With winter workouts wrapping up this week before spring break officially begins on Monday, and the start of spring practice opening the week after that (Mar. 17), Penn State head coach James Franklin joined Pittsburgh's 93.7 The Fan on Tuesday afternoon.
Though the Franklin's experience coaching in the SEC was fodder for a few insights on potential NFL first round draft picks in the coming months, he was able to talk extensively about Penn State football, and especially recruiting.
In a market that has been especially fertile for recruiting during Pen State's history - and just a few days after a widely-circulated image showed new assistant Terry Smith holding down the Pittsburgh region - Franklin was asked whether or not the longtime Gateway fixture would be the difference-maker in helping to land top recruits in Pittsburgh.
"I don't think so. We don't really recruit that way. A lot of schools do where they have one guy responsible for an area or a position. We don't really do it that way," Franklin said. "If you're being recruited from Penn State by our staff, you really won't know who your recruiter is, because not only will the area recruiter be recruiting you like crazy, but the position coach will be recruiting you like crazy, the coordinators will be recruiting you like crazy, the head coach will be recruiting you like crazy.
"You should feel like you're being recruited by the entire staff and that you have a relationship with the entire staff. Does his background help and does it open some doors and get our foot in the door in the first place? Yeah, I think it does, but we're not a staff that one guy is going to get credit for anything. It's going to be a team effort."
By the sound of Franklin's comments regarding his own longevity at Penn State, the move to Happy Valley went far beyond being his sole decision, too.
In comparing longtime Penn State head coach Joe Paterno to the short tenure of Bill O'Brien, now with the NFL's Houston Texans, Franklin was asked about some skepticism that he'd be interested in staying at Penn State for much of a duration.
"That really doesn't make a whole lot of sense," he said. "I think people negative recruit however they want to negative recruit, but if you look at it and how the whole thing played out, we had three or four NFL head coaching opportunities and interviews and things like that that we turned down to take this job.
"I don't know how much sense that makes, and I don't know if there's a better example that you can have of the commitment that we have here is that we turned those opportunities down to take this job."
Of course, regardless of Franklin's commitment, Smith's recruiting connections and any other number of positives in Penn State's favor, the NCAA's onerous sanctions against the program continue to be a topic of discussion as it relates to the Nittany Lions' recruiting efforts.
That said, according to Franklin, though there's an obvious concern among potential prospects and their families, the sanctions have not played a significant role in their ability to recruit to this point - as evidenced by the seven verbal commitments already pledged to Penn State.
"It comes up, obviously, with every recruit and parent that we talk to, and they just want to understand it. But it hasn't really been a significant factor," Franklin said. "Obviously, the tradition, the history, the facilities, the fan base, our location I think for a lot of reasons makes a lot of sense for people.
"So, we've gotta sell recruiting because of who we're recruiting against. Nationally, you think about the people we're recruiting against. So yeah, it's not like it's easy or a slam dunk, but we have so many things to sell. The sanctions and kind of what we're going through right now, the challenges and issues that we're working through right now, people just want to understand them so they can make an educated decision."
Beyond Franklin's comments regarding Penn State recruiting and the subjects that surround it, he offered a few insights on other topics as well, transcribed below:
On Christian Hackenberg:
"I think he has a chance to be special and build on what he's done. There's no doubt about it. The difference is, we don't have free agency, so I can't go out and pick up an offensive tackle and wide receivers, we've gotta do it through recruiting, and it takes a little bit of time. There's no doubt that we have a piece of the puzzle that is significant and very, very important. I don't care if it's little league, high school, college or in the NFL, you better have a trigger man. What we've gotta do is, we've gotta recruit like crazy and develop the players we have on campus to make sure we surround him with enough talent that we should have a chance to be successful."
On his reception and transition at Penn State so far:
"It's been really good. We've got a really good staff. It's not like we came here and I put a staff together and we're all still kind of getting to know each other and figure out our culture at the same time that we're trying to figure out Penn State. We've retained some people from Penn State, we hired Terry Smith who is a former player, so there are people that are experts on Penn State that are helping us with that. I've got a staff that is very familiar with this part of the country as well as Penn State, and then, I pretty much brought my whole staff with me. They understand our culture and how we do things, and then I've got people that are experts on Penn State and how Penn State works. It's been a great marriage, and we're walking into these homes, we're still selling a lot of the similar things we were selling at our last school, which is world-class academics and an opportunity to play bigtime football, live in a great town, early playing time, all those things. Once we spend some time with parents and kids and they understand that we want the true student athlete here and guys that are going to chase their dreams at the highest level, we've been received extremely well."
On goals for upcoming spring practice:
"We just want to lay the foundation of expectations and how we practice and how we work and lay a foundation these guys understand, our schemes, offense, defense, special teams. Now when camp comes around, it's not the first time they've heard it before and now we can start to refine our craft and get better at what we're trying to do so we have a chance to be successful opening the season against Central Florida."
On Ireland trip to face Central Florida:
"I think it was a lot cooler when it was O'Leary versus O'Brien opening the season in Dublin, Ireland. It's not nearly as cool with Franklin. I might change my name to O'Franklin or something before the game. I think it's a great experience for our kids. We're getting a really good showing of support from our fans that are making the trip, which is amazing to me. But yeah, I think there's some challenges that come with it. We're going to have to fly back. We've still got a normal week of preparation the following week, so there's some challenges. But from an experience standpoint, it's pretty special to these players and I think it's going to be a factor for us in recruiting and was in the past."