James Franklin Addresses Coaching Turnover, Christian Hackenberg At End-Of-Year Press Conference
On a particularly snowy Saturday morning, James Franklin sat down and spoke to the media one final time before signing day in February. With so much snow accumulation on such short notice, the press-conference became call-in only, but gave media members a unique opportunity to answer a slate of burning questions. Take a look at what was addressed on Saturday morning.
Franklin’s Thoughts On Christian Hackenberg
It’s well-documented that Christian Hackenberg and James Franklin didn’t always see eye-to-eye, which is something that may have factored into the junior quarterback’s decision to turn pro. Hackenberg infamously snubbed Franklin in a statement when thanking people who’ve helped him throughout his college career — something fans and media members alike took to be a subliminal shot at his now-former head coach.
“I’m really happy for Christian and his family and wish him nothing but success as he prepares for his future in the NFL,” Franklin said. Christian called me the day after announcing, and we had a great conversation. He was very appreciative. He thanked me and the staff for everything they’ve done, and we had a great conversation on the phone.”
Franklin expressed his excitement for both Hackenberg and Austin Johnson as they prepare for the next stage in their football careers, wishing them nothing but future success.
It’s no secret that Penn State’s offseason has been one of the more tumultuous offseasons in recent memory. Part of the turbulence can be attributed to Penn State’s recent string of decommitments and transfers, but the majority is a direct result of the loss of multiple high-ranking assistant coaches — including defensive coordinator Bob Shoop to Tennessee. Franklin was asked whether or not he was surprised at how fans and media members reacted to the turnover.
To be honest, I didn’t follow it a whole lot. This isn’t a time of year where I typically kind of follow those things,” Franklin said. “I think we’ve got a fan base that is very, very proud, and our history and our traditions, the type of support that we get, you don’t get that type of support at a lot of places. You don’t fill up our stadium the way we fill up our stadium without people that truly, truly care.”
Franklin went on to note that he, along with members of Penn State’s administration, received an outpouring of support since the season ended, and that while the angriest people usually stick out, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
Administrative Support During Post-Sanction Years
It’s no secret that James Franklin didn’t necessarily walk into a perfect situation when he took over in 2014. He inherited a program still under NCAA sanctions, and had a thin roster decimated by crippling scholarship reductions. The transitional process of taking Penn State from sanctioned program to Big Ten contender was never going to be easy — and certainly wasn’t going to be quick. Franklin acknowledged that school administration isn’t blind to that fact, and supports him 100 percent during this trying process.
I’ve had a lot of conversations with the administration about that from the day that I showed up. I was told from the administration and from the previous staff that everybody had recognized that year three and four of the sanctions were going to be the most difficult,” Franklin said. “If you take the emotion out of it and you take a piece of paper out and you write down all of the challenges that we have had as an organization, as an institution, as a football program, I would actually say if you did it that way, we’re probably ahead.”
While Franklin might be ahead of schedule in terms of Penn State’s rebuild process, he must realize that this coming season will be an important one in terms of where his team’s on-field product stands — and potentially his own job security.
Co-Defensive Coordinator Tim Banks
Tim Banks is a strong hire for a program that just lost its most coveted assistant coach, but it’s no secret that Banks has a place in Penn State lore for all the wrong reasons. Banks was part of an Illinois staff that attempted to poach Nittany Lion players in Happy Valley, all under the direction of embattled former Illini head coach Tim Beckman. Franklin addressed this, stressing that what’s in the past is in the past, and that Banks was more a casualty of higher powers putting him in tense situations.
“I’ve known Tim for a very, very long time. We worked together at the University of Maryland, followed his career as a coordinator in the Big Ten. I know the type of man that Tim is. I know his values,” Franklin said. “Tim was a part of that staff, and Tim was put in a very difficult situation, and we’ve discussed that. Tim was put in a difficult situation as an employee, and I know the type of man he is.”
Open Quarterback Competition
With Christian Hackenberg gone to the NFL, Penn State needs to find a new signal-caller. Franklin is in a unique situation given that he hasn’t been tasked with such a decision in quite some time. Rarely has there ever been a three-way quarterback competition in Happy Valley, which makes this offseason especially important in regard to the future success of the program. While Franklin wouldn’t come right out and state there would be a three-way battle, he certainly alluded to it as only he can.
“I think at every position you have guys that have experience, and those guys obviously have a little bit of a head start, but we’re going to go into the spring and the fall with an open competition at every position, obviously with quarterback being a part of that,” Franklin said. “Obviously it was great to see Trace come in in more of a live situation and make plays, make plays down the field with his arm, make plays with his legs, make plays with his mind. But it will be an open competition, and we’re going to see who’s going to give us the best chance to be successful on Saturdays.”
Now that the offseason is underway and burning questions have been addressed, fans must wait until Feb. 3 to hear from Franklin. We’ll be live at the Lasch Football Building for Penn State’s Signature Event during National Signing Day.