Pry lands dream job during Penn State shakeup

Frank Bodani
Brent Pry will take over as Penn State's new defensive coordinator, the university announced Sunday.

Penn State's new leader on defense is uniquely qualified for the job, according to two men who know him best.

Sunday, Brent Pry was named the Nittany Lions' new defensive coordinator by longtime friend and head coach James Franklin.

On Monday, he received overwhelming approval from his father, Jim Pry, who has been coaching college football all his working life.

While this is Brent Pry's first spotlight role on a big stage, he has been in charge of defenses before. He also served as Penn State's co-defensive coordinator the past two years with Bob Shoop.

Shoop left last weekend for the defensive coordinator job at Tennessee — just over a week after telling Pennsylvania media members how he hoped Penn State would have him forever.

That enabled Pry to be promoted from linebackers coach and to help ease Penn State through yet another big transition. He takes over the defense just as the Lions are breaking in a new offensive coordinator and offensive line coach. Herb Hand left the Lions Monday to coach the offensive line at Auburn.

"I'm fired up for him. My wife and I can't sleep," said Jim Pry, the offensive coordinator at Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach, Florida,  and a most appropriate person to comment on this Penn State staff. Jim Pry coached Franklin at East Stroudsburg and has coached with new offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead and team consultant Jim Haslett.

Brent Pry takes over as Penn State's new defensive coordinator at the same time the Nittany Lions will debut a new offensive coordinator and offensive line coach.

Brent Pry already has been a defensive coordinator at Louisiana-Lafayette (2002-06) and Georgia Southern (2010), where he was a finalist for the head coaching spot two of the last three years.

Penn State chat, 8 p.m., Jan. 11

Meanwhile, Pry and Franklin have known each other since their days at East Stroudsburg more than 20 years ago. Back then, Jim Pry was the offensive coordinator, Brent Pry was a young assistant and Franklin was the team's quarterback.

It's one thing for the Altoona native to lead the linebackers at Linebacker U. It's quite another to lead the entire defense.

"This is something he always looked at and wished for and didn't know he'd get the opportunity," Jim Pry said of his son.

"Brent's been around the horn and he knows the deal. ... People don't understand that it's all in perspective. Whether you're at Duquesne or TCU, people do the same things, they just have different players doing them. When you get down to Xs and Os, the conversation's really about the same things."

Plus, Brent Pry "wanted to be the 'caller' again," his father said. "He enjoys preparing during the week to call the plays on Saturday. That was sort of missing. He's been waiting for this opportunity."

Pry has been Franklin's linebackers coach since he got the head job at Vanderbilt in 2011 and his assistant head coach since 2013.

In mid-December, Franklin said this of Pry: "I don't think he gets enough credit ... in our defensive success over the last five years. I don’t want to lose him. I’ve got a lot of respect personally and professionally for Brent Pry. Not only is he valuable on our staff, he’s one of my best friends.”

Meanwhile, Penn State also will be looking for a new offensive line coach.

Hand, one of the top-rated recruiters on staff, left for Auburn where he will be re-united with good friend and head coach Gus Malzahn.

They once shared the title as co-offensive coordinator at Tulsa, leading the nation's top-ranked attack two straight seasons. They are together again as Hand replaces J.B. Grimes, who left to become offensive line coach at Cincinnati.

“My family and I are extremely excited to join the Auburn football family and be a part of a program with such great tradition and history," Hand said in a statement. "We’re especially excited to rejoin Coach Malzahn and work with him again. It was an opportunity that was way too good for us to pass up. I want to thank Coach James Franklin and the Penn State football program for two great years and I wish them nothing but the best moving forward."

Lewis moving on

The Nittany Lions' most acrobatic receiver has decided to take his undergraduate degree and his final year of eligibility to the University of Oklahoma. Geno Lewis announced on Twitter Monday that he will transfer to Oklahoma to pursue his graduate degree and play his final season of college football. He hinted that he may not return to Penn State for his final season after catching a touchdown pass in the TaxSlayer Bowl loss to Georgia.

Always huge on potential, Lewis earned a reputation for leaping touchdown catches in big venues, including a stunning performance in the 2014 season-opener in Ireland (eight catches, 173 yards).

Although he finished last season with 55 receptions, he was benched at mid-season and saw his playing time diminish this past fall. He was passed on the depth chart and finished with only 17 catches for 196 yards.

His 2015 highlights included spectacular scoring grabs against Maryland and Georgia and throwing a touchdown pass at Northwestern.

He issued a classy statement on social media, thanking everyone from Joe Paterno to Bill O'Brien to James Franklin, as well as his Penn State teammates, academic support staff and fans.

"This was not an easy decision but I feel it is time to move on to the next chapter of my life," he said. "These last 4 years have been an incredible ride and I wouldn't change anything. ... Penn State will always be in my heart and no one can ever take that away."

Former standout Penn State receiver Justin Brown also transferred to Oklahoma, leaving Penn State in the middle of his career after the NCAA sanctions hit in the summer of 2012.