Justin King.
    • In his 11 years as Gateway's head coach, the Gators were 101-30 and sent over 70 players to Division I football programs on scholarship.
    • In 2013, Temple receivers caught 12 more touchdowns (16) than they did in 2012 (4).