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Penn State Football: John Butler Tells Everybody in Secondary 'Got a Clean Slate'

by on January 19, 2012 12:39 PM

A couple highlights from's exclusive interview with secondary coach John Butler on Thursday.

  • Bill O'Brien's decision to name Ted Roof as his defensive coordinator played some role in hiring Butler.
  • No returning defensive back has a guaranteed starting job.

The latter point is no surprise, considering all four starters in 2011 have graduated. Defensive backs Stephon Morris, Adrian Amos, Malcolm Willis and Stephen Obeng-Agyapong are four names that should be favorites to start heading into spring practice, as they have the most experience.

"We're gonna look at some video of what they did in the past, but we're gonna make most of our decisions off what they're gonna do in the future," Butler said in the interview with PSU media specialist Tony Mancuso.

"There's no value in looking at what they did in the past other than to see how they played in the games. Everybody's got a clean slate. Everybody's gonna have an opportunity to compete at a high level. If they do that, they're gonna have positive evaluations from us. If they don't, they're gonna have to learn our way."

What that way is exactly remains to be seen until the pads go on and footballs start flying. But if Roof's defensive M.O. follows him to State College, it could mark a drastic change in the defensive philosophy that was a staple during the Paterno era.

"The opportunity came when [O'Brien] made it clear he was gonna hire Ted Roof," Butler said. "Ted and I have an extensive background. We've worked together, we've been to battle together. I know what Ted wants, and I think he knows what I'm about."

Butler spent last season at South Carolina coaching linebackers and special teams. Before that, he spent four seasons doing the same at Minnesota, coaching a season there with Roof.

Roof primarily uses a 4-3 base defense but is aggressive in blitz schemes and does not like to play a ton of zone. Historically, Penn State has frustrated fans with its soft zone coverage to avoid giving up big yardage plays. It's been successful because the front seven, coached by retained staffers Larry Johnson and Ron Vanderlinden, have been among the best units in the nation.

It's a system Butler appreciates. He attended LaSalle College High School outside Philadelphia with former All-Big Ten offensive tackle Keith Conlin. Butler said he used to go over to the Conlin house and watch the 1987 Fiesta Bowl victory against Miami (Fla.), oft-regarded as the biggest win in program history.

"We watched the 1987 Fiesta Bowl until the tape broke," Butler said.

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