The first seven days of the new year have been eventful for Penn State football.
Beginning with a 24-10 loss at the Outback Bowl against No. 21 Arkansas, the Nittany Lions saw their disappointing 2021 campaign come to a close.
In the time since:
– Head coach James Franklin lost a key internal staffer with Michael Hazel’s departure. He was named Brent Pry’s chief of staff at Virginia Tech.
– On the coaching staff, Joe Lorig accepted and was introduced in the special teams coordinator role at Oregon.
– Penn State hired Stacy Collins as Lorig’s replacement as special teams coordinator, outside linebackers, and nickels coach.
– Long snapper Chris Stoll announced his return for a sixth season in the program.
A barrage of personnel movement and news, we’re recapping the impact as the program continues to take shape for 2022.
Here’s look at three things we learned, two outstanding questions, and one prediction to emerge this week.
This is the 3-2-1:
Three things we learned
1) Penn State strength coach Dwight Galt is calling it a career
This one is big.
Spending all eight seasons with Franklin at Penn State, Galt wraps a career spanning more than three decades. And the impact is extensive for the Nittany Lion football program.
For Franklin, the dependable ear and sage insight offered from Galt through the years – in every facet of the program and life – was among the most critical elements cited in a statement congratulating the veteran strength coach.
“The last 11 years, he has been a keystone of our staff and my right hand man,” Franklin wrote. “As good of a coach as Deege is, he is an even better man and he has been a father figure to so many of our guys throughout our time together. I will miss our talks and walks but know he is only a phone call away.”
Not to be lost, of course, is Galt’s record as a strength and conditioning director.
Credited universally with maximizing the showings of Penn State products at the NFL Combine and into the league, Galt regularly molds some of the game’s most gifted athletes.
Penn State has not yet announced a replacement for the position.
2) Joe Lorig is out. Stacy Collins is in.
Franklin acknowledged in the Outback Bowl postgame press conference that Lorig was being pursued.
Monday, Oregon made it official.
Announced in the afternoon, the Ducks delivered one of Franklin’s most praised staffers the opportunity to return home. A native of the Seattle, Washington area, Lorig’s lateral move to the University of Oregon was his lifelong dream, he said.
“Growing up in the Pacific Northwest and attending college in the state, the University of Oregon has always been my dream job,” Lorig said. “I am extremely grateful to Coach Lanning for this incredible opportunity to work with him again, and I am very excited about the outstanding staff that he has assembled. Over the years, I have gotten the opportunity to work at many well-respected Universities alongside exceptional coaches, but I have always sacrificed living close to family. I’m beyond happy to say that I am coming HOME. Go Ducks!”
A major influence in bringing Jordan Stout to Penn State ahead of the 2019 season upon his hiring, Lorig regularly garnered Franklin’s praise.
“I think Joe Lorig is excellent,” Franklin said “I think he’s done a really good job, not only with the scheme, but just culturally. Getting everybody bought into it. He’s got a really good way about him. He’s got a really good system and how we operate. Some of it is unique and some of it is very simplistic, and it’s a really good combination of those two things.”
In Lorig’s place, Penn State hired Stacy Collins from a one-year stint as special teams coordinator for Boise State.
A 24-year veteran of college football coaching with a journeyman’s resume, Collins’ biggest contribution to the Broncos proved to be a combined seven blocked kicks, four kicks and three punts, both of which ranked among the nation’s best last season.
3) PJ Mustipher is back. Rasheed Walker isn’t.
Penn State’s staffing movement wasn’t the only news of significance for the program this week.
And the news was mixed for the Nittany Lions offensive and defensive lines.
To the positive, captain DT PJ Mustipher revealed via social media that he would be back for a fifth season with the Nittany Lions. After suffering an injury at the start of the Week Six loss at Iowa, one that would prevent Mustipher’s return, his return marks the third captain to announce a return for 2022, joining quarterback Sean Clifford and safety Jonathan Sutherland.
In the other direction, Walker’s announcement came in the wake of a disappointing fourth year in the program. A constant presence on Penn State’s offensive line at left tackle, Walker was a two-time third-team All-Big Ten selection through his career.
1) Who will replace Galt?
Galt’s direct apprentice for the past 11 years, Chuck Losey, appears the most likely candidate.
Spanning the Vanderbilt and Penn State years, Losey has deep roots as the Associate Director of Performance Enhancement.
Penn State has not yet announced its plans for the transition.
2) What’s next in the transfer portal?
Going back to Franklin’s signing day statement, a short list of needs for the Nittany Lions becomes crystal clear.
Already welcoming Western Michigan receiver Mitchell Tinsley through the transfer portal, Penn State’s task isn’t done.
As evidenced by Walker’s departure, and the overall performance of the unit this season, a need continues to exist up front. In addition to those two spots, Franklin also noted needing a defensive end, “possibly” a defensive tackle (though Mustipher’s return could lessen the urgency there), plus linebacker.
“Linebacker, D-line on the defensive side of the ball. And then on offense, offensive line, and then possibly wide receiver,” Franklin said. “We’ll see how that plays out, whether it’s the second signing day or whether it’s the transfer portal. There are a lot of things going on, a lot of moving parts right now.”
Penn State will be disappointed with the inaugural On3 NIL100
The results are more favorable for Penn State on the college football-only list, and the Nittany Lions have a host of NIL-quality prospects coming into the program.
But in only placing Jahan Dotson and Sean Clifford on the On3 NIL100 on Friday afternoon, it will likely act as another warning for Penn State football at where it is and where it needs to be moving forward.
Ahead of the Outback Bowl last week, athletic director Sandy Barbour spoke about having room to grow in the space.
“Because of where we focused on from an educational standpoint, I think our student-athletes who are engaging with us, engaging with NIL, which I think at this point is somewhere between a quarter and a third, I think that will grow over time,” Barbour said last week. “I think those that are participating, that are engaging, are actually doing very well. That will evolve.”
Among Penn State’s Big Ten competitors, Ohio State football placed five players on the initial release with quarterback C.J. Stroud third overall. Michigan football put seven on the list, led by Aidan Hutchinson.