Staff Picks: Former Penn State Student-Athletes We Want Back As Coaches

Last week, we learned Saquon Barkley planned to return as a coach for Penn State football during spring ball. The star running back wanted to see the game from a coaching perspective in order to help him grow as a player, and we certainly can’t blame him.

Unfortunately for Barkley, his plans came to an abrupt end when Penn State football canceled all team-related activities on March 12 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Many fans likely would’ve loved to see the former Penn State star on the coaching staff, but I’m sure Barkley isn’t the only former student-athlete Nittany Nation would like to see back as a coach. With that said, our staffers discussed which former student-athletes they want to see back in Happy Valley as coaches.

Frankie Marzano: Sam Ficken

I’d like to see Sam Ficken come back to coach Penn State’s kickers. The team has a great group of specialists already, but with Ficken’s expertise and clutch gene, they can learn to do more than just kick a football. Most notably, Ficken could help teach Jordan Stout and Jake Pinegar to deal with pressure and get through rough patches.

During his time as the Nittany Lions’ kicker, Ficken had two-game winning field goals and numerous game-tying field goals that helped push the team to several key victories. Ficken would be a great mentor to Penn State’s special teams staff and would provide them with great insight into the mental aspects of kicking a field goal.

Will Pegler: Michael Mauti

There’s no arguing Michael Mauti is a Penn State football legend. After battling through knee injuries throughout his Nittany Lion career, the linebacker helped lead Penn State through a brutal 2011 season in which Joe Paterno was fired and the program was rocked with sanctions. As a senior in 2012, Mauti won the Big Ten’s Butkus-Fitzgerald award and was named a first-team All-American despite tearing his ACL before the final game of the season.

Mauti clearly had an impressive career in Happy Valley despite facing plenty of adversity, and I think he would be a valuable addition to James Franklin’s coaching staff. The talented defensive player could help Brent Pry develop the next era of Nittany Lion linebackers, and his gritty attitude would reflect well on the entire team. No. 42, I think it’s time to come on back to Happy Valley.

Otis Lyons: Grant Ament

After five years with Penn State men’s lacrosse, Grant Ament left Happy Valley as one of the most decorated players at the collegiate level. Known as the “assist king” for his 189 decisive passes in his Nittany Lion career, Ament decided to forgo an additional year of eligibility in order to suit up in the professional ranks.

Considering the Premier Lacrosse League (PLL) doesn’t begin its season until late May, it is entirely plausible for Ament to patrol the Panzer Stadium’s sidelines as an assistant coach. Ament would also have the advantage of knowing the team dynamic, as he’s played with most of the current roster for multiple seasons.

Ryen Gailey: Ali Krieger

I would love to see Ali Krieger come back and coach Penn State women’s soccer. As a two-time Olympic gold medalist and a two-time World Cup champion, Krieger has more than enough skill and experience in the sport to come back as a coach someday. During her time at Penn State, she won countless awards, including Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2003, Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 2006, and Penn State’s Most Valuable Player in 2006.

Coaching is something Krieger has expressed interest in before, and in 2018 she earned a U.S. Soccer C. License licensure as sponsored by U.S. Soccer, the NWSL, and Utah Royals FC. To cap it all off, she’s also a very active alum and is beloved by the entire Penn State community. In the past year alone, Krieger has spoken as a guest speaker to a packed crowd in Alumni Hall, been honored at a Penn State women’s soccer playoff game, and made an appearance at Penn State football’s game against Indiana in November. As a certified Ali Krieger stan, this is a coaching addition I would love to see.

Matt DiSanto: Bo Nickal

I’m far from the biggest Penn State wrestling fan in the world, but I know a good motivational speaker when I see one. Bo Nickal possesses the smooth-talking, passionate genes any locker room hype man needs, and the Nittany Lions would be foolish not to bring him back into the fold as their go-to motivational guru.

Cael Sanderson could bring Nickal into the locker room to get the team pumped before each dual with a rousing rendition of his famous “That’s what we DO!” speech from a few years back. The iconic line gets fans hyped up to this day, which gives me great confidence it’d do the same for the Nittany Lions before competing. Nickal could also serve as a great mentor to Penn State wrestling’s younger athletes. After all, he’s a three-time national champion.

Gabe Angieri: Kerry Collins

Kerry Collins is one of, if not the, best quarterbacks in Penn State football history. During his four-year career in Happy Valley, Collins led the Nittany Lions to a 21-5 record as a starter. In his senior season, Collins was a consensus first-team All-American and the recipient of the Maxwell Award and the Davey O’Brien Award. Collins also went on to have a 17-year NFL career and made two pro bowls.

James Franklin and Co. should seriously consider bringing him back to Penn State as an assistant coach. Collins would be a huge help for Sean Clifford, Will Levis, and others in a crowded quarterback room. Most importantly, Collins would bring a winning DNA and mindset to a Penn State team with high hopes heading into next season.

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