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Franklin 'conflicted' over teams' wooing of Penn State assistants

Since the Nittany Lions ended the regular season, they have lost offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, and almost saw defensive coordinator Brent Pry leave.

Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, front left, and coach James Franklin check notes during NCAA college football practice Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017, in State College, Pa.
Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, front left, and coach James Franklin check notes during NCAA college football practice Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017, in State College, Pa.Read moreJoe Hermitt / via AP

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Penn State head coach James Franklin admits he is conflicted when another school goes after one of his coordinators for a head coaching position.

That has happened twice since the Nittany Lions ended their regular season three weeks ago with a 66-3 win over Maryland. Offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead left Happy Valley after two years to become the new head coach at Mississippi State on Nov. 29, and he hired special teams coordinator Charles Huff to be a part of his staff.

This week, defensive coordinator Brent Pry emerged as a leading candidate for the head coaching vacancy at Louisiana-Lafayette, a position that was filled Friday by former Arizona State offensive coordinator Billy Napier.

Franklin, speaking Friday at a media availability advancing the Lions' Dec. 30 Fiesta Bowl matchup against Washington, said he takes other schools' interest in his assistants as a compliment. It was a little different, however, with Pry, whose first coaching job came at East Stroudsburg during the time Franklin was a player there.

"The hard thing for me is, I kind of feel split," he said. "I want what's best for Brent Pry and his family. But I also want what's best for Penn State and Penn State football. So I'm kind of conflicted on that, personally and professionally."

Pry, 47, began his interview by confirming he was staying at Penn State. He said there was "some mutual interest early in the process" but declined to go into more detail. He called his current employer "a fantastic place."

"I love working for James," he said. "My family loves being here. We love the family environment that Coach provides for us. This time of year, you can't read too much into what's out there on social media."

To replace Moorhead, Franklin promoted from within, elevating tight ends coach Ricky Rahne. Rahne had been quarterbacks coach in Franklin's first two seasons at Penn State but Moorhead assumed that job in 2016.

"The reality is, Ricky Rahne has been interviewing for this position since he was a graduate assistant for me at Kansas State" in 2006, Franklin said. "So he's been preparing and interviewing for this responsibility for a long time."

Rahne, 37, a former Cornell quarterback who still holds program records for passing yards, total offense, and touchdowns, said the two things he learned from Moorhead were preparation and getting his players to play hard.

"I need to make sure that not only do they execute the plays but that they're playing hard and playing through the whistle and they're focusing on the details," he said.

Phil Galiano, who grew up in South Philadelphia and was a defensive consultant for the Nittany Lions last season, is the new special teams coordinator. He played football at Norristown High School and Shippensburg.

Nittany Notes.

Franklin said that junior linebacker Manny Bowen will not be with the team for the Fiesta Bowl. Bowen was suspended for the final three regular-season games for violating team rules. … Backup quarterback Tommy Stevens was listed on the offensive depth chart for the bowl game as "Lion." Franklin said Stevens creates matchup problems for defenses "and wants to have as big of a role as he possibly can." This season, Stevens has accounted for nine touchdowns – four rushing, three passing, two receiving. … Three Penn State players – tight end Mike Gesicki, free safety Marcus Allen, and cornerback Christian Campbell – have been selected to play in the Senior Bowl on Jan. 27 in Mobile, Ala.