If Penn State keeps rolling like this (admittedly a big “if,") James Franklin is going to be in the discussion for college football’s national coach of the year awards.
Nittany Lions will densely populate the all-Big Ten team and a few, such as defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos and wide receiver K. J. Hamler, will likely show up on All-America teams.
But the biggest individual winner will be Brent Pry.
Penn State’s defense, which Pry has coordinated since 2016, is allowing 8.2 points per game, second-least in the country. It’s allowing 1.59 yards per rush, best in the country; Wisconsin is second at 1.75 and nobody else is better than 2.29.
The Lions are one of four teams in the country allowing less than four yards per play, and the only team that hasn’t allowed more than one touchdown in a game.
“We’ve recruited well, and I think we’ve developed (players) well,’’ Pry said in a conference call with media members Thursday. “We certainly have the most quality depth we’ve had. We have more competition at more positions than we’ve ever had, and competition is good for everybody.’’
Pry admits he isn’t baffling anybody with Xs-and-Os.
“I’ve been places where schemes were a priority,’’ he said. “Our belief is it doesn’t matter what we call, if we go a hundred miles an hour, very aggressive, very physical, you can do a lot of good.’’
The only real issue for the defense this year, and this was really only the first couple weeks, was getting off the field on third down.
The coaches have apparently mediated that by expanding on a change in the practice routine instituted last season.
Instead of the conventional individual work early and whole-team competitive stuff late in practice, Franklin decided to start each Tuesday and Wednesday session with very competitive, “good-on-good,’’ scrimmaging involving only the first and second teams.
This year, since both the offense and defense was struggling on third down, third down became a major emphasis of that part of practice.
It’s not nuclear physics.
“We added a few wrinkles here and there schematically,’’ Pry said. “But really, we just created more opportunities to work on it.’’
All of which means Pry is likely to be one of the Hot Coordinators of the 2020 head-coach shopping season. He’s been mentioned in connection with head coaching jobs before, but never Power Five conference jobs, at least publicly.
According to Penn State’s latest Right-To-Know financial statement released in May, Pry’s salary is $693,503. That figure is almost certainly very low. Franklin’s salary according to the RTK statement is $1.6 million. He actually makes almost three times that.
Of course, the issue came up Thursday, and of course, Pry didn’t bite.
“My wife and I are so happy here, with James, at Penn State,’’ he said.
"If opportunities come you evaluate them and make the best decision for you and your family," Pry said. "James has always been very supportive of any opportunity that has come my way. We're working for a very, very good man right now."