James Franklin

Is James Franklin waking a sleeping giant at Penn State?

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Dominate the state. That is the motto new Penn State head coach James Franklin has been selling since his first press conference in Happy Valley. After putting together a solid Class of 2014 in his short time at Penn State, Franklin and his coaching staff have already lined up five of the top 15 players from the state of Pennsylvania for the Class of 2015, highlighted Thursday with the verbal commitment of running back Andre Robinson, from a Bishop McDevitt High school program in Harrisburg that has traditionally been rich in talent that goes away from Penn State. Whatever Franklin and his staff are doing at Penn State seems to be working.

Franklin and his staff have already been breathing new life in to a program still in recovery mode. The staff has embraced social media and is reaching out to fans and delivering a unified message. The coaches are also getting involved in their new surroundings. Just last weekend coaches checked out the record-breaking THON dance marathon on Penn State’s campus. For a football program that for years was stuck in old-fashioned methods, Franklin and his staff are embracing it and utilizing them to their advantage.

For decades now, Penn State has been considered a bit of a sleeping giant. Instead of the powerhouse that was expected to compete for Big Ten titles on an annual basis, the Nittany Lions have won just three Big Ten titles since joining the conference in 1993. The scandal that rocked the university and community in November 2011 may have helped derail a bid for a fourth conference title, and the fallout was expected to be much more severe.

Penn State was supposed to be a program leveled by NCAA sanctions in 2012, but Bill O’Brien managed to keep the program afloat, and Franklin appears set to have the program competing at a high level when an NCAA postseason ban is lifted in two more seasons, if not before. Franklin is aided by the NCAA giving back some lost scholarships, and the new head coach is capitalizing on that. With two years remaining on the postseason ban, Franklin is guiding the program to the end of the tunnel. While the university could take longer to regroup, and the healing process as a whole will continue on, as far as football is concerned it looks as though Franklin is in a good position to do some damage.

Penn State is not quite awake from sleeping giant status yet, but the alarm is about to go off.

QB Nick Johns decides to transfer from Virginia

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - SEPTEMBER 25: A Virginia Cavaliers fan reacts to the Cavaliers being charged with a safety in the second quarter against the Boise State Broncos at Scott Stadium on September 25, 2015 in Charlottesville, Virginia.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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Seeing the writing on Virginia’s depth chart wall, Nick Johns has decided to take his leave of Charlottesville.

As more and more kids are doing these days — especially the cool ones — Johns took to Twitter to announce that he has decided to leave the Cavaliers football program and transfer to an undetermined elsewhere.  According to the quarterback, he was given an unrestricted release from his UVa. scholarship.

Johns, who is not related to returning Cavalier starting quarterback Matt Johns, was a three-star member of UVa.’s 2015 recruiting class, rated as the No. 19 pro-style quarterback in the country and the No. 5 player at any position in the District of Columbia. As he didn’t see the field as a true freshman, Johns’ main claim to fame during his brief time with the Cavaliers was a driving while intoxicated charged he accrued last August.

With Matt Johns and Connor Brewer, a Texas/Arizona transfer, in a dead-heat for the starting job exiting the spring, and former East Carolina starter Kurt Benkert added as a graduate transfer over the weekend, Nick Johns’ decision to leave for a better shot at playing time is understandable.

Wyoming basketball player gives up hoops to play football

BOISE, ID - OCTOBER 24: Head coach Craig Bohl of the Wyoming Cowboys rallies his team at the start of the fourth quarter of the game against the Boise State Broncos on October 24, 2015 at Albertsons Stadium in Boise, Idaho. Boise State won the game 34-14. (Photo by Loren Orr/Getty Images)
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At the expense of its basketball team, Wyoming’s football team has made an early-May addition to its roster.

Austin Conway, a Cowboys basketball player, expressed a desire to play football earlier this year and was given clearance by both head coaches involved, Craig Bohl on the football side, Allen Edwards on the basketball side, to participate in spring practice.  With the 15 spring sessions now in the books, Conway has made his decision and will give up basketball in order to concentrate on football.

Conway, a Colorado high school quarterback, will play wide receiver at the collegiate level as well as return kicks for the Cowboys.

“I had nice long talks with Coach Bohl and Coach Edwards at the end of spring football,” said Conway in quotes distributed by the school. “Both coaches were very supportive. The biggest thing was I just had to follow my heart. I felt really comfortable being back out on the football field this spring. It felt like I was at home back on the field.”

Conway, who took a redshirt for the Cowboys basketball team as a true freshman in the 2015-16 season, will be eligible to play immediately in 2016 and will have four years of eligibility remaining.  The press release stated that the player’s “scholarship will be shifted from the basketball team to the football team beginning in the summer of 2016.”

As for his football credentials, here is the pertinent 411 from the release:

Conway was an outstanding football and basketball player at Overland High School in Aurora, Colo. He was named to The Denver Post’s All-Colorado team for all classifications as a dual-threat quarterback his senior season of 2014. During his senior season, he passed for 1,341 yards and 13 touchdowns and added 509 rushing yards and five rushing TDs. His junior season, Conway accumulated 1,847 passing yards and 1,130 rushing yards for 2,977 yards of total offense. He had a combined 31 touchdowns, 19 through the air and 12 on the ground. 

“Austin showed us during spring football that he has a passion for the game of football and that he had the skills to benefit our team moving forward,” said Bohl. “We were aware of Austin’s football accomplishments in high school. The fact that he has only been away from the game for a year we believe will make his transition a smooth one. He certainly benefitted from going through spring practice with us and will benefit from having a full summer to work with our strength and conditioning staff. We are excited to have Austin as a part of our team.

“Coach Edwards and I have been working together through this process to try and help Austin decide what is best for him. I want to thank Allen (Edwards) for his willingness to help Austin find the path that he feels is best for his future.

Kirby Smart, on competing against Nick Saban on recruiting trail: ‘I don’t look forward to that’

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 11:  Head coach Nick Saban and Defensive coordinator Kirby Smart of the Alabama Crimson Tide look on from the field during the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship Game against the Clemson Tigers at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 11, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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And, in related news, I don’t look forward to getting kicked in the testicles.

One of the more fascinating storylines leading up to National Signing Day was Nick Saban and his former right-hand man.  After nine years with Saban at Alabama, including the last eight as defensive coordinator, Kirby Smart struck out on his own to become the head coach at his alma mater Georgia.

As both are part of the SEC, their paths crossed more than a couple of times on the recruiting trail in the two months between Smart’s hiring between the hedges and signing day.  As al.com explained…

Alabama and Georgia went up against each other for multiple recruits in the final weeks of the 2016 recruiting cycle. Alabama signed Ben Davis and Lyndell Wilson — two major UGA targets — while the Bulldogs flipped receiver Tyler Simmons away from the Crimson Tide. In the class of 2017, Smart flipped four-star quarterback Jake Fromm from Alabama and landed a commitment from one-time Alabama offensive line commit Netori Johnson.

… both the mentor and the protegé scored wins on the recruiting front.

It’ll be fun,” Smart said upon his hiring in early December when asked about going up against the recruiting juggernaut that is his former boss; two months later, after Saban had pulled in yet another top-ranked class — UGA was seventh in 247Sports.com‘s composite rankings — a couple of months ago, Smart has tweaked his tune.

“I said it would be fun? Oh man, I hope I didn’t say it would be fun,” Smart said on the SEC coaches teleconference earlier today. “I don’t look forward to that because I know Nick does a great job in recruiting. He’s very relentless; he does a really good job, and they have a great product to sell.”

Of course, 2016 wasn’t a one-off battle between the boss and the former employee, with work on the Class of 2017 in full swing.  At the moment, both the Bulldogs and Tide have nine commits each to next year’s class, with UGA, at No. 6, three spots behind UA.

Given the fact that the next signing day is still nine months away, Smart will have plenty of time to close that gap — or his boss will have plenty of time to widen it.

Jim Harbaugh, staff to be featured at satellite camp… in Ohio

ANN ARBOR, MI - NOVEMBER 28:  Head coach Urban Meyer of the Ohio State Buckeyes shakes hands with head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines after a 42-13 Ohio State win at Michigan Stadium on November 28, 2015 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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With the NCAA’s edict that, at least for now, rescinds the banishment of satellite camps, college football coaches are free to move about the country in the pursuit of recruits away from their own campuses.

The poster boy for these types of “controversial” camps, of course, has been Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh.  With the rescinding of the ban, Harbaugh and his coaching staff will disperse to camps as far away as California.  They are also, in what most certainly can be described as enemy territory, set to invade That School Down South’s state.

Yep, Harbaugh, the head coach of the hated Wolverines, will be setting up camp in the Buckeyes’ extended backyard, a mere three hours or so from The Horseshoe.

How long before Urban Myer and his coaching entourage shows up somewhere in the general neighborhood of Ann Arbor? Stay tuned…