It became official Saturday morning, that former Terrapins offensive coordinator and Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin has been hired for the top gig at Penn State, so Maryland’s yearly Big Ten matchup just became much more enticing.
Of course, few Maryland fans need a refresher on Franklin. The Pennsylvania native was designated as the coach-in-waiting under Ralph Friedgen, but amid an uncertain future in College Park he instead left for the Commodores, shortly before Friedgen was fired in December 2010, then parlayed his success into filling the position vacated by Bill O’Brien (who left to take the head coaching job with the Houston Texans).
“People understood it because it didn’t look like I was going to be in the future,” Franklin reflected to former Terps beat writer Eric Prisbell in late 2011, after a year at Vanderbilt. “To turn down an opportunity to be a head coach to wait for an opportunity that might not happen, I think it was a no-brainer to everybody.”
The overwhelming social media reaction from Terps faithful, at least on Twitter, seemed to be guttural, given the Maryland football team’s struggles since Friedgen left. Under Coach Randy Edsall, the Terps are 13-24 and reached their first bowl game this season. Given the Big Ten move, officially effective July 1, Maryland will face Penn State once a season in football as division foes. The first meeting will be Nov. 1 at Beaver Stadium.
— Bruce Feldman (@BFeldmanCBS) January 9, 2014
And here’s ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich, a former Maryland beat writer for the Baltimore Sun:
While the decision made sense to many at the time and eliminated a sticky situation on Maryland’s coaching staff, Maryland will now continue to be haunted by the one who got away.
The timing of the hire is certainly uncanny.
Once seemingly inseparable, Maryland and James Franklin are heading to the Big Ten together — and yet they couldn’t be further apart.
There’s no denying Franklin’s success at Vanderbilt. In three seasons, the coach CBS described as “a dogged recruiter and energetic” went 24-15 (18-8 over the past two years). The Commodores were 9-7 in SEC games in 2012 and 2013 and, this season, defeated Houston in the BBVA Compass Bowl.
The recruiting aspect, it seems, has come to the fore, 20-20 hindsight about retaining Franklin as the head coach notwithstanding. Franklin’s first stint at Maryland was as wide receivers coach from 2000 to 2004, a position that expanded to include recruiting coordinator over the final two seasons. Right after Franklin left, Prisbell wrote that Maryland had just lost “its best recruiter, a charismatic, work-in-progress offensive coordinator and its coach-in-waiting.”
The Nittany Lions and Terps have already battled over several top recruits this period. Local safety Marcus Allen (Wise) and cornerback Troy Vincent Jr. (Gilman) are Penn State commits, while the Terps have two players — Brett Kulka and Tyler Burke — currently pledged from Pennsylvania. Running back Jonathan Thomas, rated as the best player out of Massachusetts, flipped from Maryland to Penn State. Local offensive lineman Jared Cohen, a four-star recruit rated among the state’s 20 top prospects, decommitted from Maryland to explore an offer from Penn State, which he called his dream school. And now Penn State adds Franklin, who clearly has no shortage of experience recruiting the Washington and Maryland areas.
“You’re talking about a guy who had two different stints at Maryland, including as recruiting coordinator, and still has a good number of relationships,” said Jeff Ermann, publisher of InsideMDSports. “You add that to the fact that Penn State generally recruits the area well, regardless. I think it may be a little overstated. It wasn’t like he went to Vanderbilt and built a pipeline to D.C. Obviously it’s tougher, but Maryland still has Mike Locksley. Is still think he’s the preeminent local recruiter.”
Locksley and Franklin have enjoyed plenty of recruiting battles, particularly when Locksley worked as the recruiting coordinator at Florida in 2003-04 and they competed in the area. But the Terps have moved past Franklin, at least internally, as the Edsall regime moves into its fourth season and first in the Big Ten with an old face across the border.
“It’ll be interesting to watch,” Ermann said. “I think Locksley, when you look at the top kids he’s signed at Maryland, when the two were there together, I think Locksley’s name is probably next to a good deal more of them. His strength is more in the D.C. area and in the WCAC, whereas Franklin’s probably a little more Baltimore and [Prince George’s] County. I think there’s more talent in D.C. and WCAC. I think they’ll be going head to head with a lot of the kids. Obviously it does not help Maryland hasn’t done well the past few years on the field. I think Mike Locksley has proven himself to be the top local recruiter. I would expect he’ll more than be able to hold his own.”
Your thoughts? Post them in the comments. Safety Zach Dancel had one.
Tired of all this talk saying Terps are in trouble w/ Franklin @ PennState. Hes a great coach but we have great Coaches @ MD too #TerpNation
— Zach Dancel (@WhiteBoy_Awesom) January 11, 2014