Inside the Den: News and notes from the Caravan
Penn State head coach James Franklin and the third annual Coaches Caravan wraps up its second full week of touring the Mid-Atlantic when it takes Manhattan tonight at the Downtown Marriott for a cocktail reception and evening program.
Beyond the updates from the road this week here, here, here, here, and here, let's take a look at some of the odds and ends that didn't make it into the notes or stories this week.
"I'm going to get a Cael Sanderson shirt with 'Dominate the Universe' on it because that's what he's been doing."
- James Franklin
One of the themes that has really emerged about Franklin in getting to know him much more intimately the past two weeks is just how organized and analytical he is in dealing with every facet of the program.
I'm not sure there was an instance more evident of that fact than his comments in response to a question about the national recruiting landscape.
Essentially, Franklin boiled down the level of detail that he, his support staff and coaching staff all go into when breaking down trends and why things work or do not work. As he explained it, his staff does independent studies on yearly talent location for DI scholarship players and within the NFL Draft. Measurables from the NFL Combine are analyzed as well, learning information like average hand size of wide receivers, arm length by position.
Additionally, Franklin noted the sheer discrepancy of total DI football players produced among the likes of Texas, California and Florida compared to the rest of the country. But, he added, by placing his emphasis on finding the best players - even the All-American types that end up at I-AA schools - the program has an opportunity to be extremely successful.
And, in an advantage he points out between college football over the National Football League, Franklin cited the ability to acquire the absolute best talent as opposed to the draft system at the next level.
"Someone said to me a long time ago and I thought it was a great point - You coach in the NFL, you get one first round draft choice a year. If you're a college football coach, you can go out and get as many first round draft choices as you want every year. You sign 25 of them," he said. "It's basically, how are you going to evaluate prospects, how hard are you going to recruit, and are you going to be able to close the deal? So that's something that we're committed to doing. Good players help and we're excited about it. But we still have a long ways to go."
Special teams philosophy:
In answering a question about Carey Spear, a former Vanderbilt kicker recently picked up by the Philadelphia Eagles, Franklin revealed an interesting philosophy he has for the special teams players that often are viewed differently within most college football programs.
"(Spear is) a football player who happens to kick, and that's really our approach on special teams," Franklin said. "A lot of times specialists are treated differently. Our guys, we want them to be football players who happen to kick, or football players who happen to snap or whatever it is.
"Carey really embraced that identity and earned everybody on our team's respect with his approach in the weight room and everything. I think (Sam) Ficken and our guys are doing that as well right now, so I'm excited about it."
For as much as Franklin has been proactive about getting himself and the Penn State staff into different areas of the country for recruiting purposes - specifically, in their announced participation in summer camps at Georgia State and Stetson University - he revealed that philosophy does not extend to scheduling.
Asked whether or not he'd like to set up home-and-home series with big time programs in states like Florida or Texas, Franklin's thoughts aligned with his very conscientious view of Penn State's athletic department finances and what exactly more home games mean to not only the university itself, but also the community as a whole.
"I want to get as many home games as we possibly can get. As many as we possibly can get. If we could figure out a way to get 11, I'd like 11 home games. I think that would be really cool," he said. "I think that would be great for the community, I think it'd be great for the economy. I don't know if that's necessarily going to happen, but we want to get as many home games as we possibly can.
"I don't really look at home-and-homes in certain regions to help from a recruiting perspective. I don't really approach in that way. Our approach is to get the best schedule we possibly can get to allow Penn State to be competitive in the Big Ten and be successful in the Big Ten so we have a chance to compete not only in this conference but at some point nationally as well."
Speaking of summer camps, Franklin has a family-friendly take on the opportunities provided by taking the Nittany Lions' show on the road.
"I love camps. A lot of coaches don't. I love them. I love getting out and working with young people and talking to parents and selling Penn State and our brand. So I'm fired up about it," he said. "I'd have 35 camps this summer if I could.
"The coaching staff, they want to make sure we have time with families and our wives and our kids and all that kind of stuff and be able to get away, but I think we oughtta, I think our trip to Georgia, that should be family vacation. We should all go down there, bring your families and then do the camp and enjoy Atlanta and then the one in Orlando, that's why we're doing it in Orlando. You can go to Disney World."