From 1966 to 2011, the Penn State football program never had to replace their head coach. Joe Paterno walked the sidelines as head coach for the Nittany Lions for 44 seasons. However, over the last two seasons the Penn State program has had to hire two new head coaches, which is something Penn State fans are obviously not accustomed to.
Based on the circumstances; with the Jerry Sandusky scandal, the firing of Paterno, and the NCAA sanctions placed on the program, Penn State was able to somehow hire another primetime coaching candidate in former Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin. Franklin's deal is for 25.5 million dollars over six seasons.
The PSU Board of Trustees have been under a ton of fire since the departure of Paterno. It's also not a secret that Penn State President Rodney Erickson and the trustees took a lot of heat for the way they handled the NCAA sanctions and the Freeh Report. But, I don't think anyone could argue that the university has done a good job of hiring head football coaches over the last two seasons.
Bill O'Brien was the man originally hired to replace Paterno. O'Brien, who recently departed to lead the Houston Texans, coached the Nittany Lions to a 15-9 record in his two years as head man. A mark that is widely regarded as impressive after the sanctions that were placed on the program by the NCAA.
After the 2013 season concluded, rumors started to swirl once again about O'Brien being a top target for many NFL teams. The Texans were the first to knock on O'Brien's door and after he interviewed their offer was too good to pass up.
So, it was on to another media crazed coaching search for the Nittany Lions. After hearing many names connected to the position (Al Golden, Greg Schiano, Mike Munchak) and after numerous conflicting reports, PSU finally hired Franklin. The ex-Vandy coach was the man most fans wanted from the get go and after hearing his remarks at Saturday's press conference it's easy to see why.
Franklin obviously hasn't coached a down yet for the Nittany Lions, but in my opinion I came away from his press conference the same way I did O'Brien's, which was impressed. There's no denying Franklin's tenacity and he said all the right things in order to capture the attention of football fans in Pennsylvania. Now, obviously saying the right things and then doing the right things are two different stories, but let's just say Franklin made quite the first impression.
First and foremost, Franklin is a PA guy, playing high school football at Neshaminy outside of Philadelphia. He then went on to play college football at nearby Division 2 East Stroudsburg University, where he started as quarterback for two seasons, currently holding five school records. Having a guy who knows Pennsylvania, knows the region recruiting wise, and knows how PA people think is an invaluable trait. Franklin wasn't shy about his pride for the Keystone state at Saturday's press conference.
"I'm excited to come home. That is probably the thing that I take the most pride in is coming home," said Franklin.
"I'm a Pennsylvania boy with a Penn State heart, and so excited to be here. I grew up just outside of Philadelphia in Langhorne, Pennsylvania. I think I'm the right guy to come back and unite this state. Unite this state and bring this program back to where I think it can be."
When any new coach college head coach is hired, of course the first thing that comes to mind is recruiting. A good head coach must also be a good recruiter. He must be good in the living room and inspire and motivate a kid to choose their respective institution. Franklin wasted no time getting down to brass tax when it came to the game that is recruiting.
"Our recruiting philosophy, we are going to dominate the state. We are going to dominate the region," said Franklin. "That is going to be our plan, and I'm calling all the high school coaches. I'm calling all the people in the state that we need to come together like never before. I think with everybody pulling the rope in the same direction there is no reason why we can't take this program where everybody wants it to be."
With an attitude like that how can't Penn State fans like this guy?
So far, there have been no defections from the 2013 recruiting class that is currently ranked 24th in the country by most recruiting services. In fact, Franklin has already hauled in two former Vanderbilt commits in three-star defensive end Lloyd Tubman and three-star offensive tackle Chance Sorrell. The current 2013 class has 21 commits with four current commits set to early enroll today in quarterback Michael O'Connor (four-star), De'Andre Thompkins (four-star), Antoine White (three-star), and Tarow Barney (three-star.)
The TIMES NEWS will keep you updated on all the Nittany Lions' off-season news, including updates on who Franklin will be hiring to help him in Happy Valley.