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Penn State Football: Franklin Navigating New Staff Crucial To Success In Upcoming Months

by on September 04, 2018 4:50 PM

Of the many storylines batted around during Penn State's offseason, it probably hasn't been said enough that half of James Franklin's coaching staff is either new, or coaching in a new role.

There is Ricky Rahne finally at offensive coordinator, whose adjustment is the smallest, but his role the most significant. Phil Galliano, a special teams consultant last season turned special teams coach in title. Tyler Bowen in charge of tight ends, David Corley overseeing receivers, Ja'Juan Seider taking care of running backs.  

The wide ranging changes mark the most in a single offseason over the course of James Franklin's entire head coaching career. His staff at Vanderbilt remained largely unchanged over the span of three years, and by the time Franklin headed to State College he had only hire Charles Huff and Terry Smith to round out his already established staff.

Now five years later Rahne, Brent Pry and Sean Spencer are the only remaining members of that group and both Spencer and Pry entertained the prospects of other jobs this offseason.

While the days of supremely loyal assistants are gone from the college football world, it does put Franklin in a unique position this season. He has to learn his staff, grow his staff, and mold his staff as he does the same to a team equally reloading with new names in bigger roles. There are familiar faces still, especially in many of the behind-the-scenes roles, but as it pertains to the nuts and bolts of a football staff, those are relationships still being built.

Simply put, if Franklin has been labeled the CEO coach, that title will be put to the test this year as the management of his people could prove to be as important as his management of the game itself.

Asked about this on Tuesday afternoon, Franklin's eyes widened, his head nodding in agreement. His staff has changed since Year 1, and continues to change. With it comes a new challenge, getting a new staff back to the place the old one had been, a place only years of working together can create. Of course he doesn't have years, he has weeks, if that.

"It's a little bit of the nature of the beast in college football now so you just have to embrace it and make the best of it," Franklin said. "But that's always where I think it's very important for us to try and limit that as much as we possibly can. The administration has been very supportive of that and we have to continue to do that, it's critical. Because obviously the more years that we're all together, the better.

"(So) the staff knows how I'm going be in the fourth quarter against App State in front of 105,000 when we lose the lead late in the game. I know how they're going to react when times get tough and adversity hits, because it's easy when things are going well. It's how you work well together, what's the communication like..?"

It will be a process, but one that Penn State will try and address as quickly as it can. Of course nothing helps bring everyone together like winning your opening game in overtime. Then again, how and why Penn State got to that point in the first place might just come back to the very same problem.

Franklin didn't completely admit that on Tuesday, but in the wake of game nobody really expected, he does seem to actively be working on an acceleration of that process. The sooner the staff is joined at the hip mentally, the better, and with little time to spare. Especially as Franklin's leadership style allows his assistants to coach their units independently, Franklin much more a wandering administrator between different parts of his team come Saturday on the sideline.

"There are probably some things that happened that I addressed during the game, that I addressed after the game and then I addressed on Sunday in the meetings and then slept on it and addressed some more things on Monday to make sure there is no grey area so everyone understands how we do things and why," Franklin said. "But as much cover everything in the offseason, there's always going be things that come up on game day that you haven't necessarily covered in the detail that you need to."

In truth this is a problem that every head coach will face during their career. It's almost unavoidable in today's game, but it is just another issue Franklin will have to navigate if he wants Penn State to maintain its level of success for a third consecutive season. 

A season that -at least so far- has already given birth to more questions than answers, problems than solutions.

If Franklin can solve the majority of them this season, it might be his best work yet.

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