James Franklin is not a “Penn State guy”, which is a concern to some after the past two turbulent years that won't seem to settle.
Will he understand these players and fans? Does he get everything that's happened since November of 2011? Will he be loyal when so many demand it?
Franklin is one of the hottest coaching candidates in the nation. He's a young, dynamic, proven recruiter and winner.
And yet fans worry if he's the right pick to replace Bill O'Brien.
Is he a Penn State guy?
Actually, he is that, in some ways. More importantly, he is the best coach available. And quite possibly the right one.
To understand, talk to Denny Douds, who convinced Franklin to play quarterback at East Stroudsburg University 25 years ago. Then he taught him, and even lived with him briefly.
Douds is the winningest coach in the history of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference and has been working with young men for more than four decades.
He remembers driving down to suburban Philadelphia to recruit Franklin at Neshaminy High. Franklin was quite the athlete, but he didn't seem a fit for East Stroudsburg's high-powered passing attack.
Franklin threw the ball only 38 times his entire senior year, Douds remembers still.
But something about Franklin struck him, convinced him, just made him know he would be a winner.
Sure enough, the kid adjusted immediately. He threw 42 times — in his first college game.
“He was probably the best scrambling quarterback to ever play in the PSAC,” Douds said. “(Defenses would) have everybody covered and all of a sudden, 'Here comes James.' They would do everything right, but it ended up wrong because James was able to think on his feet so well.”
Douds laughs about it now. All these years later, Franklin keeps figuring things out better than most.
Like how to win where they almost never did. Suddenly, he's taken Vanderbilt to three-straight bowl games.
And now Penn State officials apparently want him as their new head coach, want him badly, even.
But fans worry.
And so it depends on your take.
Franklin has jettisoned around the country for work, never staying most anywhere more than two or three years. He's also been rumored for NFL head coaching spots.
Douds says that's just an example of how hard Franklin is willing to work to get the best opportunities and experience needed before finding the right longer-term fit.
And yet fans worry about someone who sells recruits so well that he may only be about selling. Could they believe in him at Penn State?
“He's turned down jobs to stay at Vanderbilt, he's pretty loyal,” said Mike Farrell, a national recruiting analyst with Rivals.com. “I don't see Penn State as a stepping stone job.
“He's a good guy. He's a trustworthy guy.”
And yet fans worry that Franklin is only focused on bigger and better. That means a jump to the NFL sooner than later.
Then again, he has coached almost exclusively in college, all but one year. His personality and energy fit the college game. Plus, Franklin appreciates the step-by-step work of molding all backgrounds of young men.
Because that's exactly how Franklin came to be. He was raised by his mother, who worked in a school cafeteria. And when he started his coaching career it was at East Stroudsburg and Kutztown University in Pennsylvania.
He even lived with Douds and his wife for a summer.
“I can remember going out on the deck eating Klondikes, talking about the world and football,” Douds said. “He always knew what he wanted to do. He had the innate ability to express that, to communicate that. ... He could talk to anybody. He could talk to the CEO in the corporation or the common person on the street.”
But a fit at Penn State?
Just because he didn't play there or coach there doesn't mean he doesn't understand. He grew up in Pennsylvania, played there, coached there.
Then, look at his Vanderbilt staff. Defensive coordinator Bob Shoop is from Oakmont, Pa. Assistant head coach Brent Pry is from Altoona, Pa., and coached at East Stroudsburg.
“He has the personality to be a healer and get people enthused about Penn State,” Douds said. “I think he would be fantastic there.”
It's OK if it would take a while to convince the masses.
Don't be surprised, if given the chance, that Franklin would stick around Penn State longer than you'd think.
Frank Bodani covers Penn State football for Digital First Media at the York Daily Record and Sunday News. Follow his Penn State coverage on Twitter @YDRPennState.