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James Franklin discusses what Tom Allen brings to Penn State

On3 imageby:Dan Morrison02/14/24


It was an offseason of change on the Penn State coaching staff, with head coach James Franklin needing to replace offensive, defensive, and special teams coordinators following the season. On the defensive side of the ball, that meant bringing in former Indiana head coach Tom Allen.

While speaking to the media for a winter press conference, Franklin shared how important Allen is going to be for Penn State and what he brings to the table.

“I think we’ve had a long tradition of great football at Penn State for a long time, going back probably the last 60, 70 years, maybe even longer than that,” James Franklin said. “We’ve been fortunate, Bob Shoop had a top 10 defense if I’m right statistically, Brent Pry had a top 10 defense statistically, then obviously Manny [Diaz] had a top 10 defense. We’ve been fortunate there. I think part of that is it’s a little bit of Penn State’s DNA. I think we’ve done a really good job of continuing to kind of build on that. Feel great about that.”

There were, as James Franklin explained, a few different factors that he considered when hiring an offensive coordinator, and that ultimately led him to hire Tom Allen.

“The important thing was who can we hire to continue that tradition and also has similar philosophies to what the roster has already been built on rather than starting all over again. Having a ton of those conversations. We interviewed a number of high-profile guys, both DCs and head coaches. Again, that’s part of it, right? Who can come in here, is going to embrace it? When you’re coming in here and you’re following arguably a defensive coordinator that had our defense ranked anywhere from number one and number three statistically, you better hire somebody that’s got the confidence to walk into that room, as well. That played a part in it,” Franklin said. 

“Again, we wanted to find somebody that philosophically aligned with what we’ve done, understood our personnel, understood the conference, understood where we’ve been and where we need to go, and also spent enough time talking through all those things, and were comfortable. I think that’s a big part of our interview process. We try not to leave any stone unturned. We try to talk about everything. Just like we try to do in the recruiting process, we don’t sell people on a dream or a vision. We talk through the reality of where we are and what we need to do.”

Interestingly, because of the timing of the hiring, James Franklin admitted that it wasn’t a traditional interview. Instead, it was an off and on interview over multiple days.

“Tom’s interview was a little bit interesting because it went for like a week literally. [He] came here, had a couple hours to spend with him. Wasn’t able to get all the stuff done in between recruiting and bowl prep, all the things we needed to do. Can you stay for another day, talk for a couple more hours, have it early in the morning, late at night. He did it. Still felt like he had questions he had and I had questions that I had. Kind of went another day, another day, another day, another day,” Franklin said.

“I think that put him in a position where he was very comfortable. Put us in a position where we were comfortable, as well. Allowed me to feel comfortable what I was signing up for and who I was signing up for. I think it also allowed him to feel comfortable with those things, as well.”

This isn’t a process unique to the defense. It’s true of every assistant on staff and Tom Allen fit what James Franklin was comfortable with.

“Again, when I talk about the non-negotiables, I think when you hire a Tom Allen or when you hire Andy Kotelnicki or Justin Lustig, here are the things I wanted to do, and we need to do to continue on the path we’re on and even take the next step. Are you comfortable with those things? What are the non-negotiables that you have for you to be the best offensive coordinator, best defensive coordinator, special teams coordinator for Penn State? What are your non-negotiables, so I know what they are and make sure I’m comfortable with what they are.”

So far, according to James Franklin at least, things have been going so good for Tom Allen in Happy Valley.

“I think it’s been really good. I think Tom’s embraced it. I think it’s also helped him feel comfortable taking the job. He had some people come after him, as well, during the process and then after him deciding to come to Penn State. Again, I just think him feeling comfortable with all those things allowed him and his wife to turn down some of those and continue kind of going in the direction that we want to go. In the old days I think a lot of times you hire a coordinator, and they would have the flexibility to bring staff with them, which is understandable,” Franklin said.

As you guys know, I’m a loyal guy to Penn State, I’m a loyal guy to the staff, I’m a loyal guy to the players. I think we got a great staff here. That was another big part of the people we were hiring, they had to be comfortable with the current staff. I think under the new college football what helps with that a little bit is the analyst positions allowed me to retain the staff that we currently had, but then also be able to bring some people in so he had some familiar faces in the room and also people that could help in the transition, whether it’s Indiana to Penn State or whether it’s Kansas to Penn State or whether it’s Vanderbilt to Penn State. So those things I think have been helpful.