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Penn State Football: Fair Or Not, Franklin Has Problem On His Hands

by on January 09, 2016 9:20 PM

End of the day Penn State's defense will probably be fine.

Jason Cabinda came to Penn State because of tradition. He didn't come because of Bob Shoop. Austin Johnson was already in town, Anthony Zettel grew into his own quite nicely in the middle of a span that saw four defensive coordinators at the helm over four years.

If Penn State does the most sensible thing --promoting Brent Pry to fill Shoop's role-- then all will likely be forgotten. It'll come down to recruiting, it'll come down to taking that talent and making it work on the field. For that Penn State has plenty of hope. Bob Shoop is a fantastic coordinator, and Penn State losing him is one of the largest non-NCAA blows to the program in the past decade.

But that's not really the problem.

The problem is perception. And that's on James Franklin's right now.

Franklin, in the middle of dealing with many inherited issues, has months and months of nothing but waiting to try and convince the world that this so-called "unrivaled" ship isn't taking on water. That it's not a big deal Christian Hackenberg's method of leaving town was on his own terms with no actual thanks sent Franklin's way. That it's not a big deal his offensive coordinator was equal parts overmatched and ill equipped to handle the task at hand.

And now, that his best assistant leaving for the same job and just a bit more money isn't a cause for concern.

Truthfully there's not a lot going Franklin's way to begin with. The sanctions are still present, the program is only now back to 85 scholarships and even that is more of a technicality than an asset. It will be a year or two more before that talent really shows its face on the field in a meaningful way.

None of that is on Franklin. Penn State could have been better the past two seasons, but the world didn't miss out on a conference title landing in Happy Valley. He wasn't perfect, but that wasn't the expectation.

Even if departures and losses are the nature of the game it's still damage control on the home front.

So is this the beginning of the end?

That's hard to say. It would be unfair to pin this entirely on Franklin, Shoop is one of the best in the business and in turn people will come calling and no matter how much you might like Penn State it's not the best job on the planet right now. Hackenberg's departure may have involved a few subtle jabs at his former head coach but even that is hardly the end of the world. It's not a requirement that every player like a coach wedged into the middle of their career.

However it is hard to deny that things aren't trending positively.

Penn State, for all of the legitimate obstacles, is playing fairly uninteresting football saved largely by a defensive effort Shoop was behind. Franklin may have to deal with things out of his control that only time can change, but aside from recruiting not much that he can control is going all that great. Penn State is graduating players and doing wonderful things off the field, but really for all the chest puffing Nittany Lion fans can only hang their hat on for so long. Right or wrong, that's the nature of the beast.

As a result, James Franklin has a problem on his hands. Fair or not, that's the way it is. With a loaded home schedule coming up in 2016, there won't be much hiding from whatever happens next. People want their wins. If they don't happen it'll be within the friendly confines of Beaver Stadium.

The state of Penn State football isn't entirely on James Franklin, but neither was the state of the offense, and that didn't save John Donovan either.

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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by Ben Jones
Penn State Football: Shoop Set To Join Tennessee As Defensive Coordinator
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