I spent nearly an hour on Saturday sitting in the Beaver Stadium media room staring at and listening to the man who was selected to be the next leader of the Penn State Nittany Lions. James Franklin, the former coach at Vanderbilt, is now the 16th football coach in Penn State history. After everything that happened at the school, and the thought just two years ago that the football program may never be the same, Penn State has now turned a corner.
With the hiring of Franklin, Penn State suddenly becomes relative again on the national scene. Franklin is one of the best your coaches and was the hottest name among teams looking for a new coach over the past few weeks. Not only was he considered for the prestigious job at the University of Texas, but he was also rumored to be a candidate for several vacant NFL jobs.
Sitting in the room listening to his press conference, I quickly realized that Franklin is exactly what Penn State now needs. As perfect as Bill O’Brien was for the situation two years ago, Franklin is perfect now.
His enthusiasim about coaching came out very clearly. He kept voicing how happy he is to be at Penn State and how being the head coach of the Nittany Lions is his “dream job.”
Penn State is in a much better place now than it was when O’Brien took over. While the former coach navigated the program through a tough time and built a solid framework, it’s now Franklin who is tasked with helping the program take the next step. From what I gather, he’s up to the challenge. He seems passionate and determined to make Penn State great once again.
That starts with bringing in the best players.
‘We are going to dominate the state and region in recruiting.”
Franklin made reference to that several time throughout the press conference. As both a fan and someone who covers the team, that’s exactly what I want to hear. An aggressive attitude that helped him bring top talent to Vanderbilt, a school that annually resided in the basement of the SEC Conference. His ability to recruit is extra important at Penn State, considering the program still has to deal with NCAA sanctions, including a bowl ban for the next two seasons.
When O’Brien left recently, some feared that Penn State would go through some rough times, especially if talented recruits decided to leave the school. However, in Franklin, Penn State hired a guy who will not only keep the current players, but also continue to add talent. Before his first day as Penn State head coach was over, Franklin already added two new recruits. There are also recruits at Vanderbilt who may decided to follow Franklin to Happy Valley.
I left with the feeling that Franklin gets what Penn State is about. Though he didn’t attend the school, he classified himself Saturday as “A Pennsylvania Boy With a Penn State Heart.” He made references to the late Joe Paterno and talked about the motto: “Success with Honor.” From what I gathered by his comments, Franklin is committed to making Penn State great.
I am excited for what the future holds for Penn State football. The leader of the Nittany Lions seems bound and determined to make the program an annual powerhouse.
Follow VBR Lead Editor Barry Leonard Jr. on Twitter