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Penn State Football: Franklin In Crosshairs As Search Continues

by on January 09, 2014 1:00 AM

Penn State football seems to have found its man in the head coaching search to replace Bill O'Brien. But whether Penn State administrators can land what appears to be that top target -- Vanderbilt coach James Franklin -- remains to be seen.

If the events of on Wednesday are any indication, though, fans may know sooner rather than later whether Franklin will be on the sidelines at Beaver Stadium this fall.

On Wednesday afternoon, Franklin was spotted boarding a plane en route to Destin, Fla., where he and his family own a home. Vanderbilt athletic director David Williams would later confirm this during an interview.

“I don’t know about any planes,” Williams said to the Tennessean. “We have texted, short texts, so I’ve been in touch with him (Wednesday). I don’t know exactly where he is. They do have a place in Destin. They could be there. It’s possible they could be going to visit relatives."

Williams also talked about the possibility of losing Franklin to Penn State or another program.

“I don’t think any of this has to do with what you do and what they (other schools) do,” Williams said. “James is fully aware of what Vanderbilt can and is willing to do. What is a top 25 program? Well, I think we’re now a Top 25 program. You (Franklin) made us a Top 25 program. You don’t have to go anywhere to be at a Top 25 program."

A few hours after Franklin's departure, a small private jet departed University Park airport and headed to Destin, according to several flight tracking websites. Shortly after landing in Destin, the University Park plane was rescheduled for a quick return trip Wednesday evening.

While it was unknown at the time who was on the plane headed to Florida, message boards lit up with the possibility that Penn State's search committee was making a push for one of the hottest names in college football.

And they were right.

As the plane slowed on a snow-covered tarmac late shortly after 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, several Penn State administrators -- including University President Rodney Erickson, Athletic Director Dave Joyner, Athletics Integrity Officer Julie Del Giorno, Vice President of Administration Tom Poole, Matthew Stolberg, Associate Athletic Director for Compliance and Frank Guardagnino, Associate General Counsel-- all exited the plane.

While it's impossible to know what took place during the brief trip to Florida, it appears, judging by those who made the trip, that Penn State is in an advanced stage of interest and possible negotiations with Franklin. Early in the day, ESPN reported that Franklin would no longer interview with the Washington Redskins. The interview was set to take place on Thursday.

A timetable has never been made public, aside from Joyner's promises of a quick search counted "in days, not weeks." It would be in Penn State's best interest to finish the search by the end of the weekend prior to the start of classes. Next Wednesday also marks the end of a "Dead Period" in recruiting, which prohibits schools from contacting recruits. A new head coach might help bring stability and direction for Penn State's immediate future.

As Penn State enters what could be a pivotal Thursday, the Nittany Lion faithful will have to continue to do what they have done for the past week.

Just wait and see.

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