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BIG TEN Team Preview: Penn State

BY JACOB SHEYKO | AUGUST 26, 2014 5:00 AM

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One by one, they approached the microphone. Questions flew in, and generic answers spilled out.

Players talked about being in the best shape of their lives, and coaches talked about how excited they were about the season to come.

Big Ten media days are fairly scripted, and it’s hard to blame players and coaches. They can only answer the same questions over and over until they form pre-determined answers.

But not James Franklin.

Candid and honest, Penn State’s new head coach kicked things off by telling the crowd of media members how he had avoided using the elevator that week because the one with a Penn State logo didn’t line up with his room.

“I refuse to ride any other elevator up there, so I had to end up walking up the floors,” Franklin joked.

Some coaches try to get through their press conferences as fast as possible. Not Franklin. He owns the podium. He doesn’t want to just tell you that Penn State will win; he wants to persuade you to the degree where you’ll have no other conclusion.

And it’s not a façade. His players witness it every day in practice, from the excessive and never-ending positivity to Franklin’s practice rule that if you have somewhere to go, you better get there by running.

“That’s very true,” running back Bill Belton said. “He made me run around in circles until I found out where I had to go, so it’s true.

“I thought it was kind of pointless at first, but then I was like, ‘All right, when we’re on the field, we have to run.’ Just practicing good habits.”

Despite taking over a new team, Franklin has the luxury of coaching perhaps the league’s most talented quarterback in Christian Hackenberg — if only because Ohio State’s Braxton Miller suffered season-ending shoulder injury.

Aside from Hackenberg, Penn State also returns Belton, who ran for more than 800 yards on 5.1 yards per carry last season.

In all, Penn State lost nine starters, none more valuable than wide receiver Allen Robinson, who caught 97 catches for 1,432 yards last season.

However, at the end of the day, all eyes will be on Franklin. Judging by past performance, good things are about to happen in Happy Valley.

In his three years as head coach at Vanderbiwlt, Franklin took a 2-10 team and turned it around to the tune of three-straight bowl appearances and a 24-15 record.

Even more, in the short time the players have gotwten to know their new coach, the Nittany Lions have figured out one thing.

Just as Franklin is confortable with how he takes care of business, he lets his players be who they are.

And that’s been the case from Day One.

“You see a whole bunch of teams, and you see a whole bunch of coaches, wthey change; the coaches aren’t wthe same,” said Belton, who was first recruited by Franklin to play at Vanderbilt. “One thing I can say about [Franklin] is that he’s been the same person ever since I met him.”

Franklin is not going to change. Whatever the Nittany Lions do on the field during his time there, they’re going to do it just as their new head coach would: with copious amounts of energy.

“We feed off of his energy,” linebacker Mike Hull said. “I wouldn’t want another head coach with different energy.”


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