The news wasn’t unwelcome for Derek Dowrey. Nor was it that much of a surprise.
After two years as a defensive tackle — recruited for defense by one coaching staff and originally coached there by another — Dowrey was moving to offense.
It was one of the first switches James Franklin and his staff made on the roster. The Nittany Lions were woefully shorthanded on the offensive line, and Dowrey looked best suited to play guard.
“A few weeks into Coach Franklin’s time here, he called me up into his office and asked me what I thought about it,” Dowrey said. “I said that it’s been in my mind and I thought it was a good move for me and a good move for the team.
“I feel like we had a little bit more depth on the defensive line, so moving me over would balance it out a little bit. I feel like my style of play, my body type, my build, was better suited for an offensive lineman than a defensive lineman. Coach Franklin agreed.”
And that’s how the 6-foot-3, 303-pound sophomore ended up working as the first-team left guard right at the first spring practice under Franklin.
Dowrey hadn’t played on the O-line since his high school days at Handley High School in Northern Virginia, so it was going to take some time to adapt to the move.
“They’re very different positions, even down to the stances and your steps,” Dowrey said. “It was a bit of a transition, but I think (new offensive line coach Herb Hand) helped me a lot and made it smooth.”
That was even before the injuries really started to build up on the unit in the spring. With a knee injury to Miles Dieffenbach throwing doubt on his availability for the season, Dowrey looks to be a top candidate to start at guard in the fall.
He might be joined by a familiar face as well. Brian Gaia also made the switch from defensive tackle to guard during spring ball and ended up starting opposite Dowrey at right guard during the Blue-White Game.
Gaia and Dowrey both committed to Penn State in 2011 and elected to stick with the Lions when the Jerry Sandusky scandal crushed the school just three months before they signed their letters of intent.
The two became close during the recruiting process and are now roommates, a bond that is helping both with the move to offense.
“Me and Brian, we’re together all the time pretty much,” Dowrey said. “It’s nice to have somebody who’s going through the same things with you. I love it.
“We’re pretty close, and moving at the same time has helped us both.”
Franklin issues statement
Franklin’s name surfaced on Tuesday in a filing by defense attorneys for one of the four former Vanderbilt players accused of sexual assault. The filing, which seeks to have the case thrown out because of destroyed or mishandled evidence, asserts that Franklin had contact with the victim four days after the alleged attack.
“The allegations that I did something wrong are simply not true,” Franklin said in a statement released late Tuesday night. “I have cooperated fully with the authorities in this matter but, out of respect for the legal process, I am not able to comment any further.”
The Tennessean in Nashville first reported the filing Tuesday, with Franklin’s name appearing in two passages in the 24 pages. According to the defense attorneys, Franklin had previously approached the victim to help from a group of recruiting assistants to help the football program. It also asserts Franklin and strength coach Dwight Galt texted her in the days following the incident because “they cared about her because she assisted them with recruiting.”
Both the prosecution and defense in the case have taken turns blasting one another this week over the high-profile case, in which four Commodores players are accused of raping a 21-year-old student last June. A fifth player has admitted to initially trying to cover it up. All five were dismissed from the team following their arrests.
Franklin himself has not been charged with any crime. The Nashville district attorney’s office reiterated this week that Franklin is not under suspicion for any wrongdoing.
Nonetheless, Penn State can expect Franklin’s name to continue to be mentioned as the case continues. Defense attorneys have said multiple times that they will consider subpoenaing Franklin to testify if and when the case goes to trial.
Upon hiring Franklin in January, Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner said the new coach was put through “the most thorough vetting process of any search perhaps of any position at this university,” and that the school was satisfied with the results.
Caravan opens today
The statement comes just as Franklin and his fellow coaches at the school are ready to start their now-annual Coaches Caravan today in State College.
Franklin, women’s volleyball coach Russ Rose and men’s soccer coach Bob Warming will be joined by a handful of Franklin’s assistant coaches for an evening reception at Pegula Ice Arena on campus. Though all of the coaches will meet with the media before the event, Franklin is likely to decline further comment on the latest developments with the Vanderbilt case.
The Caravan will make two stops in the region later this month for evening receptions at Fiorelli Catering in Peckville on May 14 and at Genetti Hotel and Convention Center in Wilkes-Barre on May 20.
Men’s hockey coach Guy Gadowsky, men’s volleyball coach Mark Pavlik, offensive coordinator John Donovan and quarterbacks coach Ricky Rahne will join Franklin on the Wilkes-Barre stop.
Registration for either event can be made online at alumni.psu.edu/events/coachescaravan.