James Franklin opens up on Penn State transfers, departed coaches
To say that James Franklin had a lot to discuss on Saturday would’ve been an understatement.
Since the final tick of the TaxSlayer Bowl, Penn State has had seemingly round-the-clock news. The early NFL draft declarations of Christian Hackenberg and Austin Johnson quickly became second-fiddle to the personnel turnover in State College.
Five players transferred, a few of which were key contributors at Penn State. On top of that, three of the team’s top assistants, including both coordinators, left Franklin’s staff. Franklin took the time to wish them well in his first public comments since the moves.
But why did they happen?
“Look around the country and the game has changed dramatically in the last 10 to 20 years. Good coaches are difficult to keep,” Franklin said. “There have been 14 changes among the Big Ten coordinators and 13 coordinator changes in the SEC since the end of this regular season. If you look at the Power 5 conferences, there have been 175 coaching changes. So it’s been a lot of change and that’s really what you see in college football right now.
“Do I like it? No, but that’s the reality of it.”
Penn State’s other reality was the fact that it lost a handful of players via transfer. Veteran skill players Geno Lewis and Akeel Lynch were granted their release, as were linebackers Troy Reeder and Gary Wooton. Underclassman defensive back Daquan Worley will also have a new home in 2016.
While they might’ve caught fans off-guard, Franklin again said it was just the a product of the situation.
“This hasn’t caught us by surprise,” Franklin said. “We were very aware that those things may be coming.”
Well, maybe not all of them were expected.
Reeder filled in for Nyeem Hartman-White after he went down and was going to see plenty of playing time at linebacker in 2016. But he transferred to Delaware, where he’ll play with his brother.
Despite the family connection, Franklin didn’t predict the sophomore to be one of the team’s departures.
“Yeah, Troy was probably the one that was a surprise,” Franklin said. “I had a real long conversation with him, and I think it’s obviously already been documented the reasons why he transferred to Delaware. But yeah, that’s a position that we are a little bit thin because that one was a little bit unexpected.”
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Franklin’s next focus will be to close out the final week-and-a-half before National Signing Day with a bang. The Lions currently boast the 12th-rated 2016 recruiting class in the country, and if they can lock down a couple of their four-star targets, they could finish with their first post-Joe Paterno top-10 class.
Heading into Year 3, Franklin was asked about where he thought his program was at compared to where he hoped it would be when he took the job. He didn’t cite the 14-12 mark in his two seasons or the major personnel changes.
Instead, Franklin pointed to the fact that Penn State is one of eight teams with a winning record in each of the last 11 years. Considering the hurdles the school faced with the sanctions, he said, the program is still right on track.
“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,” Franklin said, “I would actually say if you did it that way, we’re probably ahead.”