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Penn State Football: Franklin Can Learn From O'Brien With Extra Month To Prep For Season

by on January 20, 2014 11:40 AM

Every coach is a little different. That's why coaching changes happen. A coach may approach a situation differently or approach recruiting with a different pitch to a prospect.

If there is one constant for any coach in the business though, it's that none of them like to have their time wasted. Time is the enemy between games and it's the enemy as the season approaches. From media sessions to recruiting to preparation there is never enough of it to go around.

But while time is your enemy as a coach, it's also a great asset.

When Bill O'Brien was hired on Jan. 6 of 2012 he was only partially on the job. With a Super Bowl yet to be played, O'Brien had half his head in New England and half his head in State College. There is little doubt he got things done at his new job, but he was still committed to his old one as well. It wasn't until Feb. 6 that the Patriots' season ended and O'Brien could begin really focusing on Penn State.

This time around, Penn State's new head coach doesn't have a Super Bowl to worry about. He actually has a head start on O'Brien.

James Franklin was hired and introduced on Jan. 12, five days later than O'Brien was in the calender year. Both coaches had their staff hired within days --O'Brien's six days later, Franklin's not yet announced but active within same span-- and both got down to work shortly after their hiring.

But with no Super Bowl, Franklin has a 26 day jump on O'Brien. 624 extra hours to prep for the upcoming season. O'Brien isn't the kind to leave behind a journal inside a secret compartment in Franklin's desk, but if he did, he might tell Franklin what he learned in the early going at Penn State. Or rather, what he didn't learn until later. Knowledge is power in coaching, and the quicker study Franklin is the better for Penn State.

March 17, 2013:

"We learned a lot about these guys last year," O'Brien said following his first season about gaining familiarity with the roster. "We know a lot more about these guys this year than we did last year at this time. No question about it. Last spring we really felt we were really going to have to learn about these guys."

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"We also have a much better understanding of the team's skill set," O'Brien said. "Last year we didn't know that Jesse James could play in the slot a little bit. Well wow, there are things we can do with him detached from the formation, I could give you million different examples of that. That's the joy of coaching, putting it all together."

April 2, 2013:

“I’m definitely more comfortable,” O’Brien said prior to spring practice, comparing his feelings before his first and second years. “I don't know if I was ever confident. I'm definitely more comfortable. I understand the players better. I believe they understand us better. The staff really understands how we work, how long we meet, when to meet, all those different things, what our expectations are as a staff of each other and of the players.”

"Last year we were literally walking in every day and learning a play we'd never seen before," right tackle Adam Gress said. "Now we've had a whole year of it and we're already running things now that we hadn't installed until camp last year."

April 30, 2013:

"One of the things I try to do here is twice a year after the season and after spring practice, I bring in every player on the team," O'Brien said. "Scholarship player or non-scholarship player and I spend anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes with each guy. What I try and do there is talk about a lot of different things, academics, social issues, family issues, you know these guys are young guys and they're going through a lot of things. And then I evaluate their play and try and give them an indication of what their role is in the future, what their role is on the team."

With a whole month extra to put into nothing but Penn State, Franklin has a unique chance to learn from O'Brien and get to know his team even better than O'Brien did heading into his first season.

Recruiting is important, and trips across the state are all part of the job, but Franklin won't win with the PR tour, he'll win with understanding and knowing the players currently inside his locker room as best he can. It's undoubtedly a difficult balancing act, but one Franklin will have to master if he is to succeed in his first season in Happy Valley.

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Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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