Last night, Penn State parted ways with its wide receivers coach Taylor Stubblefield. Now, James Franklin and the Nittany Lions will be tasked with a national search for their next wide receivers coach. Who could it be? Here are some names that could make sense.
Bobby Engram, Former Wisconsin OC
It should be no surprise, but this is the name that every Penn State fan’s head went to when the wide receiver job opened up. Perhaps the greatest Penn State receiver of all time, Engram spent eight seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, first as the wide receivers coach and later the tight ends coach. He left the Ravens last offseason to become the offensive coordinator at Wisconsin, but with Paul Chryst out and Luke Fickell in, Engram wasn’t retained as the OC for the Badgers.
Could a reunion happen at Penn State as the wide receivers coach? It’s possible. Beyond the 2022 season with Wisconsin, Engram does have college coaching experience, having spent the 2012 and 2013 seasons at Pitt. During his short time at Pitt, he proved to be one heck of a recruiter, landing two of the four four-star prospects from the Panthers’ 2013 and 2014 classes: Tyler Boyd and Adonis Jennings.
It’s a simplification of things, but it really comes down to: does Engram want to be a college position coach? There’s a reason he was in the NFL for almost a decade, and there’s a reason he only left to become a play-caller. The position coach life in college is a grind on the recruiting trail and — while Engram has showed the ability in that department — it’s gotten a whole lot more complicated in the last 10 years.
JaMarcus Shephard, Washington WR Coach
I brought Shephard up in the past when the co-OC/tight ends job opened, but back then he was the Purdue co-OC and wide receivers coach. He ended up leaving the Boilermakers last offseason, giving up the co-OC title for a $650,000 salary as Washington’s wide receivers coach, associate head coach, and passing game coordinator. Pretty sweet deal.
Straight up, Shephard’s a stud. Young guy, great recruiter, and proven results at Purdue (David Bell and Rondale Moore) and Washington (Rome Odunze and Jalen McMillan). He’ll need a bag to leave Washington for Penn State, but talk about a statement hire for James Franklin and AD Pat Kraft.
Joe Dailey, Carolina Panthers WR Coach
Dailey coached in college from 2008-2021, with his most recent college job being at Boston College where he developed a reputation as a strong coach and recruiter. He made the jump to the NFL last offseason, but with the Panthers staff coaching most of this season in limbo, it remains to be seen if Dailey will stick in the NFL or go back to college. If he goes back to the college game, Penn State would make a lot of sense for the North Jersey native.
Chris Beatty, Los Angeles Chargers WR Coach
Sticking with NFL coaches, Beatty has been the Chargers wide receivers coach for the last two seasons. Prior to that though, he was a longtime college wide receiver coach, having stops at Pittsburgh, Maryland, Virginia, Illinois, Wisconsin, West Virginia, and Vanderbilt. The latter school is an important one for an obvious reason: Beatty was James Franklin’s first wide receivers coach at Vandy. This one only becomes somewhat plausible should the Chargers make a coaching move after their debacle on Saturday night, but Beatty might be a name to know.
Lonnie Galloway, North Carolina WR Coach
Another name that I’ve brought up in the past for previous openings, Galloway has quite the mid-atlantic resume, having coached wide receivers at East Carolina, West Virginia, Wake Forest, Louisville, and the last four seasons at North Carolina. Like Dailey, Galloway is a strong recruiter and someone who has seen strong production from his wideouts.
George McDonald, Illinois WR Coach
Outside of one season in 2004 when he was a tight ends coach, McDonald has only coached wide receivers, with stops at Minnesota, Miami, Syracuse, NC State, and now his alma mater Illinois. Similar to Galloway, he’s proven to be a strong teacher and recruiter. It remains to be seen if he has a farm, though.
Marques Hagans, Virginia WR Coach
Hagans is from Hampton, was a star quarterback for UVA, and has only coached at UVA, starting as a graduate assistant in 2011. He’s been the target for multiple Big Ten and SEC jobs, but yet has stayed loyal to the Hoos. Quite honestly, it’s getting to the point that I would be surprised if Hagans left for another college job, but he’d be an excellent hire and should be a main target for Penn State.
Zohn Burden, Duke WR Coach
Another Southern Virginia product, Burden has deep ties to the talent-rich 757 area, and has coaching stops at Richmond, Old Dominion, Virginia Tech, and Maryland. 2022 was his first year at Duke, but it was certainly a fruitful one with Jalon Calhoun and Jordan Moore both going for at least 60 receptions each.
Kenny Guiton, Arkansas WR Coach
The former Ohio State backup quarterback, Guiton has already been a wide receivers coach for four FBS programs from 2017-2022: Houston, Louisiana Tech, Colorado State, and Arkansas the last two seasons. He’s very much on the younger side being only 31 years old, but it’s clear he’s a rising star in the industry.
Jeff Faris, UCLA TE Coach
Another young coach, Faris was a 2011 Duke alum that then coached with the program from 2012-2021. He held a number of titles while with the Blue Devils, having coached wide receivers, tight ends, quarterbacks, and eventually became the co-offensive coordinator. After David Cutcliffe left Duke, Faris did too, making his way to UCLA this past season.
Calvin Lowry, Penn State Analyst
So this is interesting. When Lowry was brought back as an offensive analyst, I mentioned that this could be a Ty Howle situation of “work as an analyst for a year, let’s see how you mesh with the program, and maybe a full-time *on-the-field role will pop up.” Well, as you would have it, that process was sped up by like 350 days with last night’s news.
While I think it’s still possible that Lowry is a candidate for the job in some sense, it just seems like a weird timeline. I mean, it’s not like Stubblefield shocked Franklin by taking another job somewhere else and now all of sudden the wide receiver job is available; this was clearly Franklin letting go of Stubblefield. And with that in mind, what would be the point of hiring Lowry as an analyst if you could just hire him as the wide receivers coach if that was the plan all along?
Weirder things have happened, but I would be pretty surprised if Lowry is the choice this go-around.
*For the record, the NCAA is now allowing analysts to coach on-the-field during practice weeks so Lowry will be doing that now...legally.
Billy Fessler, Akron OC/QB Coach
I don’t actually think Fessler will be in the picture for this job, but I just like to bring up the fact that I squatted on the take that Billy Fessler will be Penn State’s head coach by 2035 and it’s looking *pretty* *pretty* good after Joe Moorhead elevated him to offensive coordinator earlier this month.