F. Dale Lolley's Sports Column

Franklin to Penn State rumors fact or fiction?

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Just as they had over the weekend regarding Al Golden, conflicting reports are surfacing about whether Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin has been offered the same position at Penn State.


Those believing Franklin will be offered the position point to the fact that some of the Vanderbilt assistant coaches began following Penn State’s recruits on Twitter over the weekend.


That’s a good sign for Penn State.


A cynical view could be that those coaches are trying to swoop in and pick off those recruits if they decide to move on.


Vanderbilt athletic director David Williams said Tuesday that following a couple of conversations with Franklin Monday, he expects Franklin to stay with the Commodores.


Franklin makes $3 million per year at Vanderbilt and the school seems willing to increase that salary in order to keep him in Nashville.


That, of course, means nothing. As we saw with Bill O’Brien, it’s not uncommon for coaches to say one thing then do another.


After being spurned by Golden, it would be another blow to Penn State if Franklin turns the Nittany Lions down.


• When the Kansas City Chiefs nearly pulled off the upset of all upsets a couple of weeks ago in San Diego, you can bet a lot of people at California University were paying close attention – and not just because a Chiefs’ win would have put the Steelers into the playoffs.


With their playoff spot already assured, the Chiefs sat 20 of their 22 starters. That meant a pair of reserve offensive linemen, center Eric Kush and guard Rishaw Johnson each made their first career starts.


Kush and Johnson are former Vulcans stars.


Kush was a sixth-round draft pick of Kansas City this season. The Chartiers Valley High School graduate appeared in three games this season, including his one start.


Johnson, a transfer to California from Ole Miss, originally was signed as an undrafted rookie by the Seattle Seahawks in 2012. He spent most of that season on Seattle’s practice squad, then signed with Kansas City prior to this year’s season opener. Like Kush, Johnson appeared in three games for the Chiefs.


Interestingly, Kush was “discovered” by pro scouts when they showed up at Cal to take a look at Johnson.


• The Steelers fired offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. last week and aren’t expected to make any more changes on their staff.


A report surfaced after the firing that Bicknell, who was hired last offseason to replace Sean Kugler when he left to take the head coaching job at UTEP, was stripped of his duties at midseason. The report said assistant offensive line coach Shaun Sarrett assumed many of Bicknell’s duties.


Having watched the majority of the team’s practices this season, I never saw any such shift.


And if Sarrett had assumed Bicknell’s duties in the second half of the season, given the line’s improvement over its final eight games, why didn’t head coach Mike Tomlin simply fire Bicknell and elevate Sarrett to the position?


• With the sub-zero weather that has hit the area this week, it’s easy to get caught up in the winter blahs.


Just remember, pitchers and catchers report to Bradenton, Fla., in just 35 days.


• LaMarr Patterson hasn’t gotten the publicity of some of the other top players at Pitt over the years, but he might be the Panthers’ most complete player in the Ben Howland/Jamie Dixon era.


Patterson is averaging 17.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.5 steals per game. And he’s shooting 53 percent from the floor and 42 percent from three-point range.


That’s a complete player.


Patterson wasn’t selected to the AP Preseason All-ACC Team. If he keeps playing the way he has in the first half of Pitt’s schedule, that oversight will be corrected.



F. Dale Lolley can be reached at dlolley@observer-reporter.com.


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