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Penn State Football: Franklin Talks Staff Changes, Hackenberg Departure And More

by on January 23, 2016 11:55 AM

James Franklin talked to reporters for nearly 36 minutes over the phone on a cold and snowy morning in State College on Saturday. He covered it all, from staff changes to player transfers, from Christian Hackenberg to the future of the program.

Really though it came down to just a few words.

"I think it really depends on what people are listening to." Franklin said.

The context, essentially the state of the program and in turn the delicate balance Franklin has to strike between selling Penn State's future and not overselling its present state. For months that has been the message and for months it comes and goes as a message well received by fans.

If you listen to the positive, the past few season have been underwhelming. If you listen to the challenges, it's a work in progress.

Things take time, the future can be bright but the future is not now. And Franklin believes he continues to strike the balance between the two.

"I would say that number one I think I did do that," Franklin said over the phone. "If you remember I made a comment multiple times that one of the most difficult challenges of a head football coach especially when you're walking into a situation like the one we walked into, is how do you get people excited about the direction of the program and where we're going without setting up false expectations. That's a delicate balance."

"Anybody who sits down and takes the emotion out of it and lists out all of the challenges and situations that we've been through over the last 4-5 years, it makes sense. It makes sense. you think about the success that we have had. We just have to keep taking positive steps in the right direction. As coaches and as fans and things like that, you always want more, and we will always strive for more, as well, but in terms of the facts and putting those things out on paper, you know, it probably makes a whole lot of sense where we're at right now and where we're going."

In truth Franklin isn't wrong. Penn State is knee deep in the hardest years of a post-sanction era. Franklin can't change that, Bill O'Brien wouldn't have been able to either. Maybe it makes for a bad first impression when you get behind the wheel of a car and try and do 65 mph with just three tires, but Franklin didn't build the car, he just has to order the parts.

So it just takes time for all the parts to get here.

Hack Talk:

Among other things Franklin touched on the departure of junior quarterback Christian Hackenberg, and more specifically Hackenberg's seemingly intentional slight at Franklin, neglecting to thank him during a long statement as he announced his intentions to enter the draft.

"Well, first of all, I'm really happy for Christian and his family and wish him nothing but success as he prepares for his future in the NFL. Christian called me the day after announcing, and we had a great conversation, was very appreciative.," Franklin said. "Thanked me and the staff for everything they've done, and we had a great conversation on the phone."

"I think Christian is going to go on and do wonderful things. Very, very supportive of that. But I was glad that Christian picked up the phone and called me the next day, and we had a great conversation."

Haslett To Cincinnati:

Penn State advisor Jim Haslett will no longer work with the program after taking a position in the Bengals organization. Franklin discussed who that came to pass and why it wasn't overly surprising when it happened.

"We had a long conversation when he took the job about kind of how we both saw this thing playing out and then possibly afterwards," Franklin said. "You know, me and Coach Haslett had a lot of conversations afterwards; there was some possibility he may stay on for us unless there was a few jobs and a few coaches in the NFL that he was interested in working for, and if those didn't happen, we had had conversations about him staying here. That was one of the plans, and really we had that conversation from the very beginning."

Banks On Campus:

New safeties and co-defnesive coordinator Tim Banks was once an assistant coach at Illinois. More specifically, Banks was one of the coaches that visited campus to recruit Penn State players away from the program after the sanctions hit. Franklin went to bat for his newest hire, with a not so subtle jab at former Illinois' coach Tim Beckman along the way.

"Yeah, I've known Tim for a very, very long time. We worked together at the University of Maryland, followed his career as a coordinator in the Big Ten. I know the type of man that Tim is. I know his values. I know his morals. Tim was a part of that staff, and Tim was put in a very difficult situation, and we've discussed that. We've discussed that. There's no doubt about it. But I think once you guys all get to know Tim as well as our community gets to know Tim, they'll have no concerns or issues about that. Tim was put in a difficult situation as an employee, and I know the type of man he is."

Open Competition:

Despite quarterback Trace McSorley making the most of his opportunities in the bowl game against Georgia, Franklin isn't entering spring ball with any one quarterback ahead of another in the race for the starting job. In fact every position will be a wide open battle, although some battles will last far longer than others.

"Obviously it was great to see Trace come in in more of a live situation and make plays, make plays down the field with his arm, make plays with his legs, make plays with his mind, and it was great to see him go in there and have some success against one of the better defenses in the country and watch the guys rally around him. But no, it'll be an open competition. I know that experience gave him some confidence moving into the off-season, but the quarterback position as well as every position will be open for true competition and see who's going to give us the best opportunity to be successful on Saturdays."


Shoop Gone:

The biggest talking point left, the departure of defensive coordinator Bob Shoop who stated just a week prior to leaving that he would love to stay at Penn State for as long as the program would have him. A few days later he took the same job at Tennessee.

"Yeah, I think you're always a little surprised," Franklin said. "You're always a little hurt, because we spent a lot of time together as family, as families and people. Our coaches get opportunities and they get offers, and we've been very fortunate, over five years we've had probably as little turnover as most staffs in the country. But every year these guys get approached. Every year they have to make decisions, what's in the best interest of their families personally and what's in the best interest of their families professionally."

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