Top 5 Penn State Defensive Coordinator Candidates

Story posted December 10, 2021 in CommRadio, Sports by Dylan Price

Long time defensive coordinator and James Franklin’s right hand man, Brent Pry was recently hired as the new head coach of the Virginia Tech Hokies.

It’s a tough loss for the Nittany Lions as Pry has been a stable force on the coaching staff for over seven years. With lots of worthy candidates, and Ohio State recently taking a big swing and poaching Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles, Penn State needs to answer back. So, without further ado, here are the top five candidates to replace Pry on the sidelines next season.

Elijah Robinson, Texas A&M DL Coach

As a former Penn Stater, Robinson already brings the hometown allure to the table.

He began his career as a coach in 2009 with the Nittany Lions fresh off his playing career’s completion. He served on the staff until 2013 before bolting to Temple to be their defensive line coach.

He worked for former Penn Stater and current Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule until 2017 before jumping to Texas A&M as their defensive line coach.

Robinson is an elite recruiter, gaining notoriety in the Northeast and now down South. Not only that, but he’s made his mark wherever he’s been, helping to legitimize Temple and Baylor’s rush defenses, as well as elevating A&M’s already stout rush defense. Robinson is a rising young coach, excellent recruiter and former Penn Stater, he’d undoubtedly be a slam dunk hire.

Larry Johnson, Ohio State DL Coach

Johnson, another former Penn Stater, was lauded by many as a deserving candidate to replace Bill O’Brien after serving on Joe Paterno’s staff and O’Brien’s, but after Penn State opted to hire Franklin to lead the program, he bolted to the Buckeyes.

Since then, he’s done an excellent job turning around their defensive line play, and helped Ohio State churn out a handful of talented defensive lines over the years.

Johnson would be a great hire, and giving him a promotion, to return to where he spent nearly two decades as a coach would be a really cool full circle moment.

Anthony Poindexter, Penn State Co-Defensive Coordinator & Safeties Coach

Poindexter has been a defensive coordinator before, serving in the capacity at Purdue and Connecticut. The former Virigina football star had a chance to return to his roots and head up the program, but ultimately opted to stay with the Nittany Lions.

He’s flashed his coaching acumen helping players like Jaquan Brisker and Ji’Ayir Brown develop into stars at the safety position, and he himself will soon be a National College Football Hall of Famer. One has to think if the Lions stayed in house, he would be the leading candidate.

Sean Spencer, New York Giants Run Game Coordinator & DL Coach

Spencer is an exceptional recruiter and well regarded coach. He’s familiar with State College, having coached the defensive line here before heading to the pros with the New York Giants.

He’s always been held in high regard by the coaching staff, earning the associate head coach position in 2018. Spencer would bring top tier recruiting, professional experience, knowledge and familiarity with his addition.

The only question is would Spencer step back from a professional coaching job midseason?

Todd Orlando, USC, Defensive Coordinator

With Lincoln Riley heading to USC, he will likely look to bring in a staff of his own which could send Orlando to the job market.

Orlando, born and raised in Pennsylvania, has made his way around the country, coaching for Texas Tech, USC, Utah State, FIU and Texas, among others. Orlando is well traveled, educated and would bring an experienced mind to the fold.

Orlando is also a good west coast recruiter, something Franklin could value.

Dylan Price is a first-year majoring in journalism. To contact him, email