What They’re Saying: Reviews on PSU’s James Franklin hire are glowing… except one

What They’re Saying: Reviews on PSU’s James Franklin hire are glowing… except one

You really have to do some digging to find many negative viewpoints on James Franklin, who was introduced as the new head football coach at Penn State University on Saturday. The PA native resurrected a Vanderbilt program from its perennial 2-10 record to three bowl games in three years, accounting for nearly half of the school’s postseason appearances all time.

Franklin’s presence is already being felt in Happy Valley, where talk of transfers and decommits ended abruptly. On the contrary, a couple of kids that were headed to Vandy even flipped with the news and will be enrolling at PSU instead. Recruiting sounds like it will be a real strength under the East Stroudsburg grad, who promised to “dominate the state” in his opening remarks.

Here’s an overview of what some people are saying about the hire:

Matt Brown, Sports on Earth

It’s hard to imagine Penn State finding a more fitting candidate. Franklin didn’t recruit under scholarship restrictions at Vandy, but he might as well have, given the difficulty trying to lure recruits who fit in academically there. According to Rivals.com, Vanderbilt’s 2013 recruiting class ranked 19th nationally — ahead of Miami, Texas and Oregon, among others — and its 2012 class ranked 29th. This was a program accustomed to finishing in the bottom half of the FBS in recruiting; maybe Franklin wasn’t pulling in the best of the best, but simply competing for good recruits meant a whole new reality for Vanderbilt football.

Aaron Torres, Fox Sports

Much like Meyer before him, Franklin comes to the Big Ten with area roots -- he grew up and played college ball in Pennsylvania -- yet it’s his work in the Southeastern Conference that ultimately got him the job. Franklin spent the last three years having unprecedented success at Vanderbilt, winning nine games in both 2012 and 2013. The Commodores had a grand total of one nine-win season in the 95 years before Franklin arrived.

Gregg Doyel, CBS Sports

But the story here is Franklin, who won at the worst football job in the toughest football conference in the country. If he could do that there, how will he do in one of the best jobs in one of the weaker BCS leagues? He'll win even bigger. Before, he was racing the biggest boats and beating them more often than not -- despite the wind in his face. At Penn State he will have gale-force breezes blowing into his sails. He's about to go fast, and win big.

Mike Sielski, Inquirer

President Rodney Erickson and athletic director David M. Joyner lauded Franklin for his character, for his ability to strike a balance between athletics and academics at an elite university such as Vanderbilt, but there's no mistaking to what side those scales tip. This is a university still getting over the worst scandal sports has ever seen, and in many minds, nothing will heal those wounds faster than a few 10-1 seasons. Erickson, Joyner, and Penn State's trustees didn't hire Franklin because he coached at Vanderbilt. They hired him because he won there.

Ron Wynn, Tennessee Tribune (for Phila. Daily News)

But his impact off the field might have been greater. Franklin urged Vanderbilt, a private school with a glittering academic reputation, to be equally concerned with achievement in football. He didn't ask for massive concessions in regards to admissions, but he did seek substantial improvement in facilities.

***

While there is little to question on Franklin’s resume, off-field concerns are another story. There is this matter of an ongoing rape scandal at Vanderbilt involving five former football players, with Franklin possibly being involved. USA Today’s Christine Brennan accused Penn State of being “tone deaf” in light of being only a couple years removed from the Jerry Sandusky child sex scandal.

Christine Brennan, USA Today

Last June, four of Franklin's players were charged with raping an unconscious 21-year-old woman in a dormitory and a fifth player pleaded guilty to helping cover it up. All five were dismissed from the team. If and when there is a trial, it will be Franklin's former players on trial. One of the players' attorneys was quoted as saying he wants to subpoena Franklin.

Whatever happens in that case, by hiring Franklin, Penn State will have attached itself to it. If there's a trial and Franklin's a part of it, Penn State would be a part of it, too.

And that's not all. Franklin has attracted other controversy. During a 2012 radio interview, he said one of the top qualifications for his assistant coaches is that they must have attractive wives.

***

Time will tell if Franklin is involved in any upcoming proceedings, but one would think university officials vetted the incident with great care. In the wake of his hiring at PSU, it would be surprising to say the least to learn he had a role. Still, for right now, I suppose there is that.

National champion Villanova to be honored at White House next week

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USA Today Images

National champion Villanova to be honored at White House next week

It's been nearly two months since Villanova won the National Championship in one of the most memorable games in NCAA Tournament history.

Since then, the Wildcats have been honored by the city (parade), the New York Stock Exchange (opening bell), the Phillies (first pitch), the Flyers and the Union. Earlier this week, head coach Jay Wright addressed the Eagles.

But that will all pale in comparison to where the Wildcats will be next Tuesday, when they become the latest championship team to visit the White House and meet President Barack Obama.

The ceremony is scheduled to begin at 4:10 p.m. and will be streamed on www.whitehouse.gov/live.

In his pool, President Obama had Villanova finally advancing past the second round — "I know that eventually they're going to break through. They've had some bad luck over the last couple of years," Obama told ESPN.com — but had the Wildcats falling to Kansas in the regional semifinal.

He then had Kansas beating North Carolina to win the title.

After surviving the first weekend for the first time since their Final Four run in 2009, Villanova ousted Kansas, 64-59, before shocking Buddy Hield and Oklahoma in the national semifinal, winning by 44. The Wildcats then won one of the most memorable championship games in NCAA Tournament history when Kris Jenkins hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to beat the Tar Heels, 77-74.

Union transfer contract of Michael Lahoud to Miami FC

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Union transfer contract of Michael Lahoud to Miami FC

The Union have cashed in on Michael Lahoud.

After terminating his loan to the New York Cosmos on Tuesday, the Union recalled Lahoud and officially sold the 29-year-old midfielder to Miami FC of the NASL for an undisclosed amount.

“Mike always served the club in a professional manner during his time here,” said Union sporting director Earnie Stewart, who loaned Lahoud to the Cosmos this offseason. “We thank him for his service and want to wish him the best of luck in Miami and in his future endeavors.”

Lahoud, whose prorated $115,637.50 guaranteed salary comes off the Union’s salary cap, was acquired in 2012 in a trade with Chivas USA for defender Danny Califf. He made 58 appearances with the Union before being loaned out.

Eagles' left guard job is Allen Barbre's, but backups are pushing

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Eagles' left guard job is Allen Barbre's, but backups are pushing

Allen Barbre is the Eagles’ starting left guard.

For now.

The 31-year-old offensive lineman started all 16 games at left guard in 2015, and as of Tuesday at OTAs, he was still a starter for Doug Pederson’s new-look offense.

But that could change.

There are several players pushing for the left guard spot. Among them are Stefen Wisniewski, Malcolm Bunche, Isaac Seumalo and Andrew Gardner.

“I definitely am trying to start somewhere,” said Wisniewski, a free-agent signing. “I think I would be a good starting left guard.”

Wisniewski, 27, signed a one-year prove-it deal in early April to join the Eagles (see story). After being taken in the second round of the 2011 draft, Wisniewski has started 77 of 80 possible games in the NFL. He clearly views himself as a starter in the NFL.

For the last two weeks, he’s been working with the second team at guard and center.

“Yeah, it’s weird. It’s definitely weird,” Wisniewski said. “I haven’t spent much time with the twos in five years. Probably a week or two. So it’s definitely different, but I’m just looking at it as a temporary thing, though.”

This offseason, the Eagles added veteran Brandon Brooks to play right guard, taking over for Matt Tobin, but Barbre is still slotted on the left side. In fact, to hammer the point home, the starting offensive linemen have their lockers in a row in the deep corner of the locker room, from left to right: Jason Peters, Barbre, Jason Kelce, Brooks, Lane Johnson.

So, as of late May, Barbre is still the starter.

“I really like where we're at. I like the depth at that position right now,” Pederson said last week. “But yeah, Allen Barbre is my guy and he's our starter.”

Wisniewski is the most accomplished of the backups pushing for that starting left guard spot, but he’s not alone.

Bunche, who was on the Eagles’ practice squad in 2015 after going undrafted out of UCLA, has been working with the second team at left guard during practice. And the second-year player thinks he has a shot at the starting job too.

“Oh yes. But not just that one,” Bunche said. “Throughout the season, anything can happen. That’s one thing that [offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland], he talks about it a lot, you never know when you’re number is going to be called. You just gotta stay in tune with what’s being called, the play-calling, the different techniques going into certain games. I feel I have an opportunity to take that spot if I wanted to. My mindset it to come in and get better each and every day.”

Another possible starting left guard isn’t with the team right now. Third-round pick Seumalo, from Oregon State, is back at school because of the NFL graduation rule and Oregon State’s quarters system. He would be a logical choice to compete for that starting job, but he’s missing valuable time at OTAs.

Meanwhile, Barbre, who had started just eight total games in his seven-year career before 2015, is trying to stave off his competitors. The veteran knows the team brought in a bunch of new offensive linemen this offseason (they have 17 on the roster). He just doesn’t care.

“Honestly, I wasn’t really worried about that,” Barbre said Tuesday. “Honestly, I thought I played fairly decent (in 2015), if you studied the film and you understood what went on. There was a lot of stuff that was tough on the O-line, so it made it kind of tough on us.”

The criticism of the offensive line last season was loud, especially criticism of the guard positions, but Barbre did his best to avoid it.  

“I don’t even read it,” he said. “Honestly, I don’t even care. You guys got your jobs and I have my job. We all have different things we have to do.”

Right now, Barbre’s job is to hold onto that starting spot, while Wisniewski and the rest try to steal it away.