Commentary: Franklin confident he’ll link past, future
UNIVERSITY PARK – James Franklin is 1-0.
New coaches, especially in high-profile jobs like Penn State, know it’s important to win the introductory press conference, and Franklin delivered a decisive performance Saturday before a packed Beaver Stadium media room.
He was dynamic, well-spoken, enthusiastic and humble, but of all the characteristics he showed, one stood out: This guy is confident.
Franklin conveyed a strong belief in himself and what he plans to achieve at the wheel of the Nittany Lions.
Those plans start with recruiting, the philosophy for which he pledged, “We’re going to dominate.”
And: “We’re going to be aggressive in everything we do. When we get off the bus, we’ll be aggressive.”
It was that kind of attitude that made him a “unanimous” choice of the selection committee, PSU President Rodney Erickson said, adding he considered Franklin “a take-charge kind of person.”
Erickson also called Franklin “inspiring,” and clearly Vanderbilt, a doormat in the Southeastern Conference for practically its entire existence, recruited and played with inspiration in stunning Florida, Georgia and Tennessee last season and putting together consecutive 9-4 seasons.
With “world class” facilities and a football tradition he hailed as “unrivaled,” Franklin sees Penn State providing him with the platform to build on his Vandy success and lead the Nittany Lions to Big Ten and national championship contention.
“I think I’m the right guy to unite the state and build this program where everybody wants it to be,” he said.
To do that, Franklin plans to help mend the feelings of the last two years.
Though he did it well, particularly upon arrival, Bill O’Brien was never comfortable being the face of the university. While O’Brien took the job two years ago, you get the distinct impression Franklin really wanted it.
And he seems eager to play a lead role in helping a community continue its recovery from the Sandusky scandal.
“The healing process is why I’m here,” he said. “It’s why we’re all here, to bring this great university back together and try to unite the former players, the current players, the alumni, all the people.”
To that end, he said former PSU players like Matt Millen, LaVar Arrington, Todd Blackledge have reached out. Sue Paterno issued a statement wishing him well. The two met on a Nike coaches trip last year.
Franklin also has fond memories of JoePa.
“Every chance I got, whether it’s the [annual coaches] convention and I saw Joe [Paterno], I was that guy that walked up and introduced myself,” he said.
When the two were recruiting against each other, Franklin joked that, as an assistant at Maryland, he could barely talk his way into the Pennsylvania high schools, and if Paterno was recruiting the same player, “They shut the entire school down and had an in-school assembly.”
Paterno left a “tremendous foundation,” Athletic Director Dave Joyner said, and O’Brien’s bridge through the worst of the sanctions have set the stage for James Franklin to be, Joyner said, “The right choice to take us to the next phase of Penn State football.”
And how confident is the new Lion king? This confident:
“107,000 [capacity] from here on out,” he boldly predicted. “That stadium will be sold out every single game. I believe in what this place is about and where it’s going.”
Since his next job is to get everyone else to join him in that belief, Saturday was a good start.