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James Franklin Juggles Recruiting Visits, Coaching Search in Aggressive Schedule

Franklin discusses Brent Pry's departure to Virginia Tech and his process for hiring a new defensive coordinator.

Penn State coach James Franklin spent 30 minutes between recruiting visits Sunday night detailing a "busy, packed, aggressive schedule" that includes weekend bowl practices, a coordinator search, fretting over his other assistants and non-stop food.

"We're very appreciative to break bread with all these people, but it's not good for the waistline," Franklin said via conference call.

Franklin and several assistants were at one of their three home recruiting visits Sunday when the Outback Bowl made its invitation official. The Lions will play Arkansas in the Jan. 1 bowl game in Tampa, quite a reward for a 7-5 season that underscored the program's enduring brand power.

Franklin, however, hasn't yet delved into the Razorbacks (graduate assistants were assembling game film) because his plate remains otherwise full. The coach is weighing candidates for his open defensive coordinator position after Brent Pry left for Virginia Tech while also grinding through two weeks of recruiting during the NCAA's contact period.

Franklin did not discuss details of his search but said that he wants to hire a new coordinator as soon as possible. He also did not discuss players who might forgo the bowl game or enter the NFL Draft, allowing them to announce their decisions.

Still, Franklin shed some light on the search process, recruiting and more during his 30 minutes between recruiting meals. Here's a recap.

What Penn State is looking for in a defensive coordinator

Franklin said that "every situation is being considered" with regard to in-house and outside candidates. One of those likely is co-coordinator Anthony Poindexter, who had a successful season coaching Penn State's safeties but also has been mentioned as a candidate for the head-coaching position at Virginia, his alma mater.

Franklin added that previous defensive playcalling experience is "helpful" but that he isn't looking to run a new scheme.

"One of the things that I do want to do is make sure that we stay with a similar scheme, because I think that's important to our current players and our current roster, to make sure that they feel like they're a fit," Franklin said. "We've recruited for fit with our current roster and then also the guys coming in. So that was something that was important to everybody and something that just makes sense for Penn State long-term."

Brent Pry's departure marks a 'significant loss'

Pry worked with Franklin for 11 years at Vanderbilt and Penn State, had opportunities to leave before and finally did so to Virginia Tech.

"James is like a brother to me," Pry said at his introductory press conference. "I wasn't sure I'd ever step out and do my own thing, and it took this place to do it. It was the right time."

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While Franklin said he was "super-excited" for Pry, he also sounded wistful at the departure he always expected.

"This is the type of opportunity that we talked about for 12 years," Franklin said. "He turned down a bunch of opportunities waiting for the right one, and this was the right one. So I couldn't be happier for him. And I think it's a great fit and a tremendous opportunity.

"On the other hand, it's a significant loss, personally and professionally. Brent's one of my closest friends. We've been together for 12 years, been through a lot together. And, obviously, you know, that's going to be difficult to replace."

Penn State coach James Franklin with former defensive coordinator Brent Pry at practice. (Photo courtesy Penn State Athletics)

Penn State coach James Franklin with former defensive coordinator Brent Pry at practice. (Photo courtesy Penn State Athletics)

Could other coaches leave?

Franklin said that the program is working through bowl preparation while "being down some staff members." Pry is the only coach whose departure has been made public. Asked about the comment, Franklin said, "it's that time of year."

"There's always people that have opportunities and options," Franklin said. "When you lose people from your staff for head coaching opportunities, obviously the people that they know are part of your current staff. So that becomes an even stronger challenge, because they have intimate, personal and professional relationships with people on the staff."

One coach has said he's staying: Co-defensive coordinator Anthony Poindexter told ESPN's Adam Rittenberg that he will remain with the Lions after being a candidate for the head-coaching job at Virginia.

Changes around the Lasch Building

Following the regular-season finale against Michigan State, the football program transferred its weight room equipment to the indoor practice facility to continue the Lasch Building project. An 18,000-square-foot expansion of the weight room is part of the $48.3 million renovation plan.

What's next for Penn State?

The Lions practiced this weekend and will resume next weekend. The recruiting contact period concludes Saturday, and the early signing period begins Dec. 15. Penn State is scheduled to arrive in Tampa for the bowl game Dec. 26.

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