James Franklin took the podium earlier today at Rose Bowl Media Day, and was bombarded with questions regarding just about every perceivable topic imaginable. Below are a few excerpts from what was a lengthy Q&A session:
On past experiences with the Rose Bowl:
Closest I ever got to the Rose Bowl was I took a GA job at Washington State, drove my 1988 Honda Accord with 160,000 miles from Philadelphia to Pullman, Washington. I showed up a month after the Rose Bowl. So up to this point that was the closest I got...
Then the year I took the job, I did some media work for the National Championship game. I think it was Florida State and Auburn that was here, and it was on the sideline during that game and did stuff before the game.
So I’ve been here a few times. But this will be the first time, obviously, playing or coaching in a Rose Bowl.
On the program’s biggest challenges regarding the sanctions when he first took over as head coach:
Yeah, I think the biggest thing for us was getting back into a healthy situation in terms of scholarship numbers. You know, my first year we were at 65 scholarships, last year 75 scholarships. This is our first year back at 85 scholarships. That’s the biggest difference, is the depth that we have. Then, obviously, for us, focusing in on the things that we can control, which is our locker room and our development and our players, and that’s been good. I think our fans and our alumni and our lettermen were very, very hungry for something like this, and it’s really been exciting watching our community and our fans and everyone come back together and be excited.
On why Penn State has had success with the deep ball this year:
We love to chuck it deep. It’s fun. The fans love to chuck it deep. The players like to chuck it deep. The wide receivers do. We’re in a situation now with our offensive line has allowed us to do that. We’ve been in a situation our first two years where we couldn’t take as many shots as we wanted to.
It’s funny, because you look at them (USC), they’re one of the more efficient offenses in the country, very few tackles for loss, very few sacks, great third down percentage. We’re the opposite. We’re chucking the ball down the field, flying around, having fun. We’ve got to improve on third down, we’ve got to improve in some areas as well. But two different styles from that perspective.
But it’s something we want to do. We want to challenge people down the field and be able to make plays. But the offensive line is going to be the unit that allows you to do that.
On whether making the Rose Bowl is even sweeter than usual, given all that Penn State’s program has been through the last several years:
I think in a lot of ways it probably does. I don’t think there’s ever a scenario where you come to the Rose Bowl and you don’t appreciate it and you’re not excited. But I think our story probably makes it a little bit different. It makes it a little bit more significant. Teams have a hard time getting here under normal situations, and we’ve been able to do it under very, very different situations and maybe some of the more challenging situations in the history of college football.
On Tyler Davis:
Tyler’s done a great job for us. Been very consistent all year long. A lot of it has to do with he’s an older guy, which always helps. You’ve got a guy that’s a junior and played a lot of football for us. We put a lot of pressure on those guys in practice. We do it every day. It’s part of our routine. Like always, the holder and the snapper never get enough credit, as they should, for part of that process as well.
And I think the other thing, we’ve done a good job of managing it and not throwing them out there to kick a bunch of 50-yard field goals. They’ve been manageable kicks as well. So I think all of those things have factored into it.
On Saquon Barkley:
Yeah, I think Saquon is one of the unique running backs in the country because he just has so many tools. If you listed out all the attributes and traits that you’re looking for at that position, he's going to have a checkmark in most of the boxes-- body type, size, strength, power, vision, balance, speed, durability. He’s going to have a lot of those characteristics and traits that you’re looking for if you had the opportunity to build a running back. They’re hard to find. You can find a guy that’s undersized. He has great quickness, change in direction and speed, but can’t run for power. He can really do both.
On how the coaching staff got the players to buy-in:
A lot of things. Like any other relationship in life, it takes time. The best thing that you can do in any relationship, whether it’s with a friend, whether it’s with a wife, whether it’s with a professional relationship like us with the players, it’s about a consistency in your behaviors. That’s what people are looking for when it comes to any relationship, is can we trust you. And the only way we’re going to learn is not by what you say, but what you do. Consistency in your behavior.
Then taking time to have these guys over to your house for dinner, taking them out and breaking bread together, having one-on- one meetings, which is difficult. You’ve got 125 guys or so on a football team. To be able to take the time to sit down together, to interact, to allow them to talk about things that they have questions or concerns about and build those relationships. So it’s taken time.