James Franklin keeps lists.
In its simplest form, by maintaining an outline of viable possibilities, the Nittany Lions' highly analytical new head coach is able to evaluate his options and determine highest chances for the best outcomes well before an event ever comes to fruition. It's how he operates in the literal sense of a football game but, more generally, is a philosophy that acts as an umbrella for the way the Penn State football program will operate under his leadership.
This should come as no surprise at this point, of course. Penn State's new man, months into his tenure in Happy Valley, has demonstrated repeatedly an utter preparedness in his approach to every facet of the job.
From his dealings with the media to the recruiting success that has swept up an entire fan base, Franklin's level of planning is intricate, thorough, and constantly evolving.
Speaking last week on the first leg of this year's Penn State Coaches Caravan, Franklin discussed at length the processes he utilizes in lining up recruits and organizing an assistant coaching staff or support staff. That the processes closely align should come as little surprise.
For instance, in recruiting, Franklin stated that the goal is "to have so many people that are attracted" to Penn State that the decision becomes simply one of emerging with the best candidate rather than having to scramble to fill a need come signing day.
Said Franklin, "We don't ever want to be in that position, that's why making sure that we have really thorough, deep lists at each position of talented guys - academically, athletically, socially, spiritually, the whole package - so that if you get your number one, great, but if you don't, there's still 15 other guys that you feel really good about at each position. And that's the same approach we take with everything."
Specifically, Franklin's approach to filling assistant coaching vacancies - should they come available at any point in the future - follows a similar model.
Though Franklin has repeatedly explained in great detail the fabric of his coaching staff and the importance he places on its longevity, he also acknowledged the natural progression of assistants to eventually reach for and take better jobs along the coaching ladder. Stating that lateral moves were something he'd hope to be able to prevent, the outside opportunities for Penn State's current assistants that could eventually lead to openings on Penn State's future staff are something that he's already got detailed plans to prepare for such a situation.
"You look at staff, (Director of Football Administration) Kevin (Threlkel) does a great job of helping me constantly keep a list of people that we're going to hire, of people that we're going to recruit. Every area, we have that," Franklin said, noting the 15 strength coaches or 15 linebacker coaches he'd already established developed relationships. "I believe in planning and being organized ahead of time."
Part of that planning, Franklin continued, involves coordinators getting to know and spending time with other coaches around the country at various conventions, be it at the high school or college level. From lunches and dinners to taking note of the well-prepared high school coaches he's long been familiar on the recruiting trail, the relationships - and byproduct of future possibilities - are always in development.
With relationships already in tact, Franklin explained, the transitions and evolutions inevitable to any college coaching staff can be handled as seamlessly as possible.
"I do the same thing so that when jobs come open, you already got a pretty good idea of who you'd hire ahead of time," Franklin said. "That's the same approach in recruiting, that's the same approach as hiring a staff. Just trying to be thorough, detailed and organized with everything we do."
Fully invested in understanding vast swath that a major FBS program encompasses, it's an attitude Franklin holds firmly as he continues to navigate the unique aspects of Penn State's operations.