Roof leaving Penn State
It’s become evident in the last week that this is no longer the world Penn State football fans used to know.
Just days after Nittany Lion head coach Bill O’Brien explored openings with a pair of NFL teams, secondary coach John Butler has been promoted to defensive coordinator on Wednesday after Ted Roof took the same position with his alma mater, Georgia Tech.
“John did an outstanding job with the secondary this past season and brings tremendous experience, energy and a passion for tenacious defense to the field and in the meeting room,” O’Brien said in a press release. “John quickly developed a great relationship with all our players on defense and special teams and his ability to teach and relate to the players on and off the field will greatly assist in making this an easy transition.”
This will be Butler’s third stint as a defensive coordinator – he filled that post for a year at Catholic after his graduation from that school and for two years at Midwestern State after a two season stint as a graduate assistant with Texas.
Since leaving Midwestern State following the 2000 season, Butler has been an assistant at Texas State, Harvard, Minnesota and South Carolina. Butler is originally from Philadelphia and attended LaSalle College High School with current Nittany Lion strength and conditioning coach Craig Fitzgerald and former Penn State all-Big Ten offensive lineman Keith Conlin.
Led by all-Big Ten cornerbacks Adrian Amos and Stephon Morris, Butler’s secondary helped the Nittany Lions finish 28th nationally in pass defense efficiency despite having four new starters.
Butler was elevated to his new position over long-time Nittany Lion defensive assistants Larry Johnson and Ron Vanderlinden.
Roof’s leaving after one year is a stark contrast to the almost unheard of stability in the last several decades under the late Joe Paterno, when there was very little movement on the staff. Butler, though, is considered to be a rising, promising coaching prospect, and O’Brien addressed in his press conference on Monday his attitude toward movement among his assistants.
“It’s very important to keep your staff intact, but you have to be careful there, too. I think it’s important that these guys want to move up the ladder. You’ve got some fantastic coaches on our staff that are going to have chances, if not this year or other years,” O’Brien said. “I don’t want to hold them back.”
Under Roof, the Nittany Lions were second in the Big Ten in scoring defense and fourth in total defense. Penn State gave up 19.1 points per game to rank 16th in the country and were first in red-zone defense. Roof was known for calling a more aggressive defensive scheme than that for which Penn State had been known.
Roof, who is from suburban Atlanta, also was instrumental in opening recruiting doors for the Nittany Lions in the deep South. Florida cornerback Neiko Robinson, Georgia safety Kasey Gaines, Alabama defensive tackle Parker Cothren and Alabama linebacker Jonathan Walton all committed to Penn State after initially being contacted by Roof.
“I am very appreciative of Ted’s contributions to Penn State,” O’Brien said. “Ted and I have known each other a long time and coached together at Georgia Tech, his alma mater. Ted is a great coach and person. He earned the respect of our players and they enjoyed playing for him. We wish Ted and his family well.”
A 1987 Georgia Tech grad and member of that school’s athletic Hall of Fame, this will be Roof’s second time around as defensive coordinator with the Yellow Jackets: He filled that post on George O’Leary’s staff from 1999-2001. He also was the defensive coordinator at Auburn in 2010 when the Tigers won the national title by shutting down Oregon’s high-octane offense in the BCS championship game.
Roof coordinated the defense – with Butler on his staff – at Minnesota and was the head coach at Duke for four years before that.
Roof cannot officially be named defensive coordinator at Georgia Tech until his background check is completed.
“I’ve known Ted for a long time and I’m excited that he has decided to come back to Georgia Tech,” Yellow Jackets head coach Paul Johnson said. “He’s one of the most respected football coaches in the nation.”