Lions add two to football coaching staff

The Penn State football coaching staff increased by two on Monday, with one assistant spot still open.

Head coach Bill O'Brien announced the hirings of Jim Bernhardt as the Nittany Lions’ special assistant to the head coach and director of player development, and Craig Fitzgerald as the strength and conditioning director.

Bernhardt served as the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Brown from 1990-92 while O’Brien was a linebacker and defensive end with the Bears. In 1993, Bernhardt was Brown’s offensive coordinator and offensive line coach.

From 1994-2003, the Long Island native coached high schools in central Florida, which included Bishop Moore, Seminole and Dr. Phillips High Schools.

Since then, Bernhardt has served as the director of football operations at UCF in 2004, followed by a stint as the Golden Knights’ running backs coach from 2005-06, before later returning to his hometown to coach Long Beach (N.Y.) High School in 2008.

Fitzgerald joins the Lions after serving as the director of football strength and conditioning for three years at South Carolina alongside Lions’ secondary coach John Butler.

Fitzgerald worked at Maryland from 2000-05 as an assistant director of strength and conditioning. From 2003-04, he worked with O’Brien when the Lions’ head coach handled the Terps’ running backs.

The Philadelphia native is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA) and the Collegiate Strength & Conditioning Coaches Association (CSCCA).  He replaces former Lions’ strength and conditioning coaches John Thomas and Jeremy Scott.

Fitzgerald and Bernhardt join a Lions staff that includes: Butler, defensive line coach Larry Johnson, running backs coach Charles London, wide receivers coach Stan Hixon, offensive line coach Mac McWhorter, defensive coordinator Ted Roof, tight ends coach John Strollo and linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden.

The NCAA limits all head coaches to nine assistants and neither Bernhardt nor Fitzgerald count against O’Brien’s cap.

Before he becomes full-time with the Lions, O’Brien will continue to coach the New England Patriots’ offense until the conclusion of the Super Bowl against the New York Giants, which takes place this Sunday.