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A Look at James Franklin’s Coaching Staff

James Franklin’s staff is almost complete.

Over the past few weeks, Franklin has needed to complete the tedious task of filling his coaching staff with people who understand the way Franklin wants to run his football team. After the addition of offensive line coach Herb Hand on Monday, Franklin’s staff is nearing completion.

Here is a list of Penn State’s coaching staff — complete with Twitter handles! All positions are via’s Mike Poorman.

Offensive Staff:

John Donovan (offensive coordinator, @coachJ_Donovan): Donovan was Vanderbilt’s offensive coordinator from 2011 until several weeks ago, when he accepted the same job at Penn State. Donovan was not only a successful offensive coordinator for the Commodores, but he also coached the team’s running backs. The entire offense improved under Donovan’s tutelage, which is especially fun when you remember that Penn State’s offense has more talent than Vanderbilt’s did at any point during Donovan’s tenure.

Ricky Rahne (quarterbacks, @RickyRahne): One of the best stories at Vanderbilt over the last few years was how quarterbacks Jordan Rodgers and Austyn Carta-Samuels developed into solid passers. Part of that was due to the job that Rahne, who joined Vanderbilt in 2011, did coaching the two of them. Now, he gets to spend his time in Happy Valley coaching Christian Hackenberg and Michael O’Connor. While Rodgers and Carta-Samuels were both fine quarterbacks, neither of them were as naturally talented as Hackenberg or O’Connor. Imagine what Rahne will be able to do with two quarterbacks the caliber of those two over the next several years.

Charles Huff (running backs, @CoachHuff): Huff is one of Franklin’s few assistants who wasn’t with him last season at Vanderbilt. While he was the team’s assistant special teams coordinator in 2011, Huff coached the running backs for the Buffalo Bills and Western Michigan Broncos in 2012 and 2013, respectively. While Western Michigan was really, really, REALLY bad last year, Huff did an excellent job with the Bills in 2012, particularly with Pro Bowl selection C.J. Spiller, who rushed for 1,244 yards and 6 touchdowns.

Herb Hand (offensive line, @CoachHand): Franklin’s most recent hire is arguably his best one. Hand has been at Vanderbilt since 2010, has been coaching offensive lineman since 2007, and has established himself as one of college football’s premier — and most entertaining — offensive line coaches. While Hand isn’t officially on Franklin’s staff yet, all of us here at Onward State hope that happens sooner rather than later, if only because his Twitter account is amazing.

Defensive Staff:

Bob Shoop (defensive coordinator, @Coach_ShoopPSU): Shoop was the architect for Vanderbilt’s “Black Death” defense, which is the most badass name for any defense in the history of defenses. Even if he wasn’t an excellent defensive coordinator — and lucky for us, he is — the possibilities of him giving Penn State’s defense an awesome nickname alone should make Nittany Lion fans excited. Shoop joined Vanderbilt as the school’s defensive coordinator in 2011, but has been a coach on the defensive side of the ball in some capacity in every year since 1991. He also has head coaching experience at Columbia.

Sean Spencer (defensive line, @SpenceChaos): Sure, he’s not Larry Johnson, but Spencer is an energetic, up-and-coming defensive line coach who has coached Vanderbilt’s “Wild Dogs,” which is his nickname for the school’s defensive line, since 2011. Since 1998, Spencer has coached defensive lines at various schools, except for in 2005, when he coached linebackers in Villanova. His Twitter bio says he is “Trained in the Art of Chaos,” he has the best Twitter handle of any coach on the team, and he shares a name — albeit with a different spelling — with the main character on USA’s Psych. What’s not to love?

Brent Pry (linebackers, @CoachPry_LBU): Pry is the next in a prestigious line of linebackers coaches at Penn State. He has been a coach on the defensive side on the ball ever since 1993, when he coached at East Stroudsburg, which was led by star quarterback James Franklin. Pry has been applauded for taking Vanderbilt’s linebacking units, which isn’t exactly, well, Penn State’s linebacking unit, and turning it into a strength of the defense. Now, he gets to coach guys like Mike Hull, Brandon Bell, and Nyeem Wartman.


Dwight Galt (strength and conditioning, @DGalt3): Yes, Penn State lost Craig Fitzgerald, which sucks. However, Galt taught Fitzgerald when Fitzgerald worked under Galt at the University of Maryland. Like Fitzgerald, Galt’s program “aimed at improving speed, agility, strength, and power throughout the Commodore roster,” according to Galt’s biography on Vanderbilt’s athletic site.


Josh Gattis (wide receivers or secondary, @Coach_Gattis): Despite joining Vanderbilt in 2012, Gattis was the man behind the two best seasons for one wide receiver in school history. Under Gattis’s tutelage, WR Jordan Matthews established himself as one of the nation’s best wide receivers, and caught an absolutely insane 206 balls for 2,800 yards and 15 touchdowns. With Penn State needing to replace Allen Robinson, having a coach the caliber of Gattis can be a great thing, unless…

Terry Smith (wide receivers or secondary, @CoachTerryTU): …he loses the job to Smith, who is one of the best wide receivers in Penn State history. The former Nittany Lion is sixth in school history in receptions (108) and seventh in receiving yards (1,825), and coached wide receivers at Temple for one season after compiling a 101-30 record at Gateway High School in Monroeville, Pa. Furthering his Penn State ties, Smith is the stepfather of former Nittany Lion standout Justin King.

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