Penn State Football: Why James Franklin Is the Perfect Fit to Replace O'Brien

Tim Tolley@@TimTolley_BRContributor IJanuary 4, 2014

Nov 23, 2013; Knoxville, TN, USA; Vanderbilt Commodores head coach James Franklin during the game against the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium. Vanderbilt won 14 to 10. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports
Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Bill O'Brien has taken his talents to Houston and has left behind a solid foundation at Penn State for the next head coach in Happy Valley.

The obvious question is: "Who will that be?"

A list of candidates has leaked out, including former Penn Staters Al Golden and Mike Munchak, according to a tweet from ESPN's Brett McMurphy. Friday evening, there were even some rumblings that Golden had been offered the job, but that appears to have been a false alarm, according to David Jones of PennLive.

Truth is, the best candidate has no ties to Dear Old State.

Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin is reportedly on the list of candidates, and according to Pete Roussel of, Franklin is scheduled to interview with Penn State on Sunday, following Vandy's bowl game.

Franklin has a strong mix of offensive coaching experience in the college ranks and spent a year coaching wide receivers in the NFL with the Packers. He has spent time in the Pac 12, the ACC, the SEC and the Big 12, giving him a wide array of recruiting experience across the country.

James Franklin's Coaching Experience
1997James MadisonWR
1998Washington StateTE
1999Idaho StateWR
2005Green Bay (NFL)WR
2006-07Kansas StateQB/Off. Coord.
2008-10MarylandOff. Coord.
2011-VanderbiltHead Coach

That array of experience, combined with the success he has had at Vanderbilt, makes him an ideal candidate to coach football at a big-time program with big-time facilities.

A program like Penn State.

It's not that he has necessarily set the world on fire at Vandy, winning conference championships and the like, but he has turned around a program that was a perennial bottom-feeder country-wide.

In his three years a head coach, Vanderbilt has won 23 games—more than it won in the previous five years before his hire. His SEC win total of 11 matches the total conference wins from the six years prior to his arrival in Nashville, according to Wikipedia.

James Franklin's Record as HC of Vanderbilt
SEC RecordOverall Record

In a conference where there's a need to pony up big (see: huge) bucks for recruiting budgets, Vandy has managed to compete with much lesser resources.

According to, in 2011, six of the eight highest recruiting budgets were in the SEC. While Vanderbilt is a private university and doesn't have to reveal its numbers, it was likely spending about half of what the big boys doled out.

In 2013, Vanderbilt beat three of those six big spenders in Georgia, Tennessee and Florida.

While Penn State has the largest alumni association in the country and a stadium that holds upward of 108,000 fans, Vanderbilt Stadium has a capacity of around 40,000, and the Commodores are set to play in just the seventh bowl game in their history.

They're second-fiddle in their own state to the Volunteers.

Vanderbilt's elite academic standards don't make things any easier for a head football coach, making Franklin's accomplishments even more astounding. In 2013, only 12.7 percent of applicants were accepted to Vandy.

Franklin is a fiery, young, offensive-minded coach who has managed to win under vastly limited circumstances. Despite coaching at a university that views athletics simply as extracurricular activities, Franklin has went toe-to-toe with the big boys. 

It's time he gets a shot at running a big-time program with big-time facilities. 

It's time for Franklin to become the head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions.


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