Will James Franklin leave Penn State this time? One more worry during White Out week
James Franklin and Penn State have enough to concern themselves with as they prepare for biggest home game of the season.
Like piecing together a revamped offense ... and figuring out a new opponent who's played two meaningless games ... and hosting up to 300 high school recruits and their families and friends.
The breadth of Saturday night's sold-out White Out against Auburn is daunting enough, on its own.
Then comes along national media reports, once again, lauding Franklin as a leading candidate to become the new head coach of the USC Trojans.
Franklin, as he's done in the past, did not blatantly shoot down possible interest. Rather, he gave this:
"As you guys know, I can't stand any form of distraction, so I'll discuss this today with (the team's) leadership counsil so we can make sure all of our energy is on our preparation for Auburn. That's how we'll handle it."
No matter his feelings on coaching Southern California's legendary program — Franklin has a penultimate coaching challenge at Penn State in just a few days.
His Nittany Lions are 2-0 and rising in status, now No. 12 in the USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches Poll. They get to play a longtime Southeastern Conference power on their home turf in front of their famed White Out crowd.
This is a possible jumping off point for much bigger things. Only now, it seems, is new offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich beginning to feel fully comfortable bringing along his group, led by senior quarterback Sean Clifford.
The first two weeks were successful, overall, but pockmarked with inconsistencies and rough edges. The offensive line, for one, must continue to tighten up its protections to give Clifford every chance to succeed. Their three talented tight ends still need more work.
The offense began slow against an attacking Wisconsin before finding a rhythm after halftime. It began quickly but suffered some lulls against a conservative Ball State defense.
So there still seems a lot of room to grow.
This just needs time and a certain level of patience — that was Franklin's message during his weekly Tuesday press conference.
Then again, can the Lions improve enough to beat Auburn on Saturday?
"I think we've shown flashes," Franklin said of the offense. "I think we can be more consistent there, I think we can be more explosive. There's also some plays that we've missed, whether it's missed a read or overthrew a ball or maybe a different call.
"If we just continue to get better, and continue to take strides ... I think we'll like where we're at."
The patience part of this comes from meshing a new, highly-acclaimed offensive coordinator with his current coaching colleagues, players and environment. It also took Joe Moorhead's offense part of give games before it truly clicked and took off in 2016.
"Every game and every practice we go through, we get more of a comfort level," Franklin said.
"We just got to keep chipping away at it. (Yurcich) getting more comfortable with how we operate here, him getting more comfortable with our personnel, our strengths and our weaknesses and how do we want to attack our opponents.
"He's learning every day, I'm learning every day, Sean Clifford's learning every day. The more hours we spend together in practice and games the better we'll all be."
Frank Bodani covers Penn State football for the York Daily Record and USA Today Network. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @YDRPennState.