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Penn State Football: Franklin Talks Three Keys To Maintaining Success

by on January 05, 2018 11:00 AM

Penn State has had a two year stretch as good as any in its history and as good as any in the past several years of college football.

But what happens next? 

That's the million dollar question really, the graduation of a host of household names and big time players leaves the Nittany Lions with plenty of talent but a lot of questions that will go unanswered until the games come around against next September. Three years straight of 10-win seasons? It would be historic.

What would it take to pull that off? A little bit of luck to be sure, but also three keys that James Franklin sees as the critical ingredients of turning short term success into a much longer run of high level football.

"Staff consistency and recruiting are by far the two biggest issues," Franklin said in Phoenix last week. "And I think the other thing is having the ability and being willing to change and adapt over time. The model that worked 30 years ago to think that, that is going to be able to work in our current model in our current environment, I don't think that's necessarily true. What we did at Vanderbilt and had success with doesn't always mean that it's going to be the same model that you're going to be successful with at Penn State."

So far Franklin is more or less winning all three battles. Recruiting speaks for itself, the Nittany Lions hauling in their best class yet under Franklin. Staff consistency, the departure of Joe Moorhead wasn't "helpful" in that regard, but it informs a bit as to why Franklin looked to Ricky Rahne to continue what Moorhead started on offense. Maybe not consistency in body, but certainly of philosophy.

And adapting? If anything the change from a John Donovan offense to Joe Moorhead was as much about adaption than it was anything else. If Franklin seems to lack of a core football philosophy, it might simply be because he isn't going to stick to something that isn't going to work.

Functionally though many of the challenges remain. Bluntly, how do you replace big name players without losing a step? It comes down to development, and making the most of the time you're given.

"I think that happens all over the country, we're in an unusual situation because our two middle linebackers are seniors," Franklin added. "You'd love for those guys to be staggered and normally it does work out that way. But I also look around college football, I think Miami played two or three freshmen linebackers this year and were very successful."

"I think the other reason is development, one of the things we did this year that we hadn't done in the past is the bowl practice period is usually a lot of development practices, we added an extra development practice where it's just the young guys and GAs going out to practice and it was just them. But then I realized when we were out here at this bowl that once we come to the bowl site we do no more of that, it goes back to a normal week of operation, and I don't think it needs to be."

"So right now we've got some non travel guys are lifting and doing meetings right now, our night walk through the night before playing the game is usually just the guys playing in the game, we're going to keep those young guys afterwards and doing a walk through as well, so the balance of not only what do we need to do to get our team ready this year and also spending enough energy and time on what are we doing to develop the players that are in our program so that they're ready to take over. And that's the constant struggle and balance between those two things."

In the end everything comes back to roster depth, the one final demon that Penn State is fighting off from the sanction era. The hope of course is that Penn State can simply reload at each position of need.

But are the Nittany Lions there yet? They're getting closer, but Penn State will have challenges facing it in the coming year.

"I think we're getting closer," Franklin said. "I think this year was a really good example that we did that from last year. We had some turnover last year and we were able to replace those guys. We're going to have some challenges with that next year. I think that defensive tackle is going to be a challenge for us, I think linebacker is going to be a challenge for us."

"I think offensively we've played enough guys that I feel good about that, defensively that's going to be a challenge, kicking is going to be a little bit of a challenge for us. I think that we've made strides but I still think you need to get to the point where you've had the type of recruiting classes that we've had the past couple of years for the next five years. So that helps you handle some of those things because you've got the next guy constantly pushing for opportunities and playing time and that probably wasn't necessarily the case for us in the past."

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