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James Franklin Weekly Press Conference Notes: Nebraska Week

After righting the ship against Rutgers, James Franklin met with the press to talk about Senior Day against Nebraska

Nov 11, 2017; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin congratulates tight end Mike Gesicki (88) after scoring a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Rutgers 35-6. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Opening Statement

  • From the Rutgers game, Trace McSorley was the offensive player of the game, Brandon Smith was the defensive player of the game, and Blake Gillikin and Lamont Wade shared special teams player of the game honors.
  • Defense did a great job after the opening kickoff debacle, and only allowed 43 yards passing, a Penn State record. Eight three-and-outs, including seven straight at one point.
  • Offense has done protecting the ball, but needs to do better blocking.
  • Special teams are doing great, but need to eliminate penalties.
  • Nebraska is similar to Penn State with a long history, and Mike Riley is a great guy. They run through their quarterback, and are dynamic at receiver. They play a 3-4 defense, not dissimilar to last week’s opponent.
  • This week is the Senior Day and the stripe out. Very proud of all of the seniors, and knows that they’ll be great men, husbands, and fathers going forward.


  • On whether any other players could see time on the offensive line: They play the top five guys that give them the best chance to win, and have had some injuries along the way. No changes planned.
  • On Manny Bowen’s availability this week, and on Ayron Monroe’s performance against Rutgers: No on Manny Bowen. Ayron is a great kid that has tons of athleticism and upside, and they’re enjoying working with him.
  • On the impact that the senior class had on the team and on Franklin personally: You go through the highs and lows with these players, and they become like family. Families sometimes argue amongst themselves, but they always move forward together. Taking them from highly touted recruits, to players that are then humbled as freshmen, and building them up through college is a great thing to go through. Penn State does an amazing job preparing them for the next step in their lives, so letting them go is tough, but they know they’ll be successful.
  • On Brandon Smith’s leadership and versatility: A walk-on player that wanted to play no matter what position he was in - fullback or linebacker, scout team or special teams. Always worked harder when the coaching staff said he wasn’t ready. He’s experience a lot, so when he speaks to the team, they listen.
  • On the offensive line’s continuing lack of physicality: Need to have more experience to get the physical and mental aspects all lined up. Young players will have the ability to improve, but they’re mostly young on the line, and that’s not usual.
  • On leadership for the defense after two tough road losses: Inconsistencies exist at every level, and on every team. Overall defense has had a good season, but had a couple games that didn’t go quite as well.
  • On competing against a 3-4 defense: Identifying incoming defenders in a 3-4 is a bit more difficult, so communication is important. Not a common defense in the Big Ten, so preparing for it is difficult.
  • On the recent comments that one of the tackles was giving a “tell” to opposing defenses: Every offense in the country has tells, and that’s what defense are supposed to do - analyze an offense and respond. Offense can do better, but they’re still averaging 31 points per game.
  • On the seniors taking a chance on Penn State when the sanctions were still in full effect: Takes it as a big compliment when a family says that they’ve invested 18 years in their son, and they trust Franklin to continue that investment another 4 years. The seniors believed in Franklin, but also everything Penn State has - not just football, but professors, social life, deans, everything.
  • On whether the team has committed more to the run the last couple weeks: Team is being creative, but they’re not just going to hand the ball off for the sake of handing the ball off. Team doesn’t need to be that with creativity elsewhere on offense. Offensive line needs to have a little more of a killer mentality, and wanting to win the one-on-one battles.
  • On Andrew Nelson’s career, which many saw going differently: He’s a great kid who’s been on a roller coaster. He handled a lot of difficult situations really well. Would love to have him back on the line, but even so he’s been awesome.
  • On how the team has responded after the success seemingly affected them earlier in the season: The team is continuing to grow and learn, and go through these situations together. Got back to 1-0 against Rutgers, and are looking to do that again this week.
  • On Bowen returning this season: He’s not available right now.
  • On Nebraska quarterback Tanner lee being hurt, and how the defense prepares when they’re not sure the style of quarterback they’ll be up against: Nebraska will run the same offense, and their quarterbacks are similar in style. They’ll prepare based on what they see on film either way.
  • On the defense only getting to the Rutgers quarterback a handful of times, and how they’ll work on that against a Nebraska team that is much better passing: Getting some guys back from injuries would be helpful, and focusing on fundamentals, not running straight down the middle for a pass rush. The defense will work on disguising their coverages to try to bait the quarterback a bit more.
  • On Tommy Stevens, both on and off the field: One of the most respected players on the team, challenging Trace and vice versa. Plan was to get Stevens in midway through the fourth quarter, but Rutgers put together a long drive. He’ll be ready when his time comes.
  • On Mike Gesicki’s improvement in blocking over his career: He’s improved from when he first got here, but still has improvement to work on. A lot of the practice time for tight ends is spent in the run game, since they’re all good pass catchers.