With every coaching change comes a new coaching staff. Bill O’Brien has already taken all but three Penn State coaches from the previous staff to Texas, leaving only defensive line coach Larry Johnson, offensive line coach Mac McWhorter, and tight ends coach John Strollo. Of those three coaches, only Johnson has a solid shot at being retained on James Franklin’s new staff, and even that is up in the air for the time being.
Most of Penn State’s new staff is likely to be made up of Franklin’s assistants from Vanderbilt, with a few unpredictable outside additions as well. For now, let’s take a look at the coaches that helped Franklin turn Vanderbilt from a perpetual SEC bottom feeder to a respectable 24-15 in the last three seasons, many of whom are likely to be on the Beaver Stadium sidelines next season. The best part? They all have Twitter accounts.
John Donovan (@CoachJ_Donovan) — Offensive Coordinator/Running Backs — The New Jersey native has been with Franklin all three years and has overseen some of the best offenses in Vanderbilt history. After graduating from Johns Hopkins in 1997, Donovan coached at Villanova for a season and Georgia Tech for three seasons before finally settling in at Maryland for seven seasons. Donovan is likely very familiar with Bill O’Brien, as he coached with Penn State’s former coach at both Georgia Tech and Maryland. He specializes in quarterbacks and running backs, and his players have set several offensive records at Vanderbilt, including total yards and fourth down conversion rate. Most people expect Donovan to follow Franklin to State College.
Bob Shoop (@CoachShoopVU) — Defensive Coordinator/Safeties — The 1988 Yale graduate has been at 10 different schools since graduating, including a three-year stint as head coach at Columbia (with a 7-23 record). Shoop’s Vanderbilt defenses consistently ranked in the top 25 in many statistical categories including pass efficiency, pass defense, and scoring defense. Many people are picking Shoop to take over at Vanderbilt, at least in the interim, although he was born in Oakmont, Pennsylvania, which could be extra incentive to make the move back north.
Charles Bankins (@FBCoachBankins) — Special Teams Coordinator/Tight Ends — Bankins graduated from James Madison in 1994 and bounced around at smaller schools until he landed a gig in 2005 as a special teams assistant with the St. Louis Rams. He only coached in the NFL for one season, but he would meet Franklin in 2009 at Maryland where he held the same responsibilities that he does now. Bankins helped coach Carey Spear into one of the best placekickers in the conference, with an 83.3% accuracy rate, including 2-for-2 from 50+ yards. If he follows Franklin to Penn State, which is likely, it will be interesting to see what he can do with Sam Ficken.
George Barlow (@CoachGBarlow) — Defensive Recruiting Coordinator/Defensive Backs — The 1990 Marshall graduate has an impressive resume which includes stops at big-time programs like Oklahoma and New Mexico, the latter of which he served as the interim head coach for a time. Barlow was a tremendous safety at Marshall and still holds the record for most interceptions in one game (3) and was part of the 1987 1-AA National Championship runner-up team.
Josh Gattis (@thenewVUgattis) — Offensive Recruiting Coordinator/Wide Receivers — Gattis graduated from Wake Forest in 1996 and was drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the fifth round of the 1997 NFL draft as a safety. He also played for the Chicago Bears. He helped develop Jordan Matthews into one of the best wide receivers in Vanderbilt history, who in the last two seasons has accumulated 2,800 receiving yards and 15 receiving touchdowns on 206 receptions.
Herb Hand (@coachhand) — Offensive Line Coach/Run Game Coordinator — I want Herb Hand to come to Penn State for no other reason than his prolific Twitter account. It’s fantastic — he once threatened to kick a Tennessee fan’s ass for saying something unsavory about his wife. Aside from the approachable personality, Hand has made stops at programs like Clemson, West Virginia, Tulsa, and Vanderbilt (before Franklin even got there). Hand’s offensive line paved the way for 34 rushing touchdowns last year. He believes in training players at different line positions, creative a versatile mix that he will hopefully get a chance to bring to Penn State.
Brent Pry (@VUBESTLBS) — Assistant Head Coach/Co-Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers Coach — Pry is almost a lock to come to Penn State with Franklin. The 1993 Buffalo graduate was born in Altoona and turned down the head coaching job at Georgia Southern only four days ago to stay with Franklin. Pry’s linebackers were a big part of why Vanderbilt finished in the top 25 nationally for total defense. Look for him to continue the tradition of linebackers at Penn State.
Ricky Rahne (@RickyRahne) — Quarterbacks Coach — Rahne graduated from Cornell in 2002 and spent five seasons at Kansas State before joining Franklin at Vanderbilt in 2011. He led QB Austyn Carta-Samuels to a 68.7% completion percentage last season, although the quarterback struggled at times, throwing 11 touchdowns and 9 interceptions on the season.
Sean Spencer (@SpencerChaos) — Defensive Line Coach — Spencer has spent some time in Pennsylvania, as a 1995 Clarion graduate and as a coach for Shippensburg and Villanova. He nicknamed his D-line “The Wild Dogs” last season, and the accounted for 42.5 tackles for loss collectively.