Franklin excited, nervous about trip
James Franklin is excited for his players to get to travel to another country for the season opener, but the Penn State coach also suggested the trip to Ireland in August will be a hassle in some ways.
“It’s a logistical nightmare,” Franklin said Saturday during his stop in Altoona for the Blair County Sports Hall of Fame banquet.
The Nittany Lions will play Central Florida in the Croke Park Classic in Dublin on Aug. 30. The game is meant to be a reward for the PSU players since they can’t go to a bowl game, but it also has lost some of its luster after Bill O’Brien’s departure to the NFL.
O’Brien and his mentor, UCF coach George O’Leary, set up the game. Franklin joked Saturday that it was going to be two Irish guys in O’Brien and O’Leary, and now he will have to call himself “O’Franklin.”
The logistics issues PSU will face for the game include traveling a couple of days early to a foreign country, getting passports for everyone involved, going through customs and the long flight back, which could have an impact on the team’s preparation the following week for a home game against Akron.
“More than anything, I want to go down there and I want to play well and stay healthy and come back and be able to be competitive the rest of the season,” Franklin said of his goal for the trip.
The matchup in Ireland lost some of its appeal when UCF quarterback Blake Bortles declared early for the NFL draft. A matchup between Bortles, one of the top-rated prospects in this year’s draft, and PSU’s Christian Hackenberg, another potential first-round pick in a few years, would have been the biggest storyline had Bortles not left.
“I’m excited because I think it’s going to be cool for the kids,” Franklin said of the trip. “A lot of the kids have never been outside the country and will get an opportunity for cultural experience.”
Franklin added he actually was supposed to be in Ireland over the weekend for a news conference promoting the game, but instead he decided to come to the Blair Sports Hall of Fame banquet as the featured speaker.
Franklin has a family connection to Ireland, saying his parents eloped and got married there.
Penn State has had great success so far in recruiting, ranking second in the nation by both Scout and Rivals, but Franklin did not take credit for it.
“It has very little to do with me,” he said. “It’s the staff, it’s the players, it’s the tradition, it’s the history, it’s the fans showing out 72,000 at the spring game. It’s the whole package.
“That’s why we’re being successful. We’re just, I think, doing a pretty good job of painting that picture of the vision of what Penn State can be and what it will be.”
The recruiting rankings “are not really important,” Franklin said. His main objective is to find “guys that are great fits for Penn State” in all aspects, not just football.
“I had a lot of confidence that we would be able to do a good job of finding those guys, attracting them to Penn State and getting them on board to join our family,” the coach said. “We’re about on pace where I thought we would be.
“I just wish we were four years into the process, but we’re not. I’m not the most patient guy, but I think we’re making tremendous progress.”
Franklin said he does keep up with the various issues facing the NCAA and student-athletes and gave a brief answer when asked his thoughts on those matters.
“My concern sometimes, a lot of these decisions are being made based on football,” he said. “But I think we also better take a really deep and conscious look at how it’s going to affect all of college athletics and sports in general.”