Barnes a Key Part of the Large Alumni Contingent on Penn State Football’s Staff
James Franklin’s hire of Deion Barnes as Penn State’s new defensive line coach on Monday now gives Franklin three Nittany Lion lettermen as full-time coaching assistants: Barnes, Terry Smith and Ty Howle.
When Franklin addressed Penn State’s Board of Trustees last month, he lauded the program’s 11-2 record and Rose Bowl victory last season, as well his success on the recruiting trail.
He also pointed out that his staff at the time included nine former Nittany Lion football players — including Barnes — and at least another 10 Penn State alumni who are on the football staff and/or spend most of their time supporting PSU football. “That,” Franklin told the BOT, “does not get talked about enough.”
The promotion of Barnes will continue to change that conversation — and numbers. With Barnes’ new role, Franklin has brought in former Nittany Lion defensive end Torrence Brown to replace Barnes as a graduate assistant on the defensive side of the ball. Brown lettered in 2015-17.
With an assist from Greg Kincaid, Penn State athletics’ associate director of strategic communications, we flushed out the dozens of Penn Staters who work on football for their alma mater — three on-the-field coaches, 10 football lettermen, and 22 more who work full- or part-time supporting Penn State football. That is an impressive number, and definitely an asset for Franklin, who is astute enough to know that — in many ways — the best people to sell and support Penn State are Penn Staters, who uniquely know the tradition-rich program and overall university.
Kincaid himself is on that list; he is a 2010 graduate with a communications degree and is the day-to-day media contact for Penn State football, returning to PSU after stops at Lehigh, Florida International, Indiana University and West Point.
Joe Paterno employed the same strategy. In his 46-year tenure as head coach, Paterno had 15 former players serve as assistant coaches, with eight staying for a decade or more. Tom Bradley, a former special teams captain, had the longest run (32 years), having coached special teams, outside linebackers, wide receivers and defensive backs before serving as defensive coordinator for a dozen seasons, as well as interim head coach.
(Franklin played his collegiate football at East Stroudsburg and has a master’s degree from Washington State. When he was hired, Franklin proclaimed himself to be a “Pennsylvania boy with a Penn State heart.”)
BARNES & CO.
Barnes, who was a three-year letter-winner at defensive end for Penn State (2012-14) and the Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2012, spent the past three seasons as a graduate assistant. On Jan. 30, he was briefly moved to an analyst position – a spot he held until Franklin named him to replace John Scott Jr., who recently left for a coaching position with the Detroit Lions in the NFL. Barnes himself spent two years in the NFL as a player, and then played one season in the AAF before coming to Penn State in 2020.
Smith is the sole surviving member of Franklin’s original Penn State coaching staff, dating back to 2014. He is associate head coach, defensive recruiting coordinator and cornerbacks coach. Smith is a former PSU wide receiver (108 receptions, 1,825 yards, 15 TDs) and co-captain of the 1991 team that went 11-2 and finished ranked No 3.
Howle is entering his third season as Penn State’s tight ends coach. A four-time letter-winner and a four-time Academic All-Big Ten, Howle was a team captain in 2013 and appeared in 47 games, with 13 starts at center and left guard.
Of the 10 lettermen who are currently on Franklin’s staff, an impressive five are former Nittany Lion captains. In addition to Smith, Howle, Barnes and Brown, here are the other six Penn State football lettermen who are part of Franklin’s current staff:
Dan Connor, defensive analyst. The former linebacker is Penn State’s all-time leader in tackles (419: 227 solo, 192 assists) and 2007 Chuck Bednarik Award winner as the nation’s top defensive player. A 2007 co-captain, he played six seasons in the NFL.
Todd Kulka, associate director, student-athlete programming, and academic counselor. Kulka is a State College townie and a former PSU linebacker whose dad, John, was a Penn State co-captain, with Mike Reid and Steve Smear, for the 11-0 1968 Nittany Lions. He diligently and deftly oversees the academic side of the house for all of Penn State football in what is often a 24/7 endeavor.
Calvin Lowry, offensive analyst. Lowry joined the PSU staff in January after eight seasons as an assistant coach at Tulsa. He was a four-year letterman and was named first-team All-Big Ten as a safety.
Wally Richardson, director of the Football Letterman’s Club. Richardson is the main conduit to hundreds of former Penn State players. Richardson led PSU to a 20-5 record as the starting quarterback in 1995-96, throwing for over 4,400 yards with 27 TD passes. He was co-captain of the 1996 team that went 11-2 and was ranked No. 7.
Tyrone Smith, assistant director of athletic performance. Smith lettered in 2014, Franklin’s first season at PSU, after starting his Penn State career as a tight end before transitioning to the D-line. He works under strength and conditioning head Chuck Losey.
Alan Zemaitis, recruiting coordinator for personnel. As a cornerback, he had 12 interceptions and was a co-captain of the 2005 Nittany Lion squad that went 11-1, won a share of the Big Ten title and was ranked No. 3. He was voted second-team All-America as a senior and named All-Big Ten three times.
THE ALUMNI STAFFERS
Kincaid is one of 11 Penn State alumni who work for football full-time as Penn State employees. The other 10 are below. In addition to that group is PSU alum Joel Kramer, a volunteer who supports the current players extensively as team pastor.
Dr. Gregory Billy, team physician.
Heidi Erb, assistant to James Franklin.
Lauren Geppart, assistant director of player development.
Tessa Johns-Bostick, football athletic trainer.
Ben Kerr, director of football administration.
Chris “Slim” Mahon, recruiting coordinator for personnel.
Leanne Loudon, performance dietitian, football
Matt Peragine, football athletic trainer.
Destiny Rodriguez, director of external operations.
Shannon Wellman, assistant recruiting coordinator for operations and visits.
There are a host of other Penn State alumni who play part-time and/or supporting roles with Penn State football. They include:
• Broadcasters Jack Ham, who is in both the College Football and NFL halls of fame, Steve Jones and Brian Tripp. Jim Nachtman is assistant AD for media and video production, a wide umbrella that includes a multitude of media platforms. PR staffers Paul Marboe and Matt Rudisill, who assist Kincaid, are PSU grads.
• Beaver Stadium marketing and operations execs Bobby White, a member of Penn State’s 1982 and 1986 national championship teams, and Brad “Spider” Caldwell, whose previous career at Penn State was as the team’s iconic equipment manager.
• Rick Kaluza and Herb Combs, who handle the green stuff for Penn State football. Kaluza, senior associate AD for finance and business, is the head money man for Penn State athletics, which grossed $181 million in 2021-22. Combs is associate AD for facilities management and operations; for over two decades – first as a student and now as a manager, he’s had a hand in keeping the turf in Beaver Stadium top-notch.