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Penn State Football: What James Franklin Should Do With Joe Moorhead That He Didn't Do With John Donovan

by on December 14, 2015 12:00 PM

I've talked to John Donovan maybe four or five times in the past two years.

Which I'll admit is probably more than nearly everyone who doesn't spend their time writing about Penn State football.

Once at a coaches caravan stop in a hotel lobby, particularly memorable because Donovan couldn't remember if he had legally parked his car or not. He was off the recruiting trail and rushing to the location to be a part of the meet-and-greet with fans. A little flustered but no less interested in taking the time to talk.

Once a year at media day, once prior to Penn State's bowl game last year. There may have been at least two conference calls sprinkled in there but neither were particularly memorable.

So given the benefit of the doubt we'll say I've spoken with him six times, three times a year with one of those occasions coming each year before a single play has been called. Another prior to the final game of the season. A little too early and a little too late.

This is to say, we've met, but that's about it.

Somewhat self-serving media columns don't play very well with the general audience because frankly you just don't care what makes the job easier. You're interested in injuries, recruiting and the state of the program. i don't blame you.

But James Franklin has a chance to get something right the second time around with Joe Moorhead set to take over as offensive coordinator. Something that would help everyone out.

Let him talk.

Franklin for all of his redeeming qualities has perhaps hurt more than helped himself by being the only staff member to talk on a regular basis to the media. Sure there are weekly conference calls but often filled out with Sean Spencer to talk about his stacked defensive line or Terry Smith doing it because nobody else wanted to. It's an appreciated bit of access, but it's rarely enlightening. I'd trade those calls in for Bob Shoop or Brent Pry after every game.

For Franklin though it makes sense. No assistant coaches after games means that nobody can get the message mixed up. Franklin sits down, tells it like he sees it and that's the official word. Short of Shoop's occasional and perhaps intentional trips off the company line, there isn't much that gets said that Franklin doesn't say himself.

And normally that would be fine, but broad strokes and platitudes only feed the masses for so long and Christian Hackenberg probably won't be around next year to graciously fill in as the de facto coordinator next season after games.

That's perhaps what made the John Donovan era so odd. Nobody ever doubted he had at least one of his hands tied behind his back but nobody ever really heard him say it. Heck, nobody ever really heard him say what they were trying to do in the first place. Some of that was simply because Donovan never seemed fully comfortable in front of the mic, that's his prerogative and an awkward quote doesn't do anybody much good. A lot of it was Franklin keeping his staff behind the scenes. Also his prerogative.

But with Moorhead, Penn State brings in a former head coach and man familiar with telling people the state of affairs. Maybe the Fordham masses are a bit smaller, but being a head coach means answering questions no matter what level you're on.

Ultimately this isn't about access, it's about getting the message across. In a few months time Moorhead, like Donovan, will be perhaps the most qualified person to speak on the challenges and the strengths Penn State's offense has to deal with next season. As the Nittany Lions continue to grow as a program there will be bumps in the road. Someone will have to answer to them, it may as well be the guy calling the plays.

At it's most fundamental level, covering a football team means telling fans what is going on and what it means. Taking information from Point A processing it, and giving it to Point B. It's not about trying to grill someone over a bad call, it's about getting a better grasp on the thought process.

The problem has been that for most part everyone has spent the past two years guessing what Donovan would say if he was talking.

With Moorhead I'm hoping I don't have to guess.

Telling is a lot easier.

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