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.

Fourth Georgia Tech player to transfer since end of season

DUBLIN, IRELAND - SEPTEMBER 03: Christian Philpott of Georgia Tech celebrates victory over Boston College in the Aer Lingus College Football Classic Ireland 2016 at Aviva Stadium on September 3, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland.  (Photo by Patrick Bolger/Getty Images)
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Late last month, leading rusher Marcus Marshall become one of a trio of Georgia Tech football players who have announced their decisions to transfer since the end of the regular season.  Thursday, that trio became a quartet.

On his personal Twitter account last night, Christian Philpott (pictured, No. 82) announced that he will be transferring from the Yellow Jackets in January.  The wide receiver said he came to the decision after talks with family and friends, although he didn’t detail precisely why he was leaving the football program.

If Philpott decides another FBS program will be his next collegiate stop, he’d have to sit out the 2017 season to satisfy NCAA transfer bylaws. Beginning in 2018, he’d then have two seasons of eligibility remaining.

A three-star 2015 signee, Philpott took a redshirt as a true freshman because of an injury. This season, Philpott caught one pass for nine yards in three games this season.

UNC’s Nazair Jones leaving Tar Heels early for NFL

CHAPEL HILL, NC - NOVEMBER 14:  Nazair Jones #90 and Dominquie Green #26 of the North Carolina Tar Heels tackle Mark Walton #1 of the Miami Hurricanes during their game at Kenan Stadium on November 14, 2015 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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Another day, another college player giving up the college football life for a professional payday.

North Carolina announced Friday that Nazair Jones has elected to forego his final season of eligibility and make himself available for the 2017 NFL draft.  The defensive tackle will play in UNC’s Sun Bowl matchup with Stanford Dec. 30 before shifting his focus to preparing for the draft.

“I’m so thankful for this amazing university,” statement from Jones began. “The University of North Carolina has changed me so much since the first day I stepped on campus. Throughout my career, I have been with a family of brothers and found people that have become my closest friends. I want to thank our amazing coaching staff, support staff and an incredible fan base. I know Tar Heel nation will always have my back!”

“It’s been a pleasure coaching Naz throughout his career at UNC and watching him grow as a person both on and off the field,” head coach Larry Fedora said. “He has overcome great physical adversity and improved tremendously since he came into the program in 2013. This season he was the leader of our defensive line and someone everyone on the team respected. I believe he has a bright future in professional football if he continues to work hard and focus on being the best he can be.”

Jones has started 21 of the 34 games in which he’s played.  The past two seasons, he was named third-team All-ACC.

Urban Meyer could lose two OSU assistants to FBS head-coaching jobs

CHAMPAIGN, IL - OCTOBER 15:  Head coach Luke Fickell of the Ohio State Buckeyes watches as his team takes on the Illinois Fighting Illini at Memorial Stadium on October 15, 2011 in Champaign, Illinois. Ohio State defeated Illinois 17-7.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Thanks to a flurry of activity the past couple of days, there are just five head coach openings at the FBS level remaining.  Depending on how things play out the next 24-48 hours, it may be a couple of Ohio State assistants who fill two of those openings.

The speculation with the most traction appears to involve Luke Fickell, with the OSU co-defensive coordinator reportedly the frontrunner for the Cincinnati job.  According to one report, negotiations between Fickell and UC officials is currently underway; another says there have been talks but no negotiations.

The only certainty in this situation, it seems, is that an announcement on a new Bearcats coach won’t come today.  It could, though, come this weekend.

Losing Fickell could actually cost Urban Meyer two assistants at once to an in-state school as, the speculation goes, cornerbacks coach/special teams coordinator Kerry Coombs would potentially follow the coach to UC as defensive coordinator.

In addition to those two assistants, Buckeyes’ co-offensive coordinator Ed Warinner is in play for the head-coaching vacancy at Western Kentucky.

In addition to UC and WKU, the remaining FBS openings include Florida Atlantic, Temple South Florida. Charlie Strong is the overwhelming favorite for the USF job and an announcement of his hiring could come as early as today.

Matt Rhule adds Texas high school coach association president to Baylor football staff

Baylor University's new football coach Matt Rhule speaks during a public event at the Ferrell Center, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, in Waco, Texas. Rhule replaces Jim Grobe, who led the Bears to a 6-6 record as interim coach this season after Art Briles was fired May 26. (Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune Herald via AP)
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This is about as smart a move as Matt Rhule can make.

Baylor’s hiring of Rhule was widely hailed as a masterstroke by the scandal-plagued football program; Wednesday, the coach showed the class he will be bringing to Waco.  The biggest negative to the hire?  Rhule has absolutely no ties to the state of Texas as either a coach or a player.

Friday, Rhule began the process of rectifying the deficit in that area by hiring San Antonio Reagan head football coach David Wetzel to be a part of his BU football staff, the Dallas Morning News confirmed.  Wetzel, who played his college football for the Bears, has been a head coach in the state for two decades, and is currently the president of the Texas High School Coaches Association.

Wetzel has been in the San Antonio area for a dozen years.  Prior to that, he was in the Killeen area of Texas.

The News writes that “Wetzel is not expected to be an assistant coach but will serve in another capacity, such as player development.” While he may have been the first, Wetzel certainly won’t be the last Rhule hire with extensive ties to the state.