James Franklin on Signing Day: Press Conference Recap

Justin K. Aller

A Signature Event. A Top 25 Class. Coach Franklin is not impressed.

At Penn State, we're not so used to a lot of hoopla. The Paterno regime was decidedly old-school, and we all embraced it. The two-year O'Brien term, while short, started to usher in a new era--but was still somewhat behind the times of what big-time college football can, and is going to be, about.

Enter Head Coach James Franklin and his bunch of recruiting tweeters.

None of the BSD staff was able to make the Signature Event last night (real life 'n all that, and I'm sure many are surprised I didn't take the opportunity to stalk Michael Mauti up close and in person), but longtime BSDer DawsonPSU10 was there, and he wrote up an awesome recap for us. What we do have, here today, is a recap of Coach Franklin's official press conference from signing day; in addition to this, of course, Franklin was on CBS, and ESPN was granted a lot of access on campus on signing day.

What a difference a few coaching changes makes, huh?

Onto the presser!

On the importance of celebrating Signing Day:

"I know things have been done differently here in the past but we're going to stay true to who we are while being respectful of the past here. I know how hard this coaching staff has worked as well as the administrative staff and our players as well...today is a celebration of all the hard work they have put in. We will enjoy ourselves and then tomorrow these guys will have a chance to go see their families and do some moves and things like that. We're going to have off Thursday and Friday and the weekend to allow coaches to go home and see their families and try to get moved...For us, we didn't have a lot of drama. The guys that we expected to sign in the last two days signed. Most of the letters were in by 7:45 (a.m.), so it went well and that's just what we believe. We're going to enjoy the wins on the field, in recruiting and in the classroom. We're going to enjoy them and celebrate them with our team."

On filling roster needs:

"The three biggest needs that I looked at, just looking at the roster, the most glaring (need) is offensive tackle. We had two scholarship offensive tackles in the program. That's not the position that you want to be in, so that was a priority for us, getting offensive linemen with length that can play offensive tackle with us. After that, the way we looked at it was safety was another issue. We had a little bit more depth at that position but we're top heavy in term of graduating three seniors at the safety position (after the 2014 season).

"Again, that was a little bit of an issue for us, I don't think there are only two underclassmen left after those guys so we had to help ourselves there. After that, to me, you look at our roster, we’ve got a quarterback that we feel really good about and it would be a shame if we didn't find some talent to surround him with, not saying that we don't have that in the program already but building more depth and more playmakers at the tight end position and wide receiver and I think we helped ourselves there. You look at the tight end position with (Mike) Gesicki, I don't know if I’ve heard of a kid that was invited to the Army All American game (football) and the McDonald's All American game in basketball, that's impressive. I don't know if I've heard of that before and the wide receivers that we were able to track. Our coaches did a great job recruiting those guys, but it helps when you have (Christian) Hackenberg; he's going to attract those guys as well."

On recruit size:

"When you look at how the game has changed and the wide receivers we recruited in this class with (Chris) Godwin, who's 6 2 and Saeed, who is 6 3, Gesicki who basically is a high school wideout who's 6 5, 242 pounds right now. We have all been places where you’ve got a good defensive back but he's 5 8 and he's in great position and does everything right and still can't make the play, so the length is important.

"If you're going to recruit a guy that's undersized he better have tremendous leaping abilities and ball skills. Ball skills make guys bigger because they can play the ball. So that's important. That's very, very important for us. The other thing where length is important is in growth potential. I'm a big features guy. I like to recruit guys with massive heads, big hands, long arms, and big feet because that shows growth potential, so we talk about that all the time, recruiting guys with big features and those guys have a chance to grow into big, physical guys on the field and still have the athleticism that we're looking for. You will see our model at offensive line typically we recruit the 6 5, 6 6 guys that are 275, 280 pounds that are high school basketball players because we want speed and athleticism at every position, that's kicker, punter, long snapper, "O" line and a lot of times when you talk about speed everyone thinks about cornerback and running back, we're talking about speed throughout."

On recruiting quarterbacks:

"Although we feel great about (Christian) Hackenberg, he was the only scholarship quarterback at the time when we got the job, so being able to get Michael on board...he was basically sitting in the meeting room when I got there and he and his family interviewing me, deciding whether he was going to go to class the next day. Luckily for us, I don't know if you know this, but when he first came from Canada he was in Tennessee at the Baylor school and had come to our camp and worked out for us. We were recruiting him and had a relationship with the family so I think that happened, same thing with Hackenberg we had a relationship with him so I think that helped and Trace McSorley, you look at his background, him and the quarterback who just won the Super Bowl are the only two quarterbacks to ever take their team to four straight (high school) championship games...to be able to get two quarterbacks in this class is very important and now we have two quarterbacks in the future and we're going to have to build on that for the next class."

On what they look for off-the-field in recruits:

"We want winners, guys that are handling their business academically, challenging themselves in course work. I think you look for absences and tardies on the transcripts. I think that's a strong indicator of work ethic, we want guys that are going to go to class and handle their business academically and we want guys that we can talk about and ask people in the community. It's amazing, you're sitting in the office and there is a student there and you can ask him about one of the recruits and you're going to find out a lot. When you talk to the guidance counselor, the teachers, other students, when you talk to do custodian staff...Asking opponent coaches in the area what they think about them, we want to find out as much information as we possibly can. You go do the home visit, you see how they interact with their mom or dad or one of their parents at home or their little brother or sister, it's all those things. And what we're trying to do is take all that information and try and figure out who this kid is long term."

On how they treat recruits when they hit campus:

"We de-recruit them. When they show up it's not walking around and going all over the country and everybody telling you how wonderful you are anymore. Nobody cares about the rankings, whether you're a 2 star or 5 star; it doesn't matter. You went from being the "man" in high school to the bottom of the barrel and how are you going to fight back? Usually it happens when you have a freshman offensive lineman who's 18 years old, 270 pounds and he's going up against a grown man who's 22 years old and 330 pounds, that usually, usually knocks a little bit of the wind out of their sail and makes them realize that they have work to do.

"But there's a few every year whether they're in high school, college, or the NFL they just show up and they're better than people, but not very often, it's the guy that's going to be the most competitive and that's going to work hard to get to where he wants to be. So it goes hand in hand, but we're honest with them. The other thing we talk about all the time is you have to be a grounded individual to not change. It's amazing how many kids and parents we see change through the process, to go around the country for two years and everybody patting you on the back and telling you how wonderful you are and not change.

"The type of people that we want to recruit is the guys that stay humble, stay hungry and are appreciative of the opportunity that Penn State has given them."

Other takeaways:

Finishing with the third best class in the conference isn't good enough for Franklin. "We will get that fixed in the future."

Franklin won't be talking about injuries--ever. "All of them [recruits] are as healthy as they've ever been, they drink lots of milk (laughter), they stretch, they stay in great shape, but we will never talk about injuries. That's their business, that's the programs business and we want everybody that we're competing against to be concerned about our entire roster."

If they want to compete in games like the Big 33 versus Maryland, that's up to the recruit.

Torrence Brown was a nice signing-day get. "We have been recruiting him before he came to camp at our previous institution. You're talking about a guy who is 6 4, 235 pounds playing tailback and linebacker and rushing off the edge, in high school. We think he has a chance to be a 265 pounder, recruited him day one as a defensive end, he was a guy we were going to bring in at the last weekend, at that time we hadn't offered him, he committed to another school, didn't want to come without the offer, had a basketball tournament that he was getting pressure to play in, probably a good thing, it worked out best for everybody because they won the tournament, they were champions, he was the MVP and he still ended up at Penn State."

He doesn't really care what others say about him "poaching"Vanderbilt commitments--"I go to sleep at night feeling really good about how we conduct our business."

Finally, he was impressed with this class--and with Penn State: "Very, very impressed with the staff and the class and how we were able to close strong at the end. I don't know if I've ever been around a place where you call two kids in the last few days and they don't even visit campus and commit. That's been interesting and that goes back to what we've been reinforcing all the time, it's about relationships and those kids and families were comfortable with us and obviously Penn State speaks for itself."

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