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Report says Vanderbilt’s Franklin is leading candidate for Penn State coaching job

By Joe Juliano The Philadelphia Inquirer (MCT) • Updated Jan 7, 2014 at 9:14 PM

While an Internet report contended that Vanderbilt coach James Franklin has become the “clear front-runner” to be named Penn State’s new football coach, the head of the Nittany Lions’ search committee said Tuesday that the position could be filled “in a matter of days.”

Athletic director Dave Joyner, in a statement on the university’s athletics website, said he felt the hunt for a new head coach “is progressing very well.” He did not address a report by CBSSports.com that Franklin is now the leading candidate for the job, nor did he discuss any interviews that had taken place.

Franklin, 41, has led Vanderbilt to three bowl games in as many seasons. He was believed to have interviewed on Sunday. The six-member search committee reportedly also spoke Sunday with former Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak, a former star offensive lineman with the Nittany Lions.

As of Tuesday night, no offer had been made to Franklin or any candidate seeking to become the successor to Bill O’Brien, who left last week for the Houston Texans.

“We are on schedule and I anticipate having the new head coach in place in a matter of days,” Joyner said. “The search is robust, as we anticipated it would be, and we have an excellent pool of candidates. I have heard from many coaches, and their representatives, who have expressed their interest in the position.”

According to reports, the committee also interviewed Al Golden on Saturday, one day before Golden issued a statement saying he had not, and would not, apply for any other coaching job.

The news about Franklin gathered traction after it was disclosed Tuesday that two of his assistants — offensive coordinator John Donovan and defensive coordinator Bob Shoop — had become Twitter followers of several members of Penn State’s recruiting class of 2014.

However, another report on CBSSports.com quoted Vanderbilt athletics director David Williams as saying he would make every effort to ensure that Franklin returns to the Commodores next season. Williams said he spoke twice Monday with Franklin, but not about whether he had interest in the Penn State job.

“I expect James to be our football coach. I’m planning on it,” Williams told the website. He later added, “I have all thoughts that he’s going to be our football coach. I’ll do everything I can to make sure that he is.”

Franklin had interviewed with the Texans. He also has been linked to college jobs at Texas and Louisville and NFL positions with the Cleveland Browns and Washington Redskins.

Munchak, who was fired by the Titans on Saturday, is waiting in the wings. ESPN reported that he would interview Friday with the Detroit Lions.

There was no word on whether the committee had met with Penn State’s interim head coach, Larry Johnson, the program’s longtime defensive line coach and a favorite for the job among many of the Nittany Lions’ players.

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