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PSU's Franklin likes Western Pa. flavor of his staff

| Thursday, May 8, 2014, 8:45 p.m.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Penn State head coach James Franklin becomes emotional when talking about growing up in Pennsylvania and now being the head coach of the Nittany Lions as he addressed a sold out crowd of supporters during a coaches caravan stop at the Sheraton Station Square in Pittsburgh on May 08, 2014.

James Franklin says he prefers to surround himself with “people who are comfortable in their own skin and people who know who they are.”

He's found a couple of those people in some native Pittsburghers.

Making his third public appearance in Pittsburgh since being hired as Penn State's 16th football coach in January, Franklin took the opportunity Thursday to compliment his two assistants who went to high schools about 20 minutes from downtown in differing directions.

“I'd always been really impressed with Terry Smith,” Franklin said of the former Gateway star player and coach who's now the Nittany Lions' cornerbacks coach.

“Terry's been on my ‘list' for a long time.”

Speaking at the Sheraton Station Square as part of the Penn State's coaches caravan, Franklin had similarly nice things to say about Riverview graduate and current Penn State defensive coordinator Bob Shoop.

“Bob's really, really sharp, and he does a great job in the film room and being creative and having answers,” Franklin said. “He has an understanding of the game.”

Maybe, but Shoop doesn't have an understanding of being among the smoothest on what is a young and energetic staff.

“Bob's ‘swag tank' is on empty,” Franklin deadpanned. “It is on empty. But the thing that's great about Bob is he knows who he is. He embraces it, and he stays true to who he is.”

Told of Franklin's good-natured ribbing, Shoop showed some of that self-assuredness when he immediately took to Twitter for a response: “Ok....CJF...My swag meter may be on empty...and I may not be a stand up comedian but I know how to build a BIG TIME DEFENSE!!#PSUCARAVAN2014.”

The Pittsburgh caravan stop was the seventh of 17 for Franklin, who is accompanied by other Penn State coaches at each one. Soccer coaches Erica Walsh (women's) and Bob Warming (men's) were on the southwestern Pennsylvania portion that took place Thursday. The three also were in Uniontown for a lunch stop at Penn State Fayette.

Shoop and Smith joined the group in Station Square.

Although Shoop was Franklin's defensive coordinator the past three years at Vanderbilt, Smith is the only member of Penn State's staff that didn't work under Franklin with the Commodores. In fact, Smith has only one year of college coaching experience. The former Nittany Lions receiver was Gateway's coach from 2002-12.

The relative lack of experience — both in the college game, or while on the same staff with Franklin — was of no concern to Franklin.

“Terry was one of those guys that when you walked into his school, he had everything ready,” Franklin said. “He had the transcripts, he had the core GPAs calculated, he had film, he had everything ready to go.

“He was highly successful. You watched him when he walked around the school, just the respect that he had. He had a presence to him.”

Franklin, Warming, Walsh and other university representatives spoke to an audience of more than 450 in a program that lasted about 90 minutes.

Franklin made a pitch for better facilities for his program, claiming they are a downgrade from those at his previous employer, Vanderbilt — which he says are the worst in the SEC.

Chris Adamski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at cadamski@triblive.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.

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