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James Franklin: "I am more aware of the challenges and numbers than anybody else who's looking."

In his weekly conference call, Franklin discussed his belief that the team has improved, even if not at the rate the fans would have wanted. He also spoke about the culture of winning built by Michigan State.

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Each week, we'll bring you news and notes from James Franklin's weekly press conference. Franklin took questions about the physicality and identity of the offense, while also acknowledging the need to continue to get better in all areas.

Opening Statement

  • Gave credit to Michigan, being the #12 team in the country. They're physical.
  • The team did not take care of opportunities, and has to be more physical. Too many times Michigan was able to get push. They have to score touchdowns and not settle for field goals.
  • The team has to clean up special teams, and avoid turnovers in that area.
  • On defense, Penn State needs to get off the field on third down.
  • One could make the argument that Michigan State is the top program in the conference right now.* Franklin emphasized that Michigan State is an experienced team.
  • "There's a lot of positives in the program right now. You have to look for them, but there's a lot of positives." Mentioned Penn State's continued commitment to community service.


  • On scoring touchdowns: There have been games where Penn State has matched up really well, and there have been games that aren't good-matchups. Michigan was knocking linemen back. When the line isn't physical enough, it throws everything out of whack.
  • On benching Paris Palmer: Challenges on the line necessitated some rotations. It's not about one specific guy, but about a matchup.
  • On Austin Johnson's leadership: Austin is a well respected player. He's graduating, and he's doing it in the field. He's not too outspoken, but he does things the right way. He's taken in the whole Penn State experience.
  • On Michigan State's culture of winning: It takes a number of years to create that culture. Penn State has had it in the past, but Penn State is coming out of some challenges right now. Creating your identity helps, as well as getting all the pieces of the puzzle working well. You can't be successful in one area and not another. Franklin's focus is to make sure they are successful in all areas.
  • On special teams breakdowns: Team is doing rugby punts constantly now, which doesn't create distance but reduces returns. Kicking has been inconsistent. The team is putting too much stress on offense and defense with their kicking/punting.
  • On burning too many timeouts: A combination of youth and the need to do a better job coaching** lead to the timeouts. Franklin is not pleased with how this has turned out.
  • On the team's motivation against Michigan State: Unlike popular belief, the team is playing for a lot (8-win season, good bowl, momentum...). The staff and players feel like they're playing for a lot.
  • On tackling: It's a combination of playing talented teams and being in the wrong position. While missing a tackle is not the end of the world, one has to have the right leverage so the rest of the team can run to the ball.
  • On Michigan State's defense: They're playing big, physical, and long on the defensive line. Big physical guys, juniors and seniors. They're very productive. They challenge every route. They're going to get to you before you get the ball out.
  • On the short kickoffs: The team sends the kicker out not to make the tackle, but to force the returner to reset his feet so someone else can make the tackle. Doing a better job of kicking will mitigate him having to make the tackles himself.
  • On offensive identity: Need to be more physical at tight end and offensive line.
  • On expectations: Expectations are magnified because of the current situation. Other places Franklin has been in also have expectations, but at Penn State expectations are very high. What would be the biggest challenge is what the team is working through right now.
  • On program building timeline: Franklin believes the team is on schedule in terms of building the program. Franklin hopes they would have won 9 or 10 games, but that doesn't mean the build process is not on schedule. There are quick fixes, yes, but with those quick fixes come unintended consequences (he gave an example of signing 15 JuCo kids last season, which would have increased the turnover, thus necessitating more JuCo signings). The progress doesn't always show up the way the fans want to see (in the scoreboard and record), but that's coming. The progress is there, but sometimes you just have to step away and look at it.
  • On OLine inconsistencies/lack of progress: The team is still working on getting size and experience. Size isn't everything, experience isn't everything, but both together are really important. Michigan State's lightest lineman weighs 295 pounds. OLine is not a position that can be fixed overnight. Why is the team's defensive line so good? Because they have talent and experience. Even though there has been progress throughout the season, it still not as fast as everyone (including the coaches) wants.
  • On when do you say to yourself "we're as good as we can be" in a certain area: Ideally, one never settles in any area, but at the same time, certain realities have to be acknowledged.
  • On having the right players for the offense: "I am more aware of the challenges and numbers than anybody else who's looking." The team's focus is on Michigan State. Any other discussions or conversations don't help beat Michigan State.
  • On the roadblocks to improvement: Franklin thinks the team has improved. More conference wins and overall wins than last year. Is it fast enough? No. But the team has improved. There are options that are quick fixes, but Franklin has chosen not to go in that route because he doesn't believe that's what's good long-term.***

*Sorry Iowa, you ain't it.

**This was in reference to the timeouts called on defense.

***Franklin was visibly upset at the question.

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.