STATE COLLEGE – James Franklin’s plan on how to be CEO of the Penn State football is in place.
Now, so is his coaching staff.
Penn State’s 16th football coach, hired Jan. 11 to replace new Houston Texans coach Bill O’Brien, spoke with energy and optimism about the nine-man staff he introduced Friday at Beaver Stadium.
Most of the staff worked with Franklin during his three years at Vanderbilt. Eight of the 10 total coaches are from within 340 miles of State College, including four from Pennsylvania.
“I feel like we have a really good plan,” said Franklin, who labeled himself as the CEO of Penn State football. “I’m really excited about the staff we’ve been able to put together.
“For me, I was looking for familiarity, guys I’ve worked with or known for a very, very long time. Guys that I trust and interact with the players, the community and also have a connection with Penn State from a lot of different perspectives.”
Here is the staff:
• Bob Shoop, defensive coordinator and safeties coach.
• John Donovan, offensive coordinator and tight ends coach.
• Charles Huff, special teams coordinator and running backs coach.
• Brent Pry, assistant head coach, co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach.
• Josh Gattis, offensive recruiting coordinator and wide receivers coach.
• Herb Hand, run game coordinator and offensive line coach.
• Ricky Rahne, passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
• Sean Spencer, defensive line coach.
• Terry Smith, defensive recruiting coordinator and cornerbacks coach.
Smith was a wide receiver for Penn State from 1988-91 and enjoyed a successful coaching career at Gateway High School in suburban Pittsburgh before one year of college coaching at Temple. Franklin, Pry and Shoop join Smith as Pennsylvania natives.
Franklin has been concentrating on his incoming recruiting class. He said he and the staff will get down to actual football after Feb. 5 when signed national letters of intent become binding.
“Recruiting is so important and it’s important to have guys with strong ties to this region; I feel like we’ve done that,” Franklin said. “We will not have one guy on this staff I don’t feel will be an excellent recruiter.
His staff, Franklin said, will consist of “smart guys” and “talented people.”
“I want to surround myself with people who are loyal, loyal to Penn State, loyal to James Franklin and fired up about being here because this is one of the more unique opportunities in college football,” he said.
Franklin said Donovan “more than likely” would be the sideline play-caller.
“John called every single play over the last three years at Vanderbilt,” Franklin said.
The 41-year-old head coach pointed out that any depth chart before fall practice will be based entirely on seniority.
“The most important thing is these kids all start with a clean slate and they have opportunity to earn starting jobs,” he said.
“There are no returning starters at any position . at any position. Every single day these guys are going to wake up and they’re going to earn their job. We’re going to create the most competitive experience we possibly can.”
Aside from a busy recruiting schedule, Franklin has met with players – current and former. He stressed that he and his staff will “show tremendous respect for our traditions and for our history and for our past” at Penn State.
Franklin’s staff will be the third set of coaches for some Penn State players, dating to Joe Paterno’s final season in 2011 and O’Brien’s 2012 and 2013 stay.
“The players have embraced the change,” Franklin said. “We want to build relationships and trust and chemistry and build stability with them. This program had stability for a very, very long time, and it’s important to get back to that.”