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Penn State defensive coordinator takes Virginia Tech head coaching job

Brent Pry was on James Franklin's coaching staff for the last 11 years, eight at Penn State. He returns to Virginia Tech more than 20 years after spending time there as a defensive graduate assistant.

Penn State defensive coordinator Brent Pry spent on 11 years on James Franklin's staffs, eight of those with the Nittany Lions.
Penn State defensive coordinator Brent Pry spent on 11 years on James Franklin's staffs, eight of those with the Nittany Lions.Read moreBarry Reeger / AP

Brent Pry, who spent 11 seasons on James Franklin’s coaching staffs, the last six as Penn State’s defensive coordinator, has accepted the job as the new head coach at Virginia Tech, the ACC school announced Tuesday.

Pry, 51, a native of Altoona, Pa., coached for three seasons at Vanderbilt as co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach under Franklin, then left for Happy Valley in 2014 after Franklin was named to lead the Nittany Lions’ program. After two seasons as co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach, Pry was promoted to defensive coordinator and continued to coach the linebackers.

Pry replaces Justin Fuente, who was fired in mid-November after leading Virginia Tech to a 43-31 record over six seasons. The new position is a homecoming for him; he served for three years as a defensive graduate assistant for the Hokies from 1995-97 under legendary head coach Frank Beamer.

» READ MORE: Penn State’s PJ Mustipher says working with teammates keeps his mind off his season-ending injury

“I was privileged to have been a part of the program as the Hokies established themselves as a national power, consistently proving they could beat anyone in the nation,” Pry said in the university’s statement announcing his hiring.

“Even after I departed Blacksburg, I always continued to appreciate Virginia Tech, its great players, its championship teams, and its wonderful traditions from afar. The resources, facilities, university backing of athletics, and phenomenal fan sports that Virginia Tech enjoys made this a very desirable situation.”

Franklin, who was the quarterback at East Stroudsburg in 1993 when he met Pry, then the outside linebackers and defensive backs coach, said in the statement that he was “truly excited for Brent and his family.”

“He’s a passionate leader who’ll inspire his team to play their best football,” he said, “but his greatest strengths are his dedication, relatability and humility. It’s those characteristics combined with his deep understanding of X’s and O’s that will serve Virginia Tech and the entire Blacksburg community best.”

Pry’s defense led the Big Ten in red zone defense at 66.7%, including a 35.7% mark on touchdowns allowed. It also was second in points given up (16.8 per game, seventh in the FBS), third in pass efficiency defense (eighth in the FBS), and sixth in total defense (344.3 per game, 36th). Its 19 takeaways were tied for third in the conference.

Pry, who at Penn State developed strong recruiting ties to Virginia, will have to do some building at his new school. The Hokies compiled a 25-24 record the last four years and enter a 2021 bowl game with a 6-6 record. They averaged 24.8 points (93rd nationally) and 369.5 total offensive yards (89th) last season, and were 73rd in total defense with a 386-yard average.

Big Ten honors

The Big Ten named redshirt senior punter Jordan Stout as its punter of the year. The Nittany Lions were the nation’s No. 2 team in net punting, and Stout finished 10th individually with a 46.6-yard average. He hit 34 of his 62 punts inside the 20, and 18 inside the 10.

In the vote of both coaches and media, the Nittany Lions had a pair of first-team All-Big Ten players in defensive end Arnold Ebiketie and safety Jaquan Brisker, both fifth-year seniors. Ebiketie, a transfer from Temple, ranked sixth in the nation with 17 tackles for losses and his 9½ sacks tied him for 17th. Brisker intercepted two passes and posted 5½ tackles for losses, second in the Big Ten among defensive backs.

Senior defensive tackle PJ Mustipher, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the season’s sixth game at Iowa, received second-team honors in the coaches’ vote along with senior linebacker Ellis Brooks, the Lions’ leading tackler.

Third-team honors in the coaches’ vote went to senior safety Ji’Ayir Brown, redshirt sophomore cornerback Joey Porter Jr., and junior linebacker Brandon Smith, while senior defensive end Jesse Luketa earned a third-team berth in the media balloting.

Fifth-year senior cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields was named honorable mention by coaches and media. Mustipher, Brooks, Brown, Porter, Smith, and sophomore linebacker Curtis Jacobs were named honorable mention by the media, and Luketa earned coaches’ honorable mention.

The All-Big Ten team on offense will be announced Wednesday. Senior wide receiver Jahan Dotson received third-team mention Tuesday as a return specialist.