Penn State suffers more departures, but quickly hires special-teams coordinator

JON SAUBER
Centre Daily Times (TNS)
Penn State offensive lineman Rasheed Walker looks on during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021, in College Park, Md. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

The Penn State football program suffered two more departures this week.

PSU head coach James Franklin, however, didn't waste much time in filling one of the positions.

The Nittany Lions’ latest departures are the team’s best offensive lineman and one of the program’s top assistant coaches.

Starting left tackle Rasheed Walker announced Monday afternoon that he's foregoing the rest of his eligibility and entering the 2022 NFL draft. Walker made the announcement via his personal Twitter account.

In addition, special-teams coordinator Joe Lorig was hired by the University of Oregon and head coach Dan Lanning, where he'll be the Ducks’ special-teams coordinator and nickels coach. Oregon made the hire official Monday night.

Tuesday, however, Franklin announced the hiring of Stacy Collins to replace Lorig. Collins, who has 24 years of collegiate coaching experience, joins the Nittany Lions after spending the 2021 season as Boise State’s special-teams coordinator and edge coach.

Walker started 32 games for the Nittany Lions in his career and appeared in 36 in his four seasons. The left tackle missed the last three games of his career and was seen on crutches during the week before Penn State's 24-10 Outback Bowl loss to Arkansas.

The offensive tackle's departure brings Penn State's early offensive departures to two after star wide receiver Jahan Dotson announced in late December that he'll be leaving early for the draft. Walker was a bright spot along an offensive line that struggled in 2021.

Penn State will have to replace Walker and Eric Wilson along the left side of the offensive line, but the options to replace the former were able to get reps due to his injury. Landon Tengwall earned the start against Rutgers after an injury to Olu Fashanu kept him out, James Franklin said at his pre-Outback Bowl news conference.

Fashanu earned the nod in the game against Arkansas and has the prototypical size to replace Walker at 6-foot-6, 313 pounds.

Penn State will need Fashanu and others to step up as it looks to take a step forward in 2022 in offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich's second season at the helm.

Lorig's exit and Collins' hiring: Lorig, meanwhile, was hired by Penn State in 2019 and spent three years leading the program's special teams and coaching the team's outside linebackers.

He's the second coordinator to leave after defensive coordinator Brent Pry departed to become the head coach at Virginia Tech.

Franklin didn't deny the Ducks' interest in Lorig, which was initially reported the Thursday before the team's Outback Bowl loss to Arkansas.

"There's a lot of things that factor into this, as you guys could imagine, some professional and some personal," Franklin said following the Outback Bowl. "But we'll see how that goes. I think you guys know I've been pretty adamant in the past about the type of moves, lateral moves, but there's also some factors when it comes to where guys are from. Both Joe and his wife are from there, so that factors into this thing as well."

Lorig, from the Pacific Northwest, earned his bachelor's and master's degrees at Western Oregon University and was the football program's secondary coach in 1997 and 1998, the first job of his career.

During the 2021 campaign, Collins’ special-teams unit at Boise State blocked three punts, which tied for seventh in the nation, and four kicks overall to rank ninth in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Of the three blocked punts, two were returned for touchdowns. Under Collins, the Broncos finished fifth in the nation and led the Mountain West Conference in punt returns with a 15.77 yards per return. In addition, Boise State’s kickoff return defense was second the MWC and 36th in FBS with a 19.03 average.

Collins guided kicker Jonah Dalmas to first-team All-Mountain West accolades. Dalmas was 26-for-28 on the field goals, including a school-record 26 consecutive attempts, and 38-of-39 on extra points. Punt returner Stefan Cobbs earned All-Mountain West second-team honors. He posted an 81-yard punt return for a touchdown.

Prior to Boise State, Collins spent five seasons (2016-20) at Utah State, including the 2020 season as the co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach. He held the role of special-teams coordinator and running backs coach in 2019.