Penn State coach James Franklin, recently speculated as a potential USC target, issued a statement after Nittany Lions practice Wednesday evening. He was asked directly about his long-term plans during a Tuesday afternoon press conference, and shifted focus to an upcoming matchup vs. Maryland.
“As you guys know, like always, we’re focused on Maryland completely, 100 percent,” Franklin said Tuesday. “I don’t think it’s even fair or right to be even talking about that job from everything I understand about it, but we’re complete focused on Maryland.”
When pressed for a yes/no answer regarding his return to Penn State in 2019, Franklin declined to go down that road and again placed an emphasis on Maryland and this week’s game preparation as his singular focus. This interaction drew increased attention to speculation that USC is strongly considering firing coach Clay Helton following a Saturday contest vs. Notre Dame, with the stage set for Franklin to emerge as a possible candidate of interest.
Franklin aimed to provide clarity on the subject Wednesday, stating the following:
“In an attempt yesterday — a failed attempt — to try to keep the focus on Maryland, I got asked a question yesterday about another school. I tried to keep the focus on Maryland, like I always do with the next opponent, and that didn’t go over very well.
I didn’t feel like it was appropriate to talk about another school or another person’s job status, so that’s why I addressed it the way I did. But obviously (I) have all the plans in the world to be here, and be here for a long time.
So I just wanted to address that because it became something that I did not want it to be or intend to be. I wanted to put that statement out there, and then obviously I would love to talk about Maryland and our practice today.”
Penn State hosts Maryland at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday. It will be Senior Day at Beaver Stadium, as Franklin looks to conclude his fifth regular season in Happy Valley with as 9-3 record.
Helton, finishing his fourth full season as USC’s coach, is squarely on the hot seat late in a campaign that has fallen drastically short of expectations for the preseason Pac-12 South division favorite. 247Sports Trojans analyst Ryan Abraham laid out the case for a leadership change after USC lost to 2-8 UCLA last Saturday.
“USC has lost four of its last five games and is on the verge of turning in its first losing season since 2000, Paul Hackett’s 5-7 final campaign,” Abraham wrote. “It would only be the fourth losing season for the Trojans since 1962. It is also the first time USC has fallen to an eight-loss team since 1960 and the last time losing to all three California Pac-12 schools since 1996. That’s way, way too many ‘the last time’ stats for Helton and the Trojans.”