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Penn State Football: Signing Day Leftovers

by on February 09, 2018 2:00 PM

Any reporter will tell you that conference calls and press conferences are always full of things that don't make the main story. Maybe it wasn't the most interesting thing said, or an angle that didn't quite fit the biggest story of the day.

Whatever the case there are always leftovers. So from Penn State's signing day teleconference with James Franklin, here are a few of the things left in the notebook.

Q. How and when did you first identify David (receivers coach) and Ja'Juan (running backs coach) as candidates and what did they do in their interviews as guys you should definitely hire?

FRANKLIN: David is a guy very similar to how you guys have heard me tell my stories about how I've hired people in the past. David is a guy I identified about five years ago, I think it was. He interviewed for the receiver's job at Vanderbilt. The same interview was the interview with Josh Gattis. We ended up going with Josh Gattis, and I've stayed in touch with David ever since and tracking his career.

Joe Brady is a guy that was on our staff, really smart guy, is now with the Saints and Joe always thought the world of David. So I kind of kept tracking him and when the job came open again, he was right at the top of the list because we had interviewed him five years early year.

Like I said, I had followed his career, and the people that I'm very close with and I respect that he's worked with, a guy by the name of Kevin Rogers who I've known forever, got a lot of respect for, very respected coach in the industry and that's been like a mentor to David.

And then obviously Joe Brady, like I said, who is with the Saints; people that I trust and respect called, and gave him strong recommendations.

William & Mary is a school and program that I respect. Coach has done a great job there for a long time. It's a great academic intuition. And I think you guys know, he fits a lot of the characteristics that I really like. He's aggressive, he's smart, went to an academic school, is passionate about coaching. Has got a background, played quarterback.

So a lot of things that I'm attracted to in coaches that I've seen those patterns be successful in the past, he had a lot of those attributes. So just made sense.

And then did you also ask about Ja'Juan? Ja'Juan is a guy that I knew more about his reputation, and then there was some guys on our staff that he had a relationship with. We went through the interview process and guys had done a good job, but Ja'Juan kind of blew us away.

I think the other thing that was important to me was that both David and Ja'Juan really wanted to be here. Ja'Juan, his wife is from West Virginia. They have spent a good portion of their adult life in West Virginia, so this was able to bring them back closer to home, family, friends.

And I think the relationships with guys on my staff, and then me kind of following his career from afar and him following my career from afar, once we all kind of got linked up together, it made sense.

And no different than we talk about with the players having position flexibility, we had hired David originally for the running back job, but the fact that David had been a receivers coach for most of his career allowed us to hire Ja'Juan as running backs and move David to receivers.

Q. I'm wondering if you can give us an update on how some of the early enrollees have made that adjustment, and if I can follow-up quickly, who is the best former small college quarterback on the staff now?

FRANKLIN: Well, yeah, it's clear that James Franklin is the best small college quarterback on the staff. I mean, that's -- there's no argument there. But part of that is because I'm really the only small college quarterback on the staff. I-AA and I-A, which is what those two guys played, clearly beats a Division-II guy. Although, the Division-II guy was a badass.

The newcomers coming in, haven't really seen a whole lot. We had one winter work out and the strength coaches have had them. But from first impression, is good. Trent Gordon's been a pleasant surprise. We had high expectations, and his first impression was probably higher than what we expected. He kind of blew us away in the first morning workout and really competitive and really smooth and really efficient with his movements.

Luketa is a big, raw, athletic guy who is very competitive and been really impressed with him and how he's approached everything. I know the strengths have -- his body is already starting to change. He's going to be a monster.

Parsons is what we thought. He's strong, he's explosive, he's fast, but again, all these guys are being very supportive of one another. They are asking a lot of questions. They have humbled themselves and the morning workouts typically do that, and I know the older guys have been impressed with them.

Tarburton is another big, strong guy that' come in here. His body is already changing. I think he's already lost ten, 15 pounds; is moving really well, is very competitive, is very conscientious. Been very, very impressed with him.

Humphries, you know; what you would expect from a 4.0 student, very mature, very smart, very analytical and right now, obviously is doing a great job in the morning workouts in terms of his approach and his willingness.

Again, it's hard because we've only had one, we were supposed to have another one this morning, and the school got shut down with the snow obviously, so we weren't able to do it -- we cancelled it. Hard for me to have a strong opinion after one day.

And then the other guy is obviously Kuntz. The thing I'm probably surprised about with Kuntz is how strong he is. Typically when you've got a guy who is built like him at 6-7 and 220 pounds, they don't necessarily -- it's going to take them a long time to develop the strength and power needed to play, but I already see him packing it on and he came in stronger than we anticipate. So he's already put on muscle mass. He's already getting stronger in the weight room. We already knew he ran wall because he ran so well in camp.

But all those guys are really competitive and are working really hard and have been really supportive of one another and so far, so good.

Q. I'm wondering, what are the benefits for the early signing period, supposed to be that most of the teams get a jump on 2019 and beyond. Curious how you feel like the last month has gone when you look ahead, and is there a way to quantify how much further you guys are in '19 and beyond because of the signing period?

FRANKLIN: Well, yeah, I don't think there's any doubt. I guess the way we look at it, and I think a lot of coaches do, is this January period and February period really turned into almost like spring recruiting. So the old days, the head coaches could go out in the spring, and we can't go out anymore.

So for us, we were only waiting on one signature today, so we could really spend all our time recruiting essentially one guy, and then the rest of the time, go out in junior recruit, where in the old days, you were having to continue to visit at a high rate, guys that were already committed to you.

And we still did that, but it was more checking in. It wasn't the same type of urgency. It wasn't the same type of stress that it normally is involved with. We were able to really go see a lot of underclassmen, myself as well as the assistants and go by his school and pick up transcripts and talk to coaches and guidance counselors and teachers and things like that.

I wouldn't say that we're any further ahead than any other school in the country because I think everybody is approaching it the same way. Is everybody further ahead probably in the process? Probably. And we approached it in a similar fashion.

Q. Could I have an overall philosophy, changes on the staff, how do you balance promoting people versus bringing people in, and were Larry and Sam are considered for one of the open jobs?

FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think you always want to try to promote from within as much as you possibly can. I think if you look over my career, that's really how we've done it. Whether it's promoting from within or whether it's guys that have been with us and left and then we brought back; for the most part, we just kind of stayed in our circle and jump outside of that circle from time to time.

Yeah, I think that's the ultimate model. It doesn't always fit or it doesn't always time up right. But yeah, I think you look at Phil Galiano, he's one of those guys that we promoted from within. You look at Ricky Rahne, he's one of those guys that we promoted from within.

Yeah, I think for the most part, we have followed that model, but it's got to time up right. It's got to make sense from a fit perspective, as well.

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