We were planning on creating an entire roundtable with SB Nation sister sites on the candidates that were in the running for the head coaching position here at Penn State last week, but responses were few and far between. One site that did get back to us was Anchor of Gold which covers Vanderbilt athletics. Christian D'Andrea, the editor of the site, answered five questions for us which give a bit more insight into what Penn State may be getting in James Franklin, Vandy's current head coach. Here are his answers:
BSD: What is your coach's greatest strength as an on-the-field coach?
AOG: Franklin's greatest strength is as a motivator. He can develop players (Josh Freeman and Danny O'Brien before coming to Vanderbilt, Jordan Rodgers, Zac Stacy, and Jordan Matthews all thrived under him in Nashville). He has wrung three straight seasons of bowl eligibility out of two and three-star players who were largely recruited by Bobby Johnson. That's an ENORMOUS deal at Vanderbilt. He's simply done things that no coach has done in Nashville since the pre-war era.
BSD: What is your coach's greatest weakness as an on-the-field coach?
AOG: James Franklin's playcalling leans to the conservative side of things, despite his penchant for taking risks on 3rd and 4th down. As such, you see a lot of bubble screens and swing passes in his offense. He's less hands-on when it comes to the defense, which is more of a Bob Shoop product. His recruiting and motivational skills are on a higher plane than his ability to work out the Xs and Os on the gridiron.
BSD: Discuss your coach's work as a recruiter for the program.
AOG: James Franklin has turned Vanderbilt into a top 25 staple amongst the recruiting ranks. Very few people thought that would ever be possible, even for just one year. He does a great job of challenging and connecting to high school players and creating a bond that he fosters from the recruiting trail all the way to the locker room. Based on what he's done at Vandy, Franklin can consider himself one of the elite recruiting head coaches in the NCAA.
BSD: Would your coach do well at Penn State given what you know about the program?
AOG: Franklin's a great salesman. Giving him a pitch like PSU's tradition and a fanbase that can sell out a stadium that's 2.5 times the size of the one he's got now would only make him better.
BSD: What are the chances your coach takes the Penn State job?
Editor's Note: We sent these questions out last Wednesday before Vanderbilt's appearance in the Compass Bowl which Christian alludes to in his answer. In a story on Anchor Of Gold today, he thinks that Franklin may be heading out of Nashville in the coming days.
AOG: Franklin's whole recruiting pitch at Vanderbilt is that he's building something from the ground up. If he leaves before his first class can matriculate, he betrays the legacy he's creating in Nashville. So far, he's remained entirely loyal to the university as his status has grown - although he has used the threat of other offers to earn raises for himself and his staff along the way (along with some considerable facility upgrades at Vandy). I'm sure that he'll consider big offers - he's had interest from other major programs like USC and Texas already this season - but I would be surprised if he took another job this winter.
With Penn State officials suggesting that they'll make a decision within days, that seems to rule Franklin, who is preparing for Saturday's Compass Bowl, out of the search. There's always the chance that PSU has been covertly talking with him this whole time, but if that's the case then the security around those conversations must be unreal.
Black Shoe Diaries would like to thank Christian for his time. You can read what Vanderbilt thinks about the Franklin rumors over at Anchor Of Gold. You can also follow them on Twitter at @anchorofgold and Christian himself at @TrainIsland