Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Ron Cook hasn’t been impressed with what James Franklin has done at Penn State through his first two seasons.
Cook criticized Franklin in a column comparing Penn State with in-state rival Pittsburgh and local foe West Virginia. Cook tabbed Pitt as the best program of the three and had some choice words when dissecting Franklin’s job at Penn State thus far.
“Franklin has been a big disappointment, actually,” Cook opined. “He hasn’t delivered any of the promises he made when he was hired from Vanderbilt after the 2013 season. His offense has been painful to watch. He ruined Christian Hackenberg, at least as a college quarterback.”
That’s just an excerpt of Cook’s criticisms. But is he wrong?
Not entirely. It can be argued that Penn State’s putrid offensive line ruined Hackenberg more than anything else, but consecutive 7-6 seasons aren’t exactly bringing the Nittany Lions back to prominence. Franklin is also a combined 0-6 against Big Ten East rivals Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State and also lost, 27-10, to Temple last season.
All of these reasons above factor into why Franklin might feel his seat warming up during the 2016 season. He will have the opportunity to choose his quarterback with Hackenberg now with the New York Jets and will be able to implement his style of spread offense under new offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead.
Franklin will also get a handful of opportunities to show improvement, as Ohio State, Iowa and Michigan State all travel to Happy Valley during the second half of the season. A win against one of these marquee opponents will allow for a sigh of relief. A couple of victories will prove that the program is on the upswing. Oh, Penn State also plays consecutive non-conference games against Temple and Pitt in September, both of which are games Franklin definitely has to win.
The NCAA sanctions stemming from the Jerry Sandusky scandal are pretty much past the program. Now it’s time for Franklin to elevate the program back into legitimacy. If that doesn’t occur this season, there could be more columns on the way calling for his job.