Closer look at Penn State's staff so far

January, 17, 2014
Jan 17
2:00
PM ET
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- James Franklin said he wouldn't announce his coaching staff until he filled every position, but that goal is nearly completed.

Seven assistant coaches -- all but one traveling straight from Vanderbilt -- have already joined the Nittany Lions' staff, according to both reports and the coaches' respective Twitter accounts. Franklin needs just two assistants now to complete his staff, and he'll likely hire an offensive line coach and defensive backs coach.

[+] EnlargeJames Franklin
AP Photo/ John BealeJames Franklin is close to filling out his staff at Penn State.
In the meantime, here's a closer look at who's currently part of the Penn State staff:

  • Offensive coordinator John Donovan: He has spent quite a bit of time in the northeast, as he grew up in New Jersey and spent 10 seasons with the Terrapins. Vanderbilt's offense didn't exactly take off under Donovan's direction, but he didn't exactly have a lot to work with either. The Commodores were No. 110 in total offense in 2010 and, under Donovan, were ranked 98, 80 and 93. He called runs on 57 percent of offensive plays last season, but the passing game wasn't a strength.
  • Quarterbacks coach Ricky Rahne: He was Cornell's quarterback and a three-time team MVP in the early 2000s, so he's obviously familiar with the position. He even helped mentor current NFL QB Josh Freeman back when he was with Kansas State. But, without graduated quarterback Jordan Rodgers this season, Vanderbilt finished with just 15 passing TDs and 16 interceptions.
  • Running backs coach Charles Huff: So far, he's the only assistant not to come straight from Vandy, as he spent one year as the Buffalo Bills' assistant running backs coach before joining Western Michigan last season as its running backs coach. (And, before those two jobs, yes, he was with Franklin as his assistant special teams coordinator at Vanderbilt.) Huff graduated from Hampton in 2005 and played center, guard, fullback and tight end.
  • Wide receivers coach Josh Gattis: He turned 30 years old earlier this week, and he's a former safety who was drafted in the fifth round of the 2007 NFL draft. He spent one year at Western Michigan, before moving over to Vanderbilt in 2012. He coached All-American receivers at both schools.
  • Defensive coordinator Bob Shoop: Before Shoop took over Vanderbilt's defense, the Commodores ranked No. 93 in yards allowed. In the last three years? Each defense has ranked within the top 25, and his opportunistic secondaries have been solid. He already has spoken with several current Penn State players, such as Mike Hull and Jordan Lucas, and he has been busy on the recruiting trail. He visited Philadelphia on Thursday and planned to be in Pittsburgh on Friday.
  • Defensive line coach Sean Spencer: His players call him "Coach Chaos," and he calls his players the "Wild Dogs." He doesn't have the track record of Larry Johnson -- few assistants do -- but his line finished with 47 tackles for loss and 23 sacks last season. By comparison, Penn State's line finished with 41 stops in the backfield and 18 sacks. Spencer tends to utilize a lot of linemen in his schemes.
  • Linebackers coach/co-defensive coordinator Brent Pry: He started his coaching career at East Stroudsburg (Pa.), at the same time Franklin played there. He gradually moved up through the ranks -- Western Carolina, ULL, Memphis, Georgia Southern -- before landing at Vanderbilt. Earlier this year, he turned down a chance to be Georgia Southern's new head coach. He helped two Vandy sophomore linebackers, Darreon Herring and Jake Sealand, have solid campaigns last season.

Josh Moyer | email

Penn State/Big Ten reporter

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