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James Franklin Weekly Press Conference Notes: Michigan Week

The Lions are halfway through the season, and welcome Michigan - and ESPN College GameDay - to Happy Valley

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Opening Statement

  • From the Northwestern game, Trace McSorley was the offensive player of the game, Christian Campbell and Grant Haley combined for DPOG, and Blake Gillikin was STPOG.
  • First half of the season statistics: #1 scoring defense, #2 in turnover margin, #3 in starting field position, #8 in penalties per game, #13 in big plays on offense.
  • Michigan is a standard Big Ten offense, predicated on running the ball and play-action passing. Jim Harbaugh runs the offense.
  • Don Brown is the defensive coordinator, and is “greedy,” in that he doesn’t stack the box while allowing easy passes out wide - he’ll try to take both away. It’s a high risk, high reward defense, that has payed off the last few seasons.
  • Their special teams are doing well, including Quinn Nordin, whom Franklin wishes well.
  • The only thing Franklin likes more than Christmas is a white out game, and thinks you have to witness one to believe it. Thank you to the fans for making it a great environment.
  • To the team: rankings and College GameDay are nice, but they don’t matter. Stick to the routine and prepare for the game.


  • On how much the bye week benefited the team, and how much Michigan preparation was done: Rather than spend 1-2 hours self-scouting, they got to spend an entire day looking at things they have to fix. Then, over the course of the 2 weeks, they got to spend more time developing the young players, and then extra time preparing for the Wolverines.
  • On Michigan defensive linemen Maurice Hurst and Rashan Gary: Hurst looks like a top 10 pick at the moment, while Gary is one of those athletes that can run in the 45s while also carrying 280 pounds. Line will have their hands full with those two.
  • On what stands out about Michigan DC Don Brown, from having worked with him: He’s a relentless, aggressive DC with experience across the college football coaching spectrum. Any problems on defense, he tries to solve them with aggression, both with play calling, and with how the players play.
  • On how Brent Pry contrasts with Brown: Pry is a life-long coach who really understands the game. He connects well with his players, and Franklin has leaned on him when tough decisions have had to be made.
  • On Shareef Miller and his development: The biggest thing is growth, both physically and mentally, or academically. If Franklin’s goal is to get the players to the point that he would hire them when they graduate, Miller would be hired today.
  • On whether the offensive line was worked on during the bye week, and if putting Will Fries as the starting right tackle had to do with injuries to Chasz Wright and Andrew Nelson: Will not comment on injuries, but Wright and Fries are listed as “or,” nothing else to it. Matt Limegrover will continue to develop the line, and they’re going to stick to their plan. Michigan will present a challenge, but they have to stick to their plan.
  • On Kirk Herbstreit’s comments about Penn State players having a great personality, and what that can be attributed to, going back decades: It starts with great young men - that may make mistakes at times - that are then developed well. A lot of places pay lip service to the off-the-field behaviors of the players, but Penn State is a bit more unique that they really want the players to be good people. That Herbstreit went out of his way to say that, having seen football all over the country, says a lot.
  • On whether the loss last year to Michigan was a line in the sand for the program: While the loss was a factor, a lot of other things went into the team’s success since then. Even now, Franklin goes to work excited about the team, then realizes there are lots of areas to improve. It’s not as simple as some people want it to be.
  • On John O’Korn and his ties to the area, plus his strengths from film: Heard a rumor that his mother used to work at the “Broken Egg” in town, but doesn’t know much beyond that. Player has been around for awhile, including time at Houston against Vanderbilt, but doesn’t know his family’s connection to the area as well.
  • On why the secondary is so much better this year: It’s not just the secondary, but also the defensive line, and linebackers. A lot of players in the secondary are seniors and redshirt juniors. A lot of factors tying in together.
  • On the defense gang tackling, and how much comes from the coaches versus player chemistry: It’s a little bit of both, but you can still see on each play a couple players just jogging toward the ball. Need to get everyone running full speed toward the tackle. Coming up with more fumble recoveries this year because more players are heading toward the pile to begin with.
  • On patience in the run game, and that the team will try to avoid dictated run plays: If they run a lot of RPOs, and they’re all passes, so be it. They’ll take what they’re given. Saquon Barkley will probably never have a state line of 38 carries for 250 yards, since that’s not what they’re built to do. They’ve spent a lot of time working to eliminate negative plays, and this game will be a chess match.
  • On what the best part of the bye week was: Giving the players a chance to take some time off, and setting coaching meetings a little later to drop the kids off at school, grab a donut on the way to work. Just get some time to enjoy the little things.
  • On the Texas A&M coaching rumor mill: Franklin wants to eliminate distractions, and he wasn’t going to respond at all, but the Penn State fans were wearing him out. He had to address it to get everyone back on track, focusing on Michigan.
  • On whether he was upset the report went national pretty quickly: Michigan, Michigan, Michigan, Michigan.
  • On whether the report upset Franklin, since he came out so quickly to quash it: He let it linger for a day or two before addressing it. But he’s happy, his family is happy, he’s losing weight, and drinking healthy green smoothies.
  • On the place kicking issues: Tyler Davis was one of the best last year, this year they need to work on the snapping, the hold, the blocking, and the kick. Lots of little things to fix. Davis will win some games for them this year.
  • On the most vivid memory from last year’s Michigan game, and whether it will be discussed with the players: Everyone wants to talk about last year, but Franklin likes to live in the present. They learned from last year, but last year doesn’t have much bearing on Saturday. The team is going to prepare and focus like any other game.