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Thursday, January 10, 2013
Butler doesn't plan to change PSU defense

By Brian Bennett

John Butler says Bill O'Brien informed him on Wednesday morning that he'd been promoted from Penn State's secondary coach to its defensive coordinator. Butler simply thanked O'Brien and asked what the head coach wanted.

"It wasn't like there was a surprise party," Butler said Thursday on a conference call with reporters.

And Butler hopes that the transition from Ted Roof -- who left after one year as the Nittany Lions' defensive boss for Georgia Tech -- follows a similar business-as-usual path. Butler said he shared a lot of the same philosophies as Roof and that the system, terminology and approach would remain the same with him in charge in 2013.

"We're going to maintain consistency," he said. "There's not going to be any universal changes in what we do."

What the Lions like to do, he said, is present multiple looks to the offense in their fronts and coverages while playing with aggressiveness and physicality. The key is being able to make adjustments on the fly. He pointed to the season finale against Wisconsin as a great example of that. After trailing 14-7 at halftime, the Lions dominated most of the second half and won 24-21 in overtime.

While Penn State loses many outstanding seniors from last year's defense -- Gerald Hodges, Michael Mauti and Jordan Hill chief among them -- Butler said, "We feel like we have a talented enough group, as long as we stay healthy, that we can move this thing forward." And whereas last year the defense had to learn a whole new system and terminology, the returning players will have a smoother time this year, even under a new coordinator.

"For them, it's like, 'OK, it's not like we're learning a lot of new stuff here,'" Butler said. "'It's just getting better at what we already know.'"

Butler said veteran defensive assistants Larry Johnson and Ron Vanderlinden will help maintain that consistency and said both coaches are "fully invested" though they may have been passed over for the coordinator job.

Butler also said that he'll remain involved with the secondary, and it will be determined later if he'll coach the safeties or the cornerbacks. He also expects to continue to have a big hand in recruiting.

In his first year in State College, Butler became known for his very demonstrative style during practice and on the sideline during games. Will he change that now that he's a coordinator? Like the defense itself, don't expect any makeovers.

"If I showed up at practice one day and had my hands folded and was very quiet, the kids would say, 'Who's this clown?'" he said. "Sometimes, people see my demeanor and misunderstand. I'm extremely competitive, and I have the ability in those situations ... while it appears I might have lost my mind, I haven't."