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Semi-Serious Analysis of O’Brien’s Coaching Staff

Five days ago, Penn State hired Bill O’Brien as its 15th football coach in program history. That means that, after two excruciatingly long months, the hard part is over right? Well no, not exactly. The importance of O’Brien’s hire cannot be underestimated; however, sometimes even more important than the head coach are the people he surrounds himself with.

Take some perspective from Rich Rodriguez and Michigan. Rodriguez came to Michigan in 2008 after turning West Virginia into a national championship contender. Upon accepting the job, Rodriguez invited all of his assistant at West Virginia to join him at Michigan and even sent a private plane for them. One in particular chose not to get on the plane, defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel. After three years, Rodriguez was fired, and one of the big reasons was never having a competent defensive coordinator or defense. Many people close to Rodriguez and the program believe things would have been different had Casteel boarded the plane.

While the head coaching search felt like it took forever, Bill O’Brien did not mess around in putting together a staff. Below is an evaluation of each staff member along with some attempts at humor:

Larry Johnson Sr. and Ron Vanderlinden: Let’s just start off easy and group these two together. O’Brien elected to keep these two on staff, and they will retain their current positions of defensive line coach and linebackers coach respectively. A+ move by O’Brien. Johnson and Vanderlinden are arguably the two best positions coaches in the country at what they do, and are well liked in Happy Valley. As annoying as it is to type Vanderlinden, fans should be happy that they still have a reason to do so.

Ted Roof: This coaching appointment may have received the most backlash so far. Roof and O’Brien worked together at Georgia Tech and Duke (where Roof posted a 6-45 record as head coach). Roof was recently the defensive coordinator at Auburn, where Cam Newton’s prowess hid many defensive deficiencies on their quest to win a national championship. I wonder if he knows anything about Pay for Play (Joking…kind of). His defenses were a bit underwhelming at Auburn ranking 68th, 60th, and 81st in his three years. He likes to be aggressive, which Penn State fans will most definitely welcome, but that can be incredibly risky without the right personnel. Time will tell if bringing the house works and, as Sam Cooper likes to say, “opposing offenses will be getting roofied all season long” or if the foundation eventually caves in, causing the roof to be replaced in a year or two. In all seriousness though, he has big shoes to fill in replacing Tom Bradley.  

George Godsey: Godsey, the current QB coach of the New England Patriots, will replace Jay Paterno as quarterbacks coach. In the early 2000s, Godsey had success playing quarterback at Georgia Tech and is a young 33 years old. As of last night, he already had a fake Twitter account. You can follow him @DouchyGodsey, and as @JohnTCPSU pointed out, his name backwards is “Yesdog.” How awesome would it be if that was his answer to some question in a press conference? “George, has McGloin practiced this week?” “Yesdog.”

Charles London: London will leave the Tennessee Titans from his current role as a quality control coach to serve as the running backs coach for the Nittany Lions. There is not much on London (seriously, what does a quality control coach even mean?), but with a last name identical to this summer’s Olympic host city, he has to be good, right?

Stan Hixon: Hixon will join Penn State’s staff as the receivers coach. He had been with the Buffalo Bills for the past two seasons where he oversaw the development of Steve Johnson into a very solid receiver. This, by most accounts, is a good hire. Bonus points if he makes similar hand movements to Mike McQueary  while on the sidelines.

John Strollo: Strollo previously worked with O’Brien at Duke, and will join Penn State as the tight ends coach from his current role at Ball State. Strollo also has experience working with the offensive line and best of all, as stated above, he coached at Ball State. Easily the coolest name for a university that you will ever see.

Mac McWhorter: If there is a move that comes close to retaining LJ Sr and Vandy, it is this one here. McWhorter was the offensive line coach for another Mack, Mack Brown, at Texas, for much of the past decade. He was voted the top assistant in the country after 2008 and should stabilize an often shaky position for Penn State who has recruited some talented linemen in the past only to struggle with development. His name is also awesome, for what it’s worth.

John Butler: It appears that Butler has been hired from South Carolina to work with the defensive backs; however, O’Brien may want to think about also putting him in charge of the special teams given his experience there. Penn State fans have been clamoring for a real special teams coach for quite some time. Hopefully with Butler, I will not have to write this same column again.

Overall, O’Brien did decently here. He surrounded himself with a combination of people who he has past relationships with and can trust while also keeping two beloved coaches who were already in Happy Valley. Now it is time for much of his staff to hit the recruiting trail while O’Brien is still with the Patriots.

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About the Author

Drew Balis

Drew is a senior marketing major. This fall, he will be covering Penn State Football for Onward State. He is a huge Philadelphia sports fan and loves THON and Domonic Brown.

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