The Penn State Nittany Lions reportedly have their man, with an expected hire of Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin coming shortly, according to CBS Sports' Bruce Feldman and ESPN's Brett McMurphy. Football Scoop's Scott Roussel confirms the reports.
At Penn State, sources say they are getting all necessary clearances. Might take 24 hours (or even until Saturday) but Franklin is their guy— FootballScoop Staff (@footballscoop) January 9, 2014
James Franklin's Penn State contract will be finalized/approved Saturday by PSU committee, source told @ESPN— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) January 10, 2014
We'll know more soon.
Franklin would replace Bill O'Brien, who went 15-9 in two seasons in State College before leaving to take the Houston Texans head coaching job.
Franklin has amassed a previously unthinkable 24-15 record in Nashville. He guided the Commodores to three straight bowl games and had a winning record in SEC play over the past two seasons. In only three years, he's put his name all over the Vanderbilt record book, putting together consecutive bowl appearances for the first time in program history, the most wins in a two year period since 1926-1927, and their first end of season ranking since 1948. He has the Commodores recruiting at a competitive level in the SEC, which has simply never happened before at that school.
49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman, Mike Munchak, a former Titans head coach and Penn State lineman, and Miami coach Al Golden were considered among the other candidates for the Nittany Lions head coaching job. Franklin was also connected to a number of NFL jobs.
Energy and tenacity like Franklin's will be a necessity at Penn State, as the program is still under the yoke of crippling NCAA sanctions related to the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal. The NCAA has walked back those sanctions somewhat, but the Nittany Lions still have two years remaining on their bowl ban.
Despite all that, Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner was reportedly able to land maybe the most sought after head coaching candidate in college football.
However, if any coach can navigate the tricky waters ahead for Penn State, it's Franklin. The former Maryland head-coach-in-waiting is a Pennsylvania native, which will play well among the fractured Penn State fan base, and he's demonstrated the ability to outwork opponents both on the field and on the recruiting trail.
For a program still playing with a short deck, that is absolutely essential. O'Brien displayed similar traits, and he was able to keep the program's head above water somehow. We'll see if Franklin can build on that progress.