Butler plans to maintain approach

When Ted Roof took over as Penn State's defensive coordinator last winter, the two words that continually came up when he'd talk about his philosophy were "multiple" and "aggressive."

John Butler (center) still plans to take a hands-on approach with Penn State's secondary in his new role as coordinator.

His successor said Thursday that he wants to keep the same philosophy as the Nittany Lions prepare for 2013.

"We're going to be simple and our players are going to play very fast," new defensive coordinator John Butler said Thursday on a conference call with reporters. "It comes down to what our players know and how fast they can play. we're just going to try to create problems for the offense and become difficult for the offense to prepare for."

Butler, who was promoted from defensive backs coach to his first coordinator position Wednesday shortly after Roof accepted the defensive coordinator position at Georgia Tech, said he plans, with the help of linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden and defensive line coach Larry Johnson, to take a similar approach to what the Nittany Lions did in 2012 -- namely, a little bit of everything.

"Aggressiveness doesn't mean we're going to blitz them every snap," he said. "We're going to change coverage looks, change front looks, move players around so they can't be blocked all the time. Try to take the chalk out of the hands of the offensive coaches and try to put it in our hands a little bit.

"When teams are having success against us, we're gonna change some things. That's aggressive."

Butler, who has also coached at South Carolina, Minnesota, Harvard, Texas State and Midwestern State and was a graduate assistant at Texas, said each of the stops along his journey prepared him for the next.

"I think a couple things you learn is you've got to be yourself. Players and co-workers can sniff out a phony in a heartbeat," he said. "You have to be excellent communicator, prepared to put the time in, and when you get the chance to meet with players, you've got to be prepared, be able to communicate that plan and you've got to be able to sell that plan."

It didn't take Butler long to earn a reputation as one of the most fiery -- and demonstrative -- coaches on Bill O'Brien's staff. He was constantly animated and loud at both games and practices. Asked Thursday if his demeanor would change with his added responsibilities, Butler said not to count on it.

"I think you've got to be who you are," he said. "If I showed up to practice one day and I had my hands folded, the kids would look at me and say, 'Who's this clown?' They can see through that."

Butler put together what wound up being a solid secondary despite dealing with serious depth issues due to injuries and attrition. He said he plans to remain involved with the secondary in some role, though he deferred any questions about his replacement to O'Brien. Penn State will likely continue to divide the special teams responsibilities among several assistant coaches, Butler said, though exactly which ones haven't been determined yet.

The Nittany Lions will have to deal with some significant personnel losses on defense, including the departures of Michael Mauti, Gerald Hodges, Jordan Hill and Stephon Morris, but Butler feels like the returning players won't face the same learning curve they did last year, even if they'll have another new coordinator.

"It's repeating a college level class," he said. "They've been through spring football, been through training camp, a season, and when we install all of that this spring, it's going to be the same. It's repetitive learning. It's not a lot of new stuff here; it's reviewing what we already know. It's not as much learning, it's continued development, and that comfort level allows them to play faster. The longer you're in a system, the more comfortable you're going to be."

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