Penn State notebook: James Franklin addresses personnel moves
January 24, 2016 12:00 AM
Defensive coordinator Bob Shoop left Pen State for the same job at Tennessee this offseason.
By Audrey Snyder / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Two years ago James Franklin sat at the front of the Beaver Stadium media room and described himself as “fiercely loyal,” adding that he would be loyal to his assistant coaches, too.
Twenty-six games and two quarterbacks later, Franklin fielded questions Saturday morning about an offseason that three weeks in already is shaping up to be a unique one. Offensive coordinator John Donovan was fired at the conclusion of the regular season and in his place is former Fordham head coach Joe Moorhead. Two weeks ago, offensive line coach Herb Hand accepted the same position at Auburn and defensive coordinator Bob Shoop bolted to take the same role at Tennessee. All three assistants worked under Franklin the past five seasons dating to this three-year tenure at Vanderbilt.
“You’re always a little surprised. You’re always a little hurt,” Franklin said when asked about Shoop’s departure Saturday on a teleconference. “We spent a lot of time together as family, as families and people. Our coaches get opportunities and they get offers and we’ve been very fortunate over five years we’ve had probably as little turnover as most staffs in the country, but every year these guys get approached.”
Offensive line coach Matt Limegrover and co-defensive coordinator/safeties coach Tim Banks joined the staff within the past week. Making quick hires helps Penn State’s final push to close out the 2016 recruiting class, one in which several verbal pledges plus two top uncommitted prospects in Damar Hamlin and Khaleke Hudson arrived Friday for official visits.
Banks was a member of former Illinois coach Tim Beckman’s staff, one that irked fans when Beckman and his assistants tried to poach Penn State players after the transfer clause was announced as part of the NCAA’s sanctions in 2012.
“I know his values. I know his morals,” Franklin said. “[He] 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.”
A final ‘thank you’
Franklin said quarterback Christian Hackenberg called him after the TaxSlayer Bowl to thank him, something the NFL-bound prospect failed to do while rattling off a lengthy list of people who helped him get this far.
Franklin said he was glad Hackenberg picked up the phone and wished him well as he continues training for the NFL combine. Finding Hackenberg’s replacement is in progress, and while Trace McSorley likely has a leg up on the competition, Franklin said all positions are up for grabs this spring and summer.
Five players transferred within the past month, but the one that caught Franklin by surprise was redshirt freshman linebacker Troy Reeder. Reeder, who stepped in to start 11 games at outside linebacker this season after Nyeem Wartman-White was injured in the opener, transferred to Delaware where he will join his younger brother and play at their father’s alma mater.
Reserve linebacker Gary Wooten Jr. transferred, too, leaving Penn State with six scholarship linebackers this spring including Wartman-White, who likely will be limited in spring drills.
“That’s a position that we are a little bit thin because that one was a little bit unexpected,” he said. “We also 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 and our star package and things like that.”
Franklin on whether or not he hyped up the program’s expectations too soon: “I think it really depends on what people were listening to, but I made that comment several times that that's probably the most challenging situation for a football coach is to explain to people kind of where we truly are, but get people excited about the program.”
Audrey Snyder: email@example.com and Twitter @audsnyder4.
To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to
firstname.lastname@example.org and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner.