STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- It’s a long way until the season kicks off, but there’ll be an oasis of relief in just one week when spring practice starts up next Monday morning.
Throughout the offseason, we’ve had other countdowns -- position battles, players to watch, impactful recruiting classes, positions to improve -- to help the winter tick by a little faster. And this week’s countdown, involving five predictions for the spring, will be the final one.
So let's get started ...
A more public, eager-to-please coach
Ever spot Bill O’Brien at the Creamery? Or maybe just walking around town? It was something he often said he’d like to do more often, but he was a private person who tended to sound like a curmudgeon at certain news conferences -- namely when he professed his dislike for “birthdays, weddings, theme parks, the beach.” He was a great coach, but admitted he was no pep-rally coach.
Expect the complete opposite from new coach James Franklin, who boasts the complete opposite personality.
Franklin held a pep rally on signing day and filled a gym with several thousand fans. On his first day in Happy Valley, he walked off his plane and introduced himself to two young fans. And he has already spoken at THON and committed to speak at an upcoming scholar-athlete banquet. Sure, a lot of what he says and does might just be part of a strategy to garner good will. He’s two parts coach and one part politician. But he doesn’t shirk from the spotlight, and fans should see more of him this spring than they saw from O’Brien in two years.
Franklin has already become a familiar face at wrestling matches, and it’s not unusual to spot him at hockey or basketball games either. Penn State’s signing day war room, which was open to some fans and media, literally had trumpets blaring and OL coach Herb Hand rapping for a few listeners. The only thing that was missing was a partridge in a pear tree.
Franklin joked during his introductory news conference that he’d blow up balloons at kids’ backyard birthday parties if he was asked. Of course, after he received quite a few messages, he publicly admitted that was a bit of a hyperbole. But expect more speaking engagements, more fan interaction (the autograph session for the Blue-White Game is back, for example), and more public appearances. This year’s Coaches Caravan tour should be quite the memorable one.
If you don’t know much about Franklin yet, you certainly should by the end of the spring.