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Tom Allen details impression of Penn State program as former rival

FaceProfileby:Thomas Goldkamp01/27/24
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Penn State had the rare luxury this offseason of hiring a former Power Five head coach to lead its defense, with Tom Allen taking over for Manny Diaz following an eight-year run as Indiana‘s head coach.

Allen has had a front-row seat to James Franklin‘s transformation of the Nittany Lions.

“You see when he was able to come here and that situation that he walked into, and to systematically build the program the way he wanted to build it and the culture he built, you could just see as every year passed the talent level increasing,” Allen noted.

There are a few elements to Franklin’s Penn State program that stick out to Allen, but one of them is the physical development of players over the course of their careers.

“I thought the players here physically, from when they got here to when they left, the way they moved and ran, then you see how they tested when they were going to the draft, it just caught my eye, that they’re doing something right,” Allen said. “The product on the field and the way the kids play and the physicality of the teams and the athleticism of the teams. Obviously when I first started playing against him, Saquon Barkley was the tailback we were trying to tackle. So many great players.”

Franklin’s Penn State squads have won at least 10 games in five of his 10 seasons in charge, including the last two. The Nittany Lions have been on the cusp of the College Football Playoffs a couple times.

Another constant for the team?

“I just think the discipline of the team stuck out to me,” Allen said. “And you pay attention to the programs as things happen on and off the field, just impressed with the way the players handled themselves. You see the guys at media day and you get a chance to interact with those players. Just the way they handled themselves has always been just first-class to me. Class just oozes from this place and coach Franklin and how he’s done things.”

Now Franklin will be counting on Allen to help keep things cooking, especially as the playoff field expands to 12 teams. One thing Penn State hasn’t been lacking in the Franklin era is a staunch defense.

Allen will put his own spin on it, but he hopes to be just the next in a line of coordinators who had great success for Franklin.

“I just think that the thing that stuck out to me for him is everywhere he’s gone his defense has played at a high level,” Allen said. “Different defensive coordinators, as well, but the mainstay is the way the defense plays. I went back to we faced him his last two years at Vandy.

“After being in the role of head coach, when you’re trying to hire to the other side of the ball that you don’t coach, it’s a big deal. And to have that consistency that he’s had there has been impressive within his program. So that’s a tribute to him and being able to have a vision for what he knows he wants there and being able to make it a reality.”