James Franklin is continuing the process started by Bill O'Brien at Penn State, and he's seeing early success on the recruiting trail because the man knows how to sell himself. The new coach is working himself into the program and between previous commits and new commits, he is letting the players know he is the guy.
Not the guy who is going to be the next Joe Paterno. Not the guy who is going to be at Penn State for the next 100 years. But, rather, he is the guy for these players to commit to during the process.
Franklin was hired during the second week of January. With Penn State set to start classes on Jan. 13, his first order was making sure the expected early enrollees were in the boat. Other coaches have failed to seal this deal, but Franklin, officially hired on Jan. 11, was able to keep five from heading elsewhere.
However, the big sell would be on filling out a class heading into signing day. There was a major defection in 5-star defensive tackle Thomas Holley, but Franklin was able to continue selling himself. The new head coach has not only kept longtime commits such as Chris Godwin and Mike Gesicki, he's added players such as Koa Farmer and 4-star receiver Saeed Blacknall.
Franklin also added five of his former Vanderbilt commits to the mix to help flesh out the class.
It is not just the amount, 23, of commitments that speak to the coach's ability to sell. It is also about where these kids are coming from. Penn State has long held a presence in the Mid-Atlantic region, and Franklin's triumphant return has only served to strengthen that connection. He knows Virginia, D.C., Maryland and moving up into Delaware and New Jersey thanks to his years at Maryland.
Whether it is the previously committed players, the flips from Vanderbilt or new commits, Franklin is selling himself and his staff—and that is his recipe for success. The coach said as much during an interview shortly after he took the Penn State job.
"I know that I've been sitting in living rooms with families and kids, and selling them on a dream and selling them on a vision and our relationship. And I think a lot of people say kids should commit to a school, not a coach. But the reality is they do. Families and kids, they want to make sure their son is going to be taken care of and it's about the relationship aspect."
That was Franklin on The Dan Patrick Show, speaking directly to his approach. His staff, his personality and his relationship with kids and their families are what matter in recruiting. The school comes after him and the personal connections made in recruiting. While some do not like to hear it, the coach is right in that respect and that method works to ensure Franklin success regardless of where he lands.
Fortunately for Penn State folks, that landing spot is in Happy Valley, where Franklin's ability to forge strong connections with recruits will remain a positive for the program as long as the two entities remain linked.