Offensive coordinator/tight ends
Coaching resume: Vanderbilt, offensive coordinator/running backs (2011-13) • Maryland, running backs (2005, 2008-10), quarterbacks (2006-07), assistant recruiting coordinator (2001-04) • Georgia Tech, offensive graduate assistant (1998-2000); Villanova, assistant secondary (1997)
Alma mater: Johns Hopkins (defensive back)
In-depth: New Jersey native who is now working with Franklin at his third straight stop. Both were assistants under Ralph Friedgen at Maryland and Franklin brought him along when he took the job at Vanderbilt, promoting him to offensive coordinator. The Commodores frequently had less talent than their SEC brethren, and the team’s numbers on offense reflected that. In three seasons with Donovan in charge, Vanderbilt topped out at 379.7 yards per game in 2012 (80th in the country and 30.1 points per game last season (56th). Donovan also worked directly with Vanderbilt’s running backs during all three years in Nashville, helping develop Zac Stacy into a program record-holder before he became one of the NFL’s most productive rookies in 2013. At Penn State, he will oversee a deep group of tight ends that could be the focal point of the offense in this first year.
Quotable: “Offensively, we’re personnel‑oriented, pro‑style offense. So we basically, we’re pro terminology. The guys learn the system that’s used at the next level. It has answers.
“We like smart guys that can think fast and process information, and I think they’ve got a good base the last couple years of learning a pro system. Look forward to seeing what they know and seeing how they translate to what we’re going to run.”
— John Donovan
Coaching resume: Vanderbilt, wide receivers (2012-13) • Western Michigan, wide receivers (2011) • North Carolina, offensive graduate assistant (2010)
Alma mater: Wake Forest (safety)
In-depth: Though his coaching career is still in its infancy, Gattis has had a chance to help develop an extremely prolific receiver in each of his first two stints as a position coach. In his lone year at Western Michigan, senior Broncos wideout Jordan White led the nation with 140 catches, 1,911 yards and 17 touchdowns. When he arrived at Vanderbilt, he got to tutor Jordan Matthews, who finished his career as the all-time SEC record-holder in receptions and yards. Not too shabby. That experience will be important in 2014 as he helps develop a young group of Lions wideouts, led by the Wyoming Valley’s Eugene Lewis. Gattis made a strong impression on Franklin as one of Vanderbilt’s recruiting coordinators and has already paid multiple in-home visits to recruits at Franklin’s side this month. Will continue to serve as the offensive recruiting coordinator at Penn State.
Quotable: “Josh is going to make sure that, from here on out, we have one of the top recruiting classes on the offensive side of the ball. (He’ll) make sure that we’re filling all of our needs and chasing the talent that we need, not only in our great state but this region and also nationally.
“You look at the people that he’s worked with and see the type of success that he’s had with the wide receiver position.”
— James Franklin
Coaching resume: Vanderbilt, offensive line (2010-13) • Tulsa, offensive coordinator/offensive line (2007-09) • West Virginia, tight ends (2001-06) • Clemson, graduate assistant (1999-2000) • Concord College, defensive coordinator (1997-98) • Glenville State, defensive coordinator (1994-96) • West Virginia Wesleyan, graduate assistant (1991-93)
Alma mater: Hamilton College
In-depth: Arguably the most respected assistant on the staff at Vanderbilt, Hand was at the school before Franklin arrived in 2011. He initially stayed behind in Nashville this month to apply for the Commodores’ head coaching job. Though he was offered a job to stay on as an assistant under new coach Derek Mason, Hand ultimately decided to rejoin his former colleagues in State College. After serving as an assistant for Rich Rodriguez at WVU, he helped install Tulsa’s extremely productive spread offense. Known as a versatile coach, Hand and his family have also been prominent on the charity scene, frequently working with victims of child abuse. Hand overcame a life-threatening cerebral hemorrhage while at West Virginia.
Quotable: “This isn’t just a job. When you have the word ‘coach’ in front of your name … you have an opportunity to impact people and impact communities, I take that very seriously.
“I’m prepared for this job, not just from a professional standpoint but also on a personal level. I want to impact this community. I want to help this community in any way I can. … I’m not here to be a savior or anything. I want to be able to help.”
— Herb Hand
Special teams coordinator/Running backs
Coaching resume: Western Michigan, running backs (2013) • Buffalo Bills, assistant running backs (2012) • Vanderbilt, assistant special teams coordinator (2011) • Hampton, offensive line (2010) • Maryland, assistant offensive line (2009) • Tennessee State, tight ends/special teams (2007-08), offensive line (2006)
Alma mater: Hampton (offensive line, fullback, tight end)
In-depth: One of just two assistants to not come directly from the staff at Vanderbilt, Huff nonetheless has served on a staff with Franklin twice in the past as an aide. Huff helped out in Franklin’s first season at Vandy after the two had worked together at Maryland. Since his days as a captain on an undefeated team at Hampton in 2005, Huff has been a strong role player, playing and coaching at multiple positions. Other than Franklin himself, Huff is also the only new Lions coach to have a year on an NFL staff. He is the first Penn State coach to officially hold the title of special teams coordinator since Larry Johnson in 1999.
Quotable: “A great white shark will eat and eat and eat until it dies, and it won’t say I’m full. That’s how we’ll be on special teams. We’ll attack and attack and attack. Just because we block the punt first time out doesn’t mean we’re not coming after it again.
“We’ll be the first fast‑paced, no‑huddle, special teams you’ve seen. So that’s how we’re going to be. It will be fun and exciting. The fans will love it. Coaches will love it. I’ll love it.”
— Charles Huff
Linebackers/Assistant head coach
Coaching resume: Vanderbilt, linebackers (2011-13) • Georgia Southern, defensive coordinator/safeties (2010) • Memphis, defensive line (2007-09) • Louisiana-Lafayette, defensive coordinator/linebackers (2002-06) • Western Carolina, defensive backs/special teams (2000-01), defensive line (1998-99) • Virginia Tech, defensive graduate assistant (1995-98) • East Stroudsburg, outside linebackers/defensive backs (1993-94)
Alma mater: Buffalo (free safety)
In-depth: Another example of staff loyalty, Pry could have taken a head coaching job at FCS Georgia Southern last month but elected to stick with Franklin, who was being courted for several major jobs at the time. Like Franklin, Pry has some Pennsylvania roots with his family originally hailing from Altoona. Since his playing career was cut short by injury, Pry quickly entered coaching, following in the footsteps of his father. Jim Pry is still coaching and is currently the offensive coordinator at FCS Bethune-Cookman. The elder Pry was actually the offensive coordinator and Brent was a graduate assistant at East Stroudsburg when Franklin was there as the starting quarterback. Upon being hired at Penn State, Franklin said he was “a huge fan” of Brent Pry and left no doubt that he wanted him to follow up to State College.
Quotable: “I think very highly of Georgia Southern, and when they reached out, it was very attractive to me. But for me right now, there’s nothing more exciting than being with Coach Franklin.
“The opportunity to be at Penn State, to win a national championship at the highest level of college football, I wasn’t ready to leave that.”
— Brent Pry
Coaching resume: Vanderbilt, quarterbacks (2011-13) • Kansas State, tight ends (2009-10), running backs (2007-08), offensive graduate assistant (2006) • Cornell, running backs (2005) • Holy Cross, assistant defensive line (2004)
Alma mater: Cornell (quarterback)
In-depth: A record-setting quarterback in the Ivy League, Rahne caught Franklin’s attention when both were on staff at Kansas State. That led to Franklin persuading him to come to Vanderbilt when the former landed his first head coaching job. Given that, it was not a surprise that Rahne agreed to make another move and was one of the first to announce he had arrived at Penn State along with Josh Gattis. Like much of a Lions staff that trends younger, Rahne already has some decent chops as a recruiter, helping Vanderbilt make inroads into Chicago, as well as out on the West Coast. Rahne and Franklin, a college quarterback himself, both figure to work closely with Christian Hackenberg, but obviously it will be difficult to follow Bill O’Brien in that category. Rahne’s wife is a Pittsburgh native and his in-laws are still in the state.
Quotable: “This is awesome. These guys on the staff are my best friends in the world, and I get to coach football with them again, hopefully for a good long time. I told someone the other day that I hope both my sons, who are 2 and 4, they graduate from State College High School. And go from there.
“I’m excited to come to a place like Penn State where every day you wake up and you look back on your life and you’re happy that you were given this opportunity.”
— Ricky Rahne
Coaching resume: Vanderbilt, defensive coordinator/safeties (2011-13) • William & Mary, defensive coordinator/secondary (2007-10) • Massachusetts, defensive backs (2006) • Columbia, head coach (2003-05) • Boston College, secondary (1999-2002) • Army, secondary (1998) • Villanova, defensive coordinator (1997) • Yale, defensive coordinator (1994-96), graduate assistant (1989) • Northeastern, defensive backs (1991-93) • Virginia, graduate assistant (1990)
Alma mater: Yale (wide receiver)
In-depth: A native of the Pittsburgh suburb of Oakmont, Shoop comes to Happy Valley not just with ties to the state but a very strong showing as an SEC defensive coordinator. Despite facing some of the most dynamic offensive talent in the country, Shoop was the architect of three straight top-25 rated defenses at Vanderbilt when Franklin hired him away from FCS William & Mary. His 2012 unit finished 15th in the country in scoring defense (18.7 ppg) and 19th in total defense (333.9 ypg). Those numbers both swelled in 2013 (24.6 ppg, 354.8 ypg), but the Commodores defense forced 29 turnovers (14th in the country) to help key victories over Georgia, Tennessee and Florida, as well as a bowl win against Houston. Shoop is the only assistant on the staff with collegiate head coaching experience, though his record was just 7-23 at Columbia. He will work directly with the safeties, as he did at Vanderbilt.
Quotable: “Our identity is we’re an in‑your‑face style of defense that’s going to be fun to watch and even more fun for our players to play. I promise you that. It’s based on two premises — relentless pursuit and never‑ending pressure.
“First thing I say to the guys all the time is everyone has a game plan until they get punched in the face. We throw the first punch and keep on punching. We make sure it’s not the last punch and keep on punching. That’s who we are.”
— Bob Shoop
Coaching resume: Temple, wide receivers (2013) • Gateway (Pittsburgh) High School, head coach (2002-12), offensive coordinator (2001) • Duquesne, assistant coach (1997-2000)
Alma mater: Penn State (wide receiver)
In-depth: The lone assistant not to have worked with Franklin in the past, Smith gives the staff a Penn State perspective as well as some deep inroads into the recruiting scene in the WPIAL. A standout receiver from 1988-91 for the Nittany Lions, Smith is well-known around Pittsburgh as the former long-time head coach of Gateway High School, his alma mater. Smith, who is the stepfather to former Penn State cornerback Justin King, coached at the FBS level for the first time in 2013 as the receivers coach at Temple. He will make the switch to defense to work with the corners while Bob Shoop handles the safeties. Smith’s connections to Pittsburgh area high schools likely made him a desirable addition for Franklin, who is putting recruiting at the forefront of his vision for the program.
Quotable: “This means the world to me because I represent a lot of voices. I represent a lot of alumni. For me to have this opportunity, I’m tremendously blessed. I’m fortunate.
“God has a covering over my life, and he’s put me in this position to be an advocate for Penn State in the past and to make Penn State football in the future the best program in the country.”
— Terry Smith
Coaching resume: Vanderbilt, defensive line (2011-13) • Bowling Green, defensive line (2009-10) • Massachusetts, defensive line/special teams (2001-03, 2007-08) • Hofstra, defensive line (2006) • Villanova, linebackers (2005) • College of Holy Cross, defensive line (2004) • Trinity College, defensive line (2000), running backs (1998-99) • Shippensburg, running backs (1996-97) • Wesleyan, receivers/tight ends (1995-96)
Playing experience: Clarion (free safety)
In-depth: Spencer was perhaps the most popular assistant on the Commodores staff, but he has a very tough situation having to follow in the footsteps of Larry Johnson. In his favor, Spencer was arguably the most popular assistant on the Vanderbilt staff amongst the fanbase because of his high energy and vocal nature. Originally from Hartford, Spencer does have some Pennsylvania ties, playing his college ball not far from Happy Valley at Clarion. He also served as an assistant in-state at Villanova and, early in his career, at Shippensburg. Spencer rounds out a youthful staff by bringing a reputation as one of Vanderbilt’s strongest recruiters. Affectionately known as “Coach Chaos.”
Quotable: “You pay homage and respect to the people that came before you. Larry Johnson paved the way for many of us African-American coaches. And for me to be in the situation that I’m in today, those are the guys who go through the pitfalls as they rise up. So you have respect for that.
“You also have great confidence in who you are. And that’s the way I am.”
— Sean Spencer