PSU’s Franklin a psycho ready to bring the community back together

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The community surrounding Penn State football continues to be a divided one, to an extent. It is a community still largely searching for answers and truth from the fallout of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, and you can still find factions demanding for the return of a statue of Joe Paterno and others demanding for complete changes on the board of trustees and so on, some with honestly good intentions and others perhaps lacking priorities. This week former assistant football coaches Jay Paterno and Bill Kenney have filed a new lawsuit against the university regarding the termination of their employment. Two years have now passed since Sandusky’s crimes were handled in the court of law, and the community is starting to return to whatever normal will be.

Looking to steer the ship in the right direction is new head coach James Franklin, who has sparked the program with a new sense of life and motivation, continuing the momentum few thought could be generated under Bill O’Brien and looking to lead the Penn State program through the end of the sanction period. In a one-on-one interview, Franklin explains why he feels he is ready to tackle such a journey.

“I’m so emotional. I’m so passionate. I’m kind of a psycho,” Franklin told The Philadelphia Inquirer‘s Joe Juliano. “So, I think a lot of people think, ‘This guy, is he for real?’ ”

In his short time at Penn State, after leaving Vanderbilt, Franklin has put together one of the top recruiting classes for 2015 and has won over a fan base by digging into his Pennsylvania roots and declaring a territorial war over the Keystone State as well as the recruiting fertile grounds of New Jersey and Maryland, now considered Big Ten territory. On a spring bus tour of the state and region, Franklin left quite the impression on Penn State fans, and it seems his messages are being received well. Franklin understands the value of Penn State football to the community in State College and throughout the state, and he wants to use that as the resource that continues to heal the fractured community.

More from Franklin, via The Philadelphia Inquirer;

“I believe that football has the ability to bring a community together like nothing else,” he said. “I know I’m biased, I’m a football coach. But I believe football has that special ability.

“Saturday afternoons, people come together to be a part of something bigger than just themselves,” the former Vanderbilt coach said. “So, I think we can hold a special role in that, and I think it’s time.

“The thing that’s always made Penn State special is that we’re family and people are very proud of being a part of this university. And I think it’s time for us to get back to that, get back to being a family. The way I look at it is, let’s put the university first and, more importantly, let’s put the kids first.”

There is something to be said about how the football program could end up being what brings the Penn State community back together, given the national pundits that suggested it be shut down after being perceived as an enabling device for Sandusky and his sick crimes against children. But as with any organization, if the leadership in place has the right frame of mind and has a plan of attack, there should be little stopping it from reaching the finish line.

Is Franklin the leader Penn State’s football program needed? That seems to be the theme of the offseason in State College.

You can read the full one-on-one interview and story with Franklin via The Philadelphia Inquirer.

UNC and Minnesota line up future home-and-home deal

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While one football series between an ACC and Big Ten team may be hard to come by, North Carolina and Minnesota have put together a future home-and-home scheduling agreement to look forward to. The Tar Heels and Gophers will meet for the first time on the football field in 2023 and follow up with a second game in 2024, the schools announced on Wednesday.

North Carolina will host Minnesota on Sept. 16, 2023. The two schools will then open the 2024 season at Minnesota, either on August 31, 2024 or for a Thursday opener on August 29, 2024.

The ACC and Big Ten each require their members to play one game against another power conference opponent each season. North Carolina already satisfied that requirement in 2024 with a season-opener against South Carolina scheduled to be played in Charlotte, NC, but the 2024 game fulfills the power conference scheduling requirement for the Tar Heels. The home-and-home series will also satisfy Minnesota’s obligation to the Big Ten scheduling policy for both seasons (Minnesota is getting an exemption for 2018 and 2019 due to previous scheduling arrangements being in place prior to the Big Ten’s stance on strength of schedule in non-conference play.

Pitt leaves renewal of football series in Penn State’s hands

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Ever since the in-state rivalry between Penn State and Pitt came to a temporary end in 2001, it has been a struggle to get the two schools back on the field for any stretch of time. With the third in a four-game series upcoming this fall, Pitt is hoping to find a way to continue playing the Nittany Lions on future schedules, but the offer is now apparently in Penn State’s hands awaiting a response.

Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke told reporters Wednesday she has proposed a four-year series beginning in 2026 to her Penn State counterpart, Sandy Barbour, but Penn State has not responded to the offer.

“We’re going to wait a tad more patiently, but not much,” Lyke said, according to Trib Live. “We can’t. We have people who want to play us and good opportunities to play what would be a very attractive game.”

The four-game series currently ongoing between the Panthers and Nittany Lions comes to a close after their meeting in the 2019 season in Happy Valley. According to FBSchedules.com, Penn State will not have another opening for a non-conference game until 2021. That is also the first season Pitt will have scheduling availability for non-conference matchups. Both schools already have power conference opponents lined up through 2025 as well, perhaps eliminating the desire to add another power conference opponent to the schedule.

Both Penn State and Pitt have scheduling requirements for non-conference play from the Big Ten and ACC, respectively, to include at least one game against another power conference opponent. It seems like a natural solution for Penn State and Pitt to agree to a long-term scheduling commitment to satisfy their respective conferences’ scheduling requirements, but the old issue has always come down to the financial incentive of a game. With Penn State playing in a larger stadium, it would be losing out on potential revenue that could be gained by an extra home game when possible. And playing road games at Pittsburgh only helps another program in the state by filling the seats more than any other home game on Pitt’s schedules in just about any season (Notre Dame and West Virginia would be other candidates to help Pitt fill Heinz Field).

It took so long just to get the two schools together for a two-year series, which was later expanded to a four-year arrangement. Don’t count on this in-state rivalry being renewed for quite some time after the 2019 season.

QB Blake Barnett reportedly transferring from Arizona State

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Quarterback Blake Barnett is now on the graduate transfer market. According to Bruce Feldman of Sports Illustrated, via Twitter, Barnett will find a new program to wrap up his college football career as a graduate transfer. South Florida is reportedly set to get an official visit from the former Sun Devils and Alabama quarterback.

Barnett started his football career at Alabama, where he sat out the 2015 season as a freshman. During his redshirt freshman in 2016, Barnett appeared in just three games as Jalen Hurts rose to become Alabama’s starting quarterback that would lead the Tide for the next two seasons (until halftime of last season’s national championship game). Barnett transferred to Arizona State, leaving behind a seemingly tumultuous relationship with Nick Saban, and played in just two games for the Sun Devils last fall, while Manny Wilkins established himself as the quarterback for former head coach Todd Graham.

A former four-star recruit out of high school, Barnett has played in just five games and completed 14 of 24 pass attempts for 259 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. Barnett’s latest transfer news comes a day after former UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen took a swipe at Barnett, who was ranked ahead of Rosen in various recruiting rankings out of high school.

“Blake Barnett was the Elite 11 MVP,” Rosen said, per SEC Country. “He was the dude that was going to go to ‘Bama, win a couple championships, call it quits and go to the league as the first overall pick. You don’t really hear about him too much.”

As a graduate transfer, Barnett will be eligible to play immediately this fall.

Transferring BYU QB Kody Wilstead finds new home at Kansas JUCO

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With eight quarterbacks on the roster, Kody Wilstead opted to leave the Cougars in mid-March.  A little over a month later, Wilstead has found a new home, albeit a little further down on the college football ladder.

According to the Deseret News, Wilstead has signed to play at Coffeyville Community College in Kansas.  As Coffeyville is a junior college, the quarterback will be eligible to play immediately in 2018.

It’s expected that Wilstead will spend at least one season at the JUCO level before looking at making a move back up to the FBS.

Wilstead, a three-star 2015 signee, took a redshirt as a true freshman last season after serving an LDS mission the previous two years.

After Wilstead’s departure, the seven remaining Cougar signal-callers are, in alphabetical order, Stacy ConnerJoe CritchlowHayden GriffittsBeau HogeTanner MangumBaylor Romney and Zach Wilson. Mangum, last year’s starter, is recovering from an Achilles tendon injury he suffered in November of last year but remains on track to return for the start of summer camp in August.