On Sunday, James Franklin named former Indiana head coach Tom Allen as Penn State’s next defensive coordinator. Allen coached the Hoosiers from 2017 through 2023 and was recently fired after a 3-9 season. Allen went 33-49 across his seven-year tenure.
Allen’s defenses at Indiana have struggled the past few seasons, ranking 88th in total defense this season and 120th in 2022. However, Penn State’s defensive coordinator spot has become, not just a stepping stone to a head coaching job, but also a career rehabilitation program.
After Brent Pry took the head job at Virginia Tech, Manny Diaz, who was recently fired as the head coach of Miami, took over as Franklin’s DC and built the Nittany Lions’ defense into the best in the nation. Diaz was just hired to be the head coach of Duke, his second head coaching opportunity, Allen will likely be looking for a second chance somewhere else too.
Franklin often speaks about prioritizing having his coordinators act as the “head coach” of their side of the ball, which makes Allen a perfect fit. With his head coaching experience, he’ll be able to reside over the excellent defense that Diaz constructed and presumably prevent a drop-off.
Throughout the process, Franklin also stated his interest in a coach that would not greatly alter the defense. Allen checks that box as well, running a similar defense scheme to what Diaz implemented the past two seasons.
The players should buy in to a coach like Allen, especially one who nearly beat them in Happy Valley this season. However, Franklin may need to do some damage control on his staff. Penn State wanted to hire someone with previous head coaching experience, but Franklin’s excellent safeties coach and interim co-defensive coordinator Anthony Poindexter had expressed interest in the job.
Poindexter is an important part of the staff and could be ready to interview for other coordinator positions after not receiving the promotion.