James Franklin

Saban, Harbaugh, Meyer among Maxwell Football Club coach of the year semifinalists

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Alabama head coach Nick Saban, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh and Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer are among 16 remaining candidates for the George Munger Collegiate Coach of the Year Award presented by the Maxwell Football Club.

Saban is the only coach from the SEC listed as a semifinalist, and he has never won the award that was first presented in 1989 to Michigan’s Bo Schembechler. Gene Stallings is the only Alabama coach to win the award, doing so in 1992. Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen was the first SEC coach since 1998 (Tennessee’s Philip Fulmer) to win the award, in 2014.

Meyer and Mike Leach are the only semifinalists to previously win the award. Meyer won the award in 2004 at Utah and Leach took the award in 2008 with Texas Tech. Penn State’s James Franklin could become the third Penn State coach to win the award, joining Joe Paterno (1990, 2005) and Bill O’Brien (2012).

The remaining semifinalists for the award are Mike MacIntyre (Colorado), Bobby Petrino (Louisville), Neal Brown (Troy), Ken Niumatalolo (Navy), Scott Frost (UCF), Kyle Whittingham (Utah), Justin Fuente (Virginia Tech), Chris Petersen (Washington), Dana Holgorsen (West Virginia), P.J. Fleck (Western Michigan) and Paul Chryst (Wisconsin).

Finalists for the award will be announced on December 12 and a winner will be named on December 29. The winner will be presented with the award on March 10, 2017 in Atlantic City, New Jersey at the annual Maxwell Football Club Awards Banquet.

Hackenberg: No hard feelings with James Franklin

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar
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Christian Hackenberg created a bit of a stir when he omitted Penn State head coach James Franklin from his announcement confirming he will be passing on his final year in Happy Valley and entering the NFL Draft. Now at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, that was one of the topics of conversation once again as Hackenberg makes his rounds with the media. Hackenberg says there is no friction with his now former head coach at Penn State.

“We’re fine,” Hackenberg said, according to PennLive. “No hard feelings there. I think he’s doing a great job up there in terms of recruiting and getting the program headed in the right direction.”

Franklin previously said he had spoken to Hackenberg about his decision, perhaps easing the tension from the way things looked as Hackenberg was on his way out. Hackenberg’s lack of public thanks to Franklin was viewed as a slap in the face of Franklin during a month that also saw two assistant coaches leave to fill the same position in other programs and a small handful of players opt to transfer for one reason or another. But Hackenberg says there was no ill-will intended.

“It was one of those times where it was really emotional,” Hackenberg said. “It was a decision that was made, and I didn’t have anything written out, so what came to mind was the people I spent a lot of time with and the people that brought me to Penn State. Coach Franklin and I had a conversation in person, and I felt like that was best for our relationship to thank him on a personal level.”

Hackenberg did single out a couple of assistants on Franklin’s staff, including offensive coordinator John Donovan, who was fired after the end of the regular season.

Penn State awards scholarship to legacy walk-on

AP Photo/PennLive.com, Joe Hermitt
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With a small handful of scholarships left to use, Penn State is giving a scholarship to senior Gregg Garrity. Garrity, a former walk-on player and punt returner, was awarded his scholarship Thursday morning.

Garrity’s father, also named Gregg Garrity, was a former wide receiver for the Nittany Lions and a part of the first national championship team coached by Joe Paterno. It was Garrity’s signature catch down the left sideline from Todd Blackledge in the 1983 Sugar Bowl against Herschel Walker and top-ranked Georgia that helped push the Nittany Lions to the first national championship in school history. The younger Garrity may not have the opportunity to provide as memorable a highlight for Penn State, but his hard work and dedication to the program have clearly not gone unnoticed by James Franklin and his staff. Garrity came to Penn State as a walk-on under former head coach Bill O’Brien and has made a case for playing time even if his role is limited.

Garrity returned two punts for nine yards last season. He could be expected to handle more punts this season, although DeAndre Thompkins and Mark Allen — both freshmen last season — could also get special teams assignments. Thompkins returned 23 punts for 178 yards last season to lead the team.

James Franklin says Hackenberg called him day after declaring for NFL Draft

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar
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When Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg announced his decision to enter the NFL Draft with a year of eligibility remaining, much was made about the display of public thanks the Nittany Lions’ battle-fatigued quarterback shared. One notable exception was Penn State head coach James Franklin, which led to plenty of hot takes left and right. On Saturday, Franklin was asked about Hackenberg’s departure and lack of public thanks on his way out during a media press conference.

“I’m really happy for Christian and his family, Franklin said. Franklin said Hackenberg actually called Franklin the next day and claimed the two had a great conversation.

The relationship between Hackenberg and Franklin had been a talking point for the past two seasons. After a brilliant display as a freshman under Bill O’Brien, Hackenberg’s development was hindered under Franklin for what turned out to be his final two seasons in Happy Valley. Behind a shallow offensive line, Hackenberg was sacked routinely, leading him to appear to take some steps back in his development. As he enters the NFL Draft mix, scouts will be taking a deeper look at Hackenberg’s skills and determine whether or not the offensive line woes were enough of a factor to hold him back as a sophomore and junior.

As for Penn State’s next starting quarterback, Franklin said there will be an open competition for the job starting this spring. Trace McSorely stepped in to replace an injured Hackenberg in Penn State’s TaxSlayer Bowl loss to Georgia and eventually found a comfort level. That brief time leading the offense gave McSorely a nice confidence boost but is far from enough evidence for Franklin to make a call naming McSorely the starter for 2016.

Franklin also noted he was appreciative of the jobs done by former assistants Bob Shoop and Herb Hand. Shoop, who was Franklin’s defensive coordinator, accepted a job offer for the same role at Tennessee. Hand accepted a lateral move at Auburn.

Jim Haslett leaves Penn State for return to NFL

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic
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Contrary to popular belief, the sky is not falling in Happy Valley. That anti-narrative though may be difficult to defend with the latest in what seems to be a continuing string of departures under the watch of head coach James Franklin. Jim Haslett, who has been serving in the role of a consultant at Penn State for the past year, is on his way back to the NFL to be a part of the coaching staff with the Cincinnati Bengals. Haslett will be the new linebackers coach for the Bengals.

The loss of Haslett is yet another departure from the football staff at Penn State, but is hardly a supporting piece of evidence in the case against the stability of the Franklin regime after two years. Penn State lost defensive cooridnator Bob Shoop and offensive line coach Herb Hand to lateral moves at Tennessee and Auburn, respectively. Franklin also fired offensive cooridnator John Donovan at the end of the regular season. Replacements for all three positions have already been filled. On top of a helpful portion of early departures and transfers, the narrative surrounding Penn State seems to be Franklin is losing control of the ship, but it may still be a tad premature to suggest Franklin’s seat is getting hotter in Happy Valley. Haslett leaving for the NFL is certainly nothing to get up in arms about given his own track record.

Since 1988, Haslett has held 13 different titles ranging from head coach to defensive coordinator to consultant. His one year as a consultant at Penn State was always supposed to be seen as a temporary gig for Haslett, who had been fired as defensive coordinator of the Washington Redskins and still carried some level of NFL coaching acumen. Some may have thought he would have been an interesting addition as Penn State’s defensive coordinator on Franklin’s staff following the loss of Shoop, but Brent Pry was promoted from the current staff to take on the role instead, while Haslett was more likely to leave for a job in the NFL anyway.