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James Franklin Press Conference: Maryland

The battle hardened beat writers of Central Pennsylvania could feel the funk blasting out of the press conference room all the way to the parking lot. It made a ton of sense, then, that 1970s kung fu James Franklin, in Sly Stone’s patched blue jeans and 8” afro, greeted them with a jump kick and an anthem, “I Want To Take You Higher”.

Here’s a link to James and the whole gang from this past off-season on The Mike Douglas Show - guests of whom stay at the Independence Mall Holiday Inn in Philadelphia. And here’s video of the scene that greeted PSU beat writers.

“Thank You Falettin Me Be Mice Elf, Agin”, and “I Want To Take You Higher” - was this an implicit answer to the rumors about Coach Franklin taking the USC Trojans job? We were about to find out.

And Then The Press Conference Started

HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: First of all, like all, want to thank everyone for coming out, especially this week, want to wish everybody a happy Thanksgiving.

I know we’ve got a bunch of players out today doing community service over at the village and at a bunch of the local elementary schools.

So a great opportunity and great time to spend some time with family and take a moment and appreciate what we are all thankful for and what we’re blessed for.

Looking forward to having a bunch of guys at my house on Thanksgiving for dinner, as well as we have a team Thanksgiving meal here, as well, after practice. Thought I would lead with that.

You know, kind of reviewing the Rutgers game real quick. You know, really, just like we talked about after the game, the critical stats we won. We won the turnover battle. We won the penalty battle, the drive-start battle, the sack battle, and then the explosive play battle, we won it. We didn’t meet our goals, but we won it in terms of had more explosive plays than them.

Players of the Week on offense was Pat Freiermuth. Defense, we really didn’t want to single one guy out, so we went with the defensive line, and the entire defensive line is playing at a really high level now and on special teams, Blake Gillikin.

Some kind of general last points about that game, positives: Defense is doing a great job creating turnovers right now. Really should have had one more in the game. We had the strip sack fumble. Should have had another one there.

Defense is doing a really good job of getting off the field right now. Had five three-and-outs, and they were 67 percent on third down, and then our offense did a much better job on third down, as well.

And then I thought protecting our quarterback. We had zero sacks in the game and we were able to get four, so I thought those were kind of big, deciding factors in the game.

Opportunities for growth. We’ve got to eliminate the critical errors and penalties, so we had an unsportsmanlike penalty, that would have been fourth and 24. We give them a first down. We can’t do those things. Then we had another personal foul on a second down run, would have been third and 11 and we gave them a first down. We have to get those things cleaned up.

And then offensively, we have to finish drives. I think we had two drives on Saturday that went for 12 plays or more, and we weren’t able to finish the way we should finish. So those are the things that really kind of jumped out after watching the game and making some corrections.

You know, going on to Maryland this week, and what Coach Canada has done there, pretty impressive. I know that place obviously very well. Been there for eight years. Coach Canada has done a really nice job. He’s very respected as an offensive coordinator. He’s obviously doing both, both responsibilities right now, doing a nice job. They have got 15 players back returning starters in their program. You look at what they are doing offensively; it’s Matt’s offense and what they are doing.

They do a great job, all the way back to when we played them when he played him when he was the offensive coordinator at Pitt: Motions, shifts, unbalanced, tackle over -- unbalanced motion with the x off the ball. They really try to create conflict that way. A lot of people are doing that through the RPO type offense. These guys are doing it causing conflict with their motions and shifts and trades and speed sweeps and fake speed sweeps and inside zone, pin-and-pull schemes. They do a nice job. They create a lot of conflict. They have an absurd number of explosive runs and that’s going to be challenging.

Obviously Anthony McFarland the last two games has rushed for over 200 yards and last week over 300 yards. We know Anthony really well. He’s a Dematha kid. He’s got over a thousand yards, 8.4 yards per carry, and he can run. I mean, he can flat-out run. I mean, you watch him on tape, he is fast, and makes a bunch of big plays for them.

Then they have a receiver, Jeshaun Jones, freshman receiver is doing a nice job for them, as well, both in the receiving game and in the running game.

Defensively, Andy Buh, as well as Matt Barnes, I think it’s kind of a combination of those two guys. Matt Barnes calling the defense from what we understand, six returning starters. High motor, physical unit that flies around. A lot of speed in that area and it shows up on their roster.

Base front. They are going to play four-down as well as an okie (ph). They are going to base out of one-high, but you’ll see also combinations of quarter-quarter-half, as well as quarters coverage and then they pressure a decent amount, as well.

I think the thing that jumps out about them defensively is turnovers. They rank fourth in the Big Ten and 14th overall and I think they have got 18 interceptions on the year, so that’s going to be the real challenge in the game.

Impressed with Jesse Aniebonam, the kid out of Silver Spring, a kid that we are familiar with as well through the recruiting process. Plays defensive end. Been very productive, as well as the linebacker, No. 25 Antoine Brooks, and then Darnell Savage, the safety, who seems like he’s been playing there for ever, a kid out of Delaware, doing a nice job for them.

And then special teams, Matt Barnes had that title. The way they have reconfigured their staff, I would assume they broke special teams up at this point, but he had the title going into the season; is doing a nice job on special teams, as well, especially in the return game. They got explosive guys in the return game, multiple touchdowns, kickoff returns, and things like that, not only from this year but from previous years.

Javon Leake, the running back, has a long of a 97-yard return for a touchdown. Ty Johnson, long with 98-yard return for a touchdown, and then linebacker Chance Campbell is very productive, as well as wide receiver Taivon Jacobs, who I have known his family for a long time. There’s been a bunch of the Jacobs’ boys.

That’s about it. Again, hope everybody has a wonderful Thanksgiving; the callers that are going to call in, as well as the people that made it into town this week.

Last point, I would say it’s a great opportunity for our players go get a bunch of rest this week, to catch up academically this week with them not having classes. So our guys are doing community service, they are getting extra sleep and they are watching more film.

So in some ways, this is one of the few weeks we get where our guys are almost like NFL players.

So open up to questions.

Q. Do you remember the first time you saw Trace play in person or on film, and what did you see that prompted you to recruit him?HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: I don’t know if it was one thing that necessarily jumped out to us when we watched him.

I think it was -- typically, when you kind of write down all the factors -- when we recruit quarterbacks, we watch the tape and that’s one thing.

Trace, we were fortunate because we were able to watch him, which isn’t typical nowadays. You got to see him play on both sides of the ball, on the defensive side of the ball and safety, as well. His transcript was impressive. Mom and Dad was impressive. We got a chance to watch him throw in person. We were impressed by that.

But for me, it’s a lot of other things, too with that position. It was what was his win/loss percentage in high school. You know, state championships, completion percentage, touchdown-to-interception ratio.

To me, when you’re trying to evaluate the quarterback position, you’d better look at all of that and then when you look at all of that, you know, I think you’d better be careful because the guys that have a few checks, but those checks are really strong: Really strong arm, you know, great body, whatever it may be, but they are missing a lot of the other checks. Those guys in my time, they don’t really pan out.

You want to get a guy who is very well-rounded, and has been able to produce at a high level for a long period of time. If not, you’re taking on risk. For us and Trace, you know, the one thing that he didn’t pass was the eyeball test. You know, he’s not 6-3, he’s not 6-4, but I think we also see now in today’s football, there’s a lot of guys in the NFL and college that are playing at a high level that don’t fit the old cookie cutter presentation that people used to have probably at the quarterback position.

Q. What are some of the keys to coaching defenders to diagnose misdirection plays and all those pre-snap shifts and motions?HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: I think in a lot of ways, it’s like option football. You may be responsible for the A gap, but then you see the motion fly by and the guy fake it and you start to kind of drift out of your gap. Then all of a sudden, here comes that ball screaming through your A gap and we’re not sound.

So it’s guys being disciplined enough to say, I’m going to do my job and I’m going to trust my teammate is going to do his job. So if I’m the force player or if I’m the contain player, or whatever it may be, A gap, B gap, C gap, whatever it may be, I’ve got to do my job and I’ve got to do it consistently.

What they try to do with all those things is create a little doubt, create a little hesitation and then that hesitation, usually with that motion shift, is formulated or planned out to try to create leverage on blocks.

So now you hesitate on the back side, and now all of a sudden that guard-and-center combination or that guard-and-tackle combination are able to work up and get a piece of you, because the motion or the shift made you hesitate.

So now the blockers up front get better angles and leverage and now they end up, you know, having a running back who averages almost nine yards per carry.

Q. Do you know about how the speculation between you and the USC job got started, and how would you like to address it?HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, first of all, I guess it’s that time of year where all this stuffs happens. It’s that time of year. It’s the crazy, mad time of year, where these type of things happen.

So as you guys know, like always, we’re focused on Maryland completely, 100 percent. I don’t even think it’s fair or right to even be talking about that job from, everything I understand about it, but we’re completely focused on Maryland.

Q. About Trace. I know this year in a lot of ways has been harder for him than, maybe, say last year, the injuries, the receivers. What has impressed you most about how he’s handled the second half of the season, and how do you think he’s going to do Senior Day for you?HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: The way I kind of look at Trace is -- I don’t know if Trace in some ways, you know, we’re kind of kindred spirits and souls; I don’t know if anything has ever come easy to Trace. He’s had to battle and work for everything he’s gotten his whole career.

I think he’s made for this. I think he’s built for this. It’s kind of like we talked about on Saturday after one of those touchdowns. I just said to him, “Hey, we’re just going to grind through it. We’re just going to work through it.”

I think that’s kind of how Trace has been. He’s earned everything he’s gotten in life. No one’s given him anything. He hasn’t been in a situation -- I think different than this his entire life.

So I think he’s built for these type of things. I think that’s why there’s so much confidence and trust in our locker room and coaches with him, because all he knows how to do is walk in a room with a chip on his shoulder and prove people wrong and overcome adversity.

I couldn’t be more impressed, but I’m not surprised by it. I’m not shocked by it whatsoever. He is built for this, and he’s a self-made man in a lot of ways.

Q. I know the goal is always to go 1-0 every week, but this week is there any emphasis on the fact that going 1-0 could get you into possibly a New Year’s Six Bowl and keep you alive for a third consecutive ten-win season?HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: No, not at this point. But I will tell you this, this senior class, you look at what they have been able to accomplish at Penn State. They came to Penn State at a very tough time, we all did, and really battled and worked like crazy to work through it.

You look at their record, the senior class, I think all things considered, maybe one of the most impressive senior classes in school history, all things considered.

You look at what this senior class has been able to do in the Big Ten era. If you just take the Big Ten era, you look at what we’ve been able to do and what they have been able to do over the last three years, this year and the previous two years in the Big Ten era, pretty impressive.

We’re going to take it 1-0, there’s no doubt about it. But I do think that there’s an awareness and there’s an appreciation for what this senior class and what these guys have been able to do over their time here. Some of them are four-year guys. Some of them are five-year guys. It’s pretty impressive.

When you take all things into consideration, which, you know, I don’t know if a lot of people do all the time, and I think they should with these guys.

Q. The personal foul penalties, hasn’t been that much of a problem for you, but is it harder to coach that now where you want players to be aggressive not to the point of violence but there’s targeting and a lot about the rules that tempers or hinders that. Is it harder to coach than it used to be?HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: I think since we’ve been here, we’ve been a pretty disciplined team. We had a stretch for a couple weeks where we weren’t, but overall -- I think last week we had three penalties, so we’ve done a good job of it. We’ve just got to eliminate the ones that are drive-changers, you know, that keep people on the field and those types of things.

Yeah, I think the rules are the rules. So you’ve got to embrace them and you’ve got to coach within the rules, but you can still be as aggressive as you used to be. You just have to lower your target. You just have to lower your target which is easier said than done, I get that.

We want our guys to be as aggressive as they have ever been. The penalties I’m talking about are the ones that are controllable, stuff after the play that we shouldn’t be doing. You know, there’s going to be penalties that happen during a game that you’re going to live with because they are aggressive penalties.

We have talked about the targeting rule. I think we had one, it was at Indiana, where I think I said in the press conference afterwards, I don’t know what else I could have told the kid there. I’ve talked to the defensive coaches and the officials. If the running back is lowering his shoulder and head and he’s 18 inches off the ground, I don’t know how else you get to him.

There comes a point where you can’t get that low. I mean, try to do it yourself, in the living room or here in the press conference. Try to stand up and get that low to the ground. At some point your head has to go down.

I think it’s the right rule for football. I get it. But those are ones we’re going to live with. The guys that I think are leaving their feet and launching upward and using their helmet as a weapon, that’s a different story and I think everyone wants that gone from the game.

But I’m not one of these guys that like when that happens, and it gets called, I get it. That’s what we need to do to protect the game and to protect these student athletes. You’ve got to live with it. So I get that.

But I want our guys to play as aggressive as they ever have, but there’s no doubt, there’s a lot of time taken talking about how to do that under today’s rules.

Q. Seems like a good percentage of seniors will go through the tunnel on Saturday. What does their level of commitment over a four-year span of the program say about them?HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, it’s hard to put it into words what these guys have done, and obviously like the point you just made, especially the guys that have done it for four years, three years; a two-year commitment is still a lot.

You think about some of these guys and what they have been able to do to allow us to practice the way we want to practice. Some of these guys have actually earned significant time in games and that has been huge for us. Some of the guys are the guys in the locker room that are bringing energy and bringing perspective.

I think that’s one of the great things about college athletics and specifically football is you get 120 guys in the locker room from all different backgrounds, from all different perspectives, different ideologies, all these things, and you learn. You learn about yourself. You learn about them. You learn about their backgrounds. You learn about their families. I think it’s really important for our players that they hear other people that maybe had challenges or adversity or guys are able to go home with other people for Thanksgiving. We’ve got a bunch of guys taking other guys home for Thanksgiving because they are able to do that and other guys aren’t.

I think it’s the greatest melting pot in the world, is a college football locker room. I think there’s tremendous value in that, probably more than ever right now in our society. Those are the things that go on.

And you’ve got scholarship players, you’ve got walk-on players, you’ve got urban kids, you’ve got rural kids, you’ve got all these kids that sacrificed in different ways to allow the program to have the success that it’s had.

That’s kind of what Saturday is for me; the last time these guys will run out in the greatest stadium in college football, and give me an opportunity to spend 30 seconds with them and pay my respect to them, and then also do that in the locker room in front of our whole team.

Q. Zach Simpson is listed among those playing his final home game. Can you discuss his development there for you and the growth that he’s made?HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, we love Zach. Zach’s a great example. Mom and Dad have been awesome. They come to practice. I always see them walking into the games, and he’s a guy that legitimately has been in the two-deep for a couple years now. He’s a guy who has earned everybody’s respect; that the coaches have confidence putting in the game if we need to.

You know, he’s really done a nice job for us. In a lot of ways, we’d love him to come back. So a lot of these conversations -- they are somewhat strange conversations that you have to have because some guys have eligibility left and you have to ask them, are you planning on walking or are you planning on coming back and we’ve developed really good relationships with them. I think they understand that if they are not going to come back next year, that they have earned the right to go out and walk and have that experience.

So you know, I couldn’t be more proud of him, the way he’s worked, how much he’s contributed on special teams. He’s been fantastic. We love him, love his family and been a big contributor to our program.

Q. A guy like Koa Farmer, he’s been in an interesting situation where he’s ahead of the kid that everybody wants to see. How has he handled that situation, and can you talk about the impact he’s had with the program with coming from California early in the process to where he is now?HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, Koa has been unbelievable. His mom, his dad, his sister -- his sister is part of our program. She runs track at Hampton and is in an MBA program, a five-year MBA program. It’s the whole family. They have been fantastic. I know Coach Pry has a really strong relationship with Koa and the family, as well. There’s open communication.

But yeah, I think obviously Koa has done a great job in leading Micah since he showed up on campus and teaching Micah. Our guys are good like that. There’s some programs I’ve been a part of where a guy is trying to get some of your reps and I don’t want to help him a whole lot, which I also get that, but it’s not the right thing for the program.

Koa has handled everything extremely well. I think part of it is how Coach Pry has handled it, and I think Micah looks up to all those guys. Micah sees that, as well.

I think it’s been a real positive situation because Koa has earned the right to play and do what he’s been doing, and it’s allowed us to kind of slowly work Micah into a new position and kind of figure it out.

And I think, you know, I think you guys heard from Coach Pry the other day is he’s now starting to play like a linebacker instead of just a great athlete running around on the field. I think it’s been a really nice complementary kind of, you know, pieces right there for each other.

Koa has been fantastic. He’s been one of our leaders off the field, really, from very early on. He’s one of our leaders on the field. He’s maximized his Penn State experience in terms of he’s got a really strong group of friends that he came in with. He’s done unbelievably well academically. He’s had great support from mom and dad; have made the sacrifice coming from California to support him whenever they could.

That’s a great story. You think about all the way back to when we recruited Koa, and he got off the plane in Philadelphia and his flight to State College got canceled, and there was nine inches of snow and had to get a car and drive up here. I was like, there’s no way in heck we’re getting this kid, and then he said yeah. It’s been really cool, all the way back to our time at Vanderbilt.

These guys hold a special place with me, the senior class, because obviously a lot of these guys were either already committed to Penn State when I got the job, or, or, were committed to me at Vanderbilt and came with.

So it’s an interesting group. What’s weird, next year will be the first year where the entire team is guys that we recruited. This is the last class of kind of a split. Johnathan Thomas was a guy who was committed and we fell in love with Johnathan when we got here.

It’s been unbelievable. It’s been kind of a neat mix of the old and of the new, and these guys have been kind of the glue that have held this thing together.

Q. Going off the mix of the old and the new, what do you remember about those moments where you had to make those phone calls to guys like Trace and say: Hey, I’m not at Vanderbilt anymore, and what do you remember now about how they responded to that?HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Well, it’s funny, because we do the shares. We do the shares now where the guys get up and talk. I guess I did know it but I forgot. A lot of those guys were really mad because they were committed and then we left and then we came here and that was at a time where a lot of things were changing here on our campus.

So literally, the entire staff, we couldn’t be in the Lasch Building. I remember I go over to the Lasch Building, like the only person there. They wouldn’t let the assistants over because they had not cleared HR yet. It was madness.

We couldn’t call recruits for a certain period of time until we cleared because we couldn’t be calling on behalf of Penn State.

So we didn’t talk to these guys from the time we left Vanderbilt to the time we actually cleared here for like a week and a half or so, and now they are mad at us, because they are like, they are kind of left out, stuck in between all of that.

I remember sitting in, I guess it was the Penn Stater, and we were all kind of stuck in that room for however long it was, and you know, fortunately when we were able to get these guys on the phone and kind of explain the situation, most of them were really good.

But some of them, it was a battle, and feelings were hurt and things like that, but it’s hard to explain to a 17-year-old kid about HR and clearing the paperwork and those type of things from a compliance standpoint, as well as a university standpoint.

To be honest with you, I don’t know if every place does it that way. They just start calling. So you know, it was interesting. There’s no doubt about it, but there’s a lot of stories that are told from the staff, that was all here during that time. It was a complete scramble, complete scramble.

I think, what was it, January 18th or something like that, somewhere around there, 16th, 14th, something like that, and signing day obviously was February. So it was a complete scramble.

Q. Taking you back to the Iowa game, an observation. It seems like there have been more new formations or new plays over the last couple of weeks, maybe three or four weeks. Is that a fair thing to say? And then, how has that story gone of adding new plays to the offense and Ricky Rahne, or the offensive staff, in general, do you feel they have taken more ownership of it and tried to make that grow versus what it was before?HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I would say it’s probably very similar to how it’s been for the last three years. We’re going to have our base things that we always do.

And then each week, we’ll major in something more than the other, based on what the defense does and opportunities that presents itself, and then we’ll always have a few new wrinkles that aren’t a whole lot different for us, but we think will cause a little bit of conflict on the defense. We’ll always have a little bit of that in.

Now, depending on how the game goes and you run those things and have success with it, you do more of it, or not. You know, some plays and some designs are made up for different segments of the field, so this is for the fringe zone; once we get to that area where we feel like we have a first chance to score points and once you work to the red zone and things like that.

A lot of it deals with timing and kind of the flow of the game, as well. But we typically for the last three years have always had it kind of set up that way where here’s a couple wrinkles that we haven’t shown, here is our base offense that we’re going to run, and here are things we’re going to major in based on what they give us.

A lot of times they are breaking down formations and when you break down the formations, it’s interesting. This formation, the efficiency is higher than this formation so we probably should major in this formation because plays in this formation seem to give them more problems. Why, because of leverage or angles or green grass or whatever it may be, and same thing with personnel groups.

When you’re coming up with a game plan, that’s how it always comes and you try to study people that run a similar offense that you do because they are probably going to try to defend it in a similar way. It’s not a whole lot different than what we have done in the last three years. It probably has just seemed like that but it’s not a whole lot different.

Q. Trace said back in April that it was weird to look across the ball in spring practice and not see guys like Jason and Marcus and Grant out there. Is it going to be weird for you -- you have two more games with them but is it hard to envision Penn State’s offense without Trace?HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think in a lot of ways, yes, especially on game days. But you know, there was a transition before Trace and I told you guys that we had a lot of confidence in Trace and what the future held for him.

And I think, you know, there’s still a very similar feeling that way with Tommy and Cliff. Those guys have done some really good things and Levis is kind of in that direction, as well.

Yeah, I think whenever you’ve had a guy start as many games as he started, it’s going to be a transition. It’s going to be different, there’s no doubt about it. But I do think we’ve seen enough evidence in games and enough evidence in practice. I think there’s a lot of confidence and excitement for the future, as well.

Q. Is there anything about Maryland’s offense or about Anthony McFarland that has allowed him to be so prolific in the last couple of weeks to have the back-to-back big games that he’s had?HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think the things that I kind of already stated with their offense. They do a really good job with the misdirection in terms of the trading, shifting, fly sweeps, fake fly sweeps, inside zone.

They try to give you a little bit of misdirection. Try to get you hesitating for a second so now their offensive line and tight ends and get leverage on their blocks, and all of a sudden he comes screaming out of there and he can run. I think he’s a legitimate 4-3 guy.

So the combination of what they do and they have got a playmaker carrying the ball, it’s problematic. I don’t think there’s any doubt about it and now they have got the quarterback starting who is also a guy that can make plays with his feet, as well, it’s challenging, and they have done this. They have done this against a number of opponents.

It’s going to be a challenge and what we have got to be able to do is boil is down for our guys that they are confident with the responsibilities and don’t get caught up with the drapes or the paint or the shiny things that try to get your attention and really try to focus on what they are actually trying to get accomplished.

Q. Could you talk a little about Senior Day and what it means to you and the players?HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Okay. Senior Day is obviously a special moment that we get to recognize these guys as their last time playing in Beaver Stadium.

Obviously these guys, whether they have been here four years or five years, been through a lot, came in here at a challenging time in Penn State’s history and put the program on their back and just went to work, you know, with so many other people, coaches and people in this community, and lettermen and people that work on campus and in the athletic department.

To think about what these guys have been able to accomplish in their time here and again, I think when you look specifically to the Big Ten era, I think it’s pretty impressive what these guys have been able to do. You look at the data, just the raw numbers and they are impressive, but also how these guys have conducted themselves.

I’m really proud of how our guys have done in the classroom, how our guys have been in the community, all of it, academic All-Americans, academic all-region. Guys that got drafted in the NFL, guys that didn’t get drafted in the NFL, free agent made the practice squad and had to earn their way around, guys that are working in Corporate America.

There’s a lot of stories; 21 stories are going to walk through that gate on Saturday for the last time, that’s one of the things I mentioned after the game, I’m hoping, I know we’ve got some parking issues -- and I don’t want to get into that because trust me, I’ve gotten a lot of messages about it. I don’t want to get into the parking thing.

But I think these seniors deserve that stadium to be sold out and rocking to pay respect to them, and we’re going to need it, as well. We’re going to need it to go 1-0 and get another win this week.

Q. Half this team wasn’t here when Trace was, you would say, at his best or was doing the sorts of things that Trace sort of built his legacy on. When we do you sometimes think people have, for all of the skill guys you’ve had and the flashy guys you’ve had, have sometimes overlooked the value he has brought to the table over the three years he has started?HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: I think early on, I think you got a combination of both. I think early on, you had Mike Gesicki making these wild plays and DaeSean Hamilton and Saeed Blacknall and Saquon Barkley and so on and so forth. We’ve had a bunch of guys that did some spectacular things.

I think early on, he probably didn’t get enough credit, but when you talk to other college coaches, when I see college coaches on the road recruiting, when I see college coaches at the convention, they will always say, this guy is special. This guy does this well. This guy does -- but it starts and ends with your quarterback.

I think people within the business that we talk to, I think get it, and then all those guys leave, and Trace for a good portion of the year, while those guys are trying to get adjusted and figure things out, he’s carrying a lot of weight on his shoulders, probably too much weight.

I think early on, he probably didn’t get enough credit, and probably now, he’s probably getting too much criticism. That’s kind of the life of the head coach and of the quarterback.

But he’s been just spectacular. He’s been fantastic, as a kid, as a player, as a leader, his whole family, they have been phenomenal.

I think when it’s all said and done, I know how that stadium will react for him on Saturday. I know how he’ll be looked on in this program for years to come. I think legacy is as strong as it gets, my opinion. I’m biased, but in my opinion, I think as strong as it gets.

Q. I feel bad I’m the only one not asking questions about Senior Day, but I wanted to ask you about Antoine Brooks. What have you seen from him on film?HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: He’s problematic, I don’t think there’s any doubt about it. You look at what he’s been able to do: Explosive, powerful. That’s kind of how I look at these guys: Powerful, explosive, twitchy, and productive, and they play really, really hard. That’s the thing that really kind of showed up on film this past week, played really, really hard.

So I think that’s one of the things that you have to be careful as coaches is not all these guys come in the same package. Not all of them look like Yetur Gross-Matos. You’ve got Shaka; you’ve got all these different body types, but you’ve got guys that have got a chance to be successful playing to their strengths and coaches taking advantage of those strengths.

Q. You guys are one day shy of the early signing period being a month away. How you feel like you’ve balanced it, having gone through it a year, maybe have the rhythm down a little bit better since it was new last year?HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I’d prefer to talk about Maryland right now.

But yeah, I think last year there was a lot of unknowns about how that was going to go and in our mind, there really was only going to be for the most part one signing day, which was the first signing day and it pretty much played out that way. I think we’ll have a similar situation this year.

I think we’ll probably have a better idea after this year ends and be able to look at the last two years and kind of come up with some philosophies about it.

But I think after one year, it’s kind of difficult to say how it’s going to go consistently. But I think we’ve got a pretty good feel for it.