Wednesday, July 9, 2014





Butler not about to change his style


February 20. 2013 1:39AM
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The pass hung up in the air for one second. Two seconds. Three. Waiting at the other end, some 40 yards down the field along the left sideline, was one Virginia player – a tight end – and two Penn State safeties.


And the tight end, standing right in between the pair of Nittany Lions, went up and made the catch.


Within seconds, the trio was joined by a fourth person. Only this one wasn't wearing pads.


Penn State defensive backs coach John Butler had joined the fray after the play was over, crossing over the sideline chalk and onto the field to let his charges know exactly what he thought of their effort.


For many fans, it was their introduction to the young, high-intensity assistant coach who now takes over as the Lions' defensive coordinator.


People see my demeanor on the sideline and they may misunderstand, Butler said with a slight laugh Thursday, some 24 hours after his promotion. While it may appear that I have lost my mind, I haven't.


If nothing else, Butler strives to be authentic.


A Philadelphia native who has spent nearly half of his 39 years on this earth coaching football, Penn State's new defensive boss isn't about to change his style after landing a high-profile job.


If I showed up to practice one day and had my hands folded and was quiet, kids would look at me and say, ‘Who is this clown?' Butler said. They'd see through that.


You be yourself. Players and co-workers can sniff out a phony in a heartbeat.


He got started right on Wednesday morning when former coordinator Ted Roof informed Bill O'Brien that he would be leaving to coach at his alma mater, Georgia Tech.


A short while later, O'Brien called Butler into his office and asked him to take Roof's place. Butler quickly accepted the offer.


I said, ‘That's great, thanks, what do you need me to do?' Butler said. It wasn't like there was a surprise party.


Indeed, Penn State could do with a few less surprises these days. Along those lines, Butler isn't planning on any radical changes to the defense as his players enter 2013 with their third different coordinator in as many years.


To wit:


• The terminology and system installed last offseason by Roof will remain largely intact.


I think Ted and I always shared a philosophical belief (on coaching defense), said Butler, who worked with Roof for a season at Minnesota before both came to Penn State last January. You've gotta be multiple, aggressive and you've gotta be ready to adjust.


Some concepts were totally foreign and new to our players (last year). Now they've been through spring football, training camp and a season. (This year), it's gonna be the same.


• Long-time assistants Larry Johnson and Ron Vanderlinden, the lone holdovers from Joe Paterno's staff, are expected to stay in their roles as defensive line coach and linebackers coach, respectively.


I sure hope so, Butler said. I think I have a good enough relationship with them. I can't look into a crystal ball and tell what they're thinking, but I made it very clear to them that I hope they continue on in their roles.


Anything they may be thinking or doing, you'd have to ask them. I'm moving forward with them that they're in 100 percent and following the lead of Coach O'Brien. They're 100 percent all-in.


Johnson and Vanderlinden served as co-defensive coordinators for the end of the 2011 season after Joe Paterno was fired and Tom Bradley was named interim coach. Both accepted offers to remain on O'Brien's staff working under Roof.


That doesn't matter to me, Johnson said of remaining a position coach at the time. A title doesn't make me who I am. I've been here this long without a title. Your success speaks for itself as a coach.


• Butler himself won't be leaving all of his previous responsibilities as a position coach. He said he would still be involved in working directly with part of the secondary – either the cornerbacks or safeties.


I'm not gonna be a ‘walk-around' coordinator, Butler said.


Penn State will hire a new assistant to round out the staff and will likely coach the other half of the secondary. That was the same setup that the Lions used in recent years under Paterno, where Bradley as defensive coordinator would coach corners and another assistant would coach safeties.




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