Penn State coach James Franklin checks in with recruits every Sunday to catch up with their progress and share updates about his team. Franklin admitted that those calls have been more difficult to make this season.
"We're just very honest and upfront, and I think the worst thing you can do is avoid it," Franklin said. "You have very direct, honest conversations and talk about it, make sure everybody is on the same page, and it's not always easy to do. It’s not fun jumping on those calls on a Sunday or Monday, but you’ve got to do it."
Franklin and his staff continue to recruit during Penn State's 0-4 start, a process that has been constrained by COVID-19 protocols. The NCAA Division I Council on Wednesday announced a further restriction, extending the recruiting dead period until April 15.
As a result, Franklin and his assistant coaches will go a year without hosting players on official visits, chatting with their coaches on high-school visits or having dinners with recruits and their families. So Franklin is left to make his pitches via phone, text and video, something he finds difficult as a coach who favors developing relationships in person.
Further, Franklin also is forced to answer questions about the 2020 season, in which Penn State is winless through four games for the first time since 2001. The coach said he has been clear about specifics behind the scenes. "I'm very transparent in recruiting, always have been," he said.
In turn, Franklin said recruits are looking at Penn State in the long view.
"For four years we've done some pretty good things," Franklin said. "[This is] maybe the most successful era in Penn State's Big Ten history. And that's not happening right now, but I do think people look at the whole situation."
Franklin said he doesn't like the extended dead period but understands why it's necessary. Recruits have had their experiences disrupted to the point that some have committed to schools without speaking with the head coach in person on campus. That could lead to players decommitting or transferring in the future.
"It’s impactful," Franklin said. "But I think at the end of the day it’s hard to justify bringing anybody into the bubbles that we’re trying to create. Our focus and our emphasis have to be on our current student-athletes. And you don’t want to do anything to jeopardize that, as challenging as it is. But I also sympathize and understand that we wish the recruits had an opportunity to have a normal experience."
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