UNVERSITY PARK — As Sunday faded into Monday, Penn State football players, who before the weekend were filled with uncertainty about their program and its leadership, were welling up with excitement.
Spread across the country on winter break just a week before, Penn State players could only watch as Bill OBriens impending exit unfolded on computer screens and television sets in their homes away from campus. The former coach touched base with each player and his move to the NFL became reality.
Now, Penn State players are full of anticipation to play for James Franklin who was introduced over the weekend and introduced himself to Penn State players at a team meeting on Sunday evening.
My first impression of him was great, cornerback Jordan Lucas said. Hes a players coach it seems like. He has a very positive attitude and he wants to get the ball moving real fast here. I know all the guys are real excited about that and were just real anxious to put the work in and see how far he can take us.
Added linebacker Mike Hull:
My first impression of him was he seems like he really knows what hes doing. He seems like a great leader and he gave everyone a role and it seems like everything is going to be running smoothly this spring.
For Penn State players, they expect the transition process from the two-year OBrien era to the Franklin era be much smoother than the turnovers that occurred two years ago when OBrien replaced Tom Bradley following Joe Paternos firing.
And although they arent completely sure which position coaches Franklin will bring with him yet, Penn State players are sure Franklin will assemble an effective staff in timely fashion.
Players have been notified that former Vanderbilt strength and conditioning coach Dwight Galt will take over the same role at Penn State. Galt was a mentor to former Penn State strength and conditioning coach Craig Fitzgerald, who was wildly popular with players.
The first time it was the first coach in 40-some years for Penn State so there was a lot of uncertainty and people didnt know what was going to happen; if Coach OBrien was even going to be that great of a head coach, Hull said. But he proved to be a great coach and he left our program in great shape.
We know that Coach Franklin has done a great job at Vanderbilt, a struggling program in the past, so were really confident in him and we have a lot of confidence in the staff and were really excited to see what he can do for Penn State.
Some players already had a rapport with Franklin.
Receiver Geno Lewis, who played high school football for Wyoming Valley West, was recruited by Franklin when the latter was offensive coordinator at Maryland. Lewis felt a bit of deja vu when Franklin commanded the floor inside the teams meeting room at the Lasch Building Sunday.
Hes a really good guy. Hes somebody you can talk to, Lewis said. He makes you feel comfortable when youre around him and hes definitely somebody youd like to play for. Im glad he got the opportunity to come back to Pennsylvania and be able to coach Penn State and our guys and I really think its going to go well for him.
Offensive guard Miles Dieffenbach said Franklin talked about relationship-building and planned to sit down with each player individually over the coming days.
Before Saturday, a few players took it upon themselves to text their teammates to try and keep everyone on the same page. Lucas and running back Bill Belton were two players who reached out to their teammates.
I told them, whoever our coach is going to be, were going to be fine, Lucas said. Were going to come in, were going to come back in January and were going to work hard, were going to train like weve never trained before and well be fine. Because its nothing we havent been through before. We faced tons of adversity before.
Penn State players have only had a few days back on campus. Hull said they realize it is unrealistic to expect Franklin to know what each of them brings to the program individually.
Hull remembered back to the winter of 2012 when OBrien came in with his staff. Just like then, every player is on the same even slate with the new coach.
The most important transition and the thing you really need to do is establish yourself as a hard-worker, just let the coaches know that youre 100 percent dedicated to the team and we have a lot of guys that are going to do that, Hull said.
Follow Travis Johnson on Twitter @bytravisjohnson.