UNIVERSITY PARK — While James Franklin gears up for the Penn State Coaches Caravan, he’s been busy holding individual meetings with each of his players.
Franklin keeps folders with reports on players from their position coaches and the medical, strength and conditioning and academic staffs. The Nittany Lions coach reviews the information with them, but the meetings have also given him a chance to get to know players he didn’t recruit heading into his first season.
“It’s been really good to hear all these different stories and how unique everybody’s backgrounds are,” Franklin said. “So some guys who have overcome some unbelievable adversities in their lives, some guys who have some interesting stories in their backgrounds that helps me to get to know them as a complete person and will ultimately help me do a better job of coaching them in the classroom and on the football field and in life because I know them better.”
Franklin opened the Coaches Caravan with a press conference at Pegula Ice Arena on Thursday. The tour, which includes 17 stops, continues in York and Hershey on Tuesday and ends May 22 in Erie. Franklin is looking forward to connecting with alumni and fans throughout the region while also learning from other Penn State coaches who join him along the way.
“I think the first 10 stops are gonna be unbelievable,” Franklin said. “The last seven stops will be Red Bull and coffee because I want to make sure I bring the same energy and enthusiasm to the last seven that I do for the first 10. I think it’s very, very important. I’ll be honest with you, when it was first brought up I wouldn’t say that I was doing back handsprings about it, but I understand the importance of it. I truly do. For us right now to be able to get out and get to know all the Penn State alumni and fans and supporters in this region of the country is critical.”
Coming out of individual meetings, Franklin said his players are excited about the direction of the program. But he’s also had some tough conversations about the roster for training camp.
Penn State is limited to having 105 players at camp by NCAA rules, and Franklin’s started to have discussions about who may not make the cut at this point, leaving those players upset heading into the summer.
“Nothing is in stone right now,” Franklin said. “I told them this is what I’m thinking. There’s a lot of time between now and camp. That could change. Guys can bump on, guys can bump off. I bet you there’s gonna be some guys at the end of the year that we’ll be talking about that didn’t come into the 105 that by the midpoint of the season, they’re helping us and they’re contributing for one reason or another, their development or maybe some injuries, some holes that we’re trying to fill in or whatever it is. So the important thing is they all understand that we have roles. No role is more important than the other, but they’re all different roles and I think our guys understand that.”
Franklin said the training-camp roster will be filled based on needs and depth issues, especially on the offensive line.
“There might be another kid who’s really had a nice spring and done some nice things but they didn’t make the cut just by needs based on position,” Franklin said. “So we’re going to be able to practice and be ready to play against Central Florida.”
But before camp, and before Penn State opens its season in Ireland, Franklin will be traveling across Pennsylvania and throughout the region to generate excitement for the program.
He wants to make a strong impression on fans. And he wants them to share his excitement for the future.
“Every time we go do a speaking event or get out and get a chance to meet people,” Franklin said, “if they’re not on the Penn State bandwagon when we start talking, I hope they are by the time we get done.”