NCF On The Trail: james franklin

UPDATE: The video of the call has been posted online and it's every bit as good as you would imagine. Enjoy.


Original post: Feb. 4, 2015 -- 12:45 p.m. ET

Aleem Medley was on his way to work Wednesday morning when a FaceTime call lit up his iPhone. The ID read: Penn State Athletics.

Medley, a lifelong Penn State fan from Philadelphia, thought it was odd but accepted the call. He'll never forget what he saw next.

"It was Coach [James] Franklin," Medley told ESPN.com. "They had all the balloons in the background. I'm like, 'Coach?'"

James FranklinJerry Lai/USA TODAY SportsPenn State's James Franklin reached out and made a fan's day -- albeit by accident.
Indeed, Franklin had called Medley, but not on purpose. The Nittany Lions coach, MCing the school's signing day festivities in State College, was trying to reach Shareef Miller, a defensive end recruit from Philadelphia who signed with Penn State on Wednesday and whose phone number nearly matches Medley's.

"I guess we were off a digit," Franklin told ESPN.com. "This guy comes on the screen and we're trying to call Shareef Miller and I'm thinking, 'This must be Shareef's older brother or someone I haven't met yet,' and the guy's got a huge smile on his face. He goes, 'Coach Franklin!' And I'm like, 'Yeah! What's going on? Congratulations!'

"He's looking at me like I'm crazy. He goes, 'Coach, I think you've got the wrong number, but this is awesome! It's national signing day! Thanks for calling!'"

Franklin then asked Medley if he had any eligibility left.

Medley played quarterback at Philadelphia's Benjamin Franklin High School and earned a scholarship to Shippensburg University. He eventually transferred to Millersville University, where he earned his degree.

Shippensburg and Millersville play in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference along with East Stroudsburg, where Franklin played quarterback.

"I was doing most of the talking," Medley said. "We just had a good laugh. [The call] was only about 58 seconds or so. I was just so stoked."

Medley's mother is a Penn State fan and Medley has always rooted for the Lions. He has never attended a game at Beaver Stadium but crafts his work schedule around when the Lions play. He's a case manager for an organization that helps at-risk youth in Philadelphia, some of whom have been incarcerated, and also coaches basketball and football at the YMCA and a local recreation center.

"I teach my kids now, 'We are Penn State. That's all we say,'" Medley said. I wish I could get to a game one day, but I love watching on TV and I like Coach Franklin as well."

He added of the call, "That was the best news I had in a while. I'm on cloud nine right now."

Franklin was just glad his misplaced FaceTime call went to a friendly face on the other end. What if it had gone to this guy?

"That was classic," Franklin said. "That's a story that will go down for the ages. It was so funny."

The longest days in Big Ten recruiting

February, 6, 2015
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Recruiting can be a non-stop grind for the coaches who have to procure that talent. Some days are longer than others. We talked to several Big Ten head coaches this week and asked them to describe their longest days out on the trail. Here are their stories:

Nebraska's Mike Riley

"It seemed the whole thing was full of long, memorable days. But when recruiting reopened in January after the dead period, I’ve got our personnel staff and our coaches usually making my schedule, where I need to go. So my first day out, I visited North and Central High in Omaha. I did a home visit with Michael Decker. I went to the Outland (Trophy) banquet, and I did another home visit with Daishon Neal. And then it was 10 o’clock at night. It was a full day, and it was a great day, because I hadn’t been in those high schools before. I loved meeting the coaches and seeing our players at the high schools. I always like home visits. I think it’s a real important part of the process."

Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald

"My last week of recruiting, I started on Sunday, flew from Chicago to the Bay Area. Then Sunday night, flew down to L.A. I was in L.A. on Monday and then Monday night I flew to Dallas, spent Tuesday in Dallas, flew Tuesday night to Houston, spent Wednesday in Houston, flew to Atlanta, spent Thursday in Atlanta, and then spent Friday in Chicago. Spent a lot of time at Chick-fil-A. It was a long week and our staff did a great job."

Michigan State's Mark Dantonio

"It hit me when I came out of a hotel room one day. I stayed in the same chain of hotels, and I walked out of the room and down the hall and I couldn't remember what room I was in. I walked back and took a guess on which room I was in, just to check my key to make sure I was in the same room. I was basically going from place to place for two weeks and sometimes two places in a day. I think I was in Orlando. I got back in the room. There were three doors and I guessed the right one."

Penn State's James Franklin

"One day I remember from a previous year. I had just taken a job [at Vanderbilt] and I was flying around and my luggage got lost and I wore the same suit for five days. I'm a hugger, and my hugs got a little less intimate as the week went on. My luggage couldn't keep up with me. Every time I got to a city or a state, the next day the luggage would get there and I'd already gone to the next state. It wasn't real fun. I was going to Target and buying underwear and undershirts, all that kind of stuff, and kept dousing myself with deodorant and cologne. It didn't help that we were flying commercially."

Rutgers' Kyle Flood

"We had one day where we went from New Jersey to Chicago to Tampa and then back to New Jersey. We started at about 6 in the morning and I finished at about 2 in the morning. I was with Norries Wilson and Jim Panagos at different legs of the trip. Norries came with me to Chicago and then to Tampa. He stayed there and went to Jacksonville. And then I picked up Coach Panagos in Tampa and he came back with me. We were fortunate. Everything ran according to schedule, the way I like it."

Maryland's Randy Edsall

"One day, I was here in Maryland, I was down on the east coast of Florida, then to the west coast, and then all the way to Mobile, Alabama. Then the next day I was in Charlotte and then Virginia Beach. Got all that done, really, in a day and a half. You kind of think, 'hey, what day is it, what time is it,' all those sort of things. But those are the things you have to do."

Minnesota's Jerry Kill

"I've gone from Mobile to Mississippi to Texas, and back to Chicago. But the most unique story I can tell you is something that happened for the first time ever this year. I was on a plane that was starting to go down the runway when I had a kid commit. Seriously, we were going down the runway, I didn't think we'd hear from the kid and he calls me. I'm trying to get the pilot to keep the wheels down so I can talk to him."

Indiana's Kevin Wilson

"My longest day was when we finished up on Martin Luther King day. We had a team leadership program going on, we had recruits on campus and then we had to leave Bloomington and go to Shadyshide, Ohio. By the time we get back to Columbus, it's about 1 a.m. Shoot, there was one day where we had official visits going, I was interviewing a couple of guys for behind-the-scenes jobs, and we had a walk-on day. Those kinds of days wear you out, and you're like, "Who planned all this [stuff]? You're killing me?" And it was me. I'm the guy who planned it. Sometimes we all get screwed by travel and those days, and you're like 'hey, just got to get it done. I'm kind of tired. I want to put my feet up here for like 15 minutes and take a little nap.'"
Signing day in State College used to be a non-event. Former Penn State coach Joe Paterno didn't even have a news conference. Just four years ago, the school sent out a release listing the new signees with no additional information.

Things have changed dramatically under James Franklin, who has completed his first full recruiting cycle as Penn State's coach. Franklin was all over ESPN and social media, and Wednesday night hosts "The Signature Event" for the second year at Penn State. The second-year coach, who pledged to "dominate the state" in recruiting at his introduction, signed a class that could end up in the top 15 of the final ESPN RecrutingNation rankings.

ESPN.com caught up with Franklin on Wednesday to discuss Penn State's class.

[+] EnlargeJames Franklin
AP Photo/PennLive.com, Joe HermittJames Franklin has turned signing day into a celebration at Penn State.
How critical were the weeks and months after your hiring to put this class together?

James Franklin: This is truly our first class. This staff has a lot of connections and a lot of us are from this part of the country, so that was helpful. And we were able to get all these guys from Day 1, had some momentum early on, which was really, really important, and then we were able to finish strong as well. We've already got four of the top players in the country committed for 2016, and that's when you're able to really make an impact, when you've been recruiting guys for two or three years. You're able to develop relationships with the young man, the high school coaches, the families, the guidance counselor. But I think we've done a nice job, considering we've only been on campus for just over a year. Very pleased with the class.

What areas of the roster were your biggest priorities, given the scholarship situation?

JF: We played Michigan State last year with 41 scholarship players, so being able to get a few back was huge. Everybody knows O-line was a major concern for us. We had one scholarship offensive tackle in the senior, junior and sophomore classes. No seniors on scholarships, one junior and he came out early [Donovan Smith], and no sophomores. So we walked into an interesting situation. We were able to redshirt all those guys we signed last year and we have a group coming in for this year. That's important, but it's not something you're able to fix overnight. Those guys typically don't play until their redshirt sophomore year.

We were able to sign the No. 1 junior college tackle in the country in Paris Palmer. He's already on campus. That's big. We were able to get at one time the No. 1-ranked player in the state in Sterling Jenkins, and he graduated early. So we've got two 6-foot-8, 300-pound tackles on campus already. That's helpful. And then all those redshirts. We'll be better, but we've still got a way to go in terms of depth. But that was priority No. 1.

Could Sterling help you this coming season?

JF: I don't know. He's got the physical tools and the size to do it, but you really shouldn't play at a place like Penn State until your redshirt sophomore year. I remember Miles Dieffenbach telling me about some of the changes from when he first got here, how he could barely make the scout team roster. He says the freshmen we signed last year are in the two-deep, and we're hoping to be able to redshirt them. That's a great example of how the program has changed in the last five years. That's what we're working to get back to.

You had some young wide receivers and defensive backs contribute last year. Who among this group do you see making an impact?

JF: We were fortunate. You think about all the young players who were able to make an impact for us as true freshmen this year. That was exciting. We're real excited about some of the guys who redshirted, and then we've got guys coming in who we feel really good about. Corner Garrett Taylor is a big, strong physical guy, didn't play this year with a knee injury but was a highly recruited guy. You've got John Reid out of a great program, St. Joe's Prep in Philadelphia, a very mature, disciplined, driven guy. He's already asking for the playbook. And you look at the safeties we signed and I could make arguments for all of those guys. It's always easier to get on the field quicker at the receiver and DB position. You look at the wide receivers we signed, we've got speed and length, which is always important.

You picked up a quarterback with Tommy Stevens. Where does he fit in with your future?

JF: We love him. He's on campus as well, graduated early, and everybody has been so impressed with him. I talked to the strength staff, they love him. I talked to the academic people, they love him. Everybody I come in contact with is just raving about the guy in terms of how positive and appreciative and hard-working he is. He has the makeup that we're looking for, his demeanor, his attitude and his intelligence, so that's exciting. We want to have five quarterbacks on scholarship, one in every class, and we only have three, counting him. It's interesting but it also creates opportunity for guys to play early.

The class is definitely rooted in the state and the region. What struck you most about recruiting and competing here as opposed to the SEC?

JF: One of the big reasons we were so excited about coming here is you have some built-in advantages. You drive six hours in every direction and there's a lot of good players, a lot of good high school coaches. You have an opportunity to be strongly considered for any of those guys. There's not a whole lot of places similar to us in terms of the fan support with 107,000 people at games, with the academic reputation, the history and tradition and facilities. We have a lot of really good things going for us.

Do you sense how much signing day has changed in State College since you arrived?

JF: We want to have fun with it. This is a day for the staff to celebrate all the hard work, and to celebrate these young men and how excited they are about their futures. It's an opportunity to connect with the community and people on campus and allow people inside to see how we do things and get to know us. All of those things are really, really important. More than anything, it's just having fun. This is our future. You can be the best coach in the world. You need great players, great people to work with.
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It’s not often a recruit commits to the same school twice, but that’s what happened with ESPN 300 receiver John Burt on Monday.

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- At the American Football Coaches Association convention, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer's ability on the recruiting trail was the talk of high school coaches from all over the country.


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James Franklin comes up big again on the recruiting trail, playing a key role in landing talented cornerback Garrett Taylor. Plus, don’t be surprised if the silly season produces some major recruiting drama over the next two months.


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Penn State out to own DMV recruiting 

November, 4, 2014
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GAITHERSBURG, Md. -- When asked why Penn State has done so well recruiting in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C., metro area, longtime commit Adam McLean quickly replied with an answer that perfectly defines the Nittany Lions’ success.

“Washington, D.C., is Nittany Lion territory,” said McLean, the nation’s No. 12 defensive tackle and the top-ranked player in Maryland in the 2015 class.

Indeed it is, even more so since James Franklin arrived in Happy Valley.


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Five-star Torrance Gibson is slated to announce his decision Monday, and there's expectations that it'll be a good day to be a Buckeye. Plus, Florida and Maryland's recruiting efforts could get a real shot in the arm after big victories this weekend over recruiting rivals.

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A lot of talent has already come off the board, but there’s still quality at the top of the ESPN 300 that could give at least 10 teams a shot at the second-best class. Plus, Penn State's James Franklin continues to be the most talked about coach in the Washington D.C. metro area.

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Ole Miss, Tennessee, Texas and Texas A&M are trying, but it’s going to take a lot to get Penn State defensive tackle commit Adam McLean to change his mind. Plus, James Franklin's ability to spread the Penn State brand in Washington, D.C., was on full display Monday afternoon.

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Want to impress a star recruit? Make an entrance at his game like Kevin Sumlin does in the Swagcopter or James Franklin in The Flyin' Lion. Plus, this year’s Red River Rivalry has lost some of its luster with recruits.


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Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly has put together a top 15 recruiting class that should only get better as we head toward signing day, and Rutgers has a real chance to slow down Penn State’s recruiting momentum in New Jersey this weekend.


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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting news across the country. Today's offerings: James Franklin and Penn State was already building one of the best classes in the country, and Monday's news that the Nittany Lions were eligible for postseason play will help them build an even better class. Plus, recruits across the country agreed with the NFL and the Ravens' decision to distance themselves from Ray Rice, and we continue our tour of the top recruiting happenings on social media.


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Early Offer: The chase for Campbell 

August, 20, 2014
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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting news across the country. Today’s offerings: Five-star George Campbell has committed and decommitted from Michigan and listed Florida and LSU as teams he’s really high on. But as he gets closer to his decision, don’t be surprised if another team emerges. Plus, ESPN Grade could be a positive recruiting tool for Alabama, UCLA, Ohio State and Stanford, and we continue our tour of the top recruiting happenings on social media.


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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s offerings: Georgia fans have had to watch rivals Auburn and Alabama crow after recruiting victory after recruiting victory the past few months, but Bulldog fans got a chance to thump their chest some after landing two of the nation’s best 2016 prospects Saturday after its Dawg Night camp. But will those commitments stay true for the long haul? Plus, Penn State’s James Franklin remains hot on the recruiting trial.


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