By Joseph Fontanazza
SC Contributing Writer
This weekend, The Penn State Nittany Lions football team will hold their annual Blue-White Spring Game. It will be the first under new head coach, and ESU graduate, James Franklin.
Franklin, who was a starter at quarterback and a Harlon Hill award finalist for the East Stroudsburg Warriors during the 1993 and 1994 seasons, was hired after the 2013 season to replace Bill O’Brien, who left the Nittany Lions to become the head coach of the Houston Texans.
While at ESU, Franklin also set multiple passing records.
Through his time with ESU, he learned from current coach, Denny Douds, who Franklin has credited throughout his career.
Franklin’s journey to Penn State started as Wide Receiver Coach for East Stroudsburg rival, Kutztown and he even took a detour to the Roskilde Kings of the Danish Football Federation.
After a cornucopia of coaching jobs, James Franklin took over as the Offensive Coordinator of the Kansas State Wildcats, where the offense saw a climb in production every year during his tenure.
He also accomplished the same feat as the offensive coordinator at the University of Maryland.
Continuing improvement has been the foundation for James Franklin’s coaching career, and as Vanderbilt head coach, he kept that trend going.
The Vanderbilt Commodores before Franklin were a perennial easy win for the powerhouse South Eastern Conference, but under him winning seasons became normal.
The ESU graduate became the coach with the highest winning percentage in the Modern Era for Vanderbilt. With these triumphs, Franklin finally became the right fit for his home state’s largest school.
After the pro-style offenses of Joe Paterno and Bill O’Brien, James Franklin’s Spread Variation will bring a new look for a school that prides itself on tradition more than innovation.
Like Penn State’s traditional style, The Big Ten Conference also holds the same type of nostalgia.
But the Nittany Lions will look to follow the example of the Ohio State Buckeyes, whose 24 game win streak under Spread Offense Innovator Urban Meyer was the longest active streak in Division One football.
While James Franklin has yet to coach a team who has eclipsed the fiftieth spot of total offense, he also has yet to coach a team with the amount of talent available at Penn State.
Top wide receiver, Allen Robinson has left for the NFL draft, but there are still emerging players on the Nittany Lions’ roster.
The former ESU Quarterback will look to help with the continued development of sophomore quarterback, Christian Hackenberg. Last season, Hackenberg led all true freshmen in passing yards with 2,955 and passing touchdowns with 20.
Hackenberg will also have a chance to improve with a talented group of skill position players. A young QB can be helped thoroughly by a trusty tight end, and the Nittany Lions have two.
Adam Breneman caught only 15 passes the previous year, but his physical talents should blossom with more experience.
Fellow Tight End, Jesse James and his 6’7” frame will also give Hackenberg a reliable red zone target.
In addition, the bruising running of Zach Zwinack gives another option for Penn State’s offense.
With the weapons Penn State feature, James Franklin should fare well in a friendly competition against Defensive Coordinator, Bob Shoop as Franklin’s Penn State coaching career will start in the PSU Spring Game on April 12, 2014.
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