Week for Milestones as Frosh Begin Penn State Football, Rutgers & Maryland Enter B10
This will be a banner week for James Franklin, Penn State and the Big Ten Conference.
On Tuesday, Maryland and Rutgers officially join the conference.
On Wednesday, James Franklin’s first freshman class will be in the books -- literally.
Wednesday is when the second six-week summer session at Penn State begins. And the final 20 scholarship freshmen of Franklin’s 25-player Class of 2014 – already on campus – will start classes at University Park. (Five enrolled early in January.)
As such, that means they can officially begin working out with their new teammates. Franklin can also mandate how they spend an eight-hour block of time each week between now and the start of summer drills. That means the new Nittany Lions can watch film, meet with coaches and take part in conditioning drills.
It’s a new era all around.
Although Franklin is suiting up 75 scholarship players in the fall – 33% of whom have never played a down of college football – instead of the customary 85, you have to think he owns a better hand than either Rutgers or Maryland.
Under two relatively new head coaches, Penn State’s renewed next-door rivals are 28-35 over the past five seasons. Kyle Flood is 15-11 (including 6-7 in 2013) at Rutgers, which has averaged 5.1 losses per seasons over the past decade. And Randy Edsall enters his fourth season at Maryland with a 13-24 record, kind of a scarlet letter of his very own.
In 2014, Penn State plays both Rutgers and Maryland in those schools’ inaugural Big Ten seasons. In its first-ever conference game, Rutgers hosts Penn State at High Point Solutions Stadium (capacity: 52,454) at 8 p.m. on Sept. 13. The game in Piscataway, N.J., will be covered by the Big Ten Network, which will do an ESPN College GameDay-type live telecast that day. The Scarlet Knights open the season at Washington State -- where Franklin was a GA and earned his masters in 1998 -- then are back home the week before Penn State to face Howard.
(Rutgers' trip from the Newark, N.J., airport to Seattle is 2,841.7 miles. The distance from State College to Dublin, Ireland, site of Penn State’s Aug. 30 season-opener against Central Florida, is 3,327 miles.)
Five games plus two bye weeks after facing Rutgers, Penn State hosts Maryland on Nov. 1 in Beaver Stadium – preceded on the schedule by Michigan at The Big House (Oct. 11) and Ohio State in a WhiteOut (Oct. 25).
Both opponents are familiar to Penn State in almost every respect:
THE FRESHMEN: Five of the incoming Nittany Lion freshmen hail from Maryland and Virginia – two-thirds of what Franklin calls the “DMV.” (D stands for Washington, D.C.). Four more are from New Jersey and two are from Delaware. (Pennsylvania delivered three.) A full 44% of Franklin’s first recruiting class – a mish-mash of Bill O’Brien recruits, Franklin saves, Franklin newbies and Vanderbilt switcheroos – came from those five core areas, not counting Pennsylvania.
“We are going to treat New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, D.C. and Northern Virginia as in-state areas for us in terms of attention of we put on them,” Franklin said in Washington, D.C., on the caravan tour. “You take a six-hour radius from campus and that is what we are going to treat as in-state. And we’ll go other places to recruit to do what we have to do to out our roster together. We’re going to approach it as in-state.”
FRANKLIN AND HIS STAFF: The first-year Penn State head coach knows Maryland well. He spent eight seasons coaching there, seven under Ralph Friedgen. After the 2010 season, Franklin left for Vanderbilt and Friedgen was fired.
“I had a great experience at Maryland, I really did,” Franklin said. “So I'm appreciative of the time that I spent there. The high school coaches are still really good friends of mine.”
So is the Terrapins’ offensive coordinator. Mike Locksley – the Terps’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach under Edsall – was on the Maryland staff with Franklin and new PSU offensive coordinator John Donovan. Locksley left and after stops at Florida, Illinois and New Mexico, he returned in 2012. Edsall and Donovan coached together in 1998 at Georgia Tech, along with O’Brien.
Plus, as Franklin said recently, “The fifth-year seniors there (at Maryland) we were part of recruiting them.”
Friedgen is gone from Maryland but not forgotten. He reappeared this spring when he was hired as offensive coordinator at Rutgers. “I’m excited that Ralph is back in the game,” Franklin said on tour in D.C., just a few miles from his old College Park stomping grounds. “I’m glad he’s back in college football. I think he’s good for the game. I think he’s good for college football; I have tremendous respect for him and his wife (Gloria).”
Penn State defensive coordinator Bob Shoop is well-acquainted with a Rutgers assistant as well -- Norries Wilson, Rutgers’ assistant head coach and running backs coach. When Shoop was head coach at Columbia from 2003-05, Wilson was his offensive coordinator. When Shoop was fired, Wilson succeeded his boss as head coach from 2006-11. Wilson has been at Rutgers the past three years.
As for Franklin and Flood, Steve Politi of NJ.com reports that the two are friends and, in fact, Franklin was the first head coach to call and congratulate Flood when he got the Rutgers’ head coaching job in 2012 – while Franklin was still at Vanderbilt.
PENN STATE: Maryland and Rutgers were staples of Penn State’s diet for decades. Combined, the two teams won just six of the 57 times they met Penn State from 1918 to 1995.
Rutgers won just two of their 24 games against Penn State. Both were memorable. The first Rutgers’ win, 26-3, came the first time the two teams met, in 1918 at Old Beaver Field. The Scarlet Knights beat Penn State again in 1988 in Beaver Stadium. Dick Anderson, the former Penn State player and assistant coach, was the Rutgers head coach at the time, and engineered a 21-16 victory.
From 1960 to 1993, Penn State played Maryland every season but two (1981, 1983). In that time, the Nittany Lions suffered just one loss (21-17, 1961) and one tie (13-13, 1988). Overall, Penn State holds a 35-1-1 advantage over the Terrapins. Maryland last visited Beaver Stadium in 1992, a game PSU won 49-13. The highlight of the series came in 1966, when defensive tackle Mike Reid recorded three safeties to hand Joe Paterno the first win of his career, 15-7, in a sloppily-played contest at Beaver Stadium.
Franklin admits he still has strong feelings about Maryland.
“I still follow the program because I care about the program. Maryland was my first big break professionally,” he said on the caravan in May. However…
“I’ll be rooting for Maryland every game but one.”