Penn State kicks off Franklin era
DUBLIN — Almost eight months on the job, James Franklin and his assistants finally get to coach Penn State in a game.
Every player has seen the way Franklin and his staff members — but mostly Franklin — portray themselves in news conferences, on the sidelines (based on their time at Vanderbilt) and on a practice field. But how do they react in a pregame locker room?
Nittany Lions players will find out before kickoff at 8:30 a.m. EST Saturday against Central Florida at Croke Park Stadium in Dublin.
“I'm really excited to see how they are on game day and how fired up they get,” senior safety Ryan Keiser said. “We do know they bring a lot of excitement to the table, so I'm excited to see it (in game conditions).”
With Franklin leading the way, Penn State's new youthful staff is nothing if not energetic and outgoing — and that's in even the most benign of circumstances. In the competitive heat of the moment?
“They bring a lot of energy,” safety Jesse Della Valle said. “But at the same time, they're professionals, and I'm sure they're able to be professionals and to make adjustments and do their jobs the way they need to do them.”
Franklin makes no secret of his tendency to show emotion. He's even been caught in some high-profile heated exchanges with opposing coaches and media. But he insists he is “not a big pregame speech guy.”
“I feel like if you have to get them fired up 15 minutes before they run onto the field, you've got problems,” he said. “So I do my pregame speech Sunday through Friday. Telling them all the things we're going to need to do to be successful. Areas of concentration, areas of emphasis, things like that.
“Before the game, for me, it's basically telling them how much I care about them and how confident I am in their preparation and how excited I am to go see them play.”
Franklin indicated the rah-rah duties are reserved for defensive line coach Sean Spencer, a Clarion alumnus who has an appropriate nickname for his personality.
“Coach Chaos,” Franklin said. “He takes a lot of pride in (pregame speeches), but that's not necessarily something we'll do every week.”
Franklin is more apt to deliver a halftime message, when necessary.
“Sometimes it's with emotion,” he said. “Sometimes it's calm and calculated.”
After the game is when Franklin lets himself go. While he says his remarks to players after a loss are measured, Franklin doesn't see shame in celebrating a win.
“That's one of the problems I think that happens with coaches: The losses become a lot more painful than the wins become joyous and fun,” Franklin said. “And I don't want to get like that. I want to really, really enjoy the wins and celebrate it with the guys.”
His first opportunity comes Saturday.