For a man responsible for replacing half of Penn State's defense, a coordinator in only his second year of being the boss, Brent Pry is as relaxed as they come.
On a recent April afternoon, Pry leaned back in his Lasch Building office and perched both feet up on his desk. When asked about the tall task of replacing seven full-time starters, he just smiled.
"We have not sat around and said, 'Oh s***, we lost a bunch of big players. What are we going to do?'" Pry said, glancing out the window at the hills of Happy Valley. "You get excited about the group that's coming back and developing them. If you’re coaching, you love that part. It's a challenge."
Pry is in charge of the largest changing of the guard than any before in the James Franklin era, even when he coached at Vanderbilt. But, the defensive coordinator said, the mood in meeting rooms isn't one of panic.
They're collected. Focused. They know they're going to miss the 1,090 combined tackles that have graduated. They're not happy about losing a senior class responsible for 36 wins, a Big Ten title and enough highlights — the Ohio State blocked kick, the fourth-down stop at Lucas Oil Stadium — to fill up the museum inside Beaver Stadium.
But he believes Penn State's pacesetters of the past have rubbed off on the leaders of tomorrow. Last season's field general may be gone, but their fingerprints are all over this team. That's why Pry is confident about 2018 and beyond.
"We had to be hungry for the success, hungry to work hard. We were 2-2 (in 2016). We lost to Michigan, we had a bunch of guys hurt, and instead of being bashful and sliding away with excuses, they really bucked up and got hungry as heck to win a game and to beat Minnesota," he said. "And the way they did that was going harder than the guy across from them. They just made their mind up. That's how they were going to approach things and not just on Saturday.
"There's just a lot to the fabric of who those guys were that, I believe, is part of this unit today. It's a lasting impression they made."
This spring, Pry has seen that mindset on a daily basis.
Communication. Hustle. Competition.
The likes of Nick Scott, Koa Farmer, Cam Brown, John Reid and Kevin Givens are picking up the pieces, are pushing the pace of practice.
Meanwhile, Pry and his staff — defensive line coach Sean Spencer, cornerbacks coach Terry Smith and safeties coach Tim Banks — discuss personnel every day. With question marks at every level of the unit, "constant evaluation" is a necessity.
"At least twice a week, we're throwing the grease board back, we're staring at that depth chart, and we're talking through guys," Pry said. "You can't go all spring and then make your evaluation."
That's especially true in Penn State's current situation. There is too much uncertainty for conversations to wait.
Givens and Robert Windsor will likely replace Curtis Cothran and Parker Cothren, but who fills in as the third, fourth and fifth options? Out of Scott, Garrett Taylor, Lamont Wade and Jonathan Sutherland, which two will take over at safety for Marcus Allen and Troy Apke? And the big one: Who will replace Jason Cabinda as the commander of Pry's defense at 'Mike' linebacker?
Season-ticket holders and the staff are asking the same questions. But answers may not be as immediate as the former would like.
Pry is confident about this season, but that doesn't mean he has all the answers. Not yet. He said he and the staff "will know more by the end of spring," and even then, only half of the defensive coordinator's evaluation period will be complete.
Pry breaks the offseason up into four phases: winter, spring, summer and camp. At the end of each phase, the coach brings individual players in to discuss "where the gains need to come."
Those conversations — and what becomes of them — are crucial to Penn State's future, near and distant.
Penn State's push for an elusive College Football Playoff berth hinges on Pry's ability to mold the Nittany Lions' budding talent into a cohesive unit, similar to the one that quietly guided Penn State the past couple years.
Unpredictability is a natural worry. But Penn State's defensive mentor is sure the unit will be just all right.
"There's always that concern because you want to see guys reach their potential. And you want to see it when you need it," Pry said. "At the same time I think there's enough competition, there's enough depth that I'm confident. It may not be this guy that's emerging at this spot, but it's another guy.
"I think that right now we're in pretty good shape with that."