Finding a coach is complicated, given the landscape of college football at Penn State and everywhere else in the 2020s. For Penn State coach James Franklin, there’s been much staff turnover, but the lone holdover from his initial staff is Associate Head Coach Terry Smith.
Smith’s value as a coach is evident by the guys he’s helped send to the NFL, like Christian Campbell, John Reid and Amani Oruwariye. He also has value as a recruiter, helping Penn State to nine straight top 25 classes.
Those things are a large part of Penn State’s recent success. But they’re not precisely what endears Franklin to Smith.
“He’s been invaluable for us on the staff,” Franklin told reporters after this week’s Tuesday practice. “I think he’s got great perspective. You know, he’s also not a ‘yes man.’ You ask him a question; you’re going to get an answer. And for me, I value that. I think a lot of times people in leadership positions say they want that, but then they get in a leadership position, and they don’t necessarily like that.”
Sure, Smith isn’t a ‘yes man.’ He describes himself as a ‘truth-teller’ who’s honest with everyone and isn’t afraid to share his opinion with someone, regardless of whether it’s a recruit, a parent or a fellow coach.
“I have strong beliefs,” Smith said. “If I believe in something, I just speak my opinion. It’s just my opinion, and the thing that I bring to coach into this organization is a diversity of thought. Sometimes, I think outside the box, and it just helps us get to the right conclusion sometimes.”
That diversity of thought is a significant reason Franklin elevated Smith to associate head coach after the 2020 season.
“Terry’s going to tell you his opinion, which for me, in this role, ultimately, I’ve got to make the decision at the end of the day,” Franklin said. “I can’t make a great decision unless I’ve heard from the players. Players that have earned that voice and then the same thing (with the) staff. So he’s been awesome, and he’s continued to be a consistent leader within our program and ambassador outside.”
Before coming to Penn State, Smith was the wide receivers coach at Temple for a season after being the head coach at Gateway High School just outside of Pittsburgh from 2002-2012. Since arriving in Happy Valley, Smith has had a massive impact on the WPIAL pipeline coming to play for his alma mater.
“He’s been highly productive,” Franklin said. “He’s got great perspective not only to the game of football but specifically Penn State. From a historical perspective, as well as what we’ve done in the last 10 years, there’s a ton of value in that. Whether it’s the seniors that have been with them since their freshman year or whether it’s recruiting Western PA and specifically Pittsburgh, he’s been phenomenal.”
More from practice
- How confident is Smith in replacing Joey Porter, Jr., and the cornerbacks getting better in the process? “200%. We saw what happened in the Rose Bowl, he said. “It’s always a tremendous loss, but our job is to replace him and move forward and get better. And I think we have the opportunity to be better in the room.”
- Franklin on cross-training offensive linemen to play the guard and tackle positions: “I think it’s been valuable this spring for multiple reasons to see who are the guys that we think can do and take on that extra responsibility,” he said. “There’s also value in who are the guys that can’t do it, that need to focus on one position, whether it’s outside or inside or whether it’s right or left? I think there’s a ton of value really in both ends of the spectrum on that.”