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Timeline: What’s next for PSU players and Franklin?

Photo from Penn State University Website/Heather Crowder

With no bowl game to prepare for, the Penn State players and coaches will get a nice little break coming up to decompress and enjoy life away from football.

How long of a break will they get? And how long could James Franklin be away from the team as he spends time with his family? Let’s take a look at the timeline coming up.

Players

Finals are over, so the players already are able to head home for the holiday break. The spring semester doesn’t start until Jan. 19.

Because of COVID, PSU already has announced that students will do remote learning until Feb. 12. Penn State could do one of two things here:

**Have the players come back to campus on Jan. 19 so they can take part in winter workouts, or

**Let the student-athletes stay home for the extra month and return to campus with the rest of the student body on Feb. 12

There’s only one right answer here: The football players should NOT be forced back to campus to be there by themselves while all other students are at home.

Yes, the players had to do that over the past six months to ensure there would be a football season. But it would be terribly unfair to have them come back to campus a month before everyone else just so they can work out every day.

The guess here is Penn State will allow the players to remain at home until the rest of the student body comes back to campus.

LOOKING BACK: What if the call at Indiana had been different?

Spring game

There is not likely to be a Blue-White Game, at least as of now. The spring game exists so that fans can crowd into Beaver Stadium to get a glimpse of the football team, and if fans can’t attend, there’s no purpose in having a spring game.

Whether there will be spring practices at all remains to be seen. It will depend on if the students can return to campus in February for traditional learning, or if they’ll have to stay at home and do remote learning.

At this stage, with a vaccine now available, the hope would be that students can indeed return to campus. But we’ll still be talking about the middle of winter, and the vaccine will not have gone out to most people yet. So, it’s possible traditional spring practice will not take place, although if the players are back on campus, there could be some form of spring drills.

Early enrollees

Seven members of the 2021 recruiting class plan to enroll early. There are a lot of benefits under normal circumstances to enrolling early, but these are far from normal circumstances. These are the early enrollees:

OG Nate Bruce

CB Jeffrey Davis Jr.

LB Kobe King

CB Kalen King

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DE Rodney McGraw

OT Landon Tengwall

QB Christian Veilleux

All of these young men did the extra work to graduate from high school early so they could get to campus and get a head start on their college experience. Unfortunately, there’s a chance they might not get much of a head start if they are having to learn remotely and/or if there are limited spring drills.

What about James Franklin?

Your heart has to go out to Franklin, who has been away from his wife, Fumi, and daughters, Addison and Shola, since March. Addison has sickle cell disease, a dangerous underlying condition for COVID, and the coach’s family has been living down South for the past nine months.

Franklin had a very difficult time being away from his family and deserves a chance to spend as much time with them as possible.

Franklin said Saturday that he would have to quarantine for five days before he can join his family down South. That would mean he can indeed be back with them by Christmas day.

When will Franklin return to State College and the football team? Well, that depends on a lot of factors.

First, will the players be forced to come back Jan. 19? Or can they stay at home and do remote learning until Feb. 12? In either case, it’s very possible Franklin can spend all of that time with his family and not be back at Penn State until mid-February.

Maybe even longer.

Even if the players return to campus on Feb. 12, it’s probably not necessary to have the head coach around at that point. The players can work out with the strength staff, as usual during the spring, and really don’t need to have the head coach around in person.

In short, if Franklin needs to be away from the team until March or even April to take care of his family situation, that should not really be much of a problem.

Whatever the timeline, let’s just hope Franklin, his family and Penn State can come up with a manageable solution to have everyone back in State College — and in a position to stay safe — as soon as possible.

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Written By

Cory Giger is a 15-year veteran of the Penn State beat and a journalist with 28 years of experience. He has won more than 100 state and national journalism awards during his career, plus he's a voter for the Heisman Trophy in football and Wooden Award in basketball.

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