Penn State Football

What Penn State’s James Franklin said about the impact of one recent PSU-turned-Pitt transfer

Transfer to Pitt makes PSU change signals

Penn State football coach James Franklin talks about the team changing signals as soon as John Petrishen transferred from the Nittany Lions to Pitt.
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Penn State football coach James Franklin talks about the team changing signals as soon as John Petrishen transferred from the Nittany Lions to Pitt.

Former Penn State safety John Petrishen, who spent the last four seasons in Happy Valley, transferred to Pitt a few weeks ago — and James Franklin acknowledged Tuesday afternoon he wasn’t a huge fan of the move.

It caused an immediate ripple effect.

“When that happened, we knew that we were going to have to make some changes at that point. And we did,” Franklin said Tuesday during the opening statement of his weekly press conference. “We didn’t wait until this week to do it. We did it right when that was announced.

“But, obviously, we had to change all of our signals, especially on defense and on offense as well because he knows all of our signals and those types of things. So that was something we had to do right away.”

Petrishen came to Penn State as a three-star safety in the 2015 class but played sparingly after undergoing three surgeries in four years. In early August, he told the staff he intended to transfer because he wanted a “fresh start,” according to his statement on Twitter — and, on Aug. 21, his move to Pitt became official.

Due to medical redshirts, Petrishen still has two seasons of eligibility remaining. The western Pennsylvania native isn’t expected to be cleared to play until later this month — he is coming off reconstructive shoulder surgery — and Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi declined to clarify whether he’s on scholarship. “He’s a football player,” Narduzzi said last month.

With Pitt and Penn State slated to play at noon Saturday in the final game of the scheduled series, which might not resume until after 2030, Petrishen’s move could have some implications for this weekend.

Franklin declined to tackle a question head-on when asked if the move has the potential to make a big impact on Saturday’s game. But he did acknowledge he’s never been in a similar situation before.

“Obviously, the profession has changed,” Franklin said. “... This is exactly why, for years, coaches were against transferring within conferences or games on your schedule. I think the problem is, as we all know, some people abused it and they were denying kids everywhere they wanted to go. And that shouldn’t happen.

“But what happened was we overcorrected. We went from being able to deny them everywhere to not being able to deny them anywhere. So it’s problematic.”

Franklin reiterated several times the team changed its offensive and defensive signals as a result of Petrishen’s transfer. But he said the Nittany Lions feel “comfortable” with their new signals, which they used the last two weeks.

Tight end Nick Bowers said the changes weren’t a huge deal.

“It’s not really a challenge,” he said. “I mean, you got to come in and work every single day and you’re expected to know those signals, so it’s up to you if you want to play or not.”

Bowers added: “I don’t think anyone on the team was mad at (Petrishen). I wasn’t mad at him. He had to do what’s best for him. Things happen.”

Petrishen finished his Penn State career by contributing mostly on special teams. He played in 17 career games and recorded eight tackles. Last season, he played in every game and had five stops.

He was recruited by Narduzzi when he went to high school at Pittsburgh Central Catholic, and he even received a scholarship from the Panthers. He chose Penn State in 2015 — but now, in 2019, he’s a Panther.

“We’re happy to have him here,” Narduzzi told reporters last month. “I think he’ll be a great addition to the football team.”

Josh Moyer earned his B.A. in journalism from Penn State and his M.S. from Columbia. He’s been involved in sports and news writing for nearly 20 years. He counts the best athlete he’s ever seen as Tecmo Super Bowl’s Bo Jackson.
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