Penn State Football: Are James Franklin, Staff Setting Goals Too High?

Andrew Coppens@@andycoppensContributor IJanuary 27, 2014

STATE COLLEGE, PA - JANUARY 11:  James Franklin, head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions addresses the media on January 11, 2014 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

"Dream big, work hard." It’s the motto former Wisconsin Badger J.J. Watt has adopted and appears to be the motto James Franklin and his staff are following at Penn State.

At least we know the first part to be true, as Franklin’s tenure has started with some very ambitious and lofty goals. If you were to listen to the parade of assistant coaches introduced on Friday, you would've thought national titles and Big Ten Championships were a foregone conclusion.

There is nothing wrong with setting lofty goals or being confident in your abilities. After all, what organization worth its salt doesn’t want to be the best at what it does?

However, there's a difference between thinking them internally and publicly pronouncing them before you've ever put anything in front of fans in the first place. 

Defensive coordinator Bob Shoop made sure the world knew exactly what PSU's goals will be. "We came here to build a Big Ten championship -- and a national championship-caliber defense," he told Josh Moyer of "That's the only thing we know."

MADISON, WI - NOVEMBER 30: Christian Hackenberg #14 of the Penn State Nittany Lions runs through some pre game drills before the game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium on November 30, 2013 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mike McGinnis
Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

When hearing the words "national championship," one's ears perk up. Those words set a bar that is hard to live up to, no matter where you are coaching or how great you are as a head coach.  

If you aren't aiming for the highest of highs in whatever you are doing, chances are those goals are going to be out of reach. However, let's be real herePenn State has won one Big Ten Championship in the last eight years, and it was vacated). 

We're not talking about a program that has set the standard for Big Ten excellence over the last decade. So, perhaps there's also a bit of hubris in what the coaching staff believes Penn State currently is. 

However, that kind of talk shouldn't be surprising, given the bravado that Franklin brings to the table. It sure isn't something that was a part of who his two predecessors—Joe Paterno and Bill O'Brien—were. 

It was on full display as Franklin introduced his first full coaching staff, telling the world just how well they are going to recruit in Happy Valley. 

"[Having a recruiting coordinator on both sides of the ball] is something we want to emphasize," Franklin told Greg Pickel of "Josh will make sure we have a top 10 class in the country every year going forward."

If early returns in the recruiting department are any indication, Penn State may be on the road to achieving that goal. Penn State has already signed seven new prospects and Centre Daily Times reports that the program managed to flip 4-star wide receiver Saeed Blacknail this past weekend. 

Franklin and his staff already have the newest members of the Penn State family believing in the talk they've given over the past few weeks:

The new signings have Penn State challenging for a spot inside 247Sports' top 20 when national signing day rolls around. If it happens, Franklin could be on his way to making that lofty goal a reality.

Franklin's staff isn't coming from a complete place of ignorance as to who Penn State is either. It knows the history of program and the truth is that the name Penn State carries a lot of cachet in the college football worldeven with its tainted image as of late. 

"There are 'haves' and there are 'have-nots' in college football, that's the truth," offensive line coach Herb Hand told Moyer, adding that maybe 15 "haves" exist in the FBS. "And this is one of the 'haves' -- and I'm excited about that."

In college football, being a "have" means winning national championships and multiple conference titles. However, Penn State hasn't won one of those national titles since the 1980s and hasn't won a Big Ten title in over a half-decade—something that won't end anytime soon.

Confidence in your abilities is a great thing, but there’s a fine line between that and setting yourself up for failure. Penn State's new coaching staff is talking the talk, but the question still to be answered is if it can walk the walk as well.

Let’s also not forget that Penn State is playing by a different set of rules and has a lot of internal issues that no one else in the Big Ten has to deal with.

Politics and an outdated board of trustees may have helped push Bill O’Brien out the door quickly. Franklin will also be dealing with a new athletic director and university president in a few short months.

Those may seem like small things to deal with, but when you’re talking about winning national championships, everyone from the head of the school on down to the student interns has to be on the same page.

Now that Penn State has begun to dream big once again, it's on the staff and players to work hard to make that dream a reality. 


Andy Coppens is the Big Ten lead writer. You can follow him on Twitter @ andycoppens.


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