New Penn State coordinator preaches aggressive defense

PENN STATE FOOTBALL

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New Penn State defensive coordinator John Butler promises to put an aggressive defense on the field. But it might not be the type of aggressiveness football fans expect.

"Aggressive doesn't mean we're going to go blitzing every snap," Butler said on a conference call with reporters Thursday, one day after his promotion was announced by the school.

"Aggressive means we're going to change coverage looks. We're going to change front looks. We're going to move players around so they can't scheme to block them a certain way all the time.

"We're going to try to take the chalk out of the hands of the offensive coaches and put it into our hands."

Butler, 39, was promoted to defensive coordinator after Ted Roof left the program Wednesday to become defensive coordinator at his alma mater, Georgia Tech. Butler was Penn State's secondary coach this past season.

Before arriving at Penn State, Butler spent one season at South Carolina, where he was the Gamecocks special teams coordinator and also helped coach the linebackers. He coached the special teams and linebackers at Minnesota from 2007-10.

Though he plans some changes to the defense, Butler said it will still be similar to the one Roof installed last season. That defense allowed an average of 19.1 points per game, the second-best mark in the Big Ten Conference.

In creating an aggressive defense, Butler hopes Penn State's opponents will have a challenging time preparing for games against the Nittany Lions.

But he will try to design his schemes so that they are simple enough for his players to easily grasp.

"We're going to be simple enough that our players are going to play really fast," he said.

Butler has been a defensive coordinator before -- for Midwestern State from 1999-2000 and in 1997 for his alma mater, Catholic University.

Known for his animated and excited demeanor on the sideline during games, Butler said he will not try to change much as he assumes his new position.

He still plans to work closely with the secondary, a unit that led Penn State's passing defense to allow 226.2 yards per game, eighth of 12 teams in the Big Ten.

"I'm going to maintain a coaching role," he said. "I'm not going to be a walk-around coordinator."

Butler doesn't anticipate changing his sideline demeanor much, either. One of the best things he said he has learned from his professional influences: Be yourself.

"Players and co-workers can sniff out a phony in a heartbeat," he said. "You've got to be yourself. ... I think you've got to be who you are. If I showed up at practice one day and had my hands folded and was quiet the kids would say, 'Who is this clown?' They'd see through it,"

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Michael Sanserino: msanserino@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1722 and Twitter: @msanserino.


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