Ted Roof is returning home. John Butler is receiving a high-profile job in his home state.
Penn State’s coaching staff experienced a major change Wednesday when Roof resigned as defensive coordinator to accept the same position at Georgia Tech.
The search for Roof’s replacement didn’t last long. Coach Bill O’Brien promoted secondary coach John Butler to defensive coordinator shortly after Georgia Tech announced Roof’s hiring.
“I was kind of shocked that he left,” said former cornerback Stephon Morris, a member of Penn State’s 2012 senior class. “It took me by storm. It was like, ‘Wow, coach Roof is leaving.’ But once I heard coach Butler was replacing him, I was happy.”
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Roof, a Georgia Tech alum, is the first coach to leave program since O’Brien’s hiring last January. This will be Roof’s third job in less than 14 months. He left Auburn following the 2011 season and accepted the defensive coordinator position at Central Florida. He was then officially hired by O’Brien on Jan. 13, 2012.
O’Brien and Roof have a strong friendship. The duo worked together at Georgia Tech from 1995-2002 and Duke from 2005-06.
But Roof, who couldn’t be reached for comment, apparently wanted to return home.
The 49-year-old Roof hails from Lawrenceville, Ga. He attended Central Gwinnett High School in suburban Atlanta. He earned four letters from 1982-85 playing linebacker under former Georgia Tech coach Bill Curry.
Roof is the full-time replacement for Al Groh. Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson fired Groh midway through last season. The Yellow Jackets went 7-7 in 2012. They ended the season by defeating USC 21-7 in last week’s Sun Bowl.
“I’ve known Ted for a long time and I’m excited that he has decided to come back to Georgia Tech,” Johnson said in a statement. “He’s one of the most respected football coaches in the nation.”
With Roof gone, Butler becomes Penn State’s third defensive coordinator in the last 53 weeks.
Butler, a southeast Pennsylvania native, attended La Salle College High School in suburban Philadelphia. He has never served served as a Division I defensive coordinator. He joined Penn State’s staff last January after one year coaching special teams and linebackers at South Carolina. The 39-year-old Butler has also coached at Minnesota, Harvard, Texas State, Midwestern State and Catholic University.
The fiery Butler — one of his memorable sideline actions involved aggressively marking a punt in front of a sideline official at Nebraska — coached a depleted secondary this past season that included just three upperclassmen who joined the program as scholarship players. Butler, who was not available to reporters Wednesday, also worked with the kicking and punting games.
“John did an outstanding job with the secondary this past season and brings tremendous experience, energy and a passion for tenacious defense to the field and in the meeting room,” O’Brien said in a statement. “John quickly developed a great relationship with all our players on defense and special teams and his ability to teach and relate to players on and off the field will greatly assist in making this an easy transition.”
Morris said he’s “very confident” Butler can handle his new responsibilities. Butler’s transition should be aided by the presence of defensive line coach Larry Johnson and linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden. The program must now find a new secondary coach.
“It’s not going to be easy,” Morris said. “Of course, there are going to be some bumps in the road. But he’s going to surround himself with coach Vanderlinden and coach Johnson. Those are two proven coaches who have a lot of talent in the NFL. They always get the job done at Penn State. I guess it’s to be determined who will be coaching the secondary. Coach Butler should be fine. The passion and camaraderie he brings to the team is big.”
Penn State’s defense allowed 19.1 points and 353.4 yard per game in 2012. The Nittany Lions played an aggressive 4-3 defense under Roof, who replaced Tom Bradley. Roof and Butler implemented various man-to-man coverage schemes, a deviation from the zone formations used by Bradley.
In his short time at Penn State, Roof helped the program expand its southern recruiting efforts. The 2013 recruiting class currently features four defensive recruits — Alabama linebacker Jonathan Walton and defensive lineman Parker Cothren, Florida safety Neiko Robinson and Georgia defensive back Kasey Gaines — from the Deep South. Roof also helped in last year’s recruitment of Steven Bench, a Georgia native competing to replace Matt McGloin as the starting quarterback.
“I am very appreciative of Ted’s contributions to Penn State,” O’Brien said. “Ted and I have known each other for a long time and coached together at Georgia Tech. Ted is a great coach and person. He earned the respect of our players and they enjoyed playing for him.”
Georgia Tech will be Roof’s sixth coaching stop since 2007. His sons, T.D. and Michael, were star football players at Mount Nittany Middle School.
Follow Guy Cipriano on Twitter @cdtguy.