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James Franklin Weekly Press Conference Notes: Northwestern

In this week's conference call, James Franklin spoke about Geno Lewis' resurgence, Northwestern's efficiency on defense, and Saquon Barkley's "R. Kelly 'I believe I can Fly'" play.

Hey James, I'm James.
Hey James, I'm James.
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Each week, we'll bring you news and notes from James Franklin's weekly press conference. Enjoy today's quotes about Geno Lewis' resurgence, Northwestern's defense, and the R. Kelly "I Believe I can Fly" play.

Opening Statement

  • 1-0 this week, 7-2 overall. 4-1 in the Big Ten. Ninth in the nation in fewest penalties, first in the Big Ten.
  • 17th in the nation in turnover margin, third in the Big Ten (Iowa and Michigan State are tied for first).
  • Franklin mentioned the shutout. Defense only gave up 2 "big plays."
  • Offense: 14 explosive plays, and another nine plays of 9-11 yards. Team is number two in the nation in plays of 30 yards or more. 91% red zone efficiency.
  • Fumbles and drops need to be cleaned up. Illinois was the first time the team lost the turnover battle this season.
  • Special teams: Called out Tyler Davis, Nick Scott, and Koa Farmer.
  • Franklin mentioned the contrast of 12 senior starters for Northwestern vs 5 for Penn State.


  • On Geno Lewis: Franklin says he's proud of Geno Lewis and how he's handled his role. He may not be happy about it, but he comes to practice and works every day, and doesn't let it affect his outlook on the team. Like Tyler Davis, Geno makes the most of his opportunities.
  • On Garret Sickels: Sickels keeps grown. One can argue that Sickels is now at the point Carl Nassib was at last year. His motor, work ethic, and competitive nature are things that stand out.
  • On helping players get through a rough stretch: The biggest factor is creating a family environment focused on support and improvement. Critiquing the play and not the person is key. Being able to handle competition is important, and it's only going to get more competitive from there.
  • On playing 10 straight games: The team is taking the same approach as last week, with lighter practices and focusing more on film study. They'll have full pads on Thursday, but all other days will be modified.
  • On the kicking job: The coaching staff will look at it on a week by week basis. Tyler did a good job on Saturday, so that bodes well for him.
  • On the secondary: John Reid is playing well. Troy Apke is also playing well. Bob Shoop likes to keep starters in the game*, so guys like Apke getting playing time speaks to their ability. Same thing with Malik Golden. The team had a good plan for Illinois, and they were able to execute well.
  • On Northwestern's Quarterback: He's big and strong and athletic. He's a redshirt freshman, so he's still learning some things. They used the zone read early in the season, but have since moved away from that. He's now scrambling more from dropback passes. They team is anticipating zone read this week. Instead of just using the scout team, Trace McSorley and Tommy Stevens will be going up against the first team defense in order to replicate the speed necessary to prepare.**
  • On the passing game against Northwestern: They don't do one specific thing on defense. They're good on defense for the same reasons Penn State's defense is good. They don't allow big plays down the field. They're able to get pressure on the quarterback, and they tackle extremely well.
  • On linebackers: Losing Nyeem Wartman-White (and Brandon Bell at times) hurts, but overall it's been a positive. It's allowed the young guys to get more experience. Overall, the group has played really well.
  • On Beaver Stadium's capacity: It all depends on where the program is with attendance. Ideally, they'd want 107,000 in the stadium every game (and have been one of the few programs near the top in average attendance in recent years), but the challenge is the amenities. The administration wants to ensure they are providing a great in-stadium experience. However, those scenarios are not Franklin's focus right now. Northwestern is.
  • On (dude asked about Geno Lewis again): IGNORED!
  • From the nitpicking department: Yes, they are doing directional kicking on purpose (both Joey Julius and Tyler Davis had a kick out of bounds). But, the direction of choice is not out of bounds. Whether it's punts or kickoffs, kicking it in the middle is not ideal. The team will keep working on directional kicking/punting.
  • "I know you're a positive guy (uh-oh), but when Nyeem went down, could you have expected Jason Cabinda to perform as well as he has?": "Now, it looks that way. I didn't feel that way the first game of the year." Jason is a sharp guy. He's charismatic, intelligent, confident, and he's been that way since he stepped on campus.
  • On Pat Fitzgerald's "nightmare" comments about the defensive line: As head coaches, you turn the film on, and take a peek at the team you'll play, and possibly the first two things that jump out are the fronts, and space players that could make big plays. Given the team's stats, Franklin understand what Fitzgerald is saying (then he complimented Northwestern's defense for 5 minutes).
  • On Jason Cabinda, again: Franklin said the same thing he said the first time they asked about Cabinda.
  • On Saquon Barkley's struggles: Franklin believes Barkley's doing alright, thank you very much. "I don't know what the stats might say, but he's doing well." Franklin coined Barkley's leap as the R. Kelly "I believe I can Fly" Play.

* - Which is funny, because of how much the defense substitutes everywhere else

** - Foreshadowing for next year, yeah?

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.