Finding a football coach was the hard part.
Reaction to the hire? That was easy.
Opinions poured in Saturday about Penn State's hiring of James Franklin, and most offered rave reviews, choosing to ignore, at least for now, an ongoing rape case stemming from Franklin's time at Vanderbilt.
Nittany Lions recruit Nick Scott watched Franklin's near-hourlong introductory news conference from the basement of his home in Fairfax, Va., and bought what his new coach was selling.
“I was really impressed,” said Scott, a running back from Fairfax High School who rushed for 1,592 yards and 17 touchdowns this past season. “I'm really looking forward to meeting him. He seems like a funny, animated and emotional guy. That's what you want. You don't want somebody you can't talk to.”
On Twitter, future, current and past players offered support for Franklin and welcomed the 41-year-old Langhorne native and East Stroudsburg graduate to University Park.
“We are in great hands. Futures bright,” current Penn State running back Akeel Lynch (@ALynch_22) tweeted.
“Congrats to Coach Franklin on being named our head coach! Can't wait to get back to school and get back to work #WeAre,” added wide receiver Matt Zanellato (@mzanellato).
“No more waiting, I knew we'd get the best,” tweeted Wilmington (Del.) Salesianum School linebacker Troy Reeder (@troyreeder9). “Congratulations coach franklin, and welcome to #PSU #weare @jamesfranklinvu.”
Former Penn State quarterback Todd Blackledge — now a college football analyst for ESPN — issued eight consecutive tweets with his thoughts.
Among the highlights from @Todd_Blackledge: “As a Penn Stater, Al Golden would have been my first choice because he knows firsthand what the program has really been about & loves PSU.
“Having said that, I am good with James Franklin. Passionate, Dynamic, Relationship-Oriented, Tireless Recruiter, Smart guy with PA roots.”
Former Penn State linebacker LaVar Arrington supported the hire, even though the North Hills graduate previously lobbied for Miami's Al Golden.
Arrington argued that the reason Penn State didn't land Golden was because of Golden's loyalty to the Hurricanes — a trait Arrington applauded.
But he also applauded Franklin's genuineness.
“I like his spirit,” Arrington said. “I trust his words when I listen to him speak. I don't feel like there's any hidden agendas. I like him. I like this move.”
Franklin met Saturday morning in Nashville, Tenn., with his former Vanderbilt players, who were cheered by hundreds of fans who gathered at the team's practice facility.
“(Franklin) is a great man, a great coach and a great father … a great role model as well,” Commodores running back Brian Kimbrow told The Tennessean newspaper. “He did what's best for him and his family and I respect that. It's understandable. It's very emotional for a lot of us.”
Canon-McMillan athletic director Guy Montecalvo, who played for the late Joe Paterno, insisted it's important to trust the search committee's vetting process.
“I'm sure we all have concerns about the (rape case) down there, but I can only hope and be assured that the Penn State administration did their necessary vetting,” Montecalvo said. “I'm sure they did.”
With Bill O'Brien having departed after two seasons, former receiver Kenny Jackson thinks it will help the program if Franklin spends a little more time at the university.
“He doesn't have to stay forever, but Penn State needs someone who can help the program get back on its feet,” Jackson said.
“Two or three years are not gonna do it.”
Jason Mackey is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @Mackey_Trib.
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