Penn State

Beat writer Donnie Collins keeps you posted with in-depth analysis and commentary

Lions on the rise in this week’s polls

It was a good opening-week performance for Penn State against Akron, and the voters took notice.

The Nittany Lions jumped from No. 6 to No. 4 in this week’s Associated Press poll, after whipping Akron, 52-0. They blew past Florida State, who dropped from No. 3 to No. 10 after a 24-7 loss to No. 1 Alabama, and also received more votes than USC, which dropped from No. 4 to 6 after a mostly uneven 49-31 win over Western Michigan.

Alabama, of course, stayed at No. 1, with Ohio State at No. 2. Clemson moved up to No. 3.

They made the same jump, from 6 to 4, in the Coaches Poll.

There seemed to be a bit more disagreement about this week’s opponent for the Nittany Lions. Pittsburgh received just one vote in the AP Poll, but got 19 from the Coaches.

Four of the top nine teams in the country — the Buckeyes, Nittany Lions, No. 8 Michigan and No. 9 Wisconsin — are from the Big Ten.

Looking in-depth at James Franklin’s contract extension

Looking in-depth at James Franklin’s contract extension

Penn State head coach James Franklin officially has his contract extension. AP Photo.

What has long been speculated is now official: James Franklin will be Penn State’s football coach long past the 2017 season.

The Penn State Board of Trustees’ compensation committee unanimously approved a contract extension for Franklin at a meeting this morning. The university says it will release the terms of that extension later, but Sports Illustrated is reporting it is a six-year pact that will keep Franklin in Happy Valley through the 2023 campaign.

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I’ll keep you informed on the terms of the deal when they become available.

Franklin head calls for his firing early last season after Penn State’s 2-2 start, but the prospect of a long, lucrative extension became brighter as he led the Nittany Lions on an epic run to the Big Ten Championship and its first Rose Bowl appearance since the 2008 season. Asked earlier this month at Penn State’s preseason media day about no deal being reached as practice began, Franklin shooed away any doubts that he worried about his standing with the university, saying he had “no concerns” a deal would get done. Athletic director Sandy Barbour also said on multiple occasions since last season her preference was to keep Franklin and his staff on the sidelines.

Franklin signed a four-year contract to coach the Nittany Lions in January of 2014 after Bill O’Brien’s departure for the Houston Texans.

UPDATE: Penn State has indeed announced the terms of Franklin’s deal, and you can look the contract over yourself here.

But here’s what I make of it:

GUARANTEES:
Essentially, it’s a six-year deal worth $32 million. In guaranteed money, that’s about $5.33 million.

Franklin’s base salary will jump from $1.6 million this year to $3.55 million in 2022. But he’ll get $2.2 million per year in radio and TV money, as well as $500,000 as part of the Nike funds. That’s how it jumps to a $32 million total.

BONUSES: This is where coaches can really make big bucks, and if Penn State is a championship-level program, Franklin will as well.

  • He’s practically guaranteed a $200,000 bonus, which he will receive if Penn State makes a bowl appearance.
  • If Penn State appears in the Big Ten Championship Game, Franklin will net a $250,000 bonus; If Penn State wins the Big Ten Championship Game, he gets $350,000. If the Nittany Lions win the Big Ten East Division but don’t participate in the title game, he still walks away with $150,000.
  • If Penn State wins the national championship game, Franklin lands the big bonus, $800,000.
  • He’ll get $500,000 if Penn State loses in the national championship game, $400,000 if it lands in the playoff and $300,000 if it earns a bid to one of the four bowls in the College Football Playoff rotation that aren’t hosting a semifinal that particular season.
  • If he wins the national Coach of the Year award, Franklin nets $150,000 in bonus money. It’s $100,000 if he’s the Big Ten coach of the year.

Total bonus money, according to the contract, can not exceed $1 million. But, the only way Franklin would possibly exceed that number is if Penn State wins the national championship.

RETENTION MONEY: Again, this is practically guaranteed, but not technically a guarantee. But, as long as Franklin is Penn State’s coach, he’ll get a $300,000 bonus every Dec. 31 through 2020. It will be a $500,000 bonus on Dec. 31, 2021 and a $1 million bonus on Dec. 31, 2022.

This is likely where the $5.8 million annual average value came out earlier. The absolutely guaranteed money is $5.3 million on average, and if you add a $300,000 retention bonus and $200,000 for leading the team to any old bowl game, you get to $5.8 million.

IF HE LEAVES: The buyout for another college program or an NFL team to pry Franklin away from Penn State is pretty modest.

If he decides to leave for another job at any point in the 2017 calendar year, Franklin will owe the Nittany Lions $2 million. If he walks away from calendar year 2018 through 2022, it’s a $1 million buyout.

IF HE’S FIRED: Penn State can fire Franklin without cause during the deal, but it will owe him a pretty penny, especially early in the contract.

Franklin will be owed the current-year guaranteed compensation if he’s relieved of his duties, multiplied by the number of years remaining on his contract.

So, for example and as I understand it, if Franklin is fired after the 2019 season, when his guaranteed compensation according to the contract is $5.65 million with three years left on his deal, he’ll walk away with $16.95 million. That would save Penn State about $1 million on the remainder of the deal.

Here is what I’m calculating Franklin’s severance (in effect) if he is fired, without cause before the following seasons begin:

2017: $25.8 million
2018: $22.5 million
2019: $21.4 million
2020: $16.95 million
2021: $11.9 million
2022: $6.25 million

Keep in mind, though: Franklin is not paid by the season, but by calendar year. So, this number would depend on when Penn State makes the decision.

OTHER PERKS: Franklin will also get a $10,000/year automobile allowance and 50 hours of use, per year, of a private aircraft.

Philly’s Young keeps PSU’s recruiting roll going

Isheem Young, a four-star safety from Imhotep Charter in Philadelphia who long has been one of the most-coveted recruits on Penn State’s radar, made a big splash this afternoon by announcing he has verbally committed to Penn State.

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(See what I did there? Big splash!)

The Lions have been on quite a recruiting role lately, landing Tampa defensive lineman Judge Culpepper, Connecticut quarterback Wil Levis, Harrisburg receiver Shaquon Anderson-Butts, Iowa kicker Jake Pinegar, Maryland receiver Daniel George and now, arguably, their biggest get in Young since last Friday.

Young is ranked by Rivals.com and 247sports as the No. 5 prospect in Pennsylvania, and it’s probably fair to say he was the top safety wish on Penn State’s list. The staff has added four solid defensive back prospects in this class so far, with Texas’ Isaiah Humphries likely joining Young at safety.

Penn State’s class is ranked No. 3 in the nation currently by Rivals.

Lions introduce “retro” unis

Penn State will look a little bit different when it hosts Indiana at Beaver Stadium on Sept. 30.

Not completely different, mind you. But different.

The program unveiled a retro uniform Thursday, and it will be worn for the Indiana game, which has been labeled as a “Generations of Greatness” celebration.

Check out the video for a look:

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Generally, I don’t like the throwback uniform fad — unless it’s a throwback uniform that never should have changed in the first place — but this one is really sharp. It’s not like an Oregon thing, where you’d have to do some research to determine it’s Oregon playing half the time. This is a really good homage to a lot of neat uniform twists the Nittany Lions have used over the years. Wouldn’t be surprised if this becomes a uniform they wear quite a bit.

Top Jersey prospect commits to Nittany Lions

I spent my Sunday covering a NASCAR race, but Penn State made some news this weekend by getting a verbal commitment from defensive end Dorian Hardy.

Lions247 has a pretty cool look at the moment the New Jersey product let Penn State coaches know of his decision. It’s no wonder they were so pumped up.

Just a few days after losing QB Justin Fields — the second five-star recruit to back away from his Penn State commitment in the 2018 class — the Nittany Lions wound up bagging a consensus four-star prospect who 247 sports ranks in its top 160 prospects in the nation.

Rivals.com, Scout.com and ESPN all have him ranked in that general area, as well.

Penn State needed a big get, and it needed one on the defensive line. Harrisburg’s Micah Parsons, the other five-star who opted to reopen his recruitment, had been the only commitment at the position in the upcoming class.

Penn State loses another major recruit

Six weeks ago, Penn State lost a five-star recruit at a position of need when Harrisburg High School defensive end Micah Parsons announced he was planning to reopen his recruitment.

The one-time top recruiting class in the nation lost another big piece of the future puzzle on Tuesday night.

Quarterback Justin Fields, a quarterback from Georgia who has been skyrocketing up prospect lists and recruiting rankings since he committed to Penn State in December, announced he too would be opening up his recruitment.

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247sports ranked Fields as the No. 6 overall prospect in the nation and the top dual-threat quarterback in the nation.

Florida and Florida State recently offered Fields scholarships, and home-state Georgia is also in the running. But, Fields said Penn State will still be among the top contenders.

Lions to kick in close-to prime time against Georgia State

Lions to kick in close-to prime time against Georgia State

Just when you thought your Saturday nights were going to be free in the fall…

Big Ten Network announced its first three weeks worth of game coverage today, and the Nittany Lions will appear once on the network in that span, on Sept. 16 against Georgia State at Beaver Stadium.

The game will kick off at 7:30 p.m.

The Nittany Lions’ scheduled game times have come out in bits and pieces over the last few weeks, and it has been interesting, to say the least.

Few probably figured the Georgia State game would be a nighttime tilt, and it turns out to be the first night game officially announced (though, we can presume, the Oct. 21 game against Michigan at Beaver Stadium will likely be a later start at the very least since it has been announced as a White Out).

So far, Penn State officially has three noon starts (Sept. 2 vs. Akron; Oct. 7 at Northwestern; Nov. 11 vs. Rutgers), and two 3:30 p.m. contests (Sept. 9 vs. Pitt and Oct. 28 at Ohio State) on the slate.

The start times for games at Iowa, Michigan State and Maryland and home tilts vs. Indiana and Nebraska — in addition to Michigan — are still to be announced.

Pitt announces start time for battle with Lions at Beaver Stadium

It may be Penn State’s home game, but it’s Pittsburgh’s announcement: The Nittany Lions and Panthers will kick off their highly anticipated rematch at Beaver Stadium on Sept. 9 at 3:30.

It will be the nationally televised game on ABC.

The Panthers and Lions played a classic last season, with Pitt edging Penn State, 42-39 on Sept. 10.

Former Lackawanna, PSU DL Thrift finds new home

Brenon Thrift’s long collegiate journey is making perhaps its final stop in Morgantown, W.V.

The former Lackawanna College star, who spent last season at Penn State before opting to transfer, will evidently play this season at West Virginia, given that he’s on the Mountaineers’ roster.

A defensive tackle, Thrift was a surprise addition to Penn State’s 2016 recruiting class out of Lackawanna, where he starred as a defensive lineman after converting from linebacker, where he played during his freshman season at Temple. Thrift still has two seasons of eligibility.

The defensive tackle situation at Penn State is slated to be pretty competitive over the next few years though, and it is thought that the likelihood of little playing time drove Thrift from Happy Valley. But the fact that he wound up at West Virginia probably shouldn’t be too much of a surprise.

Lackawanna has a strong relationship with West Virginia, and has for years. I believe he’ll be the fourth former Falcon on the Mountaineers roster, joining the White brothers, WR Ka’Raun and safety Kyzir, and TE Trevon Wesco as ex-Lackawanna stars who will suit up this fall for the Mountaineers.

Where the Nittany Lions (and some local products) have landed after the Draft…so far

Where the Nittany Lions (and some local products) have landed after the Draft…so far

Former Wyoming Valley West and Penn State standout receiver Eugene Lewis is getting a shot to play professional football with the Cincinnati Bengals. Associated Press photo.

So, the 2017 NFL Draft came and went over the weekend like a rotating rainstorm inching its way up the coast, and only one Penn State player got selected among the 253 players that got their names announced from Thursday through Saturday nights.

Penn State’s leading receiver the last two seasons, Godwin went 84th overall in the third round to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And that’s not so bad, really. Some — including yours truly — figured he could go in the second round. But he ended up in a good spot, in a nice city, with a team that has a decent young quarterback and a star No. 1 receiver and a veteran (DeSean Jackson) to learn from.

But, the Nittany Lions’ run to the NFL didn’t end when the Draft did.

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