James Franklin discusses Penn State's coaching staff departures, player transfers
January 23, 2016 11:43 AM
Joe Hermitt/PennLive.com via AP
Penn State coach James Franklin talks with Penn State great Wally Triplett following NCAA college football practice Nov. 11, 2105, in State College, Pa.
By Audrey Snyder / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Penn State’s coaching staff and the Nittany Lions’ roster underwent quite a few changes since the team’s Jan. 2 TaxSlayer Bowl defeat, but James Franklin says the player and staff departures are simply a part of college football.
“You look around the country and the game has changed dramatically in the last 10, 20 years. Good coaches are difficult to keep,” Franklin said Saturday morning during his season ending teleconference, his first time addressing the media since the departure of defensive coordinator Bob Shoop and offensive line coach Herb Hand. Both assistants, who worked under Franklin for the past five seasons, took on the same jobs with Tennessee and Auburn.
“That’s really what you see in college football right now. Do I like it? No, but that’s the reality of it,” Franklin said. Penn State has since replaced Shoop by promoting co-defensive coordinator Brent Pry to defensive coordinator and hired offensive line coach Matt Limegrover to take Hand’s place. “People are going to make choices that they think are in the best interest of their families and that they think are in their best interest professionally as well.”
Franklin reiterated that a handful of player transfers, including rising fifth-year senior wide receiver Geno Lewis, backup running back Akeel Lynch, starting outside linebacker Troy Reeder and two reserves didn’t come as a surprise. Lewis, who transferred to Oklahoma, saw less targets this season and with a deep group of young scholarship players behind him Franklin said he was “very aware” that these changes could happen.
Several minutes later Franklin said the departure of Reeder, who completed his red-shirt freshman season while being thrust into a starting role as outside linebacker, did catch him by surprise. Reeder transferred to Delaware where he will play alongside his younger brother at the place where their father also played. Add the departure of reserve linebacker Gary Wooten Jr. and the impending return of starter Nyeem Wartman-White who sustained a season ending knee injury in the season opener, and the Lions will be thin in the linebacking corps during spring ball.
“Troy was probably the one that was a surprise,” Franklin said. “Had a real long conversation with him. … That’s a position that we are a little bit thin because that one was a little bit unexpected, but we’re going to have some young players that we’re really excited about. We also have the ability to do some things with our safeties in terms of nickel and dime that we’ve done in the past in our STAR package and things like that. The issue for us is really spring ball and not really the fall.”
And what about quarterback Christian Hackenberg who didn’t thank Franklin when the former Lions’ quarterback went through a lengthy list of thank yous while declaring for the NFL Draft?
“Christian called me the day after announcing and we had a great conversation, he was very appreciative, thanked me and the staff for everything that we’ve done,” Franklin said. “We had a great conversation on the phone. I think Christian is going to go on and do wonderful things. … I was glad Christian picked up the phone and called me the next day.”
As for the new additions to the coaching staff, Limegrover, who will coach the offensive linemen, made Franklin’s list of potential hires and was on new offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead’s list. Moorhead, who was hired in December after John Donovan’s firing, attended Pittsburgh’s Central Catholic and so did Limegrover.
Tim Banks, who was hired Monday as the team’s co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach, rounds out the coaching changes for the offseason. Interestingly, Banks, who coached at Illinois under then head coach Tim Beckman, was among the group of assistants who joined Beckman on Penn State’s campus in 2012 while the Illini tried to poach Penn State players following the fallout from the NCAA’s sanctions that allowed players to transfer without penalty.
“I know his values. I know his morals,” Franklin said. “He was a part of that staff, was put in a very difficult situation and we’ve discussed that, no doubt about it. I think once you all get to know Tim as well as once our community gets to know Tim they’ll have no concerns or no issues about that. Tim was put in a difficult situation as an employee.”
Audrey Snyder: email@example.com and Twitter @audsnyder4
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