James Franklin: Coaching Penn State Is ‘My Calling’
James Franklin joined host Angelo Cataldi on WIP-FM radio in Philadelphia on Wednesday. If his comments are any indication of what the future holds, Franklin will be at the helm of Penn State’s football program for a very long time.
Franklin said he had multiple NFL interviews lined up following the 2013 season, his last one in charge of Vanderbilt’s program. The Commodores went 9-4, won the BBVA Compass Bowl 41-24 against Houston, and were ranked No. 24 in the final AP Top 25 poll of that season.
“I’ve kind of been through that when I took the Penn State job,” he said when asked about the possibility of an NFL return. “I had four or five interviews in the NFL — one or two that I took, and three or so that I turned down once I took the Penn State job. This is an unbelievable situation for me and my family.”
The 16th head coach in Penn State football history has made his way through the collegiate coaching ranks since leaving his post as the Green Bay Packers’ wide receivers coach after the 2005 season. He took offensive coordinator gigs at Kansas State and Maryland before becoming Vanderbilt’s head coach in 2011 and taking the same position at Penn State three years later.
Franklin’s posted a 45-21 record in five seasons in charge of the Nittany Lions, including two consecutive 11-win seasons in 2016 and 2017. He won a Big Ten title three seasons ago before following that up with a Fiesta Bowl victory over Washington in 2017. With a 9-4 record and Citrus Bowl defeat to Kentucky, Penn State took a bit of a step back last year, but the team is much younger and full of energy entering the 2019 season.
Trace McSorley’s NFL arrival and Tommy Stevens’ desired transfer have left the offense in the hands of redshirt sophomore Sean Clifford, who’s shown flashes of greatness in cameo appearances. Journey Brown, Ricky Slade, and Noah Cain will share the load at running back while guys like KJ Hamler, Justin Shorter, Jahan Dotson, and Pat Freiermuth should be on the other end of Clifford’s passes this season.
Beyond the on-field results, Franklin’s prowess on the recruiting trail has attracted a host of high-end talent to Happy Valley. His approach to coaching emphasizes preparing athletes for life first before turning them into great football players, and he’s used that to attract top 15 recruiting classes in each of the past three seasons.
Penn State’s 2018 class was the sixth-best in the nation and headlined by five-star prospects Micah Parsons, Justin Shorter, and Ricky Slade. The team’s recruiting class of 2020 is obviously still a work in progress, but it’s currently the eighth-best in the nation and on top of the Big Ten, according to 247Sports’ composite rankings.
Rumors of Franklin’s departure have swirled in recent years — including one linking him to USC that gained significant traction at the end of last season. Through it all, Franklin has stuck around in Happy Valley, and it seems like he intends on seeing out his six-year contract extension that was approved by the Board of Trustees in 2017.
“I coached all over the country to get to a place like Penn State,” Franklin said. “This is my calling — to help educate young men, get a degree, and then hopefully chase their dream in the NFL.”
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