Franklin emphasizes recruiting
Published: January 16, 2014
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STATE COLLEGE - It's not as if a question about how a new coach plans to recruit talent is ever foreign at an introductory news conference.
So, James Franklin arrived in Happy Valley with some talking points on the subject.
"Our recruiting philosophy?" he asked, without being asked. "We are going to dominate the state. We are going to dominate the region.
"I've worked for a lot of different institutions that tried to compete against Penn State in recruiting, and it was always an unbelievable challenge. Because this school has everything that young men are looking for, everything that families are looking for."
On the day Penn State introduced him as its 16th head football coach, Franklin threw down the gauntlet toward other schools in the Big Ten and throughout the Northeast.
He plans to sell Penn State just as much as he does the promise of continued success on the football field.
Franklin's success on the football field at Vanderbilt - back-to-back nine-win seasons for the first time in that program's history - was exceeded only by his reputation as a masterful recruiter, a role he developed as an assistant at Maryland under then-head coach Ron Vanderlinden in the early 2000s.
The Commodores have put together a pair of top-30 recruiting classes in Franklin's three seasons there, and the 2014 class that committed to him was ranked in the top 20. At Vanderbilt, where wins haven't always come easy, facilities are on the antiquated side and getting top talent has always been a challenge, Franklin was seen as a bit of a miracle worker.
As he stared around a state-of-the-art media room at Beaver Stadium with nearly 150 reporters crammed in, just moments after having photos taken with his wife, Fumi, and their two daughters on the field, Franklin smiled. This, he realized, was something to work with.
"I'm calling every high school coach in the state. I'm calling everybody in the state to say we need to come together like never before," Franklin said. "With everybody pulling the rope in the same direction, there's no reason we can't take this program where everybody wants it to be."
The recruiting class Franklin needs to be most concerned about is the one that Penn State will have locked up in early February.
Reports from recruiting websites that follow Penn State indicate most of the current 19-player class that has committed at times over the last year to former coach Bill O'Brien's staff plans to honor that commitment now that Franklin is on board. A few, like star defensive tackle prospect Thomas Holley, plan to finalize their decisions after defensive line coach Larry Johnson Sr.'s status is addressed by Franklin.
That said, the excitement for Penn State's future with its new head coach largely has extended to the recruiting class.
"I am really excited," Scranton Prep star and Penn State offensive line recruit Noah Beh said.
"He is an energetic coach. I'm excited to meet him and get to know him. He is a young guy who is really up tempo in his approach. It's hard not to be pumped up when you listen to him." When asked on separate occasions whether the presence of the University of Pittsburgh and the looming threat Ohio State and coach Urban Meyer pose to the top recruits in the western part of the state are special challenges for him, Franklin wouldn't take the bait of starting a verbal rivalry.
But he remained confident Penn State could and would become recruiting powers around Pennsylvania, and beyond.
"We want to recruit this region very well, in New Jersey, New York, New England, Virginia, Delaware has been good to Penn State," Franklin said. "We're going to recruit nationally as well, because you sell yourself short when you don't do that. There might be a Penn State alum in California whose son grew up always wanting to play at Penn State.
"I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but we're going to dominate the state," Franklin went on, smiling at the redundancy. "That's the first thing we're going to do."
(Times-Shamrock writer Joby Fawcett contributed to this report.)