WILLIAMSPORT - New Penn State football coach James Franklin mixed in some Xs and Os talk with his recruiting messages during the Penn State coaches caravan stop Tuesday at Penn College's Bardo Gym.
Franklin spoke to a sellout crowd of 250, along with baseball coach Rob Cooper, men's volleyball coach Mark Pavlik and men's hockey coach Guy Gadowsky on the first day of the final week of the caravan.
In response to one of several submitted questions read by Penn State Alumni Association Executive Director Roger Williams, Franklin said again he plans to use multiple formations, and that all the tight ends on the roster from Bill O'Brien's roster will be used to the best of their ability.
He likes tight ends who can create mismatch problems and disguise formations, such as creating throwing situations from a three-tight end, one-receiver formation where defenses normally expect run.
"The issue now is tight ends view themselves as big receivers," Franklin said. "They have to embrace the physical aspect of the game, and we made great progress this spring. We lost Allen Robinson, and replacing his production this fall is important."
Incoming freshman Mike Gesicki from New Jersey, a McDonald's All-American game nominee in basketball, was described as being ideal at the position.
Franklin was also asked if he plans to use a fullback, and he said yes - as part of his multiple formations. He said everything from exploding out of a two-tailback, three-tight end goal line formation to five wideouts and three tight ends would be in play.
"We believe we don't do the same thing all the time," Franklin said. "Up-tempo offenses all the time, people get used to that. Multiple tempos, multiple games. We'll keep defensive coordinators uncomfortable. And we'll get non-traditional formations out of personnel defenses don't see. A lot of times, coaches make it more complicated than it is."
Selling the brand
Franklin said he likes the new Nittany Lion logos placed outside both Beaver Stadium scoreboards, noting he heard of traffic jams as people slowed to take pictures.
"I was in Alabama on Sunday, coming back from the airport, and over the tip of the trees you see the logo on top of the stadium," he said. "It will be even cooler at night when it's lit up. Reinforcing the messages over and over."
Franklin credited Cooper with the recruiting slogan "dominate the state" used in baseball, and also Mike Hazel, director of football operations, for some of the other campaigns, such as Twitter hashtags #psunrivaled and #107Kstrong.
Franklin said Hazel is behind much of what goes on, and that he sees most of it first.
"When a kid comes into our facility, not only do they respect history and traditions but feel like the program is relevant now," Franklin said. "One of the first things I do in the morning, I study what's going on in terms of creative ideas in marketing, branding, recruiting, a big push in sports science."
Making the move
Franklin said his wife, Fumi, and daughters Sholi and Addie will make the move to State College in July after completing the elementary school year in Nashville, now that they've bought a house.
He's said his wife was going to need some adjustment for the attention the family would receive here, since she wasn't comfortable with people leaving gifts on the doorstep or opening the door to people she doesn't know.
"In theory we did the right thing, but being away that long is hard, hard on me, and she said it's been harder on the oldest [Shola] but the youngest thinks she's cool and independent," he said. "Skype and Face Time helps, but I haven't seen them since the spring game and want to get some balance back."
Cooper was happy with the exposure last week from turning two triple plays in a game vs. Michigan State but hoped next time the team wound up on ESPN it would be from a celebratory dog pile at the College World Series.
"It's only happened three times, and it's happened twice in college baseball," Cooper said. "Once with us, and it happened once in Major League Baseball. Tells you how rare it is. I wish I could say it's something we practiced."
Cooper, like Franklin, hasn't yet moved his family to State College from Dayton, Ohio, where he coached nine years at Wright State.
He said his boys, Jake and Tyson, wanted to see two things when Cooper took the PSU job last year - a "Whiteout" football game and the Little League World Series.
"I was a West Coast kid, from Sacramento, and when you got home it was must-see TV," he said. "I was always upset when another country beat the United States."
Franklin said he'd never been to the Series despite wanting to, but has been through Williamsport numerous times on recruiting visits.
He added he had an invitation in his pocket to throw out a first pitch this summer at a Williamsport Crosscutters New York-Penn League game, saying he'd accept if his schedule permitted.
He then reiterated his biggest mistake from his opening press conference was promising to blow up balloons at kids' birthday parties, saying he received "17,000 emails."
PSU baseball coach sees downside of travel teams
WILLIAMSPORT - Penn State baseball coach Rob Cooper thinks 194 pitches from a high school kid was too many since he said the pitching motion is too violent for kids not to have a pitch count.
But he thought there was one positive from Rochester (Wash.) player Dylan Fosnacht's 14-inning district tournament start in an age where elite prospects go from showcase game to showcase game and throw an inning at a time in front of scouts and radar guns only to leave before the game ends, he said.
"This young man, he wanted to compete and get the chance to win, that's a positive," Cooper said. "With the way travel ball is now, and the summer circuit and showcase and everything, that's hurting our game. Kids aren't learning how to compete and win."
This past year, Cooper also coached USA Baseball's 18U national team to a gold medal in the International Baseball Federation U18 World Cup in Taichung, Taiwan.
"Same thing with these travel tournaments. The mindset for these kids is, 'I show up and get my schedule ahead of time, a game at 10, 2, and 7," Cooper said. "The thing is, there's another tournament next weekend and you lose that 10 a.m. game, it's 'Eh, I've got another four games.' You've got to learn how to win and compete, and these kids are just borrowed for the weekend. Guys throw three innings, and we're not developing team camaraderie for baseball."