No one likes to be the guy that follows a legend like Joe Paterno, but to be the coach to follow the two seasons of Bill O'Brien, superlative as they were, carries a not-so-different kind of pressure from fans.
The several huge TVs in Altoona's Champs Sports Bar and Grill displayed James Franklin's press conference Saturday evening.
The first question directed toward Franklin: How long will you stay?
Franklin said all the right things throughout the press conference. His resume at Vanderbilt is full and impressive. And fans at Champs Sports Bar resumed their meals and conversations satisfied that Franklin appeared by all measures to be excited to be Penn State's head football coach.
But many fans like Penn State Student Dylan Foose of Altoona are guarded and skeptical of whether Franklin won't decide like O'Brien to leave Penn State for another job that suits him sooner than later.
"He said he's here for the long run, but we all know how that goes," Foose said.
"Penn State's a great program. Once he does well-and he will-he'll get an offer from someone else and I think he will take it."
Other fans said they had negative feelings toward O'Brien for leaving for the NFL.
"I figured he wasn't done yet," Shawn Lovrich of Altoona said.
But Lovrich and other fans said they can expect Franklin to pick up where O'Brien left off. Some said Penn State is better off with Franklin than O'Brien. Through his career at Vanderbilt, Franklin has set up a recruiting pipeline that O'Brien did not have.
"He took a poor Vanderbilt program and was able to win in the Southeastern Conference. That's hard to do," season ticket holder and 2001 Penn State graduate Brad Lantz said.
"The future of Penn State football is looking up," he said.
Even an Ohio State fan at Champs was excited for Penn State fans.
"He'll be a great coach. If he sticks around three or four years, it will really help them," said Chad Chapman, an Ohio State fan from Altoona.
He said he wants to see Franklin continue the work O'Brien started to keep Penn State's football program strong in spite of fall out from the Jerry Sandusky Scandal.
Franklin, however, is not scandal-free.
"He has a little bit of baggage, but nothing that got him in trouble," Brandon Nicodemus of Altoona said of the accusations that four of his Vanderbilt football players raped an unconscious 21-year-old woman.
Franklin was cleared of any wrongdoing.
It's Franklin's reputation as a recruiter and leader that precede him. But so does the sooner-than-expected departure of O'Brien and the fatherly image of Paterno before him.
Fans like Boe Latchford of Tyrone have concerns with Franklin coming into an atmosphere where Joe Paterno's fans and supporters hang onto a desire not only for a coach but for a coach willing to build a storied career at Penn State.
However long Franklin stays with Penn State, Latchford said realistic expectations for him are fair and simple: "to have a winning record."
Other fans agreed.
"I think he can take the team to higher levels," Penn State student Jake Filler of Altoona said.
"He can get them back to a championship."
Mirror Staff Writer Russ O'Reilly is at 946-7435.