In four seasons as the Penn State football coach, James Franklin has led the program to a 36-17 overall record and four bowl appearances. The last two campaigns have ended with 11 wins and New Year’s Six bowl appearances. In December, the Nittany Lions held of Washington, 35-28, in the Fiesta Bowl, one notch below the College Football Playoff.
For the first time since the mid-to-late 2000s, Penn State is back in the national championship hunt. But to at least one former Nittany Lions head coach, its resurgence is not surprising.
From Bill O’Brien: “This is where Penn State should be, on the brink of a national championship and being the type of team that can go out there [and] compete with anybody in the country.”
Former Penn State coach Bill O'Brien thinks the Nittany Lions are in good hands with successor! pic.twitter.com/I7YsuN5qFN
— Penn State Football (@psufootball) April 9, 2018
O’Brien, who coached at Penn State from 2012-13, returned to Happy Valley for the first time Saturday to speak at the program’s annual coaches clinic. There, he reminisced about all of the memories he made in those two years, spoke about his lasting relationships with former players and talked about how to recruit.
He also touched on Franklin and the success he’s had in such a short period of time. The two coaches worked together at Maryland in 2003-04, and Franklin’s energy, intelligence and coaching and recruiting ability stuck with O’Brien. He added Franklin has done a “fantastic” job getting the Nittany Lions back to where they should be: a national title contender.
“There was a time when the sanctions first came out that they said this program would never come back,” O’Brien said at the coaches clinic Saturday. “There were people that said this program would basically be a Division II, a Division I-AA program, whatever the word is for that now,” he said. “We all looked at each other that were here and looked at this wall and look at the All-Americans and knew like that was never going to happen. … We had the right people in place to bridge that gap to where they are now.”