It didn’t take long for James Franklin to start making his rounds.
The new Penn State football coach, who was introduced Saturday, made two public appearances Sunday.
Together, with wife Fumi and daughters Shola and Addy, Penn State football’s new First Family appeared inside Rec Hall during the wrestling team’s shellacking of Purdue. Later, Franklin made his way to the Lady Lions’ game against the Boilermakers at the Bryce Jordan Center.
At his introductory press conference Saturday, Franklin said he couldn’t wait to start making his way around town.
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“It’s been unbelievable and my family couldn’t be more excited about being here,” Franklin said. “To be the head football coach at Penn State, what an unbelievable opportunity and we don’t take that for granted. We’re unbelievably appreciative of this opportunity and going to work extremely hard to make everybody proud of the product we put on the field and also the community.”
Franklin spent most of his time before Penn State’s wrestling match signing autographs and shaking hands with fans. During intermission, the family made its way to the center of the mat where Franklin said he was glad to be back in his home state.
His daughters then led the 6,369 fans in a “We are, Penn State” chant.
The Franklins stuck around to watch the 165-pound match that pitted former Hodge Trophy winner David Taylor against Purdue’s Chad Welch. Taylor made quick work of the Purdue grappler and pinned him in 2:23 after three precise takedowns. As Taylor sprinted past him toward the team’s locker room, Franklin bowed to him which elicited a roar from the crowd.
Franklin also addressed the 4,453 fans in the BJC who gave the coach a standing ovation.
“I’m looking forward to getting to know him,” Penn State wrestling coach Cael Sanderson said. “From everything I’ve read and seen he’s a great guy. He’s going to be great for Penn State. He seems like a real good man.”
Penn State players began to trickle back to campus following winter break and most of them met Franklin for first time on Sunday evening when he held his first team meeting.
While the meeting was not open to reporters who cover the team and players weren’t available afterward, Franklin gave hints what he would talk about following his introductory press conference on Saturday.
Franklin said he’d outline the importance of chemistry and relationships. The former Vanderbilt coach also described himself as a “fundamentalist” rather than a “schemer.”
“I don’t get up and stand in front of them and try to act how a head coach is supposed to act,” Franklin said. “I talk to them in very plain English. I let them know how much we care about them and we’re going to get to work. This is their program and we’ll be as good as they decide to be. We’re just in a position of leadership to help them get there.”
Staff decisions looming
The Nittany Lions will soon begin their winter workouts with a new coaching staff and will need a strength and conditioning coach from which to take cues.
Franklin will also need a few assistants to help out on the recruiting trail as the NCAA-imposed quiet period — in which coaches can’t have any in-person contact with prospects — ends on Wednesday. Franklin wouldn’t elaborate on which of his Vanderbilt assistants would follow him to Happy Valley but said “yes” when asked if he had any ideas who would accompany him.
Defensive line coach Larry Johnson, offensive line coach Mac McWhorter and tight ends coach John Strollo are still listed as members of the coaching staff. Johnson was not with the team during the meeting on Sunday night as he was a guest speaker at an American Football Coaches Association event in Indianapolis.
Vanderbilt coaches John Donovan (offensive coordinator), Charles Bankins (tight ends), Ricky Rahne (quarterbacks), Brent Pry (linebackers) and Dwight Galt (strength and conditioning) have all served with Franklin on at least two previous staffs.
“I think obviously the quicker we can get going is important but when you’re hiring people there’s all types of state procedures and university procedures that we have to go through,” Franklin said. “But the quicker we can do that the better because I can’t do it by myself. There’s too many things that have to get done.”
to Penn State
While Franklin hasn’t revealed which coaches may come with him, two of his Vanderbilt recruits will.
Offensive tackle Chance Sorrell and defensive end Lloyd Tubman both tweeted they have switched their commitments and will become Nittany Lions rather than Commodores. Their commitments are non-binding until they sign National Letters of Intent.
Sorrell, at 6-foot-6 and 263 pounds, is considered a three-star prospect by 24/7 Sports and is from Middletown, Ohio. He had originally committed to Vanderbilt on June 25. Tubman played for Seneca Academy in Louisville, Ky., and is listed at 6-foot-5, 235 pounds. He’s also considered a three-star prospect by 24/7 Sports.
Sorrell and Tubman became the 20th and 21st verbals in the 2014 class. Meanwhile, five others enrolled early as planned.
Four-star quarterback Michael O’Connor, four-star receiver DeAndre Thompkins, three-star defensive tackles Antoine White and Tarow Barney and three-star offensive tackle Chasz Wright are all enrolled at Penn State, according to university directory listings.