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Weekly Conference Call: James Franklin Thinks Michigan is Just Another Opponent

In his weekly conference call, James Franklin discussed the importance of the seniors, whether he believes in signature wins, and what the defense will look like without Jordan Lucas.

Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

Each week, we'll bring you news and notes from James Franklin's weekly press conference. Hey guess what? Michigan is just another game. 1-0 baby!

Opening Statement

  • Senior day and a Whiteout. This senior day is probably more important than many Franklin has been around, given what the seniors have been through (seniors have endured in four years what many programs go through in 20 years).*
  • The bye week came at a good time for the players.
  • Undefeated at home. The crowd helps, and the team feeds off the crowd's energy.


  • On goals for the bye week: As the coach, you want to run as many plays at full speed and work on fundamentals. But in reality, you have to come up with a plan that makes the most sense for Penn State. The time off is important (more so than other programs) because the program is still short. The extra time also helped with logistical tasks, like meetings, better practices, etc.
  • On the loss of Jordan Lucas: Losing Jordan is going to have an impact. Fortunately, Penn State has played other guys, so it eases the pain.
  • On Jake Rudock: Michigan has been playing really well on defense, and their offense is coming together. One of the things that jump out is their starters: 18 senior starters vs. four for Penn State. They're big and physical on both fronts. They're playing with a lot of confidence and are more explosive. Butt is doing well.**
  • On Malik Golden: Golden is a versatile guy. Franklin is excited for his future and his development.
  • On how Lucas' injury affects the defense: The team is looking at different ways to ease the situation, maybe playing more corners on nickel packages, etc. The staff has to feel it out. However, no redshirts will be burned unless they absolutely have to.
  • On Saquon Barkley: The bye week was important for him. He's playing well, but he's not 100 percent. The bye week helped heal him some. Each week he gets more confident with the offense. The extra reps and carries have helped him. He's a dynamic player, and doesn't physically or mentally look like a freshman. Luckily, the team has depth at the running back position.
  • On the seniors: Penn State, culturally, as well as historically, has been a team led by seniors. However, the team only has four senior starters. The guys who aren't starters but are playing also have significant roles with the team. Because of this, their load has been increased. With more seniors, their loads would be spread around. One thing that jumps out to Franklin is how the seniors embrace the young guys, even as they see younger guys passing them up on the depth chart.
  • On "a signature win": "A win would be good, I like wins." The team doesn't make one win or one game different than others, even though other people do. Perception is a powerful thing, but the Franklin still wants to be 1-0 this week. What makes this game different is being the last game the seniors will have at Beaver Stadium. Unlike other sports, your last game in college (if you don't make it to the NFL) usually means your last game, period.
  • On Michigan's five-man front and Indiana's ability to run: Michigan's defense makes it hard to gain yards. They have a big front and returned almost everyone. Indiana was able to wear them down with their big offensive front and Jordan Howard. The Minnesota film also proves useful for preparation to the game.
  • On differences with a bye week: It allows for more time. Instead of meeting early in the morning and leaving late, coaches are able to see their families.
  • On Jim Harbaugh's impact: Their whole staff has had an impact. His background with Michigan is helpful. Twenty-three out of their 25 starters are juniors or seniors. That helps. They're the oldest team in the Big Ten. They're playing really good football.
  • On Jim Harbaugh: Franklin's familiarity with Harbaugh is cursory. He's seen him out on the recruiting trail, Big Ten meetings, etc. Nothing more intricate.
  • On the run defense: The thing that's interesting is that the defense is built on limiting big plays. The problem with the run defense has been allowing too many explosive plays. Stopping the big plays has been an emphasis all week. They went back and studied the last five years.
  • On the seniors: Having to deal with another group of coaches was challenging, and going through so much change makes things difficult. Dwight Galt is a huge part of keeping in touch with players.
  • On Michigan's Jordan Lewis: He's really good. Some analytics companies say that he's the most productive corner in the nation. He likes to be matched up against the opposing team's best wide receiver. The team will still have to run the ball and be willing to take some shots down the field. We'll need a similar game plan to the Maryland game. The last thing you want to do, however, is becoming one-dimensional.
  • On Jabril Peppers: Peppers gets a lot of attention and you need to be aware of him. They'll try to get his hands on the ball on offense and special teams.
  • On Christian Hackenberg's development: He's playing well. Some of the run checks he's been able to get us in have been very important.
  • On "a signature win," part two: Hey guess what the answer didn't change!
  • On what Franklin has learned from the seniors: Franklin appreciates how involved students and players are in their community. Things like THON have a great impact in the student body. That's the thing that his Franklin the most.
  • On the red zone defense: The defense needs to be more multiple and more disciplined. Giving multiple looks avoids opposing offenses from scheming against the defense.
  • On Hackenberg being a captain twice: Last year he was kind of forced into the role, given the situation at hand. Last year, as a true sophomore, he was tasked with leading the offense. This year, he's more comfortable with taking ownership of the offense. He's probably grown as much as any player in the country, with all he's gone through. There's so much more to his story than the stats and win/loss records.

* - After listening for 11 weeks I have to say, the way Frankln pronounces some words is, yeah...

** - Notice how he didn't actually talk about Rudock.

That's all for this week's edition of press conference notes. If you'd like to watch the full press conference video, follow the link below:

Conference video.