News and notes from James Franklin’s February media availability
Penn State head football coach James Franklin spoke to the media amid NCAA February signing day Wednesday morning.
Signing day brought its fair share of recruiting talk (including some recent news), but Franklin also had a lot to say elsewhere. The head coach shared his thoughts on the state of minority coaching hiring, changing college football rules and, of course, plenty of jokes about his 50th birthday.
Following former NFL head coach Brian Flores’ ongoing lawsuit against the NFL, current levels of minority representation in football coaching have again come under scrutiny.
“If you really look at this from a historical perspective, the number of coaches of color in college football and in the NFL, it’s probably concerning,” Franklin said. “The fact that we’re in 2022 and we’re still having these discussions and there hasn’t been a lot of progress is kind of crazy.”
Franklin, who at Vanderbilt was once only the third black head coach in SEC history, noted that he hopes the success of his long career can create opportunities elsewhere for future minority coaches. .
On Bryce Mostella
Last weekend, the Penn State defensive end Bryce Mostella accused the program of neglecting his mental health in a 16-tweet Twitter thread.
Franklin chose not to dive into Mostella’s individual situation, indicating that the public forum was not the appropriate setting for a team response. That said, the Nittany Lions head coach gave a brief update on Mostella’s roster status.
“He is not currently registered,” Franklin said. “You can’t really be on a team unless you’re signed up for lessons.”
On Sean Clifford
With Class of 2022 ranked No. 1 quarterback Drew Allar already enrolled at Penn State, questions have understandably surfaced regarding the Nittany Lions’ plans to starting quarterback next season.
Despite recognition of the importance of competition, Franklin offered strong support for the return of sixth-year senior Sean Clifford.
“Sean is our comeback starter,” Franklin said. “There’s no doubt about it, but there’s competition in every position. Obviously, it’s harder at any position to knock down a returning starter who’s been doing it for a few years.
Allar isn’t the only new quarterback to join the roster, with the signing of three-star prospect Beau Pribula and the recent engagement of three-star extra Xavier Copening. The influx of new talent is not an inherent statement, however.
“You rebuild your team every year, and there will be competition at every position, including quarterback,” Franklin said.
On the transfer portal and NIL
The advent of the Transfer Portal and new name, image and likeness regulations have created new opportunities and barriers for some programs.
An often outspoken advocate for rising football spending (as evidenced by the details of his recent contract extension), Franklin spoke about how he, the team, and the university could better compete in emerging areas of college football.
“Whether you’re totally okay with the transfer portal or NIL, the reality is that you have to embrace them,” Franklin said. “Once I embrace them, I have to do a good job of explaining to everyone who has a role in Penn State football … that they understand what we’re competing against.”
“All the wins you have throughout the calendar year, they add up,” Franklin continued. “We have to be ready to do these things in all areas, all year round, for us to have the type of success that we want to have consistently.”
Franklin did not reveal whether he spoke to New Penn State President Neeli Bendapudi.
On the mills of Tyrece
Recent safety signing Tyrece Mills has earned comparisons to the outgoing defensive stalwart Jaquan Brisker due to their similar playstyles and routes through Lackwanna Junior College.
“In Tyrece we saw similar traits [to Brisker]”Franklin said. “You’re talking about a guy who can play any of the three safeties – the two deep safeties, but also that ground [line]backer/safety who we like to play with.
Franklin noted Mills’ remaining three years of eligibility as another exciting prospect for the skill set of the athletic playmaker.
On the realignment of Big Ten divisions
Reports have circled that the Big Ten is discussing a realignment between the divisions.
“You have to look…what’s in the Big Ten’s best interests,” Franklin said. “I would say some of the decisions we made, from a planning standpoint, weren’t in the best interests of the Big Ten.”
“Back to the decision to play nine conference games when other conferences decide[d] stay at eight,” Franklin continued. “One of the things that’s been said is, ‘Well, everything balances out over time,’ history and data don’t show that.”
Since the institution of the college football playoffs, there have only been two Big Ten appearances in the national championship — both were at Ohio State.
On Tyler Donohue’s Baby Fight Meaning
Lions247 reporter Tyler Donohue took the virtual media call with his baby boy sitting in his lap. At some point, she stopped cooperating.
“I don’t know about you guys, but I love watching Tyler Donohue get beaten from the back while trying to deal with it at the same time,” Franklin joked. “I got 125, you got one. Let’s go.”
Quotes have been edited slightly for clarity.