'It needs to be now:' James Franklin says Penn State has to be more competitive with NIL

Centre Daily Times (TNS)
Penn State head coach James Franklin looks on during an NCAA college spring football game Saturday, April 23, 2022, in State College, Pa. (AP Photo/Barry Reeger)

UNIVERSITY PARK — James Franklin took a question Wednesday afternoon on the sunny practice field outside the Lasch Building, but did not immediately answer it. Instead, he went back to something asked right before — about NIL and how Penn State can compete.

"I can't get off this," Franklin said. "If you guys could, message me. Send me a message on why our numbers would be different than the people we're supposed to compete with."

The Penn State head football coach addressed the media and spent a good amount of time discussing the new ways for student-athletes to make money in college athletics.

His stance on the idea seemed clear — Penn State is behind and needs to keep up with the best in the conference and the country in order to compete with them on and off the field.

Recently, Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said it would take $13 million to keep a roster intact year in and year out, but Franklin thinks that number is even higher, and that's what Penn State needs.

"If we want to compete with the schools that you guys all write articles about us competing with," Franklin said, "why wouldn't our number be the same as others?"

The Nittany Lions are trying to compete with the likes of Day and his Buckeyes, and Franklin told the Centre Daily Times in late May that in order to do that Penn State will need to be at the highest level in all phases of college football — whether that be NIL, facilities, staff size or any other competitive financial area.

And according to the head coach at his media availability Wednesday afternoon, that must happen sooner rather than later.

"There is no long haul," Franklin said. "It needs to be now. It needs to be yesterday. The long haul in college football, college football has changed probably more in the last five years than it has in maybe the previous 20. NIL is not long haul. We've got to do everything we possibly can to put Penn State in the best position this season, then also protecting our own roster for the future, then also putting ourselves in a position to be able to tell a story and show the incoming guys what we're doing and how we're taking care of our program and our current roster."

Nittany Lions add two big pieces: Two of Penn State's biggest transfer additions have made their way to campus in time for the summer. Demeioun Robinson and Hunter Nourzad have both enrolled and could both play important roles in the season.

Nourzad comes in as an offensive lineman best suited to play guard and according to Franklin will be in the competition along the interior.

"He is a big, strong, powerful, thick guy," Franklin said. "... I think we've got really good competition at the guard position. I think we've got five guys that will be competing for those two starting jobs."

Robinson arrived more recently and has more versatility than Nourzad. The former Maryland Terrapin played last season at linebacker, but Franklin said he's more likely to fit at defensive end at Penn State.

"We looked at him as either a linebacker or a defensive end," he said. "... We're pretty excited about him. We're gonna play him at defensive end. ... We're excited about having him here, especially at a position of need."

The newest Nittany Lion was a highly-touted recruit coming out of high school and chose to stay near his high school — Quince Orchard — in Maryland. Now that he has made the move to Penn State, he could have a big impact as a pass rusher.

Franklin said part of the advantage with Robinson — who is nicknamed "Chop" — is that he was one of their targets when he was in high school. That's something the Nittany Lion head coach prefers in most of the players he targets in the portal.

"The fact that we recruited him out of high school," Franklin began, "more times than not, if we're going to do the transfer portal stuff, that's what I would prefer. It's not always gonna work out like that. In a short window, it's hard to get to know the guys the way we would like to get to know them before we bring them in our locker room or on campus."

Franklin says coaches must have pulse of roster: The landscape has changed rapidly in recent years, and while NIL has been stealing more of the headlines of late, the transfer portal remains just as big of a part of the game.

The ability for players to move freely from program to program has made it necessary for all teams to know exactly what is going on. While part of the appeal of transferring could include finding new NIL opportunities elsewhere, there's also the urge to find playing time for players.

For that reason, Franklin said coaches better know what is going on within their own roster.

"You better monitor your roster," he said. "You better be monitoring your roster. ... You better be aware of your roster. You better be talking to the parents. You better be talking to the high school coaches. All those things. That's where consistency on your staff is important because those relationships are already built. But it's definitely something that you better be aware of."

One position that has been increasingly impacted by the portal is quarterback, where starters and backups seem to be continually on the move.

Of course, only being able to play one player at a time at the position impacts that and is part of the reason Franklin says quarterback portal recruiting is a problem in all of college football.

"That position in general is problematic across the country," he said. "... I still think there's a lot of value in having some patience and developing at that position. But that's not really a word in college football right now."

Quick Hitters

►Franklin said the team expects to have veteran defensive tackle PJ Mustipher back for the season opener against Purdue.

►New athletic director Pat Kraft is on the same page as Franklin with regards to the landscape of college football, according to the Penn State head coach.

►Freshman Abdul Carter was slated to play middle linebacker but with the play of Kobe King and Tyler Elsdon in the spring, Franklin says he could play outside linebacker to begin his career.