UNIVERSITY PARK -- John Butler was the special teams coordinator at South Carolina last season, so when Bill O'Brien hired the Philadelphia native in late January, many Penn State fans assumed Butler would take a similar position in State College.
Butler will have a big hand in Penn State's specialty units. But he won't be alone.
"I will help get the thing off the ground but we're all going to be involved," Butler said last week. "We're all going to have our own kind of phase that we're going to lead up, and I'll involved with assisting everybody, and then I'll have my own phase. ... It's going to be a collective effort, and those are when it works the best, because everybody is involved."
Penn State designated various special-teams responsibilities to various assistant coaches during the last few years under Joe Paterno. Some fans have long wanted one special-teams coach overseeing all the areas but Butler, who was hired to coach the defensive backs, indicated that O'Brien's staff will use a similar formula.
"You need all hands on deck with special teams," he said. "We're going to have a minimum of five coaches involved and one coach specifically in charge of each unit, but five coaches working those units."
The Nittany Lions return most of their key specialists from last season, including kicker and punter Anthony Fera and punt returner Justin Brown (Chaz Powell, who averaged 27 yards per kickoff return, will not be back). But players in every special teams unit, just like those on offense and defense, will face an adjustment period as Penn State moves into its first coaching regime change in 46 years.
"Special teams is going to be an opportunity for us to establish field position, and opportunity to gain momentum going into the next series and that's what our kids are going to have to understand, and Billy is in full support of that," Butler said. "It's going to be an aspect of our program that we're all involved in as a coaching staff and the players are going to be involved collectively as well."