Franklin's building blocks for Penn State

ASSOCIATED PRESS Ohio State coach Urban Meyer (left) jokes with Penn State coach James Franklin during first day at the Big Ten Media Days in Chicago.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Ohio State coach Urban Meyer (left) jokes with Penn State coach James Franklin during first day at the Big Ten Media Days in Chicago.
Posted: July 30, 2014

CHICAGO - The darkest days of Penn State football may be receding as the focus moves back onto the field.

While sanctions remain against Nittany Lions football in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal the subject barely came up at yesterday's Big Ten football media day.

About the closest new coach James Franklin came to addressing NCAA punishments came when asked to compare building up his former Vanderbilt program and obstacles at his new school.

"Whenever you take over a new program and you're trying to do things and there may be challenges," he said. "For whatever reason, the challenges exist in the past."

In 2012, the NCAA imposed sanctions on Penn State that includes a $60 million fine, loss of scholarships and a 4-year bowl ban. Five Pennsylvania congressmen have asked the NCAA to ease the sanctions in a letter dated last week.

Yesterday in his first visit to the annual Big Ten media gathering, Franklin concentrated on recruiting and opportunities, building depth on his team and outreach efforts to lure fans back to Beaver Stadium.

"Right now we have some challenges and issues we have to overcome," Franklin said he tells prospective recruits. "So guys are going to have an opportunity to come in and impact the roster quickly."

Franklin came on board after a successful tenure reviving the moribund Vanderbilt program. He went 24-15 in three seasons, including back-to-back 9-4 years.

His first spring practices at Penn State were spent getting to know personnel, and when a depth chart was recently released "we just basically listed out by position by seniority," he said.

"That's going to be very, very important to us, creating depth throughout our roster, playing as many guys as we possibly can and then being able to to call the game on offense, defense and special teams to hide some of our deficiencies as well," Franklin said.

Penn State returns 15 starters, including seven on defense and placekicker San Ficken. Seven are also back on offense, including sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg, named one of five players to watch in the Big Ten East.

"I think Christian's got a lot of tools, there's no doubt about it," Franklin said. "The thing I'm most impressed is how humble and hungry and how open he is to coaching,"

Hackenberg was 231-for-392 for 2,955 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2013.

Tabbed in a media poll to finish fourth in the Big Ten East, Penn State kicks off the season against Central Florida on Aug. 30 in Dublin, Ireland.

The Nittany Lions return home for a Sept. 6 nonconference match with Akron and begin Big Ten play Sept. 27 at home against Northwestern.

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