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February 16, 2014

Column: Patience necessary en route to future dividends

James Franklin had a message for his 65,000 Twitter followers on Sunday morning:

Thank you.

He's said it before and will say it again, but Sunday morning offered a particularly relevant opportunity to stop and briefly smell the roses, so to speak.

Following a Saturday afternoon that included his first official Junior Day as the Nittany Lions' head coach, including three verbal commitments from Class of 2015 prospects Ryan Bates, Kamonte Carter and Jarvis Miller, the reverberations continue from a strong finish to the 2014 class.

Acknowledging the effort necessary to create the future Franklin, his staff, players, and the Penn State fan base are craving so desperately, Sunday morning's Tweet perfectly encapsulated the tenor Franklin is looking to set.

"Want 2 thank every1 on campus & in the community 4 supporting our program & helping us put on a great Jr Day! Together WE can! #107kStrong"

Not that the philosophy is particularly revolutionary, but Franklin's approach speaks to a few items worth remembering as Penn State's program moves forward.

The first deals with Franklin's approach itself.

Flat-out, the guy and his staff know how to hustle.

They had to at Vanderbilt, and though they've all acknowledged the gravitas that comes with walking into high schools with the iconic chipmunk logo on their chests instead of Vanderbilt's tradition-less black and gold, their collective method of attack is already reaping rewards. The philosophy is fundamentally different from Penn State's recent history, though.

Like the mantra suggesting players "act like they've been there" upon scoring a touchdown, for years and years, Penn State's recruiting efforts were not dissimilar.

Make no mistake, instead of remaining quiet about their successes, Franklin and his staff are enthusiastically running into the end zone, handing the ball to the ref, and performing an elaborate group cheer to rally the fans before making their way back to the sideline. Not unsportsmanlike or enough to draw a flag in any fashion, the message is one of acknowledging and appreciating the significance of the strides that are being made to push the program forward.

At a crossroads in the program's history in which many of the laurels that helped carry the Nittany Lions forward in the past are no longer as relevant, Franklin and his staff have demonstrated the understanding that a reputation of tradition alone is not enough to facilitate their longterm vision for the program.

The second - and maybe more important - takeaway rests in what Franklin's recruiting successes mean for the immediate and longterm success of the Nittany Lions.

Understanding the demonstrable challenges that continue to exist on Penn State's current team due to the NCAA's sanctions, the key for Penn State fans coming out of Bill O'Brien's two-year triage effort is to understand and embrace the realities that come with a newly made investment.

Like the sudden onset of a recession, stabilization became of utmost important before a true and total recovery could take place.

With that in mind, hard as it may be, some patience will be necessary as Franklin and his staff attempt to navigate some of the problem spots that continue to exist while keeping an eye on the yearly percentage increases that will accumulate as incoming players matriculate and eventually produce dividends.

"I've always been in a situation and been on staffs where you emphasized recruiting because to me it's very, very simple, the plays work better with good players," Franklin said at his signing day press conference. "We want to be successful and we want to have a chance to go out and win a bunch of games and do it the right way and good players and good people and people of high character will help you do that."

The perception of the program exponentially more favorable than it'd been just two years ago, as demonstrated with the 2014 and now, the start of the 2015 class, those players are making their way to University Park, making the future of the program undeniably bright.

If Penn State fans are simply willing to enjoy the pre-dawn hours that come before a magnificently sunny, warm, blue sky afternoon, the stage is set for time to race ahead toward that future.




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