Meet the Coaches: Ron Vanderlinden

When Bill O'Brien announced during his first press conference that he was retaining Larry Johnson, I was sitting at my favorite watering hole and every Penn State fan in the place began spontaneously clapping like infants that just saw a big red ball bounce in front of them. We couldn't help ourselves it was a small nugget of good news in an otherwise pit of self loathing and despair. It got me thinking that maybe... just maybe BOB would also bring back Ron Vanderlinden.

When Vandy became Penn State's Linebacker coach way back in 2001 I was giddy because I loved the guy and knew he was a top-notch coach. When he turned down other coaching offers and chose to stay at PSU, I was downright ecstatic. Imagine how great I felt when, shortly after announcing LJ's return, O'Brien announced the retention of Vanderlinden.

In the world of Penn State football, it was complete for me. All the other coaching changes would come and go, but the two guys that I felt were the core of Penn State's great defenses in the last decade were still on board. Some semblance of normalcy had returned in a chaotic time.

Playing Experience. Vandy has had success in just about every stage of his career and his college days are no exception. Vanderlinden was a four-year starter at center for Albion College, twice earning All-MIAA conference honors, and was part of the 1976 and 1977 team that was inducted into Albion College Hall of Fame. The ’77 team went undefeated at 9-0.

Coaching Experience.

Year School Job
1978 Bowling Green Graduate Assistant
1979-1980 Michigan Graduate Assistant
1981-1982 Ball State Offensive Line
1983–1991 Colorado Defensive Assistant
1992–1996 Northwestern Defensive Coordinator
1997–2000 Maryland Head Coach
2001–2011 Penn State Linebacker Coach
2011–2012 Penn State Co-Defensive Coordinator
2012-Present Penn State Linebacker Coach

Vandy made his hay at Northwestern where he was part of a Wildcats team that won the Big Ten championship in 1995 and a co-championship in 1996. Northwestern was mired in mediocrity before Vanderlinden joined the staff and after he left for the Maryland head coaching job they went back into the crapper. That could be a matter of coincidence but one thing is for sure, his defense was the driving force for Northwestern’s title run led by two-time Bednarik Award winner Pat Fitzgerald the current coach.

Vanderlinden inherited a team that was sub-500 at Maryland in 1997 but could not turn things around, and was fired in 2000. His successor, Ralph Friedgen went 31-8 in the next 3 years with the guys Vandy recruited. One could argue that it was Friedgen’s coaching that won those games, except for the fact that he went 5-6 the following two seasons after Vandy’s recruits would have graduated.

He started at Penn State in 2001 as linebacker coach and has taught the likes of Paul Posluszny, Dan Connor, Sean Lee, and NaVorro Bowman, all on NFL rosters. He was also instrumental in the development of Cameron Wake who is currently terrorizing NFL offenses and was named a 2010 All-Pro.

Cupboard. This is Penn State, we are Linebacker U son; our cupboard is never bare. The only loss comes in the form of Nate Stupar to graduation and he will be missed, but back are three of the starters from 2010. Also back to the starting lineup (hopefully) is Michael Mauti who was starting ahead of Stupar before tearing an ACL. Outside linebacker Gerald Hodges and middle linebacker Glenn Carson also return and sprinkle in Khairi Fortt and you have one of the best linebacking corps in the Big Ten.

We’re not sure what defense O’Brien will bring to the table but he did say in an interview that he likes attacking defenses. That comment gave me a Sportsgasm, imagine how it made the linebackers feel? The prospect of dropping 1 or more linebackers behind enemy lines at a more frequent rate than Penn State fans have seen in a long time makes me smile just typing it.

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