Coach James Franklin welcomed Central PA’s beat writers to the press room wearing an elegant, late 18th century Viennese suit of clothes, in a brilliant OSU-red with gold embroidery, and a powdered wig of the same era. His eyes, sullen and war-weary, yet warmly empathetic and affectionate, begged the crowd silently to sit.
Once assembled, but without even a murmur between them, Coach and the press corps locked eyes, frozen in place. Seconds passed like hours. A whirlwind rush of mute communication swept through the room, too frenzied, too raw, too brutishly blunt, despite the still silence, for any possible understanding beyond base, naked emotion. Schemes, quarterbacks, timeouts - this rusted scaffolding of ordinary press conferences blown away, replaced only by barbarous, ripped-bare, thumping, soundless emotions - fear, anger, joy, disgust, sadness, surprise, misery - omnipresent in each man’s pounding heart. Their tornado of tension raged toward an explosive crescendo - broken, finally and mercifully, by Coach Franklin, as he gently whispered only one line, and that in Latin.
“Manifesto, lacrimosa dies illa qua resurget ex favilla judicandus homo reus”. Then, with a subtle nod at SID Kris Petersen, the music began, reservedly at first, before boiling over us in a tidal wave.
And Then The Presser Started
JAMES FRANKLIN: Again, like always, appreciate you guys coming out. Also appreciate the beautiful weather that we got today.
Just quickly, players of the game from last week, on offense we ended up going with our offensive line. Really all the guys that played: Will Fries, Des Holmes, Steven Gonzalez, Michal Menet, Mike Miranda, C.J. Thorpe and Rasheed Walker.
Des Holmes being able to rotate in and play this year, that’s been really valuable for us. Then obviously the same thing, being able to rotate C.J. Thorpe and Mike Miranda, played his best game on Saturday.
Sunday, kind of looking at who are those next wave of offensive linemen that will be able to do that with for next year, guys that may or may not be starters, be able to rotate in. I think that’s been valuable for us this year.
On defense, Micah Parsons. On special teams Jake Pinegar. Really appreciative and proud of those guys.
Getting into Ohio State, obviously Ryan Day has done a great job. Excited about the matchup. We’ve obviously had great games the last three matchups. They’ve been decided by you’re really talking five points.
If you go back all the way to 2014, they won the national championship, our first year, took them to double overtime if I remember correctly. We’ve had a lot of competition with these guys. We’ve played them probably as well as anybody over that period of time. Obviously not good enough. We’ve got to take the next step.
I’ve known Ryan for a long time. Got a lot of respect for Ryan. I think he’s doing a really good job. Happy for him.
Kevin Wilson, offensive coordinator, although Ryan Day calls the offense, Kevin has the title. Obviously Kevin has a tremendous amount of experience as a head coach in this conference, as an offensive coordinator, multiple different conferences. Very, very respected as a football guy.
Scheme, they’re predominantly an 11-personnel team probably 75% of the time. They’ll also mix in some 12-personnel. They get in multiple different formations to run, whether it’s zone read, their stretch read, some of the split flow zone.
They thrive on explosive plays. At the quarterback position, in the passing game, obviously the runningback is having a tremendous year, the tight ends as well. But they are explosive, as explosive as any offense in the country.
A bit impressed with their offensive tackle Thayer Munford, who we recruited, is really playing well for them. Justin Fields, who we know extremely well, is doing great for them. His touchdown-interception ratio is really impressive.
J.K. Dobbins, we recruited him as well. Very impressed with him, what he’s been able to do this year, really over his career.
Then their wide receiver, No. 17, Chris Olave, doing a really good job as well. There’s a number of guys. Obviously whenever you point out a few guys, there’s other guys you could mention, too.
On defense, they have co-coordinators in Greg Mattison who has been doing it for 43 years, been very successful both in the NFL and in college, then Jeff Hafley, as well. Known Jeff for a long time. Has had a really good career. Obviously those two guys have made a significant impact for them defensively this year.
They’re a base four down front. Coach Johnson does a great job with their D-line. That continues to be the case this year. Their D-line sets the tone for their whole defense.
Where they are different, they’re predominantly a middle-of-the-field closed defense this year. They’re going to have a safety in the middle of the field almost all the time, which is somewhat unusual now in college football. But they’re going to play some variations of one high, cover three, cover one, whether it’s pressure, whether it’s man pressure, whether it’s zone pressure. They do a really good job of disguising it. It all starts out looking the same, then they allow those guys to play fast.
Obviously Chase Young is back just in time for good old Penn State. Obviously very impressed with him. Have known Chase, know his uncle, known Chase for a long time. Obviously is as impressive of a player on tape in the country. Before the games he missed, people were talking about him for the Heisman and things like that. He jumps off the tape at you.
Then we’ve been impressed with no 39, Malik Harrison, as well as their corner, Jeffrey Okudah. There’s a bunch of guys that you could point out. So it’s hard singling out a few guys.
On special teams, Matt Barnes has done a nice job. Good on special teams, kind of taking over. They continue to play a similar style on special teams. Matt was with Tyler at the University of Maryland a few years ago, is doing a good job.
Guys that jump out to you is their kicker, No. 95, Blake Haubeil. Runningback No. 30, DeMario McCall, they use in the return game. Then also wide receiver, No. 17, we talked about Chris Olave, then Sevyn Banks are guys that jump out to you on film.
Obviously a great challenge going on the road in a venue that holds over 100,000. We obviously know home-field advantage that comes from those type of environments. Probably the most talented roster we’ve watched on tape definitely this year, maybe since we’ve been here. It’s going to be a great challenge.
I know our guys are excited about it. Practice today will be important, then I’ll get a chance to visit with you guys tomorrow after practice as well and have a better idea of how we’ve looked. But I know our guys are excited about it, and our coaching staff is excited about it. We’re going to have to go in and play well on the road against a really good ranked opponent.
Q. About an hour ago, Sean Clifford told us that he received death threats after the Minnesota game. Did he tell you, were the authorities contacted, and what does that say about fans and social media in general?JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I’m not going to get into a whole lot of it. Yeah, I was involved in it. I would hope I’m involved in any of these types of things where our players need support, then we make sure they get the right type of support.
Yeah, I mean, I was trying, and probably my wife told me I wasn’t so subtle after the game, but when I was thanking the positive, loyal fans, that’s what I was trying to do a little bit.
I don’t know. I don’t know where we are as a society. It’s concerning. We’re 9-1. We’re ranked in the top 10 I think. Have had a pretty good year based on most people’s standards. Sometimes you go on social media and you wouldn’t feel that way. The fact that our players are having to deal with stuff like this...
Remember before I got here, we had a little bit of an issue with Sam Ficken. It’s not just our fan base, it’s all over. I think a little bit of going to this playoff model that we’re in now I think has had an impact on it a little bit. I think the fact that everybody kind of has a voice and everybody has the ability to contact others, it’s concerning.
But I don’t know if I necessarily have the answers. It’s concerning. You see it everywhere. We laugh about it, not this incident, but I think the Eagles won the Super Bowl, the next game at halftime they’re getting booed. We laugh about those type of things.
I don’t know. I don’t know if I have an answer for it. But it’s troubling, there’s no doubt about it. It’s troubling. I think it’s concerning for all of us. I think that’s sometimes where I maybe get upset sometimes and maybe I shouldn’t, and I ask you guys some questions, that’s kind of where these things are coming from.
I know the power that you guys have. I don’t want you guys to take that the wrong way. I’m just saying that’s kind of where we are right now. Things get extreme. You hate to see it, but the sad thing, it’s a part of our reality of our society right now. You see that in a lot of areas.
The last thing I want to do is get into other things besides football right now. But you see a lot of things that are behaviors in our society now that we accept that I don’t know why we’re accepting. You see some things from a violence perspective. You see some things that people in positions, how they’re conducting themselves. Just a lot of things that we’re accepting in our society that we would never have accepted before, the things that parents have to worry about kids going to school, elementary schools. It’s just concerning.
Obviously football is just a very, very small piece, but I do think it’s a microcosm of a lot of other issues that show up in our society. I’m not sure why we accept it or why we think it’s okay. Whether you’ve had 14 Budweisers or not, I don’t see why it’s okay or acceptable.
Q. How early in the recruiting process did Justin Fields come on your radar? What were your first impressions from him from film and then meeting him in person?JAMES FRANKLIN: Obviously we were involved with him early, had a significant relationship for a long time. Obviously very talented guy. You come up with your list of things that you’re looking for in terms of characteristics, height, weight, speed, intelligence, release, accuracy, touchdown-to-interception ratio, win/loss percentage, all the things we look at when we’re evaluating and studying quarterbacks. Watching him in games, watching him in practice, throwing live. He checked a lot of boxes.
Based on what I’m seeing on film right now, I think we were right. He’s pretty good.
Q. What is your sense this week regarding K.J. Hamler’s ability for Saturday?JAMES FRANKLIN: Like I said last week after the game, we’re hopeful. Obviously we won’t know. There’s medical policies and procedures that we go through. We have to go through a series of steps and things like that.
But we were hopeful after the game. I still remain hopeful. Those decisions I don’t make. I won’t make them now and I never have since I’ve been at Penn State.
We’ll wait and see, but we were hopeful after the game. I still remain hopeful. Again, the medical professionals will make those decisions.
Q. Ohio State will be your third straight opponent that’s exceptional at throwing the football. What do you see as maybe the biggest issue or struggle you have had with Minnesota, Indiana in terms of pass defense?JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think to your first statement there, you look at our four-game stretch, whatever it’s been, I don’t know if anybody has looked at this, but I don’t know if there’s anybody else in the country that played a four-game stretch like this. I think we have the fourth toughest schedule in college football.
This is obviously another challenge, a team that throws the ball extremely well. A couple things. Obviously first of all you got to give Minnesota and Indiana credit. Really good job at the quarterback position. Really good job from a scheme perspective, from a talent perspective. Obviously all those things will be heightened this week, there’s no doubt about that.
Also we haven’t helped ourselves. There’s been sometimes where we’ve blown coverages. The reality is that happens with everybody. We’ve been unfortunate the times we’ve blown coverage, we’ve gotten burned, we’ve gotten caught for it. We have to eliminate those things as coaches, as players. You got to give those guys credit for being able to take advantage of it.
Obviously critical times magnifies it, as well, but those things have shown up, there’s no doubt about it. It’s a trickle-down effect. You may have a linebacker that misaligns which affects the safety which now affects the corner. One issue impacts the other. And vice versa. That’s what this week of preparation is about. We’re going to have to match their confidence on Saturday and we’re going to have to match their play making ability. That’s going to be critical.
Q. You’ve talked often about the importance of fundamentals and taking care of the little things. I was just wondering how you feel that’s gone this season, being 9-1, do you feel like you’re doing the little things better? How important is that on Saturday against a skilled team like Ohio State?JAMES FRANKLIN: I think overall, if you went from game one to this point, I think, yes, we’ve done a good job of that. Obviously there’s been some points where it has jumped out in certain games.
Again, I think if you look at it overall, good. I mean, you look at last game, we had one penalty in the game, and played pretty clean from an assignment standpoint. We had a couple that were critical errors that jump out at you. There’s no doubt about it.
Again, you can’t allow one or two critical errors to taint you as a head coach and where we’re really at. There’s no doubt about it, we got to fix those things. We had one penalty in the game. Even that one is kind of an interesting call. What I like is each week I turn in the penalties. More than anything, I want to make sure that I clearly understand the rules the way I understand them so that I can have the discussions with the staff and make sure we’re all on the same page on how the rules are enforced or interpreted, then do the same things with the players.
On that pass play, for you to get called for grounding, you have to be conserving time or conserving yardage. If they feel like you threw it away because you were under duress or were trying to conserve time, then it’s a flag. It’s a total judgment call.
I actually agreed with it during the game because there was no one there. It was an option route. Sean was accepting a post. Receiver ran a corner. Where I disagree was I don’t think he was under duress in the pocket. I’ll telling that story because that’s an example of the discipline.
The discipline is also being in a gap you’re supposed to be in the run game, being in coverage where you’re supposed to be if you’re half field responsibility or whatever it may be, man coverage on number two or number three. It’s making sure in the run game when we’re going on a combination block that the entire O-line and tight ends are coordinated so our double-teams are going to the right people so you don’t have the same double-teams going to the same linebacker and leave a linebacker unblocked. That’s discipline, as well, all the communication that’s going on.
I think overall good, but we’ve had one or two mistakes per game that we got to get cleaned up. Obviously the better opponent you play, the more talented they are, things like that, it magnifies. There’s less room for those types of errors. That’s what this week needs to be about.
Q. I noticed that Jan Johnson was not one of the finals for the walk-on player award. Earlier this week it was announced there were a bunch of tight ends for that award. I noticed that Pat Freiermuth was not one of them. Is there a lack of individual recognition for this team for some reason? Do you sense that at all?JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I mean, I try not to be the biased head coach at Penn State and try to look at it from a big picture perspective. I think when I get calls about things like that, I’m quick to throw praise at other teams in our conference or other people that we’ve played. I’m not sure if everybody does that, but we do that. I also try to look at our guys.
I can’t imagine that there’s a former walk-on in the country that has as interesting and as unique of a story as Jan Johnson and as successful of a story as Jan Johnson. I can’t imagine there’s eight tight ends in the country that people would choose ahead of Pat Freiermuth. Could there be a couple? Okay, I can live with that. But eight? No, no.
I love our guys. I want them to get all the attention that they deserve. Obviously our focus is on the team, Penn State football. But we are big believers that with team’s success comes individual recognition. I think those two guys deserve it. I actually think not only does it hurt them, I think it hurts the awards to not have those guys included.
They got great stories and they’ve earned it. But again, that’s coming from the biased head football coach at Penn State. In my humble opinion, they both deserve to be a part of that conversation.
Q. Ohio State has really moved Chase Young around when they had him, linebacker, defensive end. How important is it to pay close attention to what he’s doing? How difficult is that for a quarterback or an offensive line?JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, obviously Chase is going to make plays. That’s going to happen. We need to limit the impact that he has in the game. They’re smart because if you leave him at the same position the entire game, it allows you to have a plan and know where he’s going to be with a lot more confidence. Where if you move him around, it makes it a little bit more challenging.
There’s no doubt on every play, we need to know where he’s at and account for him. There’s no doubt about it. We will definitely do that.
Q. You always seem to choose your words carefully when speaking to the media. After last year’s loss to Ohio State, you used the ‘elite’ word. I’m wondering if by any chance do you have any regrets about making that statement given the undue amount of attention that single word has been focused on?JAMES FRANKLIN: Would you guys prefer me to not be so strategic and calculated in what I say, come in and just talk, wing it (laughter)? Wouldn’t you guys enjoy that. Kris would not, that’s fair (smiling).
I think first of all, I mean, there’s a fine line. I think you guys have gotten to know my personality over years. Kris tells me all the time I need to be more concise with my answers. But my natural thing is to come in and talk. I’m a relationship person. I’m a person that would rather over-communicate than under-communicate. Ask Scott and Sandy. That’s kind of how I’m wired.
I would prefer to do that. It’s not the wise thing to do, as Kris nods her head again (smiling).
What I said after that game, I can make arguments both ways. I could make arguments both ways that I’m comfortable and good with what I said, but I can also make the argument there’s things that are probably appropriate for me to say in the locker room, behind closed doors, that’s not appropriate to you guys in the media because how things can go. It can blow up into something more than what you anticipated it being.
I can make arguments both ways. I don’t wake up regretting that. Again, I could probably be a little bit more strategic, which you guys don’t want me to be, but probably makes sense.
Again, I think the thing I would say is, and this is something I believe very strongly, that we have very high standards and expectations at Penn State. I think that’s a great thing. I think that’s a great thing. That’s why I came here. That’s why recruits come here. That’s why we fill up a stadium of 107,000 fans the way we do, whereas across the country most are going down and ours is going up. People care. I think that’s great.
I have also told you that I look around the country and programs that have not been through anywhere near the adversity that we’ve been through, are having nowhere near the success that we’re having, and it doesn’t always necessarily feel like that, or the narrative is not that for whatever reason, I’m not sure why, but all the data backs it up.
Yeah, I think it’s a fine line. As I’ve stated before, I’m very proud, I’m not satisfied whatsoever, trust me, I know our fans aren’t either, but I think if everybody would take a deep breath and look at the big picture, everybody walking around that’s associated with Penn State, the university, the athletic department, the community, and football, and be very, very proud of what our guys do off the field, what our guys do on the field, and maybe most importantly what they do in the classroom. Should be very proud because it’s very difficult. Just look around. It’s very difficult to be successful in all of those areas at the level that we’ve been.
Q. How important is it to have two left tackles that you’re very comfortable playing going against the kind of pass-rush you’re going to see? Do you go into a game thinking you’re going to play one guy X amount of snaps or is that a feel thing as the game goes along?JAMES FRANKLIN: So I would actually say we have three. I think Will Fries, we think is playing at a really high level right now. We have three guys that could do it.
But, yeah, I think it helps. We typically have a plan going in. It hasn’t changed a whole lot at the guard position. Hasn’t changed a whole lot at the tackle position where we want to make sure we get Des at least a series a half.
There’s that fine line that you want to make sure those five guys build enough chemistry working together because they’re not five independent contractors, they’re one unit that needs to work together and be on the same page.
But also Des has deserved the chance to play. It also keeps those guys fresh. I think it’s a good mix.
Obviously just like at the runningback position, if someone is hot, we have the ability to stick with them. But our rotation on the O-line has been pretty consistent all year long.
Q. You may have already sort of answered this, but when you’re talking about the coverage, some of the breakdowns you’ve had recently, when you were reviewing the film, how do you differentiate between a trend or an individual isolated mistake somebody might have made on the play? You talk about the cascade of things that happens. How do you address, if it is a trend?JAMES FRANKLIN: I think it’s the point that you’re making. Is it a trend? A trend is the same mistakes showing up again and again, and not a completed pass. It’s this has been completed because this coverage or this player blew the coverage.
What I try to get everybody to understand from my perspective is, okay, you got a go ball. The ball drops right over his shoulder on the outside part of his body away from the defensive back, we had tight coverage, we actually are holding the guy’s inside hand, and he catches it. You live with that. You shouldn’t overreact to that. You shouldn’t freak out.
We had great coverage. Our guy is on scholarship. Their guy is on scholarship. The quarterback made a big-time throw, and the guy made a big-time catch. We were squeezing him on the sideline. You live with that.
The stuff you can’t live with is a blown coverage from an assignment standpoint, or not using the right fundamental or technique. Because we didn’t, we get burned for it. That keeps showing up after we correct it.
If it’s a corner one play who makes a mistake, a safety the next play who makes a mistake in terms of blowing a coverage, or a technique, it’s different guys, don’t take this the wrong way, it’s still got to get fixed, I’m not saying that, but that’s the difference between a trend and a good player making a play or different players getting beat, and good opponents taking advantage of it.
That’s to me the difference in the point you’re making. Is this a trend when we go back and look at it. I wouldn’t necessarily say that’s the case. We’ve made some mistakes that we can’t make. We’ve played good enough opponents that they’ve taken advantage of it.
Q. Do you think the type of athlete that you are able to recruit now has shifted or changed over time given your success on the field coupled with what Dwight has been able to do?JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think yes for a lot of reasons. For just how the narrative has changed from when I first got here to now, that’s had an impact. Going from I think when I got the job we were averaging 95,000 or 94,000 fans at games to 106,000, that’s had a factor in it. The success we’ve had on the field has factored into it. All those things, facilities, so many things that factor into it.
I will say this. I’ve said this before, I think we’ve always had good players, but now we’re getting to the point where we have more depth, very similar to what we’re talking about at runningback right now. I would come in here every week and you guys would be asking me about Noah Cain, Noah Cain. Trust me, it’s coming. But I think we’ve also shown this year is when you get in a situation where Noah may not be 100% for whatever reason, you have a lot of confidence in the guys behind. Here is Journey Brown that’s rushed for a hundred yards, multiple games in a row. Ricky Slade is doing good things, especially in the passing game. Devyn Ford, so on and so forth.
I think that’s where things have probably changed, is the depth that we’re starting to create. I think the next step for us, there’s still some probably dips where some positions don’t have the depth that is needed, where there’s less of those. When we first got here, we had good players, we just did not have the depth. Right now we have more of it, but we need it more consistently across the board.
Q. How would you assess Clifford’s handling of his emotions in games over the past couple weeks? Is there an extra emphasis on that this week with the tough environment, the fact he’s playing in his home state for the first time?JAMES FRANKLIN: I think that’s evolving. When you’re a first-time starter, that’s very different than being a returning starter or a three-year starter, whatever it may be. It is.
I think he’s kind of gone on this journey where finding the sweet spot of what’s right for him. Some guys need to be really emotional and play with that edge and that chip. Other guys are going to be calm, cool and collected. Other guys are going to be in between. That’s different for everybody. I think Sean has been on that journey this year, finding that sweet spot for himself.
This week and the emotions, I don’t see it a whole lot different. I do think him going on the road to Iowa and having success helps him. I think going on the road to Minnesota and not having success handled the right way helps him. The most important thing is he played in a state championship game in that stadium. There’s nothing that gets you more prepared. That’s going to be a very similar environment to that, right? No (smiling).
Yeah, for me to sit here and say I’m going to be able to prepare Sean for what it’s going to be like exactly, no. We’re going to do everything in our power to get him ready for what it’s going to be like. But I do think the Iowa, the Minnesota helps. Again, 102,000 is a little bit different.
Q. Since you raised Cain, you were forthcoming about him. Are you optimistic about Cain this week?JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I actually think we could have played him last week, I think I said that to you. It didn’t make sense on the health that we have with those other three guys. Obviously every week that goes by that he doesn’t play, the likelihood and the chances of him being closer to 100%, happen. Yeah, we’re hopeful. We were hopeful last week. When I talk to you on a Tuesday and I haven’t really seen him practice, we kind of see how it goes. Again, by the end of the week it just didn’t make sense based on what we saw.
Also I think it factors in where I’ve tried to explain to you guys, as well, if Noah Cain was to returning starter in year three, you may let him go without practicing all week because the amount of football he’s played. But at this point I don’t know if you would necessarily do that.
My point is, my answer may be the same, but based on a young man’s experience, that could impact it, too. Does that make sense?
Q. Have you seen enough of a pattern with the noon start these last couple, also Pitt, a big window, anything to alter the approach, enough to raise a concern that you haven’t been what you want to be during these noon starts?JAMES FRANKLIN: Again, it’s a question that somewhat is a statement. We’ve been pretty good. I think we’ve been pretty good. But we’re not adjusting anything, there’s no concern. We’ve played really good opponents. We found a way to win nine out of the 10. We want to win them all. I get it. But nothing that we’re changing, if that’s what you’re saying.
Q. For the record, there was a question mark at the end of it (laughter).JAMES FRANKLIN: All of them are technically questions. You can put a question mark or at the end of it go up, make it a question (smiling).
No, again, to sit here and say that changes need to be made based on the success that we’ve had this year, I don’t know if I necessarily feel the way you do. We look at everything, night games, afternoon games, mid afternoon games, and make adjustments when we think it is necessary.
I think one of the biggest things that we have to make sure that we’re doing is how do we get our guys prepared the best to play the games that we’ve played week in and week out, opponent after opponent. Again, we’ve played as tough of a stretch as anybody in the country. That’s the most important thing to me, not necessarily the time of the game.
The last thing I want to say. The first time we played one of these games, I said something in here, you guys all knew I was kidding when I said about the 12:00 game. They just put the quote out. People just went berserk about the 12:00 game, when everybody in this game clearly knew I was joking. The quote goes out in black and white, no one watches the press conference, then it’s interpreted very differently.
Like, I can’t believe it. Why would you say that?
Q. Have you seen enough from Ryan Day to see if there’s a significant difference the way he coaches than Urban?JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think the sample size at this point is still relatively small. But obviously you look at Ryan’s career. I don’t want to sit here and say I know. If I had to guess from my perspective, the two biggest influences probably in his career, Chip Kelly and probably Urban.
Ryan had a lot of success before coming to Ohio State. Obviously he’s fortunate to take over a really good program at a point in time where it was healthy and driving. Why would you change a whole lot, specifically when his handprints were already all over the offense?
I think the biggest change is probably the personnel change, staff changes that he made when he got the job. They’re probably the most different on the defensive side of the ball in terms of scheme. Besides that, I think special teams are very similar. The offense is obviously the same because he was running it the last couple years. The defense is different.
How they recruit, where they were as a program, all those types of things, I think it’s similar. Why wouldn’t it be obviously? He took over a program that was already in a pretty strong position.
You see his fingerprints on the program, there’s no doubt about it. But the biggest change I’d say is on the defensive side of the ball.
Q. Speaking with Micah postgame on Saturday, he was looking back at the development of the ‘18 class, him and Fields. The what ifs. As head coach, it was detailed in that process, is it hard to shake off some of those years when the kids on the opposing sideline, he’s a problem as a matchup, is it hard to shake some of those feelings from the recruiting process?JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, yeah. The losses on the field are hard to shake. The losses in recruiting are hard to shake. You put so much into them. There’s no doubt about it. That’s where my conversations with the administration about competing for everything, because when you lose a recruit, you want to know why. When you find out what those why’s are, you want to try to eliminate them as much as you possibly can. When you have losses on the field, you try to figure out what those why’s are. That’s what you work so hard during the week to try to eliminate those things.
It’s competing year-round. I think that’s where the football thing is maybe different, is the level of competition year-round for everything. At the level of where we’re at and the expectations and standards of where we’re at, you have to be willing to compete in every single area, every single thing.
So, yeah, it definitely bothers you. Your point is a good one. It’s magnified when you lose someone, they go to somewhere else in the conference, and now you have to compete against that guy for three or four years. Yeah, I guess it’s really no different than if he goes anywhere else. It’s in your face, it’s more obvious.
Q. How does the anatomy of a game plan change when you’re playing a team that you said might be the most talented roster you’ve had versus some team that falls on the other end of that scale?JAMES FRANKLIN: So, again, trying to be strategic here, because I don’t want to say anything that gives things away to what we’re going to be doing on Saturday, if that makes sense. But basically you look at the things that they do well, and one of two things: how do you limit the impact of what they do well, whether it’s personnel or scheme, but also what do they do well that also could put them in jeopardy or at risk, and how can you use that against them, whether it’s someone’s overly aggressive, whether someone is not aggressive enough. You’re looking at those things.
The combination of those things that you see on film from them, then knowing who you are and what you’re capable of taking advantage of, that’s where those things factor.
I think one of the worst things that people do is they play a really talented team or roster, and you play conservatively. You can’t do that. I mean, we’re going to have to go there, we’re going to have to match their confidence, and we’re going to have to match their play making. Matching their play making isn’t just taking shots down the field, things like that. You’re carrying the ball as a runner, as a runningback or as a receiver, and they come up to make a tackle, they’ve made that tackle in the nine or 10 previous games, and you break that tackle and go for 40. That sends a message. You’ve made that tackle for 10 straight weeks, you didn’t make that tackle this week. You got to be able to match those things.
They bring a pressure that they’ve had a lot of success getting home on. We’re able to slide and pick it up, now take advantage of when they blitz, they’ve vacated a zone or left someone one-on-one, you got to capitalize on it. Same thing on defense.
For us to sit here and expect that Ohio State isn’t going to make plays on Saturday, they’re going to. Don’t be shocked by that. I’m not just talking to you guys, I’m talking to my team. That’s going to be my message to the team. they’re going to make plays, we got to match them. It needs to be one of those types of games, like a heavyweight fight. That guy delivers a blow, you counter. That’s what it’s going to need to be.
Q. On the depth chart, Justin Shorter moved around a little bit. What is behind that? Trying to maybe get him involved more in the flow of the game?JAMES FRANKLIN: I think what I try to do is, again, on Tuesday sometimes we put a depth chart out, and it’s early in the week. We want to go through that week and see how things play out, who we feel like gives us the best chance to be successful. Where they are on the depth in terms of first, second or third team, but also the position they’re at. A lot of times, I don’t know that by Tuesday.
With that, I think that’s exactly how we ended up playing it last week. That’s typically what I’ll try to do, is I’ll try to come in and say actually this is how it was last week, and we’re anticipating doing that again. Again, the week will play out. Come Saturday, we’ll have those discussions on Friday, then finalize them on Saturday, then go out and do it.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.
JAMES FRANKLIN: Thanks, guys.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports