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Report: Vanderbilt’s James Franklin is at the top of Penn State’s list of potential Bill O’Brien replacements

Sam Cooper
Dr. Saturday

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Vanderbilt coach James Franklin (USA Today Sports)

With the reports of Penn State coach Bill O’Brien potentially heading to the NFL to coach the Houston Texans, a few names have emerged as potential replacements for O’Brien in Happy Valley.

The name of recently-fired Bucs and former Rutgers coach Greg Schiano emerged on Sunday. Now, according to David Jones of the Harrisburg Patriot-News, Vanderbilt’s James Franklin is atop Penn State’s list of potential candidates.

Saying that those who would be in charge of a coaching search are looking to move quickly, Jones writes:

“They are compiling a list of possible new coaches to interview with expediency in hopes that the new guy could persuade current underclass players and verbally committed recruits to stay at PSU. Atop that list is Vanderbilt coach James Franklin, according to knowledgeable sources within the program.”

Franklin, who is in his third year at Vanderbilt as the Commodores prepare for the BBVA Compass Bowl on Jan. 4, has Pennsylvania roots and, as Jones points out, has connections to Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner. Franklin grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs and played collegiately at East Stroudsburg University and Joyner “has direct knowledge of him through family members and third parties who are very impressed with him.”

Jones also stressed that if O’Brien does leave, Penn State is after a college coach, not “another former NFL coach whose ultimate desire is to return to the pro realm.” While Franklin fits that bill, Jones points out that if Texas decides to pursue Franklin, they have a jumpstart on him and “certainly could outbid PSU with its deep pockets and unlimited athletic budget.”

The coaching carousel is off to a fast start. Stay tuned, folks.

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