Kent State coach’s age makes Franklin reflective

By Cory Giger

cgiger@altoonamirror.com

James Franklin so often talks about building strong personal relationships and connecting with his players that it can come as a surprise to know he wasn’t always like that as a coach.

Penn State hosts Kent State this week, and Golden Flashes coach Sean Lewis, 32, is the youngest head coach in FBS. Franklin, 46, was asked what he was like at a younger age as a coach and what advice he might give Lewis.

Franklin was an assistant at Maryland at age 32, and he wound up getting some good advice from a colleague that changed his perspective.

“At that point in my career … Dwight Galt came and talked to me about the importance of being a relational leader,” said Franklin, speaking of his current strength and conditioning coach. “I was coaching guys so hard at that point in my career, and I wanted everything exactly right and detailed and thorough and all the things you read that are important. But I wasn’t connecting with my players the way I need to connect with my players.

“For me, that was the important kind of moment in my career, which is funny, because like Coach Galt had said, that’s kind of my strength. That’s kind of who I am as a person. So once that happened for me, then, my career changed.”

As for a head coach being so young, Franklin said that really shouldn’t matter in the hiring process.

“Sometimes we get caught up in a lot of things that don’t matter when we go through the hiring process,” he said. “At the end of the day, you want to hire people because they are ready and that they have the characteristics that you desire, and I think a lot of times we eliminate people for a lot of reasons, and I like kind of the direction we’re going.”

Franklin didn’t offer up any sort of advice for his coaching opponent this week.

“I can’t really give Coach (Lewis) any advice, nor do I want to before playing him,” Franklin said. “But if I was going to give myself advice, that’s what it would have been, maybe a little bit earlier in my career.”

SUBHD: Comparing years

Penn State has been very good offensively the past two years, and many expect that to be the case again this season, even though the Lions lost many key pieces from last year’s team.”

With quarterback Trace McSorley back and Ricky Rahne taking over the offensive coordinator post from in house, many assumed Penn State would keep doing the same things on offense. Things have been different enough so far this season that it’s been noticeable with regards to playcalling and personnel usage through two games.

Franklin was asked an interesting question and wound up giving a very long answer about whether he expects the same things out of the offense that occurred the past two years.

“Yes, we want it to look similar,” he said. “But even from year one to go into this offense to year two, it changed. And then obviously, although we are staying in the same system, you’ve got a different personality now calling the plays with different backgrounds and things like that.

“So we are going to be constantly evolving. It’s no different than our program. Our core values and our core beliefs will not change. But you’ll see aspects around that nucleus that evolve and grow and adapt, and have to. In this game, if you’re not growing and you’re not adapting and you’re not evolving, you’re not going to last very long.”

Rahne replaced a highly successful coordinator in Joe Moorhead, who’s now the head coach at Mississippi State. But Franklin likes what he’s seen from the first-year offensive coordinator.

“One of the things I’ve thought Ricky has done a really nice job of is not only being involved in everything the last couple years, but also, once he did take over, he had a very clear picture in his mind and image of how he wanted to do it,” Franklin said.?“I think that’s one of the biggest mistakes that you can make as a head coach or as a coordinator, is you get into that role and then you try to be like the person that was there before you.”

SUBHD: Veteran WRs struggle

Juwan Johnson and DeAndre Thompkins were expected to be the go-to receivers for McSorley, but so far each has had some key drops. Johnson has dropped four passes already, and Thompkins dropped two against Pitt, one in the end zone.

“Both Juwan and DeAndre have higher standards and expectations of how they want to play,” Franklin said. “I have the utmost confidence in those guys, and I think they are both going to have huge years for us. But yeah, I think there’s a few plays they would like to have back, there’s no doubt about it.”

SUBHD: Reid expected back

Cornerback John Reid was dressed on the sideline at Pitt but did not play. He missed last season with a knee injury and is expected to be a major factor for the defense this year, but so far that has not been the case.

“We’re hopeful that we’ll have John this week,” Franklin said.

SUBHD: Quote of the day

Middle linebacker Jan Johnson also has wrestled for Penn State, and he was asked to compare Franklin with legendary wrestling coach Cael Sanderson.

“They both don’t have hair, so that’s kind of a similarity,” Johnson said, drawing laughter from the room of reporters.

“They both are strong leaders,” he added. “You know what you’re getting from both of them. You know what the expectations are, what they want you to do and how they want you to do it. The difference is they are two completely different sports. Wrestling is both team and individualistic, but football is more of a team sport.?”Coach Cael, I would say he’s more silent. It’s kind of like, you know what he’s done in the past, and you know that he knows what he’s talking about to get there, and you kind of know what the expectation is when you’re working with him.?“Coach Franklin is more, he’s going to tell you what to do. You know, you’re going to do it. He’s going to be more enthusiastic and he’s going to be there in your ear yelling and cheering you on the whole way while you’re doing it.”

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