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Potential Candidates For Penn State Football’s Next Wide Receivers Coach

Less than a week before Penn State football’s Rose Bowl victory over Utah, head coach James Franklin told reporters that he was “hopeful that [he would] retain the majority, if not all, of the staff” heading into the offseason. 

After Franklin promoted running backs coach Ja’Juan Seider to an elevated assistant head coach title just six days ago, the program’s leader shifted from his original sentiment and made another change by relieving wide receivers coach Taylor Stubblefield of his duties Sunday evening following a three-year stint in the role. 

Stubblefield proved pivotal in the development of Jahan Dotson, who posted 1,182 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2021 en route to becoming the Nittany Lions’ first opening-round draft selection at the position since 2003. Moreover, Stubblefield recruited key blue-chip prospects including Parker Washington, KeAndre Lambert-Smith, and Kaden Saunders while headlining the position group. 

Now with the first coaching vacancy of the offseason on the table, Franklin is expected to announce the hiring of Stubblefield’s successor in the foreseeable future. Let’s take a look at a few potential candidates who could take over the wide receiver room in Happy Valley.

Bobby Engram

Through Franklin’s nine-year tenure with the Nittany Lions, he’s shown a tendency to lean toward hiring candidates with previously established ties to Penn State to bolster pitches on the recruiting trail. After falling victim to a clean-house effort at Wisconsin, former offensive coordinator Bobby Engram could be Franklin’s best bet for long-term stability and familiarity at the position.

Engram laced up for Joe Paterno’s Nittany Lions from 1991 to 1995 and finished his career with 3,026 receiving yards and 31 touchdown catches, which both reside as the top marks in program history. From there, the South Carolina native embarked on a 14-year NFL career as a wide receiver, with the majority of his production coming from an almost decade-long stretch with the Seattle Seahawks.

Since his retirement in 2010, Engram immediately began his coaching career as an offensive assistant with the San Francisco 49ers under Jim Harbaugh in 2011. His prowess as an assistant warranted him wide receiver coach distinctions at Pitt for a pair of campaigns and the Baltimore Ravens for five more years until landing a coordinator role at Wisconsin last season.

The program legend boasts 12 seasons of coaching experience under his belt and helped Wisconsin’s attack post 5.7 yards per down as its play-caller amidst transitional turmoil. Now, with Luke Fickell toting the head coaching reigns in Madison, it appears that Engram’s availability could’ve provoked Franklin to make an arguably shocking change.

Jeff Scott

Before compiling a lowly 4-26 head coaching record over a three-year span at USF, Jeff Scott served as one of the ACC’s most established wide receiver mentors for 12 seasons at Clemson. 

Scott played in Death Valley from 2000 to 2002 and became an integral member of Dabo Swinney’s initial coaching staff in 2008. From there, Scott mentored several Pro-Bowl caliber NFL pass catchers, including the likes of Sammy Watkins, DeAndre Hopkins, Hunter Renfrow, Tee Higgins, and Mike Williams. 

Halfway through Scott’s tenure, he was gifted co-offensive coordinator duties shared with current Virginia head coach Tony Elliott. Ultimately, Scott’s role as the head man at USF morphed into a disastrous setback, but Franklin’s track record of hiring former head coaches as integral assistants could once again hold merit with Scott’s current availability.  

Calvin Lowry

Most lifelong Penn State faithful remember Lowry as a key member of the squad that helped the Nittany Lions deliver an 11-1 season capped off by a Big Ten Championship and an Orange Bowl victory in 2005. But, with Lowry’s recent hire as an offensive analyst on Franklin’s staff, his newfound legacy could be found as the squad’s next wide receivers coach. 

The former first-team All-Big Ten safety was picked up as a fourth-round selection by the Tennesee Titans in 2006 and went on to play four seasons in the NFL before hopping into the coaching ranks. 

Lowry began his coaching stint at St. Andrew’s Episcopal, a private high school in Austin, Texas, before landing an assistant gig at Baylor from 2012 to 2014. After a serviceable stint in the Big 12, Lowry became a staple at Tulsa, where he served as the wide receivers coach and special teams coordinator for eight seasons beginning in 2015. 

With Lowry back in Happy Valley, Stubblefield’s exit opens the door for Franklin to place the savvy veteran in a familiar role. Lowry’s tenure in the American Conference featured six Hurricane receivers surpassing the 1,000-yard clip in a season-season. 

Chris Beatty

With the Los Angeles Chargers’ recent AFC Wild Card road loss on Saturday, recently hired wide receivers coach Chris Beatty may be looking to return to the college ranks with his head coach’s future in jeopardy on the west coast. 

Beatty starred at wide receiver for East Tennessee State beginning in 1991 and became a high school coaching giant around Northern Virginia in the early 2000s. In 1998, Beatty’s first head role came as the leader of North Stafford High School’s squad, the former district of Penn State prospects Nana Asiedu and Devyn Ford. 

Before heading to Hampton as the offensive coordinator in 2006, Beatty went on to lead Salem and Landstown High Schools across the state of Virginia, which included a state championship at Landstown in 2004 led by future NFL wide receiver Percy Harvin. 

Additionally, Beatty held wide receiver coaching roles at West Virginia, Vanderbilt during Franklin’s first season at the helm in 2011, Illinois, Wisconsin, Virginia, Maryland, and Pitt. Beatty’s proven track record as a prominent high school play caller in one of the Nittany Lions’ most fertile recruiting spots along with Franklin’s familiarity to the 24-year coaching veteran should put his name into the mix for consideration. 

Joe Brady

In 2019, Joe Brady’s fame quickly rose to the forefront of the college football landscape thanks to Joe Burrow and LSU’s unforeseen explosive output, leading to a 15-0 clip that concluded with a national championship. But, while many outsiders believed Brady received his first Power Five role from Ed Orgeron, the current 33-year-old mastermind landed his first big-time gig as a graduate assistant for Penn State under Franklin in 2015 and 2016. 

At LSU, Brady worked alongside former offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger in an innovative play-calling role, where he was tagged as the youngest full-time coach on the LSU staff. His one campaign in Baton Rouge landed him an instant offensive coordinator title in the NFL for Matt Rhule and the Carolina Panthers. 

In Charlotte, Brady’s quick, two-year stop was derailed by quarterback inconsistencies with Sam Darnold and PJ Walker controlling limited attacks. But, ahead of 2022, Brady was picked up by the Buffalo Bills as the squad’s quarterbacks coach, where he’s assisted in the development of Josh Allen. 

Brady’s current role may allow him to pursue sustained security in the NFL, but if Brady is looking to catch lightning in a bottle once again in the college ranks, his ties to Franklin and Happy Valley could bring him back to the place that initially kickstarted his rapid ascension. 

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About the Author

Connor Krause

Connor Krause is a junior from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania double majoring in journalism and business. He is a lifelong Penn State football and basketball fan and enjoys rooting for Pittsburgh sports teams. In his free time, Connor can be found playing golf or pick-up basketball. You can follow his Twitter and Instagram @ckrause_31.

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