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Penn State Defense Isn’t Scared of Another Transition

When defensive end Deion Barnes was asked about going into camp with a new coaching staff on Monday, he replied with the simplest answer possible: “Football is football.”

That mindset is probably a good one to have for a player facing his fourth head coach in his career. The Franklin Era has yet to officially unfold, but in his seven months as head coach, Franklin has already shown a different energy and style from Joe Paterno, Tom Bradley, and Bill O’Brien.

The most extensive transition changes may be found in defensive coordinator Bob Shoop’s game plan. The defense has come under scrutiny at times in the previous years for the “bend-but-don’t-break” philosophy taught by previous coordinators, but it will be infused with new vigor from the top down in 2014.

“What is nonnegotiable is we are going to be an ‘in-your-face’ style of defense that’s a lot of fun to play,” Shoop said. “It will be built on relentless pursuit of the football and never-ending pressure.”

Having new coaches and transitioning from one system to the next has allowed for new leaders to arise early. One of the new commanders of the defense is lineman C.J. Olaniyan, and he has stepped up and helped his teammates make this transition.

“First and foremost it’s a business,” said Olaniyan. “I didn’t have to do much, they came in with fire, energy and love and we just embraced that as a team. Everybody is buying in and we’re just ready to work as a family.”

Senior safety Adrian Amos is another player who is used to transitions. “I’ve been hearing that for the past couple years, about how many coaches I have seen since I have been here,” said Amos. “Even in my first year we had two coaches. It is an adjustment but I am used to it.”

Part of the adjustment for the players is football related, but for many it is more personal than just learning new terminology.

“[One of the biggest things is] understanding their personality and their sense of humor, and when they’re being serious and not being serious,” said Amos. “It is just an adjustment with people, just like meeting someone new or someone being new to the family.”

So far, the younger players have followed the seniors’ example and bought in to the new philosophy. Junior cornerback Jordan Lucas, one of the more outspoken members of the team and a rising new leader for the defense, praised the veterans for easing the defensive turnover.

“The older guys have done a great job,” Lucas said. “They know exactly how it is to deal with a new coach, and as soon as the new coaching staff got here they were all on board, and they helped the younger guys. I think that they’re wonderful role models for every underclassman on this team.”

Shoop acknowledged that, because of limitations on practice over the summer, a lot is still unknown about his defense.

“Each defense takes on their own identity,” Shoop said, “and the identity of this group is still yet to be determined.”

Whatever that identity may be, there is a group of players ready to adapt to yet another transition.

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