New Penn State football coach Franklin makes strong first impression
Other than what any other fan or interested observer had seen and read, Mike Hull didn't have too much in the form of preconceived insights on the man who became his new coach.
“I just knew he was doing a really good job down at Vanderbilt,” the Penn State linebacker said of James Franklin.
That's all that mattered to Hull and many of his teammates. Still, it didn't hurt Franklin's cause that he gave a rousing in-person introduction during his first team meeting Sunday night.
“My first impression of him was he seems like he really knows what he's doing and seems like he's a great leader,” Hull said Tuesday. “He gave everyone a role, and it seems like everything is going to be running smoothly this spring.”
Franklin immediately established himself as a high-energy, player-friendly coach, four players who were made available to the media said Tuesday. Hull said Franklin had yet to meet individually with any Nittany Lions players outside of quarterback Christian Hackenberg — “He's kind of busy with a lot of obligations right now,” but that hasn't meant he didn't already endear himself to his new players.
“We're on board with him already,” cornerback Jordan Lucas said. “It doesn't take long.
“We see his vision and are going to work very hard to make that happen.”
Franklin drove home some key themes during his first full-squad address, which came a day after he was introduced to the public at a Beaver Stadium news conference.
Franklin talked about how honored he was to be Penn State's 16th head coach. He mentioned how he considers himself to be a players' coach. He stressed toughness and came across as energetic and confident.
“The message that he gave us was that we were going to out-work everybody,” Lucas said.
Some of Penn State's players had preexisting relationships with Franklin, most from when he was an assistant at Maryland and often locked in recruiting battles with Penn State. Redshirt freshman receiver Geno Lewis, who is from Wilkes-Barre, was recruited by Franklin as a high school underclassman.
“I was actually getting excited when (Franklin's) name came up about getting the job,” Lewis said. “He's a really good guy. He's somebody you can talk to, and he makes you feel comfortable when you're around him. He's definitely somebody you'd like to play for, and I'm glad he got the opportunity.”
In the immediate 72 hours after being named as coach, Franklin was ubiquitous around campus — doing publicity photos and interviews, showing up at wrestling matches and basketball and hockey games.
Players picked up on that and noted that being the public face of the program is something at which Franklin excels.
“You can tell he really is big into the community and supporting the other athletic programs,” Hull said, “and I think he really enjoys that part of his job. That's a little different than (former coach Bill O'Brien) was, and I think that's what Penn State needs right now.”