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James Franklin focuses on ‘stability’ after extension
Just five days removed from a contract extension that places him among college football’s highest-paid coaches, James Franklin addressed the new deal with media members for the first time Wednesday. His initial reaction to the extension, which keeps him signed with Penn State through the 2022 season, featured self reflection with family.
“Me and my wife talked about just how much things have changed in three years,” Franklin said.
He replaced Bill O’Brien in January 2014, leaving him just one month to assemble his first Nittany Lions recruiting class. Franklin led Penn State to a pair of seven-win seasons before breaking through to a Big Ten title last season.
Before his arrival in Happy Valley, Franklin turned SEC doormat Vanderbilt into a competitive bowl team. His successful tenure with the Commodores ended after just three seasons, so Franklin never truly got to lead his own complete roster onto the field in Nashville.
Though there was little doubt a long-term commitment was upcoming between the Penn State and its coach, official confirmation ensured this is a lasting partnership.
Franklin repeatedly has expressed excitement about Penn State’s 2017 preseason camp being the most competitive since his arrival, and there’s a direct correlation between that environment and enriched depth. He reiterated Wednesday this is the most talented team he’s coached in State College, top to bottom, even pointing out the greatly improved effectiveness of Penn State’s scout teams.
Now through four recruiting cycles in State College, Franklin definitely has his full stamp on this roster. The contract extension makes that mark increasingly indelible.
“I think for me, it’s about stability,” he said. “I think we’ve started to build something here that can be really special.”
Franklin expressed the effort to sustain momentum relies on consistency, and this contract represents a substantial step.
“It provides stability, obviously, for my family, but it provides stability for my assistant coaches, for their families, for our players, in recruiting, all of those types of things,” he said. “I still believe that we still have a lot of work to do in a lot of different areas, but I think we’ve made tremendous progress and this allows us to continue in that direction.”
You folks knew I wasn’t just going to skip over the R-word there, right?
Recruiting. Stability. These words go so well together. They combine to create national championship contenders.
Franklin can now give assurances to high school prospects and their families that he’s in Happy Valley to stay. He could have ― and likely did ― deliver that message before, but parents naturally are protective of their children.
If his contract was still set to expire after the 2019 season, what’s to prevent a mother or father from worrying whether their son is going to face a regime change early in college?
Clearly, this dynamic didn’t create a major challenge on the 2018 recruiting trail, as Franklin is piecing together one of the finest recruiting classes Penn State has seen. Still, any hesitancy on a parent’s part regarding his longevity with the program is now alleviated.
I caught up with John Miner, the father of 4-star Nittany Lions cornerback commit Jordan Miner, within hours of the contract announcement last week. Again, the word “stability” came up in conversation.
“It gives me the security of stability for my son,” he said. “It feels good knowing that my son will have the same coach for the whole duration at Penn State.”
The university’s ability to get this deal done before the season is a plus for players entering their final year of high school. It further solidifies those “family” feelings Penn State pledges so frequently speak about.
“I’m ecstatic because I know my head coach isn’t going anywhere anytime soon,” 4-star linebacker Jesse Luketa said. “We’re committed to him and he’s committed to us.”
Countdown clock for 4-star DE Jayson Oweh is ticking
We learned a few weeks ago that Jayson Oweh no longer intended to commit before his senior season. The 6-foot-5, 236-pound Blair Academy (Blairstown, N.J.) standout traveled to each of his finalists ― Notre Dame, Ohio State and Penn State ― in July and appeared to be closing on a decision.
Then he pumped the brakes in August, opting to extend this process near National Signing Day. It presented a significant change from his initial game plan, which included utilization of the inaugural early signing period (Dec. 20-22).
Oweh, who has played just one season of high school football, received his first scholarship offer from nearby Rutgers in late January and things quickly accelerated as winter seeped into spring. He collected more than 20 offers in a short span, so it makes sense that Oweh wouldn’t want to rush the end of this recruiting journey after catching up from a fast-paced start.
Oweh, considered the No. 7 strongside defensive end and a top-200 overall recruit in 247Sports composite rankings, postponed his decision to the Under Armour All-America Game. Until Wednesday, the date for this event remained undetermined.
Penn State fans can now lock in their television viewing schedule for 6 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 4. Oweh and four Nittany Lions commits will compete at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fla., in front of a national audience on ESPN2.
The annual showcase also features potential future Penn State teammates Shaquon Anderson-Butts, PJ Mustipher, Justin Shorter and Ricky Slade. This company could prove helpful for the Nittany Lions if Oweh is still wrestling with a decision when he arrives in Orlando.
Oweh and Mustipher have established a solid rapport, while he and Shorter arguably are the top two 2018 talents in New Jersey. Commitment announcements at all-star games typically occur between quarters, so his primary contenders may need to stay tuned for a few hours to learn the outcome.
I expect Oweh to explore options for official visits to his three finalists. I also anticipate several dominant performances during his second varsity campaign. He completely invested in learning a new craft this offseason, and as I observed him at three separate camps the development became obvious.
Oweh is rapidly matching elite athleticism ― he registered a 4.46-second 40-yard dash and 4.29 agility shuttle at Penn State in July ― with drastically improved technique. It’s a scary combination for opponents, and ultimately the reason I believe he can become one of the premier prospects of this 2018 class as his collegiate career advances.
Regardless of how tight scholarship numbers become for the Nittany Lions, a spot should be set aside for Oweh.
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