Penn State Football: Franklin to Bring Four Key Assistants From Vanderbilt
James Franklin has hired leaders from four key areas of the Vanderbilt football program to join him at Penn State, where he was introduced as head coach on Saturday.
Franklin will bring former Vandy staffers to direct the Nittany Lions’ defense, strength and conditioning program, recruiting efforts and special teams, according to two sources close to the Vanderbilt team and the coaches.
The expected hires are (titles noted are those at Vanderbilt):
-- Bob Shoop, defensive coordinator and safeties coach.
-- Dwight Galt, director of performance enhancement.
-- Josh Gattis, offensive recruiting coordinator and wide receivers coach.
-- Charles Bankins, special teams coordinator and tight ends coach.
At the moment, that leaves offensive coordinator John Donovan as the only Vandy coordinator/director who has not yet been hired away by Franklin. That, and the Commodores’ mediocre performance offensively in 2013, may be a signal that Franklin will reach for a big-name hire at quarterback coach and/or offensive coordinator.
If so, the happiest person in Happy Valley will no doubt be quarterback and Nittany Lion offensive lynchpin Christian Hackenberg, the Big Ten’s Freshman of the Year in 2013. Hackenberg capped a stellar first season by directing Penn State’s 31-24 upset at Wisconsin, completing 21 of 30 passes for 339 yards and four touchdowns, with no interceptions.
Vandy’s offense, among the 123 FBS teams in 2013, was ranked 92nd in rushing offense, 67th in passing offense, 80th in total offense and 56th in scoring offense. Vanderbilt’s final three regular season games -- all victories -- displayed the strength of its defense and exposed the deficiencies of its offense. The Coommdores beat Kentucky, Tennessee and Wake Forest by a combined score of 59-37. (Those three opponents had a combined record of 16-25 in 2013.)
Franklin, 41, a Pennsylvania native and a two-time all-conference quarterback at East Stroudsburg, arrived in Nashville in 2011 and quickly turned around a long-dormant Vanderbilt program with a 24-15 three-year record and back-to-back 9-4 records in the SEC.
His enthusiasm, as well as his marketing and people skills, played a key role in the Commodores’ rise. But so did the behind-the-scenes work by his coaching and training staffs.
Here are capsule descriptions of the newest members of Franklin's Nittany Lions coaching staff:
Bob Shoop, is a 1988 Yale graduate from Oakmont, Pa. He was formerly the head coach at Columbia. He joined Franklin at Vandy in 2011 after spending four seasons as defensive coordinator at William & Mary. He’s also coached at UMass (a 2014 PSU opponent), Boston College (including the 1999 season with Al Golden), Army, Villanova, Yale and Northeastern.
Dwight Galt has been at Vanderbilt the past three seasons, coming from Maryland, where he worked with Franklin. A legend in his field, Galt is the father of former Penn State assistant strength coach Dwight Galt IV, who left PSU earlier this month to work for former PSU head coach Bill O’Brien and the Houston Texans. Former Penn State strength coach Craig Fitzgerald – who also recently departed to work for O’Brien -- was as an assistant under Galt at Maryland, where Galt worked for over two decades. Galt’s hire should be met with enthusiasm by Penn State’s players, since Fitzgerald’s regimens have their roots in Galt’s philosophies.
Josh Gattis, a North Carolina native, is a 2006 graduate of Wake Forest, where he was a two-time All-ACC recipient at safety. Prior to joining Vanderbilt in 2012, he coached at Western Michigan and North Carolina, the latter as a graduate assistant.
Charles Bankins, a native of Leonardtown, Md., graduated from James Madison in 1994. He’s coached at Indiana (Pa.), Hampton, St. Louis, Richmond and Maryland. He was on the Terps’ staff in 2009-10 with Franklin, before joining him at Vanderbilt in 2011.
Major-college football programs are permitted to have nine full-time on-the-field assistants. As head of the performance enhancement program Galt does not count against that number.
A source close to Ron Vanderlinden, who was Penn State’s linebacker coach from 2001-2013, said the veteran coach is interested in working for Franklin. That makes sense. Vanderlinden was fired by O’Brien after the 2013 season. As head coach at Maryland in 2000, Vanderlinden hired Franklin as the Terps’ wide receivers coach. Although Vanderlinden was fired after that season, Franklin was retained by then-new head coach Ralph Friedgen. At Saturday’s press conference Franklin was non-committal about adding Vanderlinden to his Penn State staff.