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James Franklin Press Conference: Maryland

Building off of the momentum of last week's game against Ohio State, Coach Franklin hopes for 107k strong again this weekend in Happy Valley.

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

After last week's second-half comeback turned heartbreaking overtime loss to Ohio State, Coach Franklin and the Nittany Lions are excited to be play at home again.  Franklin credited the fans for their impact on Saturday nights game and declined to comment on the lack of officiating by Big Ten referees and the Big Ten's response to the missed calls.

Franklin did comment on the conflicting reports of Ryan Keiser's health: "There are things being reported in the media about Ryan Keiser that I don't think are completely accurate.  Ryan did suffer a fracture in a rib in practice last Thursday.  After undergoing operations at Hershey Medical Center for a small bowel injury sustained, he's recovering and improving.

There is no infection.  I wanted to make sure that we're clear.  Ryan's family has our complete support.  I've talked to his mother; I’ve talked to Ryan.  Our trainers and doctors have been in constant contact and have been involved every step of the way. I just want to clear that up because I know how the Penn State community supports one another and I want to make sure that everybody understands clearly what's going on.  That's about all I'm going to comment and talk about that. This has been approved by the family as our statement."

Looking forward to Maryland, Franklin had some exciting offensive line news: Coach is hopeful that Miles Dieffenbach could have a bigger impact in practice this week, and maybe even play Saturday.

Franklin is also hopeful that the excitement of last week's White Out will carry over with the crowd this week: "We’re excited to be back at home again.  We have the opportunity for the first time in the last four years to have back to back sellouts; to be 107K strong.  We're excited about that.  I cannot stress enough the impact that our fans had on our last game.  It gave our defense a real home field advantage.  I can't stress enough how much we appreciate their support."

Ohio State:

COACH FRANKLIN: I would like to summarize our game against Ohio State: the turnover battle was even, technically.  Penalties in the game, we won that battle.  Explosive plays, defense met their goal which is three or less, offense did not meet their goal of eight, they had three.  On offense, I think we showed flashes.

Defense I thought we played really hard. They had a 91 percent pursuit grade, which is really good.  I think that's one of the things we believe in, just the importance of running to the ball. We had two take aways, including a pick six. I thought [Mike] Hull, [Anthony] Zettel and [Marcus] Allen all played well. We needed to play better in overtime, we had a chance to finish the game we just needed to play better in overtime. On We-fense it is consistency, consistency, consistency. We have good effort, we just need good execution.

On We-fense it is consistency, consistency, consistency. We have good effort, we just need good execution. We will have open competition from a punting perspective this week. We tried to make adjustments during the game to try to help those guys out.  Not only do we need to find a groove there, another area that would help is don't punt, that's another thing that would be helpful for us.


Q.  I realize that you're on to the Maryland game but I had to ask, do you have a reaction to the Big Ten statement after the Ohio State game in which they admitted there were significant issues and an error on a couple of key plays in a game that did not go your way?

COACH FRANKLIN:  We're going to move on.  Even though the conference came out and made a statement, I still don't think it's appropriate or wise for me to comment.  We've moved on.

I've never addressed it with the team.  We just focus on the things that we can control.  The conference came out and answered some questions.


Q.  I wanted to ask you about Ryan Keiser the player, the person that you’ve come to know this year.  What were your impressions of him in that regard?

COACH FRANKLIN:  I love Ryan Keiser.  I love everything about him.  He is one of the nicest, most kind, most thoughtful kids I've been around.  It’s the same thing with his family.  He's an unbelievable teammate and is really coachable.  He has really strong faith and spirituality and he shares that with the team.  He's a special guy.  I've already talked to Ryan about what his interests are after he graduates. Chasing his dream to play in the NFL and I think he would like to be a physical education teacher and possibly a coach, as well.  I think so highly of him I've talked about trying to get him to work for us in some capacity, whether it's player development or something else. I think he's one of those kids that everybody in our program respects.  He is the type of guy that you spend time with and he makes you want to be a better person.  He makes you want to be a better coach.  He's a special, special young man.  He's in our prayers and his family is in our prayers and we can't get him back here soon enough.


Q.  What sort of progress has Akeel Lynch made this year away from the ball? In terms of his blocking, going out for passes and his preparation?

COACH FRANKLIN:  I think [Akeel] has made real strides.  I'm really proud of him, in a lot of different ways and for a lot of different reasons.  He's doing some really nice things.  He’s a big, strong, powerful guy, but like most running backs, one of the areas he still needs to improve on is his pass protection.

I think that's going to be very, very important for us and as big and strong as he should be able to be dominant in that area.  I'm very pleased [with his progress] and I think his role is going to continue to grow this year.  Obviously not having Zach [Zwinak] anymore is going to factor into that as well.


Q.  Can you update us on Miles Dieffenbach and the possibility of him playing this week?

COACH FRANKLIN:  I wish I had a clear answer for you.  We're still determining that ourselves, and I think you guys have heard me say this before, it's not just the physical aspect, it's the muscle memory of the footwork and the techniques that he hasn't done in six months.  It's also the confidence as well.

I think a lot of it is really depends on how practices go.  He's been practicing, to some degree, the last couple of weeks.  Hopefully he will have a bigger role this week and that will allow us to play him in a game.  I think that would be the ideal situation.  How much that is, I'm not sure. We'll see, but I think the biggest thing is we are never, ever going to put winning a game in front of what's in the best interest of our student-athletes and their health. We want to make sure he's prepared before we put him back on the field that's mentally, physically, emotionally. That's the whole package.


Q.  How does Mike Hull compare to the other linebackers you have been around throughout your career?  What's impressed you most about him, not just Saturday but how he's developed throughout the season?

COACH FRANKLIN:  Mike Hull is as good as I've ever been around. Coaches, fans, scouts, selection committees for awards and people like that; we sometimes get way too caught up in the eyeball test.

When the guy that walks through the door and he's 6-foot-3, 250 pounds, he just looks what you imagine in your mind. Don't get me wrong, that’s not like Mike. He’s little [for the position], he's 6-foot, 235 pounds, but how productive he is?  I typically meet with our freshmen once a week, and they're probably sick of hearing me talk about Mike Hull because it's not just his physical traits, it's everything [he is able to do].

I don't know if I could find something that I would say in terms of his preparation and his demeanor that I would want more from.  It’s how he is in meetings or how he is out at practice; his focus, his attention to detail, his work ethic, how coachable he is.  From day one, he's embraced everything we've asked him to do as a teammate, as a leader, in the defensive scheme, in the defensive techniques, which isn't always easy to do as a senior.

I mean, he's a model [player].  I think the one thing you would love him to do is be a little more vocal, but that's not who he is. When he speaks, though, people listen and that's powerful.  He needs to stay true to who he is.  I think he's special.  I remember during the spring I saw the whole offense, all their faces drop because of him. We faked an inside zone and handed a reverse. He was there to make the tackle on the inside zone, and it looked like it was going to be a big play on a reverse. Next thing you know, the same guy that stopped the inside zone was making the tackle on the sideline on the reverse and it was Mike Hull. At that moment all the coaches knew we had a special guy and every day he's proved that: in the classroom, in the community and on the football field.

I'm trying to figure out a way that we can appeal to the NCAA and get a few more years out of him or convince his parents to have a few more children.  I don't know if that's going to happen, though.

Q.  Along those lines and what you think of Mike Hull. You and Coach (Bob) Shoop have been vocal, especially on social media, about his snubs on the national award lists. Today he was added to one of those lists.  How much do those awards mean to you guys, at least to get recognized?  Do you campaign behind the scenes? Can you influence that at all besides what you're saying to us right now?

COACH FRANKLIN:  What we talk about is the individual accolades that you get from the Big Ten or regionally and nationally, all those things are wonderful but they're really not individual, they're about the team.

Mike doesn't have the success he's having without the defensive line, without the secondary, without the scout team on offense, without the schemes.  Don't get me wrong, he gets a lot of credit but there are a lot of things that go into it because this is the ultimate team game.

Would you love for him to be on those lists and do I think he deserves it?  Yes.  But beside that we don't spend a lot of time on it. I know Mike doesn't and we don't as a staff.  I think Jeff [Nelson] and his staff do a good job of trying to educate [the media] and we send things out to the media and the public to try to educate them on what we have here. So we do that, but from the a coaching staff perspective, we're too busy trying to develop these young people as men and as students and in the community and as football players.

That's where we spend so much time bringing different people to come in and talk to our team about social issues that we're all struggling with right now in our society. We are reinforcing all the needs of our academic department so our guys can do well there and maximize their experience on the football field.

Besides that, that's why we have Jeff and his staff doing a great job.

No More Excuses:

Q.  Saturday, is there more a sense of urgency?  Is there a line that you draw that says to the young players that they are no longer young?

COACH FRANKLIN:  From a youth standpoint the young guys that are playing, they're no longer freshmen. That can't be an excuse anymore.  Even the guys on the scout team, I met with them and told them they have to make sure they're not in the redshirt mode because if [they are] they won't be ready to compete for jobs come spring practice or for a job if something changes and they need to go in and play.  We do start cutting back practice a little bit, I think I told you guys that already, we started to do that last week.

I think that's been helpful.  On offense, you know, you have some challenges.  You have to practice to get better, but, you only have so many bodies to really get it done with. The fine line is how you go about developing those guys in practice.  Most people have 85 scholarship and 125 guys on the team, and that affects everybody's development.  It affects the second team corner's development, the second team quarterback's development, the second team's line development, because we don't have a second offensive line.  That's where we are right now.


Q.  You talked before about wanting your defense to be more explosive and create those "X" plays.  You got a lot of that last week, but going forward how is that sustainable?  How hard or difficult or easy is that to sustain without the primetime, big time atmosphere?

COACH FRANKLIN:  I think that's a really good question and we talked about that.  I talked to the team on Sunday after the game that I felt a difference on our team in terms of their focus and in terms of their preparation and in terms of their enthusiasm and energy. I don't know if that was Ohio State, I don't know if that was the White Out, I don't know what it was because of the primetime game or whatever it may be. I talked to them about making sure that our approach and preparation and attention to detail is consistent week in and week out.  It shouldn't be based on the opponent, it shouldn't be based on what time the game is.  It shouldn't be based on outfits that people decide to wear to the game, shouldn't be based on any of those things.

It should be based on us wanting to go out and play at our highest level.  Now, are we all human and do those things affect us?  Yes.  But what we're trying to do is get them to understand we need to have that type of commitment and respect for our opponent and approach week in and week out regardless, because ultimately it's about us.  That was a big discussion for us.