John Butler talks promotion, philosophy

January, 10, 2013
1/10/13
3:47
PM ET
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- John Butler didn't receive word about Ted Roof's departure until Wednesday morning, but he said he didn't hesitate when Bill O'Brien offered him the promotion to defensive coordinator soon thereafter.

"It's not like there was a surprise party with it," Butler told the media Thursday afternoon. "He told me I was the new defensive coordinator, and I just asked him what he needed me to do."

Butler, formerly the secondary coach, said he's waited 20 years for an opportunity like this. And he plans to make the most of it. He still wants to overlook the cornerbacks or safeties -- "I'm not going to be a walk-around coordinator" -- and he doesn't plan to change a lot from this defense.

He acknowledged the appearance of this unit in 2013 "would be very similar" to last season. His philosophy is to offer multiple looks, be aggressive and play fast. Butler hoped to keep the schemes simple and continue to help the players along in their development.

"I think a definition of that is you got to create confusion with your opponent, meaning we're not going to sit back on our heels in one look, one coverage, and let the offense dictate how we're going to play them," he said. "Aggressive doesn't mean we're going to blitz them every snap. That's not what aggressive means.

"It means we're going to change coverage looks, we're going to change front looks, we're going to change players around so they can't be blocked a certain away all the time. We're going to try to take control away from the offensive coaches."

Butler was one of the most animated coaches on the sideline during games and practices last season. It wouldn't be uncommon to see Butler crouched on the sideline, poised to leap in the air during a big play, or pacing while his eyes followed his players.

Even during Thursday's conference call, Butler's excitement could be heard through the phone. About 20 minutes into the conversation, Butler asked how many reporters had questions left. "Three," a Penn State official told him.

"Whoooeee!" he squealed, as if he were at a rodeo.

Butler said that's just his personality. And, even if he could change that, there's no way he would.

"I think you have to be who you are," he added. "If I showed up at practice one day and I had my hands folded and I was very quiet, the kids would be like, 'Who's this clown?' They'd see right through it.

"It may have looked like I lost my mind, but I still have it."

The former linebackers/special teams coach at South Carolina -- who held the same position at Minnesota from 2007 to 2010 -- also emphasized recruiting during his conference call. He told reporters there'll probably be a few adjustments to who recruits what area, but he stressed its importance.

"I love recruiting. To be honest with you, it's probably the most important element about you as a coach," he said. "You have to go accumulate talent, you have to get players, and our success on the field on defense will be greatly determined by the players we bring in here on defense and how they perform."

Butler, who attended LaSalle College High School in Philadelphia, said he expected both Ron Vanderlinden and Larry Johnson to continue in their roles as position coaches. He wasn't certain who might be added as an assistant coach, but he remained thankful that -- after stints at Catholic University, Midwestern State, Texas State, Harvard, Minnesota and South Carolina -- that he finally found a position like this at Penn State.

"I'm prepared for this," Butler said. "I put 20 years of coaching into being ready for this, and I'm never going to shy away from defensive coordinator."

Josh Moyer | email

Penn State/Big Ten reporter

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