New Penn State defensive coordinator John Butler puts heart into job

John Butler, Penn State's new defensive coordinator, will still be animated.
John Butler, Penn State's new defensive coordinator, will still be animated.
Posted: January 12, 2013

Anyone watching Penn State's sideline at Beaver Stadium last season noticed that secondary coach John Butler was the most animated member of the staff, feverishly urging on his players and often appearing as if he would run on the field to congratulate or scold one of them.

Now that the 1991 La Salle High graduate has been promoted to defensive coordinator for the Nittany Lions, he said he's not going to change.

"It's who you are," Butler said Thursday during a conference call. "If I showed up at practice one day and I had my hands folded and I was very quiet, the kids would look at me and say, 'Who's this clown?' They can see through that.

"I understand what I have to do. I don't think it's going to be an issue. Sometimes when people see my demeanor on the sideline they may misunderstand. I'm incredibly competitive. While it may appear that I might have lost my mind, I haven't."

Butler, 39, was promoted Wednesday by head coach Bill O'Brien after Ted Roof departed to become defensive coordinator at Georgia Tech.

O'Brien chose Butler over two more experienced members of his staff, defensive line coach Larry Johnson and linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden, the only two holdovers from the Joe Paterno era.

Butler said that while he doesn't know what Johnson and Vanderlinden thought about the move, he is confident they will be "100 percent in."

"I think I have a good enough working relationship with both of those guys, but I can't look into a crystal ball," he said. "But I made it very clear to them I hope that they continue in their roles and be great leaders of our defensive players."

Butler said the defense won't change much from 2012. He wants an aggressive defense with multiple looks but simple enough for players to pick up and play at a high tempo.

Penn State's defense lost a number of seniors who were major contributors to the team's 8-4 record - linebackers Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges, ends Pete Massaro and Sean Stanley, tackle Jordan Hill, and cornerback Stephon Morris. Butler said that quality players would return, including defensive end and Northeast High graduate Deion Barnes, but that the team would be different.

"Every team takes on a new identity," he said. "We're trying to cultivate and develop leaders for this 2013 football team. That will take a life of its own. But I think we have a talented enough group as long as we stay healthy and move this thing forward."


Contact Joe Juliano

at jjuliano@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @joejulesinq

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