James Franklin; Big Ten Media Days
Twitter: @joehermitt

James Franklin's Quest to Build Top-5 Program Starts with Culture

Six years ago, the NCAA brought down sanctions on Penn State University and the football program in the wake of Jerry Sandusky's scandal that tore through the community, alumni and college football world. A storied program and university was enveloped in the sins of a sick man, and the cover up by the elite few who sought to preserve their own legacies.

Since July 23, 2012, while the outside world chastised an entire culture and community, Penn State University rose from the ashes. The football program has gone on to six winning seasons, and under new head coach James Franklin, has two 11-win seasons and two Top-10 finishes in the AP Poll.

Despite players transferring and boosters fleeing, the 2012 team was emblazoned at Beaver Stadium alongside national champions of years' past for their commitment to the Nittany Lion name.


In 2018, after winning the Fiesta Bowl and finishing No. 8 in the final AP Poll in 2017, Penn State football is officially back in the national spotlight.

At Big Ten Media Days in Chicago, Penn State head coach James Franklin talked about how important the culture and atmosphere is to his program.

The reality is for you to have a program that is a consistent top-10 or top-5 program, you can't do it by just being good in one area. You can't just do it being good in a scheme. You can't just do it good from a development standpoint. You can't just do it from a recruiting perspective.

For you to have a top-5, top-10 program, you're going to have to be strong in all of those areas. I think if you have weaknesses, that's what you need to be spending your offseason doing, is attacking those weaknesses.

After garnering the 20th-ranked recruiting class in 2016, the 15th best in 2017, and the fifth-best in 2018 (all by 247Sports), Franklin's team has cleared all the sanctions, and is poised for success for years to come.

Losing Heisman Trophy finalist Saquon Barkley to the NFL Draft offers a massive shift in the dynamic of the football team, but that hasn't deterred senior quarterback Trace McSorley from his confidence in the offense, in particular at running back, this upcoming season.

McSorley, a preseason Heisman trophy candidate this season, was the only unanimous selection to the Preseason All-Big Ten team.

"I think where Trace is valuable is how the game has evolved," Franklin said of his quarterback. "The prototype quarterback doesn't really exist anymore, whether it's NFL, college, high school, you need to have a guy at that position that can beat you in multiple ways and Trace can do that with his mind, from a decision-making perspective, from an arm, doesn't get enough credit for how well he throws the ball."

Penn State fans sure know how well he can throw the ball. Take this game walk-off touchdown to beat Iowa last season as an example of his poise, arm talent, and ability to perform in clutch situations.

To close his Big Ten football Media Days opening statement, Franklin made one thing clear: "And as you know, I don't like to spend a whole lot of time talking about our past, but I do think the things we've been able to accomplish the last couple of years have laid a foundation for confidence in our players in our locker room for where we're moving forward."

To slay the beast that is Ohio State and Urban Meyer and lock up a College Football Playoff bid, Franklin and the PSU program will need to continue the run of success they've built upon the last few seasons.

Penn State opens their 2018 season on September 1 at home against Appalachian State.

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