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James Franklin Weekly Press Conference Notes: Ohio State Week

A week after exacting revenge on Michigan, the Lions head to take on the Buckeyes - who are looking for revenge of their own

Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Opening Statement

  • From the Michigan game, Trace McSorley was the offensive player of the game, the defensive line was the defensive player of the game, and Blake Gillikin and Tyler Davis were special teams players of the game.
  • Punt in the first half out of the endzone, where Gillikin kicked it 60 yards to the sideline, and Irvin Charles tackled the returner immediately is as elite a special teams play as you’ll find.
  • Only one penalty in the game, played very disciplined. Continued to dominate the scoreboard in the first and third quarters.
  • Ohio State has a great stable of coaches, including defensive coordinator Greg Schiano, offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, and special teams coordinator Kerry Coombs. Urban Meyer has a great coaching staff.
  • Ohio State plays an up tempo spread offense, helmed by J.T. Barrett in his 16th or 17th season now. He can beat you with his arms or his legs. Their running backs are very good as well.
  • Buckeyes have an elite defense, especially their defensive line. Nick Bosa is a tremendous talent, the second Bosa Penn State has had to face.
  • Ohio State has a top 5 special teams unit, so it will be a challenge in all facets of the game.


  • On how Barrett has evolved, and what he’s doing well this year: Kevin Wilson is a great offensive coordinator, though early in the season they were trying to find their identity. They’ve figured it out, and Barrett is playing with a lot of confidence now in a scheme that highlights his abilities.
  • On how the offensive line performed vs. Michigan, especially Will Fries: The line has improved, especially from the beginning of the season when everyone expected them to be firing on all cylinders, which isn’t how it works. Line will have to continue to grow, as Ohio State is also very good on defense.
  • On how Marcus Allen has grown since they both arrived at Penn State: Franklin has a great relationship with Marcus and his family. Allen isn’t like the stereotypical tough guy, as he’s always got a smile on his face, but can flip the switch and play tough on the field. Marcus had a tough decision to make after last season, with respect to the NFL draft, and Franklin was able to have a very direct two-way conversation with Allen’s family about it all, which is not always the case.
  • On how the 2014 loss to Ohio State affects the team to this day: It really affected them last year, as they remembered the last time they played at State College and maybe should have won. But there are lessons in wins and in losses, and keeping everyone focused on the current week can be tough. Every positive and negative experience has helped get them to where they are currently.
  • On Mike Gesicki’s improvement, and his leaping celebration over McSorley: Franklin didn’t see the celebration happen, but isn’t surprised by it, as Gesicki is one of the best athletes on the team. His blocking has improved, and while he’s doing good things in the passing game, it’s the blocking game that will really be needed at the next level.
  • On how much last year’s game versus Ohio State boosted the players’ confidence: No doubt that beating the #2 team in the country is a big boost for the players.
  • On the amount of media coverage the team is getting, including Franklin appearing on Monday Night Football, and whether or not Franklin specifically is having to turn down media offers due to time constraints: Kris Peterson is the bad person who tells the various outlets no, but they try to stick to the same model, where some local writers get more access since they cover the team even during bad times. Franklin only does media interviews before 7 AM and after 10 PM, because the middle of the day is for the team.
  • On how Penn State has been able to control field position, and how important that will be against elite team: Last year against Michigan was played almost entirely out of their side of the field, which is not how you want it to go. Gillikin does great with hang time, distance, and location, which isn’t easy to do. Davis has also been doing a great job on kickoffs, and the coverage teams have been excellent.
  • On Ohio State coming off a bye week, and how many more wrinkles to expect from them, given the success Penn State had coming off its own bye week vs. Michigan: Bye weeks help a lot, to recover and to install new things. However, Penn State can’t control that, so they’re going through their week like they always do. The Lions were able to get the backups in the game against Michigan, so it wasn’t a huge, draining game for the entire duration. That should help against the Buckeyes.
  • On the three different leadership styles of Marcus Allen, Jason Cabinda, and Grant Haley: Marcus is bubbly, outgoing, full of energy, smile on his face, positive ball of energy. Grant has said perhaps 32 words, he’s much more reserved, but he’s very dependable. Jason is very charismatic, who says whatever he believes with conviction, and is not afraid to challenge Franklin during players’ meetings. The current seniors are talking about how Mike Hull led them when they were freshmen - in 4 years, the seniors will be talking about how Allen, Cabinda, and Haley led them when they were freshmen.
  • On how much the team can draw from the experience of going into a hostile environment and winning a close game: Kinnick is a wild stadium, with the fans right on top of you, and leaving with a win there is good not just for the players’ careers, but also for this season. During the week they usually do light music at practice on Tuesday to teach, and then crank up the music on Wednesday, to the point that coaches have headaches, and it’s not a lot of fun. This week both Tuesday and Wednesday are getting full volume. In years past they may not have done a good enough job implementing that noise - especially with special teams - but they’re doing that now.
  • On how the team’s confidence has grown over the past 12-13 months, and how that shows on the field: The routine during the week is important, as it’s unchanging. Confidence was earned from the trip to the Rose Bowl, from beating Iowa, from beating Michigan. And while the media has been so enthused with the showdown between Penn State and Ohio State - to the point that Franklin was getting Ohio State questions 30 seconds after the Michigan game ended - the players have been doing well staying focused on the team at hand.
  • On the athleticism of the defensive line, especially in passing situations where they put four defensive ends on the field: Penn State does the same thing, but the athleticism they have is immense. The easiest way to avoid that is not to get into long passing downs, to avoid that defensive setup.
  • On what areas Grant Haley has improved on from last year: Perhaps not just from last year, but in general Haley has done a great job of defending a receiver once the ball is in the air. He stays in contact with his receiver, and then is comfortable turning to look for the ball, which is not easy to do. That he’s developed, and that Marcus Allen was on the Jim Thorpe award watch list with Haley - only Penn State and Alabama had multiple players on the list - is a credit to Terry Smith, Tim Banks, and Brent Pry.
  • On whether the Big Ten East is the toughest division in college football: Can’t really comment since he hasn’t studied it enough. You’d like to feel that way, and believe that you’re winning the toughest division and the toughest conference, but at the end just being a part of such a national discussion is big.
  • On J.K. Dobbins and how he compares to Saquon Barkley when he was a freshman: They expected Barkley to contribute as a freshman, and they recruited Dobbins as well. They expected Dobbins to be the starter for Ohio State, which isn’t to disrespect Mike Weber, but Dobbins is just that good.
  • On how Franklin would approach the week leading up to a game against Penn State - if he were an opposing defensive coordinator - and planning how to stop Barkley: Why would Franklin answer such a question? The media has a job to do, which is to ask questions, but Franklin has a job to do as well.
  • On how much of a relationship exists between Urban Meyer and Franklin, or between Jim Harbaugh and Franklin: During the season it’s hard, and during the offseason recruiting takes up so much time, but you get to know other coaches from coaches meetings and similar outings. You get to know other coaches from having closer relationships with their assistants, guys that you knew before they started working for another team.