Brent Pry, a hot coaching commodity, enjoys role with Franklin, Penn State
UNIVERSITY PARK — Brent Pry has everything it takes to be an excellent college football head coach.
The intelligence. The personality. The X’s and O’s expertise. The track record. The connections.
Quite frankly, it’s surprising that Pry is not a head coach yet.
Penn State and James Franklin have to be very, very happy about that.
Pry oversees a Nittany Lion defense that ranks second in the country in points per game allowed, a miniscule 8.2. He’s in his third season as defensive coordinator and has worked for his longtime friend, Franklin, since joining his staff at Vanderbilt in 2011.
Pry’s name has come up for potential head coaching jobs in recent years, and it’s known that he interviewed at Georgia Southern in 2015.
There’s speculation he could be in the running if the Buffalo or Vanderbilt jobs open up this offseason. Those would be natural fits because Pry played at Buffalo and was an assistant at Vanderbilt during its most productive era ever, under Franklin.
Pry was on a teleconference Thursday and had this to say about how he goes about looking at other potential jobs.
“My wife and I are so happy here with James and Penn State. My dad coached for 45 years, so I learned early on that’s not something you think about. If opportunities come, you evaluate them and make the best decision for you and your family.
“James has always been very supportive of any opportunity that has come my way, and he’s been a good friend and helped me evaluate things.”
Here’s the thing about Pry, 49, and his current situation at Penn State: He’s in a great spot.
He has a lucrative job where he is greatly valued and can succeed at a very high level. He makes good money. His base salary was listed at $693,503 in 2017-18 — the latest that figures are available — but some people in the know around the PSU program believe Pry’s overall salary package is more than $1 million a year. Perhaps even significantly more.
Leaving Penn State would come with risks. Yes, he’d be making more money and get to run his own program, which are certainly desirable for most coaches. But if he were to go to a Buffalo or Vanderbilt, there’s no guarantee he’d be successful, and losing a lot would bring about criticism and far less job security than what he currently has at Penn State.
“It’s a tricky business,” Pry said. “It’s a lovely profession but a tricky profession, and we’re working for a very, very good man right now (in Franklin). I love the leadership, the university, the administration and the way they’re supporting us. We’re in a good place, and in-season, there’s not time to think about (other jobs).”
For now, Pry is worried about Michigan this week and trying to help keep No. 7 Penn State in the hunt for a Big Ten championship. His defense is a big reason why that’s all possible.
Saturday, he’ll be going up against a former colleague, Josh Gattis, who’s in his first season as Michigan’s offensive coordinator. Gattis was the receivers coach at Vanderbilt and Penn State before leaving for Alabama a couple of years ago.
“Josh and I obviously are pretty good buddies,” Pry said. “His wife and my wife are friends. What we went through at Vanderbilt and Penn State, there’s always a bond there.”
Pry said he doesn’t talk to his players about where Penn State ranks nationally in defense or anything like that. Like Franklin, he is singularly focused on the task at hand of going 1-0 each week.
“We have to do whatever it takes to win the football game,” Pry said. “We address the challenges that each offense presents to us, what we have to take away and what we have to be great at.
“We’ve got a group that plays hard, plays reckless, they’ve got confidence,” Pry added. “These guys work and prepare as well as any group we’ve had.”
The big question is whether this ultimately will be the last defensive group Pry coaches at Penn State. You’ll hear his name a lot in the coming months for job openings, and it will be up to Pry to determine if now would be the right time to move.
The Lions figure to have a tremendous team back next season — one that could compete for the national championship — and it would be tough for Pry to leave given that potential and what winning a title would do for his coaching stock.
As always, Penn State fans should enjoy having Pry around for as long as he’s here. Because you never know how long that will be.