STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — James Franklin is the third football coach in what for many Penn State football players will be four seasons and already has left a good first impression.
The 41-year-old Franklin, who spent three years resurrecting Vanderbilt's program and guided the Commodores to a 24-15 record, has been labeled a players' coach by a group of Nittany Lion players who have had an oversized dash of change and more than a pinch of adversity on their Penn State plate.
Franklin became Penn State's 16th coach on Saturday, replacing Bill O'Brien, who took over the NFL's Houston Texans after replacing the late Joe Paterno in 2012.
Franklin wasted no time getting acclimated. He lured in four recruits, glad-handed with fans at three Penn State winter sporting events and ultimately met his new football family on Sunday night.
"I'd be lying to you if I said it wasn't a little crazy, watching it on TV and being home over break," offensive guard Miles Dieffenbach said Tuesday. "There was nothing we could do about it and we knew (athletic director) Dave Joyner would pick someone great. Coach Franklin is a real players' coach. He cares a lot about the team. That's something I really look forward to, building a relationship with him."
Penn State's roster remains relatively young, but players have survived more than one passing storm.
They dealt with the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal from which came harsh NCAA sanctions, the firing and then death of the legendary Paterno, the coming and going of O'Brien and Monday's announcement by veteran defensive line coach Larry Johnson that, according to various news reports, he was going to go to work for Big Ten rival Ohio State.