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Wednesday, March 13, 2013
LB Franklin keeping in touch with PSU

By Josh Moyer

Linebacker Zaire Franklin (Philadelphia/La Salle) stifled a laugh when asked if he could vividly remember Bill O'Brien's visit to his school earlier this year.

"How could I forget? Come on now, it was Coach O'Brien," he said. "When Coach O'Brien showed up, my school -- it almost stopped."

The 6-foot-1, 215-pound prospect remembered teachers from the second floor leaving class to walk down a flight of stairs to catch a glimpse of the coach. He recalled an army of students with their cell phones out hoping for a picture. And he can't forget the constant questions and comments from his classmates after he spoke with ESPN's coach of the year for a few minutes.

"It was funny. I told him he was a superstar at my school, and he just laughed," Franklin said. "And, oh my God, people were asking me all sorts of weird questions. One of them was like, 'Does he have big hands?' And I will say this, though, he was taller than I expected."

Defensive coordinator John Butler accompanied O'Brien to the city school, and the assistant coach has been Franklin's main contact with Penn State. Butler was the first college coach to reach out to Franklin earlier his junior season, and the two have remained in touch -- even well before O'Brien's memorable January visit.

Butler, a La Salle alum who had a few of the same teachers as the linebacker, attended one of his practices and also stopped by what Franklin said felt like every two weeks. He can still remember the text he received from his high school coach in the middle of class that read, in part, Penn State was interested and Butler was on his way.

"They're the first team that showed me love," Franklin said. "So you have to look at them. You got to show a little love to the team that first showed you love."

Franklin recently received a message from Butler about attending a spring practice and/or the spring game, and the linebacker hopes to make his way back up to Happy Valley soon. His friends don't ask nearly as much about Butler, but Franklin said the coordinator's energy is contagious.

He did miss Penn State's junior day, but he said he only chose to visit Maryland instead because he had never seen that campus before. The goal at this point, he said, is just to see as many schools as possible.

He doesn't yet hold an offer from the Nittany Lions, but his recruitment picked up in January after his performance at the U.S. Army All-American Combine. He now holds five offers from UMass, Old Dominion, Pitt, Temple and Villanova. And he's hearing the most from Boston College, Georgia Tech, Wisconsin and Syracuse.

He doesn't yet boast a top five, but he said Pitt and Villanova will likely find a spot there.

"I love Villanova even though they're a I-AA school and I have a lot of major level D-I interest," he said. "I'm not really attracted to a big name, it's just more the program."

But what about a big name like Penn State and a big name like O'Brien? Franklin just laughed again. Of course, he said, he was interested in the Lions.

"I mean, how can you not like Penn State?" he said. "I'm a linebacker, and they're Linebacker U."