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PSU's Franklin hopes to keep coach

(Scranton) Times-Tribune (TNS)

Penn State has already had to make one change to the assistant coaching staff since the regular season ended in November, and head coach James Franklin would prefer not to make a second.

When quarterback Christian Hackenberg thanked a number of people on Saturday for his experiences at Penn State, one name was noticeably missing -- his PSU head coach, James Franklin, pictured above.

Georgia Southern might make that difficult.

According to published reports out of Georgia, Georgia Southern is down to three finalists for its vacant head coaching position, and the leader might be Brent Pry, Penn State’s linebackers coach who served as the Eagles’ defensive coordinator and safeties coach in 2010. He also was a finalist for the job the last time it was open before the 2014 season, although Willie Fritz ultimately landed it.

Fritz resigned last week to accept the head coaching job at Tulane.

WJCL-TV in Savannah, Ga., reported that three candidates — Pry, Eagles interim head coach Dell McGee and Charleston Southern head coach Jamey Chadwell — have interviewed for the job, with follow-up interviews scheduled.

Pry is one of the most respected members of Franklin’s Penn State staff, the co-defensive coordinator along with Bob Shoop and assistant head coach, a position Franklin noted is not just a title on this staff.

Pry’s father, Jim, was the offensive coordinator at East Stroudsburg when Franklin was the quarterback, and Brent Pry’s first coaching job came at East Stroudsburg in 1993, as Franklin was winding down his playing career.

“He has just been around football his whole life,” Franklin said. “We go way back.”

Pry has been loyal to Franklin and the rest of the staff — he left Georgia Southern after the 2010 season to join them at Vanderbilt — and Franklin added that he didn’t want to see a coach leave his staff to make “a lateral move,” a philosophy the Penn State administration supported in January when Shoop’s contract was beefed up after he reportedly interviewed to become LSU’s defensive coordinator.

Still, Franklin said any coach who wants to be a head coach and gets the opportunity to do so would receive his blessing.

“On the same hand, I don’t want to lose him,” he added. “I’ve got a lot of respect personally and professionally for Brent Pry. Not only is he valuable on our staff, he’s one of my best friends.”

Still replacing Donovan

Technically, Penn State still has an opening on its coaching staff. It’s clear, though, it won’t be filled by an outside hire.

That said, Franklin will have to do some shuffling with the staff as it is constructed to add a tight ends coach, a job left empty because former offensive coordinator John Donovan held that responsibility before he was fired Nov. 29.

“I have not decided on that yet,” Franklin admitted.

Penn State replaced Donovan with former Fordham head coach Joe Moorhead on Saturday, but in a coaching career that began in 1998, he has never coached tight ends.

Franklin did say Moorhead and quarterbacks coach Ricky Rahne “create some flexibility” within the staff. Unlike Moorhead, Rahne has experience as a tight ends coach, holding that position with Kansas State in 2009 and 2010.

Rahne will serve as interim offensive coordinator for Penn State in the TaxSlayer Bowl against Georgia on Jan. 2.