I came out with this list last year and wanted it to be an evergreen article that I updated every offseason. With the coaching carousel settled a bit, this was the perfect time to update. Below, you’ll see blurbs from last year, but the ones with an * have been updated as the coach was on the move.
Matt Rhule, Carolina Panthers, Head Coach
Big season up ahead for Rhule. The Panthers were a competitive 5-11, but “competitive bottom 10 finish” won’t cut it when the team is paying you $62 million.
Jeff Nixon, Carolina Panthers, Running Backs Coach
Nixon coached under Rhule at Baylor, serving as the team’s running backs coach and co-offensive coordinator. Also a State College High School graduate.
*Bobby Engram, Wisconsin, Offensive Coordinator
2022 Update: After eight years on the Baltimore Ravens coaching staff, Engram has moved back to the college game to take over as the Wisconsin offensive coordinator. His son, Dean, is on the team while he coached at Pitt with head coach Paul Chryst.
*Al Golden, Notre Dame, Defensive Coordinator
2022 Update: Like Engram, Golden is headed back to the college game after over half-a-decade in the NFL as he takes over as Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator. If Golden is successful in South Bend, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he popped back up for some east coast ACC head coaching gigs.
Elijah Robinson, Texas A&M, Defensive Line Coach
Penn State has, allegedly, made some big pushes to hire Robinson in consecutive offseason, but he has remained at A&M. Next move for Robinson should be a defensive coordinator gig.
Terry Smith, Penn State, Cornerbacks Coach
Ty Howle, Penn State, Tight Ends Coach
*John McNulty, Boston College, Offensive Coordinator
2022 Update: McNulty spent two seasons at Notre Dame as the tight end coach, but now moves onto Boston College where he’s back in an offensive coordinator role.
Calvin Lowry, Tulsa, Wide Receivers Coach
Lowry has been a mainstay at Tulsa, serving as the program’s wide receivers coach since 2015. He got his start into coaching serving as a graduate assistant for former safeties coach Brian Norwood at Baylor.
Kevin Reihner, Old Dominion, Offensive Line Coach
Former player and GA, Reihner is already an offensive line coach at the Group of Five level at just 28 years old. We’ll see where things go, but could be a bright future ahead for the Stanford-Penn State graduate.
Nyeem Wartman-White, Defensive Line Coach, New Hampshire
After spending two seasons as a graduate assistant for Joe Moorhead at Mississippi State, Wartman-White was named New Hampshire’s defensive line coach in March 2020.
*Matt Zanellato, Offensive Analyst, UMass
2022 Update: Zanellato is back at the FBS level, taking an offensive analyst role with Don Brown and UMass.
*Alan Zemaitis, Recruiting Coordinator, Penn State
2022 Update: After years at Susquehanna, Zemaitis made the move to Penn State as a recruiting coordinator. From all accounts, he has been an A+ hire — which makes sense given his leadership ability as a player.
Deion Barnes, Penn State, Graduate Assistant (Defense)
The former Big Ten Freshman of the Year came back to Happy Valley for the 2020 season, serving as a graduate assistant that works with the defensive line. Wouldn’t be shocked if in 5 years, Barnes is a household name in the industry.
*Wendy Laurent, Tight Ends Coach, Dartmouth
2022 Update: After a few years with Penn State as a graduate assistant, Laurent moved onto a full-time staffing role at Dartmouth where he works with the tight ends.
*Billy Fessler, Ohio State, Graduate Assistant (Offense)
2022 Update: I have already called for Billy Fessler to be Penn State’s head coach by 2040, and that seems well on track as he is already an FBS position coach, getting hired by Joe Moorhead at Akron as its quarterbacks coach. I personally can’t wait for the Fessler Era to commence.
Michael Shuster, Old Dominion, Graduate Assistant (Offense)
Like a few others with Penn State ties, Shuster’s working for Ricky Rahne at Old Dominion. With the way James Franklin talked about him, he’s someone who I think could come back around to Happy Valley sooner rather than later.
*Dan Connor, Penn State, Defensive Analyst
Linebacker U great Dan Connor is back in Happy Valley after four years as Widener’s defensive coordinator. Goes without saying, but that made a lot of Penn State fans happy. Now, let’s get Paul Posluszny and Sean Lee.
*Jan Johnson, Virginia Tech, Defensive Analyst
With Brent Pry at Virginia Tech, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that his staff will likely have Penn State connections. One of them? Former linebacker Jan Johnson, who is joining the Hokies as an analyst.
*Joe Brady, Carolina Panthers, Offensive Coordinator
2022 Update: The “Joe Brady NFL Offensive Coordinator” thing didn’t quite work in Carolina with Sam Darnold, as he was fired midseason by fellow Penn Stater Matt Rhule. Brady is sticking with the NFL though, taking over as quarterbacks coach for the Buffalo Bills. Might have more success with Josh Allen than Sam Darnold.
Andrew Jackson, West Virginia, Defensive Line Coach
Like Brady, Jackson was a part of the 2016 GA class. Although he hasn’t quite reached the heights of Brady, it’s clear he’s well-respected as he was named to West Virginia’s coaching staff heading into the 2021 season. He had previous stops at Fordham, James Madison, and Old Dominion (never coached a game thanks to COVID). If John Scott Jr. leaves any time soon, I would wager Jackson is James Franklin’s first call for the job.
*Ryan Smith, Northwestern, Cornerbacks Coach
2022 Update: After a couple seasons with Virginia Tech, Smith opted to leave the Hokies and Brent Pry for Northwestern.
*Tyler Bowen, Virginia Tech, Offensive Coordinator
2022 Update: So the whole Urban Meyer in Jacksonville thing didn’t work out, meaning Bowen made his way back to the college game to lead Brent Pry’s offense at Virginia Tech. He’s only 32 years old, but Bowen will absolutely be a head coach someday.
Mark Dupuis, Old Dominion, Wide Receivers Coach
Another Moorhead-Rahne connection, Dupuis coached the wideouts at Fordham before taking a GA gig with Penn State. He’ll serve under Rahne as ODU’s wide receivers coach.
Kevin Smith, Old Dominion, Special Teams Coordinator/OLB Coach
Smith spent the 2017-2019 seasons as a GA for Penn State, coaching the defensive line and linebackers. We’ll see what he can do at PSU-lite.
Tommy Galt, Assumption, Offensive Coordinator/OL Coach
The last GA on that 2016 staff, Galt spent his first year after Penn State with Fordham as its offensive line coach. Since then, he’s settled into an OC/OL coach role with D-II Assumption University.