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Assistant Terry Smith gets high praise from Franklin: ‘One of our more important hires’

Photo by Penn State Athletics

Most assistant coaches in college football don’t get a ton of recognition, and that’s true for many of the guys on Penn State’s staff, as well.

Coordinators Brent Pry and Kirk Ciarrocca certainly receive their share of notoriety. But there’s another member of the staff who certainly deserves high praise.

The kind of praise James Franklin gave Terry Smith on Wednesday night.

“I think Terry’s been one of our more important hires” Franklin said after practice.

“When you take a job, obviously you want to have familiarity with the state, which I did growing up in Pennsylvania. You want to have familiarity with the conference and the style of play and the different venues. But at the end of the day, there’s also that community knowledge, the historical knowledge that’s so important here at Penn State. And being able to bridge some of those generations. Terry has been instrumental in that.”

Diehard Penn State fans surely know Smith’s story well. He was a three-year starter at wide receiver (1989-91) and had a big senior season in 1991 with 55 catches for 846 yards and eight TDs.

Smith ranks ninth in PSU career receiving touchdowns (15), is 13th in receiving yardage (1,825) and 14th in receptions (80).

After his professional playing career, Smith became head coach and then athletic director at Gateway High School near Pittsburgh from 2002-12. He left the high school ranks to coach receivers at Temple in 2013, then was hired onto Franklin’s staff as cornerbacks coach in 2014.

“Terry is a very, very good football coach,” Franklin said. “As a head coach, he did it at the high school level. I think Terry could be a head coach in college, as well. His experience coaching and playing wide receiver I think helps him at defensive back.

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“I also think Terry, Tim Banks and (grad assistant) V’Angelo Bentley are a really nice combination in terms of playing experience, in terms of coaching experience. … I think they do a damn good job. You look at the success that we’ve had in the secondary, and if you look specifically in terms of producing guys that go on to play at the next level in the NFL — you look at what that list was like before we got here compared to what it’s like now — they’ve done a great job.”

Smith’s value to the coaching staff goes beyond just football.

“Terry just helps in so many different ways,” Franklin said. “He’s an associate head coach, he’s coaching the corners, he’s defensive recruiting coordinator. I think he’s a really good sounding board for me and the players. And obviously his connection with the lettermen and the community.

“You gotta remember, too, another thing that’s cool about Terry, he’s three generations. His dad went to school here, Terry went to school here, and then his son (Justin King) came here as one of the most highly recruited defensive backs in the country, came here and had a great career, then went on to the NFL and had a great career there, and then we hired him back and was working for us. And Terry’s daughter just graduated from LifeLink program as well. There’s obviously deep roots and deep connections.”

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Cory Giger is a 15-year veteran of the Penn State beat and a journalist with 28 years of experience. He has won more than 100 state and national journalism awards during his career, plus he's a voter for the Heisman Trophy in football and Wooden Award in basketball.

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