It's official. James Franklin is Penn State's 16th head football coach.
“I can't tell you how excited I am to come home,” Franklin said in a University release. “I grew up watching Penn State football and now to be at the helm of such a storied program is a tremendous honor. It's important to me to be a part of a University that strives for excellence in everything they do. When football student-athletes come to Penn State, they have a unique opportunity to receive a premium education while playing at the highest level of competition.
“I'm incredibly excited to get to know the students, alumni, and fans who have demonstrated such loyalty to the University as a whole and to the football program in particular,” Franklin added. “I've worked my way through every division of football and no other school boasts a fan base like we do. We Are...Penn State!!”
The 41-year-old Franklin is a native of Langhorne, Pa., and was a two-time all-PSAC selection at quarterback for East Stroudsburg. He worked as an assistant coach at his alma mater, Kutztown and James Madison before breaking into the BCS ranks as a graduate assistant at Washington State in 1998. He then coached at Idaho State for one season before heading to the University of Maryland, where he would be the wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator under Ralph Friedgen for five seasons.
Franklin went to the NFL for one year as the Green Bay Packers receivers coach, then returned to college for two seasons as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Kansas State. He then returned to College Park for three seasons as the assistant head coach and offensive coordinator and, for the last two seasons, "head coach in waiting," before accepting his first head coaching job at Vanderbilt in December 2010.
The Commodores, who had gone 2-10 in each of the previous two seasons, winning just one SEC game during that span, rebounded quickly under Franklin's watch, going 6-7 in 2011, then 9-4 last year, including a win over N.C. State in the Music City Bowl. Vanderbilt was 9-4 again this season, defeating Houston in the BBVA Compass Bowl and earning its second straight Top-25 finish. The Commodores' 15-4 mark over their last 19 games (they ended 2012 on a seven-game winning streak) is better than any SEC team except Alabama during that span. The Commodores went 11-13 in SEC games and 2-1 in bowls.
Franklin has coached Zac Stacy, who went from a player only two FBS schools offered to the program's all-time leading rusher and is now a starter for the St. Louis Rams and wide receiver Jordan Matthews, who set career SEC records for receptions and yards. His Vanderbilt defenses have finished among the nation's top 25 in total defense in each of his three seasons in Nashville.
Vanderbilt's four most recent recruiting classes have been ranked 33rd, 26th, 47th and 56th by 247Sports. His teams had the highest graduation success rate among SEC programs during his time there.
Franklin and his wife, Fumi, have two young daughters.