Big Ten: Franklin to PSU 011114

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- James Franklin hasn't even spent one night in Happy Valley, but Penn State's new head coach has already thrown down the recruiting gauntlet against Pittsburgh and other teams in the northeast.

"Our recruiting philosophy," Franklin said Saturday afternoon during his introductory press conference, "we are going to dominate the state. We are going to dominate the region.

"I'm going to call all the high school coaches. I'm calling all the people in the state that we need to come together like never before."

[+] EnlargeJames Franklin
Matthew O'Haren/USA TODAY SportsJames Franklin didn't mince words when talking about recruiting, say that it's his mission for the Nittany Lions to dominate within the state of Pennsylvania.
Franklin emphasized every line about recruiting and spoke passionately during his first-ever news conference as the Penn State head coach. He's been widely regarded as an incredible recruiter -- he reeled in 22 four-star commits during his time at Vanderbilt -- and he didn't hesitate when asked about his high recruiting hopes.

The new coach's bold statement comes after years of PSU routinely losing out in western Pennsylvania. Sure, Penn State has earned commitments of some prospects such as wideout Troy Apke, but it's missed more than it's hit. PSU fell out of favor with ESPN 300 targets such as WR Tyler Boyd (2013 commit; Pitt), ATH Dravon Henry (2014 commit; West Virginia) and DB Montae Nicholson (2014 commit; Michigan State).

Beating Pitt out for recruits in its own backyard is a daring statement. So, a few minutes after answering his first recruiting question, Franklin was given a chance to soften his words. This time, he was asked where his recruiting focus lay -- but he again wasted no time in reinforcing his original point.

"I don't know if I mentioned this before, but we're going to dominate the state," he said matter-of-factly. "That's the first thing we're going to do."

And after that? Well, Franklin said next comes the region, in such states and areas as New Jersey, New York, New England, Virginia and Delaware. And, then, comes the nation.

"I think you sell yourself short when you don't do that," said the coach who got three commitments from California in Vanderbilt's last class.

Of course, Franklin never specifically mentioned Pitt at that point in the press conference. Maybe he'd back down if that was spelled out to him, maybe he'd try to soften up all this talk of dominating and controlling. It was an interesting thing to say, after all, for his first day on the job.

But Franklin just doubled-down on those statements when Pitt was specifically mentioned in one reporter's question.

"When I say Pennsylvania, when I say Penn State, that's the whole state," he said. "That is the whole state. We will recruit every corner of this state, every school of this state, every neighborhood of this state.

"And when I say recruit, not only just the student-athletes. I mean the people of the great state of Pennsylvania. We will recruit everybody, and that is with tremendous respect for the University of Pittsburgh. But we are ... Penn State."

Franklin the man to unite Penn State

January, 11, 2014
Jan 11
7:00
PM ET
Here's a story from James Franklin's three years at Vanderbilt:

The Commodores play their in-state rival Tennessee on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. When Franklin arrived in 2011, students didn't stay on campus for the game, rival or no rival. They went home.

One day, Franklin went into Rand Dining Center, where the campus gathers to eat lunch. He sat down with some students to preach the Commodore gospel. He asked one student if he was staying for the Tennessee game.

"No," the student said. "I'm going home. I already bought my ticket."

So Franklin punched him.

On the arm, and not meanly, but he made his point.

"Change your ticket!" he cried.

Penn State could use a little James Franklin.

"We are going to do everything we possibly can to bring this community back together," Franklin said at his introductory press conference Saturday.

To continue reading, click here.

Notes from James Franklin's introduction

January, 11, 2014
Jan 11
5:56
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James Franklin won more games at Vanderbilt than most people expected. But there should have been no surprise that Franklin won the press conference as he was introduced as Penn State's new head coach on Saturday. Crushed it, actually.

Self-confidence is one of Franklin's more easily identifiable traits. It fairly oozes out of him and is part of the reason why he has been such a terrific recruiter during his career. So Franklin had no problem setting the bar high for his Nittany Lions tenure during a news conference that lasted almost an hour.

[+] EnlargeJames Franklin
AP Photo/ John BealeJames Franklin described his desire to aggressively recruit all of Pennsylvania.
On recruiting, for example, Franklin said, "We are going to dominate the state. We are going to dominate the region." He later mentioned the domination angle a couple more times. He also said he would recruit all corners of Pennsylvania and that his team would primarily be comprised of in-state players, though he'd also recruit nationally. Look out, Pitt.

Did we say confident? Here was Franklin's reply when asked about attendance at Beaver Stadium, which has sagged a bit in recent years:

"How many does the stadium hold?" he asked. "[It will be] 107,000 every single game from here on out. That stadium will be sold out from here on out."

Franklin's predecessor, Bill O'Brien, was uncomfortable having to play the role of Penn State's top ambassador and unifier of the community. The new coach made it clear he embraces that wholeheartedly.

"I think I'm the right guy to come back and unite this state and bring this program back to where I think it should be," said Franklin, a Pennsylvania native. "... The healing process is why I'm here. It's why we're all here. To bring this great university back together."

Franklin said he took all the deans, provosts and faculty leaders out to lunch when he first got to Vanderbilt and will do the same in State College. He plans on reaching out to just about every stakeholder at the university and said he'd never turn down a speaking engagement. In a great line, he added that "if people ask us to blow up balloons in the backyard, we'll do that as well."

He didn't run away from the Joe Paterno faction, either, calling him a great man and saying he was enthralled by Paterno's "success with honor." Franklin said he's talked to several former Penn State players on the phone already and that he has gotten to know and respect Paterno's widow, Sue.

In short, Franklin said all the right things to get the Nittany Lions fan base fired up. Here are some more notable items from his introduction:

    • Franklin was asked about the Vanderbilt scandal in which four players were accused of raping an unconscious 21-year-old woman in June. He called it the most-challenging situation he'd ever been through and said he and Penn State's search committee discussed it thoroughly.

"We were honest and we were upfront that we made decisions quickly and tried to do everything we possibly could to respect the situation," he said.

Athletic director Dave Joyner said the vetting process on Franklin was the most thorough background check used on any hire in school history. The search committee did its due diligence, he said, and spoke to many people at Vanderbilt about Franklin.

"My belief, without a doubt, is James Franklin is a man of extremely high character," Joyner said.

    • The uncertainty at president and athletic director, where new people should be in place by the summer, was a concern for Franklin. But he said he was sold on the larger picture and was confident that Penn State "has a plan and has a purpose." He also called Penn State his dream job, something he said he mentioned to his wife when they started dating. Franklin grew up a Penn State fan and attended a Nittany Lions camp in the 11th grade.

"I thought I was good enough to play at Penn State," he said. "I was not."

  • Franklin said he hoped to be at Penn State a long time. He had interest this offseason from some NFL teams but said, "I'm a college guy. I'm a relationship guy."
  • Franklin said he will sit down with Larry Johnson, who served as interim coach after O'Brien left, and former assistant Ron Vanderlinden, but described himself as "fiercely loyal" to assistants he's worked with in the past. Expect several Vanderbilt assistants to follow him to State College.
  • On his coaching philosophy, Franklin said, "We're going to be multiple-pro style offense, defense and special teams. I'm not a guy that's going to pigeon-hole what we do." He added that Penn State would be aggressive in everything it does, including getting off the bus. And he said the team would take chances and have fun, "and it always helps to have a quarterback." He's pretty excited to coach Christian Hackenberg.
  • Franklin didn't have a lot to say about dealing with Penn State's remaining NCAA sanctions. He said he'd let the administrators handle trying to get those penalties reduced and he'd focus on making the team the best it can be on and off the field.
  • Franklin plans to reach out to Penn State's committed players very soon. Some of them he recruited at Vanderbilt. The ones who chose the Nittany Lions over the Commodores will find themselves at the bottom of the depth chart, he joked.

Penn State has hired former Vanderbilt coach James Franklin to take over the vacant head-coaching position in Happy Valley. With a coaching change coming so close to signing da, there are always recruiting implications, and this one seems to be positive for Penn State.

Reactions from the Nittany Lions’ commitments in the 2014 class have been overwhelmingly positive, including comments from some of the commits set to enroll early.



STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- ESPN 300 receiver De'Andre Thompkins didn't know whom his Penn State coach would be on Monday night. The Nittany Lions' commit only knew the coach he preferred.

"I really hope [James] Franklin takes it," he told ESPN.com, five days before the hire became official.

He wasn't the only one -- four-star wide receiver Chris Godwin felt similarly -- because Franklin's reputation precedes him. He's the gregarious coach who calls recruits "homeboy" and the tireless recruiter who clips two cell phones to his boxers when he's preparing for a night's rest.

[+] EnlargeJames Franklin
Don McPeak/US PresswireJames Franklin was the most successful coach at Vanderbilt in generations, and his outgoing personality is infectious.
He garnered Vanderbilt commitments from ESPN 300 prospects in Florida, Georgia and California. He convinced offensive tackle and Louisiana native Bailey Granier to choose Vandy over Alabama and Florida State. And he reeled in 22 four-star recruits during his time there -- a half-dozen more than Penn State. The Commodores managed a total of just one four-star prospect in the six previous classes.

Franklin's impact on the Nittany Lions' future recruiting classes -- and on overall recruiting in the Big Ten -- should be instant and far-reaching. An ACC coach told CBS' Bruce Feldman that, if Franklin wound up at Penn State, "He'd kill it in recruiting around here."

"He's very different because he's so approachable," said Ricky Bowers, a high school coach at The Ensworth School in Nashville, Tenn., whose team won four consecutive state titles. "He's just different. He's friendly, likable and passionate.

"The only way you wouldn't like him is if you were jealous of him."

Franklin drove to Ensworth before the state title game just to wish Bowers luck. And Bowers said Franklin is that rare type of coach with whom he can just shoot the breeze on the occasional lazy day.

Franklin was characterized by others as an energetic recruiter with an infectious personality -- so Bowers wasn't surprised much by all the NFL attention. After all, Nashville-area recruits looked at Franklin as the man who built up the local college program out of the ashes. Lest you think that's an exaggeration, consider this: Before Franklin arrived in the Music City, the Commodores last boasted a nine-win season in 1915, a full decade before Joe Paterno was born. In the past two years, Vanderbilt has recorded back-to-back nine-win seasons.

"Good gracious, he's got everybody fired up about football," said Marty Euverard, the high school coach at Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville. "He just knows how to build relationships, and I think that's a key component. Some people have a gift; some don't. He's got it."

Penn State's old coaching staff tried to construct new recruiting pipelines. Former defensive coordinator Ted Roof attempted to circle back to his recruiting roads around Georgia and, when he left, safeties coach Anthony Midget focused on his old stomping grounds in Florida. Their spoils? Roof helped reel in two 2013 commits who remain on the roster, defensive back Kasey Gaines and defensive tackle Parker Cothren, from Georgia and Alabama, respectively. Midget didn't grab any in the most recent class.

Compare that untapped territory with Vanderbilt. The Commodores signed three players from California -- and that was just in the last class alone. Vanderbilt's current roster includes players from 21 states. No recruiting area has really been off-limits to the bald coach with the trademark frames.

"He's been able to cast a wide recruiting net at Vanderbilt, one that's broader than any net I've seen cast," Bowers told ESPN.com. "He's honed in on schools that Vanderbilt has not traditionally been in on. When you first see him, he just has this personality, where you like him right away. He's just a nice guy and, yeah, he's a really good recruiter."

Franklin was able to attract top recruits to a cellar-dwelling program and turn it into something special. It's unknown what he can do with a former powerhouse -- whose fans once showed up in the thousands for a 7 a.m. pep rally, and showed up by the handful Wednesday night in snowy, below-freezing temperatures at the airport just to catch a glimpse of Franklin.

Nobody can say for sure the heights that Franklin can take this program, recruiting-wise. But Thompkins and Godwin aren't the only ones who are excited -- and Big Ten newcomers Maryland and Rutgers, two teams in PSU's recruiting footprint, shouldn't be the only ones who are worried.
Penn State is Dream Job No. 2 for James Franklin.

Dream Job No. 1 slipped out of his grasp in 2010, when Maryland hired Kevin Anderson as its athletic director.

In February 2009, Franklin was Maryland’s offensive coordinator and one of the country’s fastest-rising young assistants. He was one of the nation’s top recruiters and locked in to become the program’s next head coach. Franklin was named Maryland’s head-coach-in-waiting, patiently working alongside former coach Ralph Friedgen as offensive coordinator and waiting for his turn as the CEO of the struggling program.

[+] EnlargeJames Franklin
G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty ImagesNew Penn State coach James Franklin, shown in 2010 as Maryland's offensive coordinator, was once Maryland's head-coach-in-waiting.
“I always dreamed of this opportunity,” Franklin, a two-time assistant with the Terps, said at that time. “I think I have a pretty unique perspective on the university and what it’s going to take to be successful here. Really, our plan and our discussion was about continuing to build off the foundation Ralph has laid here and continue to build this program into one of the elite programs in the country.”

How ironic.

As Maryland heads into the Big Ten next season, James Franklin is going to be the Terps’ worst nightmare. (Well, him and Ohio State ...)

He’s already established as a recruiter in Maryland’s backyard, working the high schools of the District of Columbia and the surrounding counties of Maryland. He’s well connected with high school coaches, prospects and their families throughout the Baltimore-Washington-Pennsylvania territories -- all areas that the Nittany Lions have successfully recruited in the past. (Franklin, a native of Langhorne, Pa., versus Mike Locksley in recruiting will be as good as any rivalry in the ACC – or the Big Ten, for that matter.) Franklin is an energetic, passionate young coach who will take over a program that – despite all its lingering issues – still has more resources and support than Maryland.

And yet there was a time when Maryland was the only place he wanted to be.

Franklin used to spend his Thanksgivings at the University of Maryland, where his aunt used to work in admissions. Franklin, a graduate of East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania, had plenty of connections to the area, much as he does to Penn State. When Anderson was hired in 2010, though, he made it very clear that while Franklin could be a candidate to replace Friedgen, there was no guarantee Anderson would honor the coach-in-waiting plan.

In retrospect, it was a smart move by Anderson. Had Franklin stuck around and not been named head coach by January 2012, Maryland would have owed him $1 million. By letting Franklin know there were no promises, it not only opened the door for him to leave on his own, it encouraged the move before Friedgen was even fired. Had Franklin still been on staff when Friedgen was fired, many would have expected Franklin to take over.

So when Vanderbilt called, Franklin had little choice but to answer.

Vandy’s win was Maryland’s loss, as it was impossible not to compare the direction of the programs during Anderson’s tenure.

The Commodores' 24-15 record under Franklin matched the legendary Dan McGugin for the most victories in school history by a coach in his first three seasons. For the first time in the program’s 124-year history, Vandy was ranked in the AP Top 25 in back-to-back seasons. Vanderbilt's 41-24 win over Houston in the BBVA Compass Bowl gave the Commodores back-to-back nine-win seasons for the first time in program history.

Meanwhile, Maryland was thrilled just to get to a bowl game for the first time under Randy Edsall – a bowl game they lost Dec. 27 to Marshall in nearby Annapolis.

While the decision made sense to many at the time and eliminated a sticky situation on Maryland’s coaching staff, Maryland will now continue to be haunted by the one who got away.

The timing of the hire is certainly uncanny.

Once seemingly inseparable, Maryland and James Franklin are heading to the Big Ten together -- and yet they couldn’t be further apart.


Penn State's last coaching search went at a slow, seemingly wayward pace and left plenty of questions, especially about the man being introduced to lead the program on Jan. 6, 2012.

There will be no Bill O'Who moments when James Franklin, officially hired today as Penn State coach, steps to the lectern this afternoon inside Beaver Stadium. Franklin is a known name and a big name in the coaching profession. He has accomplished what few believed possible: He made Vanderbilt not merely relevant in football, but pretty darn good with three consecutive bowl appearances and a 24-15 record. The 41-year-old has been mentioned for seemingly every college and NFL coaching vacancy this year. If Penn State fans weren't familiar with his work before the past few weeks, they certainly are now.

[+] EnlargeJames Franklin
Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesNew Penn State coach James Franklin led Vanderbilt to a 24-15 record.
Franklin isn't a mystery man like Bill O'Brien was two years ago. Penn State is getting a sharp, dynamic coach who can compete with Ohio State and Michigan on the recruiting trail and, despite the lingering NCAA sanctions, should soon make Penn State a contender in a tough Big Ten East division. Some felt sorry for Penn State when O'Brien bolted for the NFL just two seasons after the NCAA imposed unprecedented sanctions on the program, including a four-year postseason ban.

No one is feeling sorry for Penn State now. The only pity party being thrown might be by new Big Ten member Maryland, which tapped Franklin as its coach-in-waiting in 2009 but couldn't keep him in town.

This is a move that carries potential high rewards for Penn State, and also some risks.

Franklin signed the nation's No. 22 recruiting class in 2013, and Vanderbilt's 2014 class currently ranks 29th. He's an exceptional recruiter with national reach, as well as ties both in the state -- he's from Langhorne, Pa., just outside Philadelphia, and played quarterback at East Strousburg University -- and in the Mid-Atlantic. Franklin's time in the SEC should put Penn State in play for more prospects in a region they rarely have entered.

Vanderbilt's current roster includes players from 21 states, including the big three (Texas, Florida and California), but also Big Ten states Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and Pennsylvania.

There has been a lot of talk about Ohio State coach Urban Meyer shaking up the Big Ten with his "SEC-style" recruiting approach. Well, Meyer has company with Franklin. That's not a bad thing for a league that for the most part lags behind in recruiting at the highest levels.

Franklin will fire up Penn State fans, players and recruits when he speaks. He oozes confidence -- some see it as arrogance -- and won't flinch at the NCAA sanctions, the administrative instability and the pro-Joe Paterno section of Penn State's fan base, which frustrated O'Brien at the end of his tenure (but wasn't the primary reason he left). Penn State is an old-school program and Franklin is undoubtedly a new-school coach, but the marriage can be successful.

His hiring also brings some potential red flags.

1. Franklin has had six coaching jobs since 1999 and hasn't remained in one place for longer than five years. Although many believe he's suited for the college game, NFL teams could come calling if he continues to succeed. When top SEC vacancies become available, his name likely will be mentioned. For all his talk of "anchor down" at Vanderbilt, it's debatable whether Franklin will ever truly drop anchor, even if he's back in his native Pennsylvania. The buyouts in his contract will be very telling, as Penn State can't afford to be a steppingstone job.

2. A Penn State program embroiled in a child sex-abuse scandal in 2011 is hiring a coach who had four players accused of raping an unconscious 21-year-old woman in June. A November court filing by defense lawyers requested text messages sent by Vanderbilt coaches that could shed light on what took place. Franklin immediately dismissed the players and hasn't been implicated in any potential cover-up, but Penn State simply can't afford any character issues with its new coach. PSU's vetting of Franklin had better be foolproof or the school will suffer.

3. There's a lot of hype around Franklin, some of which might be overkill. Coaches who win at places like Vanderbilt or Duke or Northwestern tend to get additional credit when it's not always merited. Of Franklin's 11 SEC wins at Vanderbilt, only two came against teams that finished with winning records. He still must show he can beat top teams like Ohio State, Michigan State and possibly Michigan, all three of which he'll see annually in the East division. Vanderbilt's offense ranked no higher than 55th nationally in scoring under Franklin, who has overseen only one truly explosive offense (Kansas State in 2007, when he served as coordinator).

Al Golden would have been the safe choice, but Penn State swung for the fences with Franklin, who will earn up to $4.5 million per season, according to ESPN's Brett McMurphy. Franklin mint, indeed.

There are more potential rewards than risks here, and the fact Penn State could land such a coveted coach under the cloud of sanctions illustrates how the job has improved in two years. Franklin enhances the Big Ten coaching fraternity. That two of the league's past three coaching hires are African-American is an excellent sign after a lengthy drought.

A Penn State program not known for glitz under Paterno has made a flashy, fascinating hire in Franklin.

Buckle up, Nittany Nation. This will be a wild ride.

Penn State hires James Franklin

January, 11, 2014
Jan 11
9:29
AM ET
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- After a nine-day search, the Penn State Nittany Lions are set to introduce James Franklin as their new head football coach at a Saturday afternoon news conference.

Franklin, who coached at Vanderbilt the last three seasons, entertained overtures this offseason from the NFL's Houston Texans, Washington Redskins and Cleveland Browns before agreeing to a deal with the Nittany Lions. He'll earn up to $4.5 million a year in total compensation, a source told ESPN's Brett McMurphy.

"I can't tell you how excited I am to come home," Franklin said in a statement Saturday. "I grew up watching Penn State football and now to be at the helm of such a storied program is a tremendous honor. It's important to me to be a part of a university that strives for excellence in everything they do.

"When football student-athletes come to Penn State, they have a unique opportunity to receive a premium education while playing at the highest level of competition."

Franklin, a Pennsylvania native, becomes Penn State's 16th head football coach and follows in the footsteps of current Texans' coach Bill O'Brien, who left for the NFL after two seasons. O'Brien guided PSU through unprecedented sanctions, levied by the NCAA in response to the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal, and finished with records of 8-4 and 7-5.

Read the full story here.

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