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James Franklin Weekly Press Conference Notes: Maryland Week

With double digit wins in sight, James Franklin met with the press to talk about the regular season finale against the Terrapins

STATE COLLEGE, PA - NOVEMBER 11:  Trace McSorley #9 of the Penn State Nittany Lions celebrates with head coach James Franklin after rushing for a 20 yard touchdown in the first half against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Beaver Stadium on November 11, 2017 in State College, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Opening Statement

  • Happy Thanksgiving to the press, and thanks for covering the team all year long (you’re welcome, coach!).
  • Against Nebraska, Saquon Barkley was the offensive player of the game, Jason Cabinda and Shareef Miller were the defensive players of the game, and Billy Fessler was the special teams player of the game.
  • In bad weather the team played well with no turnovers, and 7.5 yards per carry on offense. Converted 66% of third downs and won the penalty battle.
  • Second half could have gone better, and hustle on both sides of the ball could have been better.
  • Defense played well until about 8 minutes left in the game. The conversation is always leaving in the starters and risking running up the score versus putting in the backups and letting the opponent score some points.
  • Could improve on takeaways, and the second sudden change wasn’t very good. Overall a good game.
  • For Maryland, lots of respect for DJ Durkin, as their paths seem to keep crossing.
  • They do a good job offensively, and run a lot of different types of offensive plays to keep the defense guessing.
  • Good offensive weapons in receiver D.J. Moore, and running backs Lorenzo Harrison and Ty Johnson.
  • Defense is aggressive, bringing pressure on 29% of plays, and 57% on third downs. Cavon Walker, Jermaine Carter, Darnell Savage are all players to keep an eye on.
  • Thinks its inappropriate for the media to be asking players whether they’ll be playing in a bowl game. Focused on Maryland this week, not even to bowl season yet. Media may not like everything Franklin does, and Franklin may not like everything the media does, but he found that to be inappropriate.

Questions

  • On preparation with classes being out, and how many players are expected at the Thanksgiving household on Thursday: Not as different as perhaps expected, because of the number of hours the NCAA allots. They did some community service, and it will give the players a bit more time to relax and recover. Lots of players will go to their positions coach’s house for Thanksgiving; Franklin has a few of the young staff members coming over, and then a few players, plus their families that were planning on going to a restaurant. Thanksgiving at the Franklin household is a solid rotation of eating, sleeping, playing games, and having fun. No dressed up formal situations here (he gets it).
  • On Miles Sanders’ development from last year to this year: Sitting behind one of the best players in college football is tough to do. At the same time, he’s gotten to learn a lot from Professor Barkley. Ball security and pass protection have improved, and Saquon has said to Franklin that Sanders is going to be really good. Coach agrees.
  • On how Trace McSorley has developed on and off the field over the past two seasons: He’s very consistent, though he may not have any one thing that blows you away. He does everything well, and improving across the board. He’s getting to be more outspoken. Similar to Sanders, Tommy Stevens is learning from Professor McSorley.
  • On Tommy Stevens embracing the backup role: He’s not happy about it, since he wants to be the starter. But his relationship with Trace is great, and he maximizes his reps on the field when he gets them. Mentioned other great players that had to bide their time for a bit, including Alabama’s Mark Ingram, who won the Heisman after showing up as the seventh-string running back.
  • On how the younger linebackers have played this year, and how the depth is looking: Cam Brown is looking good, while they’re waiting for the “aha” moment from Jake Cooper. They’re really a 4-2-5 defense, with the third linebacker being a hybrid defensive back (this seemed to me like Franklin acknowledging that linebacker depth is not great, but that they are scheming their defense around that deficiency).
  • On the improvement of the run game against Nebraska, and what was different: Not much was different, as the team matched up well with Nebraska. Trace did a good job with his reads, and Barkley did a good job taking the hard four yards when they were there. With the run game doing better, the passing game opened up, and they scored a balanced 56 points.
  • On the availability of Manny Bowen and Irvin Charles: Bowen is not available, Charles will be a game-time decision (this seems bad).
  • On how Tyrell Chavis has improved: Wishes he could share more of Chavis’ story, as he’s had to overcome a lot of adversity. They don’t recruit much from junior colleges, so they have to really like the player to pick them up. So many players come from different walks of life, and they all support each other regardless of backgrounds, race, religion, etc.
  • On who the best ping-pong player is on the staff (Franklin mentioned ping-pong back during the Thanksgiving question): Moorhead is good, Franklin is good, and Mrs. Franklin is good too (she runs the staff).
  • On evaluating the pass rush, and looking to gain some reinforcements from recruiting: Would like to have Bucholz back, but had four sacks last week. Likes where they’re at, but can always be better. They try to get the players to master one move, rather than be mediocre at a bunch of moves. Once they have their signature move, then they can add complementary moves to that.
  • On the defensive line playing for Torrence Brown, and how he’s handled his injury: He’s very mature, and has a big brother mentality. He cares for everyone, which is why his injury was tough for so many players.
  • On Lamont Wade’s development, his biggest strength, and the areas he could improve: His biggest strength is his confidence. Quarterback, offensive tackle, and cornerback are the three hardest positions to play, and he’s done well. He needs to challenge at the line of scrimmage a bit better.
  • On the lack of opportunities for DeAndre Thompkins to return punts lately: He made enough plays that opposing punters are trying to make it tough for him. The return units have been so good that other teams are doing everything they can to avoid returns. That includes rugby-style punts to get the coverage units downfield, that includes pop-over kickoffs to make sure that Barkley doesn’t get the ball.
  • On how official recruiting visits are handled, now that there are no more home games: Prefers official visits not during the season, as he doesn’t get much time with the recruits during game weekends. Preseason or postseason recruits can get a much better feel for the “family” feeling that Franklin is trying to build. If a kid has never been to a game at Penn State, it’s a good thing. But the ones that have visited a bunch may not get as much out of it as others.
  • On just how much difference not having a game makes on an official visit: He’ll get to eat most meals with the kids. In an 8 hour visit, he’ll probably spend at least 6 hours with the visitors, as opposed to 1-2 hours during a game week.
  • On Barkley being a little over 300 yards from the all-time rushing record: Maryland, Maryland, Maryland, Maryland. Would prefer to have conversations about a player’s career after their career is over, not during it. The tone of conversations around Barkley is not what Franklin wants right now. This is something he can discuss after the season is over.