Franklin believes in having fun at Penn State

The Sports Xchange

July 28, 2014 at 7:43 pm.


James Franklin has brought a bunch of energy to Penn State football. (Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports)

CHICAGO — James Franklin says he’ll put as much effort and hours as it takes to make Penn State football successful.

But he also wants to have fun.

“We’re going to work really hard but if we’re going to work for 16 hours, I’m going to have fun for 16 hours,” he said at Monday’s Big Ten media days. “If I’m going to do a 17-stop caravan, I’m going to find a way to have fun at all 17 stops, that’s who I am.”

Franklin, a 42-year-old Langhorne, Penn., native, revived a struggling Vanderbilt program and had consecutive 9-4 seasons before coming to State College.

But Franklin also joined a program that faces the reality of sanctions imposed in 2012 in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal. Penalties included a $60 million fine, loss of scholarships and a four-year bowl ban.

Franklin is the third Nittany Lions head coach since the late Joe Paterno resigned in 2011. Tom Bradley coached the final four games in 2011 and Bill O’Brien restored some luster with a 15-9 record over two winning seasons.

Penn State has 75 scholarships available this year and will be restored to the full 85 permitted by the NCAA by the 2016-17 academic year.

Franklin didn’t specifically address Penn State’s limitations in two media sessions. But he said he has told recruits that there’s opportunity to break into lineups or see significant time.

“Right now we have some challenges and issues we have to overcome,” Franklin said he tells prospective players. “So guys are going to have an opportunity to come in and impact the roster quickly.”

The spring was spent getting to know personnel and when a depth chart was recently released “we just basically listed out by position by seniority,” he said.

Penn State returns 15 starters, including seven on defense and a placekicker.

Seven are also back on offense, including sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg, tabbed as a player to watch in the Big Ten East.

“I think Christian’s got a lot of tools, there’s no doubt about it,” Franklin said. “The thing I’m most impressed is how humble and hungry and how open he is to coaching,”

Hackenberg was 231 of 392 for 2,955 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2013. Also returning is senior running back Bill Belton, who rushed for 803 yards and five touchdowns.

Linebacker Mike Hull, who had 78 tackles last season, is back to help anchor the defense.

Media members picked Penn State fourth in the new Big Ten East, part of revamped conference configuration with the additions of Rutgers and Maryland.

Penn State opens against Central Florida on Aug. 30 in Dublin, Ireland, then kicks off the home season on Sept 6 against Akron. Big Ten play begins Sept. 27 at home against Northwestern.

NOTES: Five Pennsylvania congressmen have asked the NCAA to ease Penn State’s sanctions in a letter dated last week. “Continuing these unprecedented sanctions harms innocent student athletes and further erodes the increasingly specious credibility” of the NCAA, they wrote. … Senior S Adrian Amos enters 2014 with 25 career starts, tops on the team. … The Aug. 30 game in Dublin is Penn State’s first international game and the Big Ten’s first since Michigan State and Wisconsin met in Tokyo in 1993.