Penn State Athletics
Offensively coordinator Joe Moorhead has been celebrated for his strategic acumen.

Penn State coach James Franklin says assistants more than recruiters, Andrew Nelson update, and more

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This is your Penn State Wake-Up Call for Thursday, May 11. Let’s get started.


Banging the drum … softly?

Penn State football coach James Franklin said this week that he takes “a little offense” when he and his assistants are described as great recruiters, and nothing more.

He would rather folks point out how well the Nittany Lions coaches handle all their responsibilities — how they have developed and directed their players, propelling the program back toward the top of the Big Ten.

Per John McGonigal of the Centre Daily Times, Franklin put it this way during the second day of the four-day Coaches Caravan:

“There’s nothing wrong with being a great recruiter, but I think our staff and our program is more than that.”

Just wondering here: Is he talking about the staff as a whole, or just himself? Because nobody looks at offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, for instance, as simply being a great recruiter. He is regarded as a brilliant strategist, as a guy who has galvanized the Lions attack.

Nobody thinks of defensive coordinator Brent Pry solely in terms of his successes on the recruiting trail, either. He is viewed as a resourceful guy who cobbled together a decent unit last year, despite a slew of injuries.

Franklin is another matter. He is an energetic, tireless promoter of his program, and he has shown himself to be, yes, a terrific recruiter. He has firmed up a roster left threadbare by the NCAA sanctions handed down in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal. He also has made some astute coaching hires. Moorhead is the most obvious addition, but offensive line coach Matt Limegrover also has proven to be a great hire.

As far back as Jan. 24, 2014 — the day Franklin introduced his first coaching staff at Happy Valley — he described himself as “the CEO of Penn State football.” Nothing wrong with that. It’s an enormous job, and delegation is essential.

At the same time, his strengths appear to overshadow the down-and-dirty aspects of the job — player development and on-field instruction.

There is no argument that several players have improved over time, and that the Lions always seem to be organized on game day. Certainly they showed themselves to be a resilient bunch last season, with several come-from-behind victories. None of that happens by accident.

Questions about Franklin’s X-and-O acumen, which have persisted since his days as Vanderbilt’s head man, have been tabled because of the strengths of those around him. So if he wants to bang the drum for himself, albeit softly, so be it. Clearly the program is on an uptick, and that’s not just because of PSU’s success on the recruiting trail.

Nor is it because the assistants do all the work.


Where will Andrew Nelson play?

Offensive tackle Andrew Nelson, who missed the final eight games of the 2016 season after injuring his right knee in the second quarter of an Oct. 8 victory over Maryland, still figures in the Lions’ plans this season.

There are questions about what position he might play, however.

Nelson, who has played solely on the right side while starting 27 games over the last three seasons, did little this spring. But per Bob Flounders of Pennlive.com, Franklin said Tuesday that Nelson has “a bright future still at Penn State and afterwards” and is “the type of guy that we want to build our program around.”

Chasz Wright ended last season as the starting right tackle, and he returns. While nothing is set in stone at that spot, there is speculation that Nelson might end up in the crowded picture at guard.

Wherever he plays, his experience will be invaluable, Franklin said:

“He’s a really unique guy. He’s very mature, which I think we probably lack a lot of that now in college football. There’s just less fifth-year seniors. He’s played a lot of football for us.”


Tori Dubois honored

PSU sophomore left fielder Tori Dubois was named an All-Big Ten first-team pick by the conference’s softball coaches Wednesday.

Dubois leads the team in batting average (.351), home runs (6), RBIs (29) and runs (31). She is hitting a blistering .457 in conference play for the Lions (22-32), who open the Big Ten Tournament against Nebraska (24-28) on Thursday in Ann Arbor, Mich.


Sign of the times

Cornerback Grant Haley expressed optimism for the season ahead while tweeting out a photo that shows him running on a treadmill in the team’s weight room, alongside linebacker Koa Farmer.

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