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Penn State Football: Why Is James Franklin A Good Hire? The Basics

by on January 10, 2014 1:40 PM

Assuming that the next 24-48 hours unfold for Penn State as most are expecting they will, James Franklin will be introduced as Penn State's 16th head football coach.

But who is James Franklin? Why are fans so excited about a guy from Vanderbilt, a program that has played in all of seven bowl games? Is he really the best option out there?

Sports will always keep people debating because in many cases there is no right answer. Some fans may not like the pending Franklin hire because they wanted Al Golden or they were hoping Penn State would hit the Nick Saban lottery. Those are fair hopes to have (maybe unreasonable in the case of Saban) but not the hopes of Penn State's search committee.

So what makes Franklin a good hire? Here are some of the basics.

Recruiting: Simply put, your college football program is as good as the players it can bring in. Sure you can coach up overlooked prospects and win games, but if you're going to compete with the Ohio States of the world you need to bring in talent.

While at Vanderbilt, Franklin was able to do that, bringing in a Top 20 class in 2013 and a Top 30 ranked class in 2012. Considering that Vanderbilt has long been at the bottom of the SEC, getting talent to commit was no simple task. For comparison, in 2008 Vanderbilt had the No. 91 ranked recruiting class in the nation according to Rivals. If Franklin can put together Top 20 classes at Vanderbilt, he can do it at Penn State with a lot less effort.

Coaching: Having talented players is one part of the equation. Coaching talent is another key component. While at Vanderbilt, Franklin made the program relevant in the SEC, turning a 6-7 record into back-to-back 9-4 years and .500 or better conference records. Winning in the SEC is never easy, and winning as the constant underdog is even harder. Franklin did both.

In total, Vanderbilt has been to seven bowl games, three coming under Franklin, and two of the program's four bowl wins coming under him as well.

While at Maryland, Franklin was also the offensive mind behind ACC Rookie of The Year, quarterback Danny O'Brien, who almost transferred to Penn State two seasons ago.

Franklin's assistant coaches are also some of the best in the nation. If he brings most of them from Vanderbilt it would be a welcome sight for not only fans but players as well.

Energy: If Penn State needs a coach who is full of energy and ready to go, you'd be hard pressed to find one more energetic than Franklin. It's easier to watch than describe.

College Coach: Say what you will about Bill O'Brien's time at Penn State, but he wasn't made for everything college football has to offer. Franklin? His February 2 birthday falls on National Signing Day on occasion. In his own words: "It's a sign you're supposed to be a college football coach when your birthday falls on Signing Day. I like college more than the NFL because you can have as many first round draft choices as you decide to get."

So to summarize. Penn State is getting an energetic coach who can recruit and has shown an ability to overcome the odds in a difficult situation.

Not too bad if you're a Penn State fan.

The Asterisk:

Franklin comes with his own baggage -- a rape case that involved five Vanderbilt football players. All five were booted from the team without delay and Franklin has been cleared by authorities regarding any involvement in a potential cover-up. That being said, with an open investigation Franklin could become involved again, even just as a witness. It's not a matter of Franklin going to jail, but it's something that you can't ignore when evaluating Franklin and what he brings with him to Penn State.

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