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News & Notes From James Franklin’s February Media Availability

Just over a month after the conclusion of Penn State football’s 2023 season, James Franklin took to the stand to give an update on the state of the program as winter workouts kick off for the Nittany Lions.

In a 30-minute press conference, Franklin discussed everything from the SEC and Big Ten alliance to new players and coaching personnel and everything in between.

On The Introduction Of Three New Coordinators

With the firing of Mike Yurcich and departures of Manny Diaz and Stacy Collins, Franklin was tasked with hiring three new coordinators. All three hiring processes concluded quickly, and Penn State brought in Andy Kotelnicki, Tom Allen, and Justin Lustig to coach the offense, defense, and special teams, respectively.

After the 2023 season, Franklin said he and his staff have been at work creating Penn State’s new identity in all three groups.

“There’ve been really good discussions going on on offense, defense, and special teams,” Franklin said. “I think the players would like for us to be further along in terms of install, but we want to make sure that we’re doing it right, and we want to make sure that we’re all on the same page, and we’re not having to go back and reteach things.

“But I think it’s been really good. I think all three coordinators have done a really good job of jumping in with both feet.”

Franklin also added he felt he and the coordinators were doing what was in Penn State’s “best interests” and with the coordinators he hired, he didn’t feel as if the program was starting over from scratch.

On The Big Ten & SEC Alliance

At the beginning of February, the Big Ten and SEC conferences announced they would create a joint advisory board to address the ‚Äúsignificant challenges facing college athletics.” With the recent shuffling of conference realignment, the two conferences are seen as the two power players in college football. For Franklin, the move could be a solution to fix the problems ailing the sport.

“I love the fact that the Big Ten and the SEC have stepped up to have a leadership role,” Franklin said. “As we all know, we have some tremendous challenges right now in college athletics as a whole and specifically college football.”

Franklin also said that the college football that many fans grew up with wasn’t “coming back,” and all those involved had to get used to that fact. Franklin, whose base compensation is set at more than $8 million, also expressed concern that the sport was becoming commercialized and coaches are no longer entering the profession with the best intentions.

“I worried probably five or more years ago, when the money kept going up, that college football started to attract people into the industry for the wrong reasons,” Franklin said. “Maybe I’m old school, but I still truly believe that if you’re coaching college football, you should be coaching and you should care about the kids in their total development academically, athletically, socially, spiritually, the whole package.”

On Penn State’s Roster Heading Into Spring Ball

Despite the departure of several notable talents from Penn State’s program, Franklin said he was excited about the current roster he’d assembled. A top-20 recruiting class was paired with a transfer portal group that was, by Penn State’s standards, pretty good. Franklin said his team has good depth, which could give him and his staff ample chances to evaluate the team at the Blue-White Game in April.

“That will allow us to kind of have a better understanding of where guys are apt to come into training camp and to compete for actual starting jobs,” Franklin said.

After the Blue-White Game, Penn State will likely see a little more roster turnover as a few players, unhappy with their spring performance, hit the portal while remaining high school players who aren’t already on campus will enroll.

On The Transfer Portal

Since the close of the 2023 regular season, Penn State brought in four players via the transfer portal. The addition of so few players wasn’t necessarily a failure on the part of the Nittany Lions to get the stars they wanted. The use of the transfer portal simply isn’t how Franklin likes to build his teams.

“We have not been a big transfer portal, addition or subtraction. I’ve been very, very pleased with that,” Franklin said. “We want to make sure that we’re taking care of our current roster first, that’s priority No. 1.”

Franklin also aired concerns about student-athletes frequently transferring between schools, saying it wasn’t good for the school or the student-athlete. For Franklin, losing a player after one year means that his program doesn’t have time to develop that player. Additionally, Franklin cited statistics that players who frequently transfer are less likely to graduate college.

On Julian Fleming, Nolan Rucci, AJ Harris, & Jalen Kimber

This year, Penn State picked up wide receiver Julian Fleming, offensive lineman Nolan Rucci, and cornerbacks AJ Harris and Jalen Kimber from the transfer portal. Franklin noted he had preexisting relationships with each player after he recruited them in high school, and they each had different profiles they brought to the program.

On Fleming: “I think there’s familiarity and comfort there for him and his family, and there’s familiarity and comfort for us. And then, obviously, his ability to play in this league I think is helpful. He understands what this league is all about. He also has an understanding of the playoffs as well. So those things are valued. And he’s an older guy, which I also think helps in that room.”

On Rucci: “He played in the bowl game and played really well in the bowl game. So I think that was a big confidence boost for him. I think for us, as coaches, I think we knew very well what he was capable of, but there wasn’t a whole lot of evidence of it at Wisconsin… He’s got tremendous athleticism and again, we knew a ton about him and the family.”

On Harris: “We got on the phone with him the first time. And then we got on the phone with them the second time and he had done his homework. He knew our roster. He knew the coaches. He had watched our film, he had studied our film, he looked at the data and where we rank and how we play defense. So right away this guy was talking about the things, in my mind, that really matter.”

Franklin also noted that Kimber has already played plenty of college football and bringing him into Penn State has gone “really well.”

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About the Author

Joe Lister

Joe is a junior journalism major at Penn State and an associate editor at Onward State. He covers Penn State football and enjoys yelling on Twitter about Philadelphia/Penn State sports. He also listens to Mac Miller more than you. If you want to find him, Joe's usually watching soccer with his shirt off or at the gym with his shirt on. Please send all positive affirmations and/or hate mail toward him on Twitter (iamjoelister) or via email ([email protected]).

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