After having the same football coach roam the sidelines for 45 years, Penn State is set to have its second new face in three years.
Vanderbilt coach James Franklin appears ready to become the next coach in Happy Valley, according to separate reports by CBS and ESPN. Franklin follows in the footsteps of Bill O’Brien, who was announced as head coach of the Houston Texans of the NFL Jan. 3.
Franklin led the Commodores to a 9-4 record in 2013, capped off with a 41-24 victory over Houston in the BBVA Compass Bowl Jan. 4. He went 24-15 in three seasons at Vanderbilt, and the team won nine of its last 14 games in the rugged SEC.
Penn State returns a relatively young team, losing Big Ten receiver of the year in junior Allen Robinson — who led the Big Ten with 71 receptions and 984 yards in 2013 — to the NFL Draft. However, Franklin will have one of the conference’s up-and-coming stars in current freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg.
The Nittany Lions will not be bowl eligible until the 2016 season, after unprecedented sanctions were handed down by the NCAA in the wake of the child sexual abuse scandal involving former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.
PSU learned in September that some of the sanctions would be reduced, however, when the NCAA announced that it would have 75 scholarships in 2014 instead of 65, which was what determined when the sanctions were announced initially. The same goes for 2015, when the Nittany Lions will have 80 and then 2016 when they will have the full allotment of scholarships at 85.
The addition of a few more scholarship players than initially anticipated coupled with the tutelage of one of the country’s hottest commodities at the head coaching position, one of the Big Ten’s most storied programs seems to be on its way back to relevance.
Under O’Brien, PSU went 15-9 in two seasons, losing to Ohio State twice — most recently a 63-14 drubbing Oct. 26 in Ohio Stadium.
Representatives from OSU, PSU and Vanderbilt did not immediately respond to The Lantern’s request for comment Thursday.