As the grizzled veterans of central Pennsylvania’s toughest beat shook the cold from their late autumn coats and entered the press room, they were greeted by approximately 100 students dressed in 1977 disco wear, huddled around a raised stage with lights in the floor. They moved aside, allowing the press corps a view of the scene, replete with 4-foot mirror ball. And as the synchronized clapping grew in volume, Head Bald Coach James Franklin stepped to the stage. David Jones briefly started to “Latin Hustle” forward, but his friend Bob Flounders wisely pulled David back into the crowd, and let James move.
And friends, James can move move.
And Then The Presser Started
HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Okay, so Michigan State players of the game, just so you guys have them, on offense was pat Freiermuth and on defense was Lamont Wade and on special teams, we actually had three: Blake Gillikin, Dan Chisena and Andrew Hartlaub. I think Andrew Hartlaub and Dan Chisena have been fantastic all year long, really embracing their role. Our ability to pin people deep through Blake’s punts, and those guys covering down has been excellent. So want to make sure we give those guys some love because they have been great.
Kind of getting into Minnesota, I’ve gotten to know P.J. pretty well over the years. He’s done a great job. You look at what he was able to do at Western Michigan, you look at what he’s been able to do now at Minnesota, it’s hard to not be impressed with what he’s been able to do.
They were returning 17 starters this year, so I had a lot of confidence coming into the season based on that, you look at offensively, Kirk Ciarrocca, who is a native from Lewis Barry, went to Redland High School, I’ve known him for a long time, has done a really good job.
You look at them offensively, it’s probably the best offensive line that we have played. They are massive, I mean, massive. The right tackle is 6-9, 400 pounds and not skinny, if that’s -- if that’s -- excuse me and not heavy, if that’s even possible to say. The guy next to him I think is 6-5, 350. They have the biggest offensive line I think in the country, college, including the NFL.
Best wide receiver group we have played. They are going to play a mix of ten personnel, 11 personnel, 12 personnel and then we’ll get into some heavy packages with an extra lineman in there, as well.
Guys we have been impressed with, the quarterback is very efficient. He’s very accurate. He manages the offense really well. They have got a lot of confidence in him. He’s playing at a high level right now. Rodney Smith, the running back, seems like this guy has been playing there for ever; he has. He’s been there for six years, and really doing a good job for them.
Then wide receivers, Tyler Johnson, as well as Bateman. Really could name all their wide receivers. They are playing extremely, extremely well.
Defense, another Pennsylvania guy, I try to track all the Pennsylvania guys across the country. That’s something I always try to be aware of, but Coach Rossi has done a great job. He’s now I think going into his second year, really a year and a half, because I think he took over at the midpoint from last year. He’s from Pittsburgh, went to Pittsburgh Central Catholic, which is where Coach Limegrover went to high school, as well.
They are a base front, four-down defense. They are going to play variations of two high, quarters and quarter, quarter half. They will mix some cover one in there, as well. They play extremely hard on defense.
I have a huge man-crush on Winfield. I think he’s playing on a really high level, their safety. Five interception, runs the alley, is physical, just playing really good football right now. Their linebacker, Martin, is playing extremely well and then Carter is a legacy there, playing really good at defensive end, does a lot of different things for them, runs extremely well.
Then their special teams coordinator, Rob Wenger, they do a nice job. Play good, complementary football, offense, defense, special teams. They have one returning starter, their punter, and Smith is doing a great job as a return man and then they have a graduate transfer DB transfer from Michigan, a Canadian kid, Benjamin St. Juice, if I’m saying his name correctly. Their DB No. 5 is a gunner on the punt team and is a problem. Has been very effective.
I look at them as a program, started out the year with some games against the jackrabbits and against the boys from Fresno and found ways to get wins. As the year has got on, like good programs and coaches do, they keep getting better. They just keep getting better. They know how to win. They play probably a style of football that you don’t see much anymore.
He wants to dominate time of possession with their offensive line. Literally, if they get up by a lead early in the game, they are going to start milking the clock already. They are going to try to suffocate you with their offensive line, with their style of offense and with time of possession.
They have been unbelievable on first down. You look at their numbers on third down; their numbers on third down are great because their numbers on first down are great. They have very little negative yardage plays, tackles for loss, sacks, things like that, they stay on schedule and are very efficient.
Defense, they are able to get a bunch of turnovers and special teams, they do a great job of complementing the offense and the defense. It’s going to be on the road against the 13th-ranked team in the country at 12 o’clock. That’s going to come at us fast.
So looking forward to the opportunity. And got a lot of respect for Minnesota, their football program, their coaches and what they have done so far this year.
Q. What was the team’s primary focus during the bye week? Did you accomplish what you wanted and did it come at a good time for you?HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: I think the first thing is rest and recovery. I think the older I’ve gotten, I’ve gotten a little bit better at that. My answer for everything is more and that’s not always the right answer.
So during the bye week, the rest and recovery was as important as everything. Our normal Monday off, our normal Sunday practice before that, and then Tuesday and Wednesday, we were able to get some good-on-good work and then really spent some time on individual, because sometimes as the season goes on, you have to cut the individual work back to make sure you get all the game plan-specific reps done to get your guys prepared for what they are going to see.
Been able to amp up the individual work, plenty of individual work and good-on-good work against each other and some of the young guys scrimmages, which is great.
The travel squad guys were able to have off Thursday -- Thursday, Friday, Saturday. The non-travel squad guys were able to have a practice on Thursday which was great. Something that we’ve done now for a while. Allows those guys to get a little bit of extra work and allow them to get a little bit of extra attention and allows the GAs to really coach, so that was great.
Then we got back in here on Sunday and got back to work again. So rest and recovery was probably the biggest thing and then from a coaching staff perspective, we were able to go back and study some of our tendencies, self-scout ourselves and then we did a little bit of self-scouting across the ball. So allow our offensive guys to look at our defense and vice versa, same with special teams. Some value in that.
And then be able to get on the road in recruiting, to make sure that we continue building for our future. I thought we had a really good bye week. Got a lot done. Got a lot done here in Happy Valley. Got a lot done all over the country from one coast to the other and then we’re able to get back here this week.
Thought we had a really good bye week, but we’ve got to have a great week of preparation this week so we can go play well Saturday.
Q. How do you evaluate the play of your younger cornerbacks this season, especially the freshmen who have had to step in, and with Donovan Johnson, is that a situation where he might be able to return this season?HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Been very pleased with our young corners. We’ve had some bumps and bruises there where we’ve had to go deep in our depth there. I think those guys have done well. Marquis is a guy who would come up redshirting early on and he just has continued to get better and better and better and build confidence and build trust with the coaches.
So he’s a guy that’s playing and playing well for us right now. Ellis has been playing from the beginning of the engineer. We used Joey Porter a little bit, too. So feel really good about those guys.
Trenton is another guy that’s coming off a redshirt. Has done some really good things for us, as well. Then the two old guys are leading the pack and leading charge, so I think all those things have been great.
I think as the season has gone on, the coaches have gained more and more confidence in those guys, and I think those guys have gained more and more confidence in themselves. We’re going to need them. We’re going to need them down the stretch and we’re going to need them this week, playing probably the most talented wide receiver group we’ve faced this year.
Q. What’s your sense regarding John Reid and Noah Cain’s availability Saturday?HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, John Reid and Noah Cain’s availability Saturday, we’re expecting them to go.
Q. I know a couple times already this year, you mentioned how good your locker room is; you’re in a good place right now. That’s something obviously we don’t see a whole lot of. Can you just talk a little bit more about why you would say that, the value of that? Has that been hard to develop at all?HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think it’s the leadership. We don’t have a huge senior class, but I think the leadership’s been really strong. I think you look at the leadership council, you look at the captains, those guys have been really good.
The term I use all the time is culture drivers. I think there’s alignment between the coaches and the players. I think we made some changes in the off-season, nothing dramatic, but just some subtle changes.
One of the mistakes that I made a year ago is when the NCAA cut back the amount of practices that we could have during camp. They cut out five practices, I think is what the number was, and that gave me some anxiety.
So typically we schedule some surprise off-days in there and things like that and I didn’t do it, losing five practices, and I think it affected morale and a lot of different things. Little subtle things like that can go a long ways, so we plan for those things.
I just think there’s been really good discussion in both directions. There’s been really good leadership. I think we’ve got some older guys now that have kind of seen different situations. They have been a part of great wins. They have been a part of tough losses. There’s growth that comes from all of it, as long as you approach it and embrace it the right way.
I think probably a really good example was the other night after that game, we had some things go on that I wasn’t real pleased about, and you know, maybe when I was a younger coach, I would have went into the locker room and been a little bit emotional, but I sat back in the back room and kind of got my thoughts together to make sure we handle that the right way and the coaching staff was a big part of that, too.
Just things like that. I don’t think people realize sometimes how fragile it all is, and how strategic you need to be with messages and every day you’ve got an opportunity to get better and you’ve got an opportunity to get worse.
You know, we have been fortunate. There’s been adversity that has hit, but I think the locker room has handled it well. I think the coaches have handled it well and we keep growing.
I will say that’s probably come with age and experience, as well. Try not to overreact to things as much. We are just in a good place. I think the coaches’s relationships with the players is really strong and vice versa. We’re able to have tough conversations with guys. We’re able to hold guys accountable and they don’t like it, but they understand it. We’re in a good place.
You’ve never -- you’ve never arrived, because as I said to you guys before, you know, we’re responsible for 120 18- to 22-year-old males and there’s always something going on, and that’s academically, that’s athletically, that’s socially, that’s all of it. We’re just in a good place but we can’t ever take that for granted. We have to keep working for it every single day.
I left Philly on Thursday -- I left here and went to Philly on Thursday morning and recruited and it was nice, but I had a long-sleeved button down on and a Penn State sweater vest and later in the day, I ended up in Jacksonville, Florida and stepped off the plane and it was 91 degrees. So it’s hard to prepare for both.
What’s the weather like there now?
Q. It’s pretty gloomy but it’s going to be in the 60s, low 60s.HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Today?
Q. Yeah, it’s going to get cold on the weekend just like in Minnesota.HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Thanks for the weather update.
Q. No problem. You mentioned in your opening remarks about Minnesota’s suffocating offense and the success they have had in time of possession and third down conversion and obviously your defense has to get off the field against them on Saturday, but what is the role of your offense on Saturday in keeping the ball away from them and sustaining drives during the day?HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: I think the worst thing that you can do is go into a game like this and try to change your identity and be something that you’re not. So we’re not changing anything.
We always want to be efficient on offense and convert on third downs and stay on the field and our defense wants to get off the field. You know, I think a lot of times, it’s funny when you talk about time of possession, everybody talks about the offense, especially when you run a spread, no-huddle style offense, but it’s both.
Defense has a responsibility to get off the field with turnovers and three-and-outs and offense has responsibility to stay on the field and convert, because this is the style they want to play, and part of our responsibility is try to get them out of the style they want to play and make the game go in a way they are not used to playing in. That’s challenging.
It’s very challenging to do on the road, as well and it’s challenging to do against opponent that’s had as much success as they have had and they are confident right now. That’s going to be a tremendous challenge, no doubt about it.
Q. The last time that you guys came off a bye and played a road game, which of course was Maryland, I thought your overall execution in that game from beginning to end in all phases was about as good as it could get, and so I’m wondering if there’s anything about handling the bye that fed into that, and anything that you maybe learned about that going forward that would be useful.HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Well, I think for us, for nine years now I’ve been doing, this we’ve tried to refine our process and our process has not changed a whole lot in nine years. But we are refining it and we are tweaking it and finding ways that we can get better and that’s from a coaching perspective; that’s from a scheme perspective; that’s a fundamental technique perspective; that’s from a sports science perspective; that’s all of it. That’s nutrition.
You know, all those little wins add up: How our guys sleep; that adds up for us. How our guys eat, the quality of food, the type of food they are getting, those things add up for us. The information that I’m able to get from the sports scientists in terms of where our team is and when we need to practice harder, when do we need to condition more, when do we need to cut back, all those things, there’s value.
So our process really has not changed a whole lot in nine years, but it has been tweaked. It has been refined. We’ve gotten better. We’ve gotten better in how we’ve practiced. We’ve gotten better in how we prepare. We’ve gotten better in how we handle a normal game week. We’ve gotten better in how we handle a Friday night game through experience and trials. We’ve gotten better in how we handle bye weeks and then how we come off of the bye week.
It’s all of it and what I try to do is I got a great staff of coaches and trainers and doctors and our academic people, and like I said, the sports scientists and nutritionists, all these different people and what I’m trying to do is get as much information as I possibly can get from them and our players, and then in the off-season, some discussions with some other coaches and other programs, and come up with the best plan for Penn State. I think we’ve been able to do that.
We’ve got to go do it again on the road against a really good opponent in this conference, which isn’t easy to do, but I do think the experience we had of playing a ranked Michigan team at home, there’s value in that.
Going on the road at Iowa and playing at night in Kinnick Stadium, that stadium has been a nightmare at night for a lot of people and we found ways to win there. Not that necessarily those wins do anything specifically for us against Minnesota, but there is some confidence that comes from that.
I’ve never been there. Haven’t been to the stadium. Haven’t been to this venue, so trying to get as much information as we can on what to expect. What’s the wind like in the stadium because the wind is different in all these stadiums; what’s the temperature going to be like; what’s the locker room going to be like, just so we can plan and be as prepared. The fact that we haven’t been there before, some of those things are a bit new to us.
So looking forward to the opportunity. It should be great. It should be a great -- I would think it’s going to be a great environment. It’s going to be great for our conference. It’s going to be great for college football. Love the fact the game is at 12 o’clock. That should be great, too. So looking forward to it.
Q. Your name occasionally comes up with the media starts talking about jobs around the country. Curious if that bothers you at all, stuff like that that’s thrown out there during the season, and do you ever feel the need to talk about that stuff with your players or does everybody just try to ignore it?HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: As you know, we work very, very, very hard at staying focused on the task at hand. That’s with everybody.
Whenever anything comes up, we try to address it. Make sure everybody kind of understands where we’re at with everything, with coaches, with players, with recruits, with all of it. But we try to stay as focused as we possibly can on the task at hand. All those things -- all those things that take away from that, we try to stay away from as much as we possibly can.
I’ve also heard P.J.’s name mentioned for a bunch, so you guys could spend a lot of time calling him and talking to him about it and their program.
But we love it here. Really enjoy coaching these guys and don’t really see that changing any time soon. But you know, looking forward to playing Minnesota.
I would love for all you guys to call, though, call them, all week long.
Q. Got his number?HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: I got his number. I’ll give it to you. (Laughter).
Q. This seems to be about as stable as your offensive line has been at this point of the season. How important has that been to your offensive success, and how important is it moving forward to what you guys need to do?HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think your point is a good one. I think we have been able to be stable and consistent with the guys that are playing. I do think being able to get Dez some significant time and experience I think has been really valuable to us. I think getting both Mike Miranda and C.J. Thorpe time, I think has been really important. I think both of them have played extremely well. I think all three of those guys have played extremely well.
It’s allowed to us build depth. It’s allowed us to keep some of those other guys fresh, as well. We do have some guys that have been, you know, played a lot of football for us, and that experience, especially at that position, is really valuable.
Guys like Gonzo and Menet and Fries are just doing awesome in terms of how they practice, in terms of how they play, how they communicate on the sideline with our coaches; how they kind of set the tone in leadership with the younger players, as well, and help them learn and gain from their experience. All of it has been really good.
So we’re in a good place. As you know, when I got here that, was not the case. We couldn’t have been any further from that. I think we had six or seven scholarship offensive lineman when we got here, which is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever been a part of to be honest with you. We’re in a much better place but we have to keep building. You look at the best programs in the United States, they are really good on the offensive line consistent, really good on the defensive line consistent and you can’t really fall behind at those two positions because it’s too hard to fix it. It takes time to fix it.
The fact that not a lot of people are talking about the O-Line and I don’t get a lot of questions about it is a good thing.
Q. How important is it to keep up the success in the red zone?HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: We have to get there as many times as possible. We’ve got to get into the red zone as many times as we possibly can. It’s been an emphasis for us. We’ve been good at it. I think it’s a combination that we’re able to run the ball and throw the ball. I think the best teams in the red zone are able to do both and then that translates when you get down there.
But yeah, I think literally every aspect is going to be important, going on the road, and kicking field goals, is good, and important, but being able to go on the road and score touchdowns in the red zone is critical.
It’s hard to get down there, so when you get down there, you’ve got to make the most of it. That will be a story line of the game, there’s no doubt.
Q. You complemented Minnesota’s offensive line a little bit earlier, so I’m curious with P.J. Mustipher, how does he match up against a tough lineup and what do you see his ceiling with the snap counts?HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think you’ll see probably C.J. and Rob probably get between 15 more reps a game. Could be 20. Probably 15 more reps in this game. We think that they can handle that, we do.
You’ll see a little bit more Fred and a little bit more Judge and some of the other guys, too. That’s going to be a big story line for this game. I don’t think we’ve seen an O-Line like this this year, but I’d also make the argument that I don’t know if they have seen a D-Line like us before, either.
Q. Everyone is looking for speed at the receiver position, most likely. But when you have a guy like that who was as physical at the catch point, what stresses does that put on the back in a situation like that, and how have your defenders done against players like that in the past?HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: I think, you know, it’s interesting you say that, because you look at really all their offensive skill players and specifically the wide receiver position, they are big guys. None of them are really small. You look at -- you talk about 6-2, 205; you’re talking 6-2, 210, they are big. They are physical. Same thing at the tight end position. Same thing across the offensive line. They are built like I think how people think of Big Ten offenses.
John Reid is not the biggest corner, but he’s big enough and he’s crafty and he understands the game and he understands the body position and all of those types of things. That’s going to be a challenge. You know, it’s going to be a challenge with Castro and John and our young corners going against big, physical receivers that are playing at a very high level, and playing confident. The quarterback is extremely accurate. He puts the ball in positions for those guys to be able to go make plays.
Once again, I think this is the best wide receivers that we have faced this year. But I’d also make the argument, I don’t know if they have seen defensive backs or pass rush like we have been.
So especially with the RPO stuff that they do, the skinny posts, the slant on the back side of their reads, he throws it extremely well. They put people in conflict and then their receivers do a really good job of not only catching the ball, but run after the catch.
It’s going to be a challenge, there’s no doubt about it. No doubt about it.
Q. Do you get more family time than usual during the week off?HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: I wish. The biggest thing is we come in late in the mornings to allow coaches to take their kids to school and things like that, but not really.
You get the morning a little bit, and then some of the coaches weren’t on the road on Saturday, so they were able to have Saturday with their families, but I was on the road and some of the other coaches were on the road. Not as much time as you would think. It’s funny how many times people text me, family or friends text me and say, hey, what are you doing for your off-week, like, you know -- but it’s not really like that for us.
Q. In addition to speed and depth, and maybe that’s it, what’s made the defense so good this year?HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Speed and depth. I think the speed and depth has been a big part of it, but I also think last year we played a bunch of young players that this year are so much more experienced and so much more confident.
I mean, P.J. Mustipher playing as a true freshman, I thought he did some really good things, but now playing as a true sophomore, it’s a completely different scenario.
Micah Parsons, although he played a lot of football for us last year, he was still a first-time linebacker. He was still, you know, a first-time guy playing significant time.
Both of those guys now have worked in the starting roles, and the confidence and experience that comes with that. It’s really all of it. It’s Dotson, it’s all of those guys in year two, the experience that they have gained.
I also think our coaches have gotten better. They get better every single year. I think Brent’s ability to work with his staff, as well as Tim’s experience as a coordinator, I think they complement each other very well. I think we do a really good job of in the off-season of saying, okay, this is how we played last year and this was a strength and this was good to us.
Based on our personnel and our experience, how is the discovery of the Penn State defense for this season, how is it going to be maybe a little different than stylistically, are we going to play a little bit different; what does our personnel lend us to be, and I think we have done a good job of that. I think it’s a combination of all of it.
I think our offense, playing more 12 personnel, which is something that was very important to me two years ago when Ricky took over, to play more 12 personnel, I think has helped our offense. But probably more importantly is program-wise, I think it’s helped our offense on third down. It’s helped our offense in four-minute and short yardage situations. Our personnel has been a big part of that. We want to be great at the tight end position, and if you are great at the tight end position, you’d better have multiple of those guys on the field at the same time.
But the other thing is, it allows our defense to be more prepared for the regular season when it comes, because if you’re only seeing spread, if you’re only seeing ten personnel, if you’re only seeing 11 personnel, and that’s all you ever see, and then you’ve got to get prepared for a team like this that’s going to line up in heavy sets or 12 personnel or whatever it may be, and you’ve never seen it from a talented offense, on your own team, it’s hard to get ready for that in a week.
So I just think all those things really help. Kind of goes back to kind of how we were at Vanderbilt to be honest with you. We were more multiple. We were able to do a lot different things Saturdays from an offensive perspective, but more importantly, we are able to do a lot of these things that our defense is going to go against. They see it now during spring ball. They see it during training camp, and they see it in a limited amount against each other in practice, because even in a normal game week, we always go against each other for at least 15 to 20 minutes.
So I think there’s tremendous value in that.
Q. I don’t think anybody doubts the quality of the coverage guys that you have. It seems like a couple of the chunk plays you’ve given up, guys have been position but have never really turned around to make a play on that ball. Is that me being dumb and not knowing what I’m talking about or is there some truth to that? How do you evaluate how those chunk plays have unfolded in the single coverage situations?HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: No, you’re smart. You’re smart. You know that.
But I think the word “never” is a strong word. I wouldn’t say that. I think we’ve made a bunch of plays, but you’re exactly right. Those 50/50 balls, you know, you kind of brought it up, as well, those 50/50 balls against those big, strong wide receivers, it’s going to be more important they are more 60/40 balls our way, whether we come down with it or make sure that they don’t.
But part of it is getting them off balance. They haven’t really been off balance very much. They are in manageable third-down situations. They are usually playing with a lead. So they are doing very little drop-back passes.
When I say that to answer this question, because if they are running the ball effectively, and staying on schedule, and able to mix in an RPO throw or a max protect shot down the field where the quarterback isn’t under pressure, he’s comfortable in the pocket, and now they are able to create conflict with a playaction or RPO, that eliminates maybe the underneath coverage or your safeties from being able to help over the top, and now your receivers are truly one-on-one. That’s hard to stop. That’s hard to stop.
And us, us keeping them off-schedule as much as we possibly can, I think is going to help everybody. That’s not how they want the game to go.
So I think your point is a good one, but you look at the NFL, you look at that game last night, you look in major college football, that’s a tough job. I’d say the best athletes on the field and all the players will get mad -- I’ll be fighting them all in the team meeting saying this, but I think the best athletes on the field are the corners. Why? Because there are times by scheme; there are times by people putting people in conflict and the type of people that they need to cover. That’s as tough of a job as there is.
They are having to cover probably the offense’s best athlete and they are trying to do it everything backwards. So it’s a tough job, and that’s why those guys have to have short memories, and have to be extremely confident. But also, I think your point is a good one to the part where they better have ball skills. The best DBs I think you’ve got are the guys that could legitimately play wide out for you, because when the ball is in the air, they are very comfortable, they confident, and they think the ball is theirs. Castro is like that. John is like that. Keaton was a high-level high school wide receiver. Marquis may be the most like that. Marquis -- there may not be anybody more confident than Marquis, and he thinks when the ball is in the air, it is his, every time. You know, Trent is doing a good job with that, as well. That’s an area we have to continue to build, but it’s tough. It’s a tough responsibility and task.
Q. How do you balance the need or desire for the program to promote where you guys might end up in the college football rankings tonight for fan excitement or recruiting, but also going back to what you said earlier about the guys stay focused on the task at hand?HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Don’t do it. I could be wrong, but I don’t think we’ve ever done it and will not. We are completely focused on Minnesota. Preseason rankings mean nothing. Middle-of-the-season rankings mean nothing. At the end of the season, people will count up where we’re at and where they have us and tell us where we’re going to go and we’ll be excited about going there.
But we are completely focused on Minnesota, and trying our best to be 1-0 come Saturday afternoon, come Saturday night, against a really good team, ranked-team, undefeated team, on the road, that plays winning football.
All that other stuff -- I don’t think we need to create excitement. I mean, you know, we have some excitement. I go walking around campus, there’s excitement. We don’t fill up 107,000-seat stadium without -- without excitement and without as good of support as there is in the country.
The best thing we can do is focus on the task at hand and be the best version of ourselves and dominate today. We are going to go out and have the best meetings we’ve ever had. We’re going to have the best practice we’ve ever had. I’m going to lead the way the team needs me to lead. I’m going to have energy. The coaches will have energy. We’ll maximize the meetings, all of it. That’s what I believe, and have believed this for a very long time.
Kris told me some of the guys in the press conference today or in the phone calls, Walker, Kris said was awesome, got some asked questions -- got asked questions about the stretch and this and that and Rasheed kind of understands how we go about our business and our process.
I think our guys more importantly, they are not just saying it because that’s how we answer questions. They believe in it. They know if we spend our time focused on Penn State and preparation, that preparation will lead to confidence and that confidence will lead to us being able to go out and execute on Saturday at a higher rate than Minnesota executes. That’s all it’s about. It’s about preparation, leading to confidence and confidence leading to execution; and the team that executes more on Saturday will win. It’s that simple.
Q. Going off of Greg’s question, at what point did you feel like --HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Running backs?
Q. Not today. Unless you want me to.HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: That’s two weeks in a row.
Q. Might be three. I don’t know.HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Huh?
Q. Maybe. Going off Greg’s question about --HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Not just out of spite. She want to change the question.
Q. I don’t want to now -- at what point do you feel like the team, the program, bought into the 1-0 thing? I know you talked so much when you got here about breaking down walls and getting buy-in. I could be wrong but I don’t think that happened overnight?HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: No, it didn’t happen overnight. I think I’ve said this before. I think as young people, you think there’s only one way to do things in. My 48 years, I realize there’s a lot of ways to be successful. It’s a lot of different styles from a leadership standpoint. There’s a lot of different ways to get it done. This is the way that we choose to do it because it aligns with my personality and my leadership style, and we try to ingrain it into the players as well.
I think it’s also -- we can’t lose sight of the fact that the things that we are trying to teach in football, they really should and better align with things that are going to allow these guys to go on and be successful in life. That’s really why we are supposed to be doing this.
I think sometimes as fans and media, and sometimes as coaches, we lose sight of that. That’s important.
But I think probably, you know, early on in that -- early on in that year we won the Big 10 Championship, I think it started to be kind of ingrained in who we were, and has kind of grown from there. I think this off-season, I think it’s helped, as well.
The reality is, is you can have these philosophies all you want, but you’d better live them. You’d better ingrain them, and then you also better be willing to change.
The guys that we’re coaching now in the locker room are very different than the guys when I first got here, are very different than the guys at Vanderbilt, are very different than the guys when I first got into this profession. Our society has changed. The guys have changed in how you motivate and how you educate is important.
I think we’re in a good place. I don’t think guys are reciting things. I mentioned to you guys early on that I thought we were memorizing the core values; we weren’t really living them. I think we’re doing that.
I think maybe early on, guys were, you know, saying “1-0,” but not really living it and believing it. I think our guys are now. The reality is, you only have so much energy to spread around.
Our belief is if you can focus all your energy on the task at hand, you’re going to be the most successful doing it. A lot of the other things are outside of your control, anyway, so why would you even do it. You’re just going to from us taste yourself and spend energy on things that won’t help. That’s what we try to do.
The world is complex enough. The university and the classes and the challenges are complex enough. Their families and home lives are complex enough. We want to try to make it as focused and as clean and as efficient as we possibly can, and you know, we have found that this is a very useful tool in doing that.
Q. Last time you guys played, you were 2-2 and the program was struggling. Since that game, you’re 37-7 I think if my math is right. Talk about the trajectory that win would set your program on.HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: There’s been a lot of things you think about from that time. You’re talking about being 2-0. You’re talking about how the stadium was. I remember it very clearly, how the stadium was, and how the stadium was with me and how the stadium was with the team. I remember that very clearly. I probably always will.
You talk about the record since then. I think if you look at -- if you look at from that game and from that year, moving forward, if you look at the coaches that have been doing it since then, there’s very few that have won more games than we have as a program since that point.
You know, we’re part of a pretty good company. Now, there’s coaches, Ryan Day is doing a great job at Ohio State and you look at coach at Oklahoma is doing a phenomenal job. The coaches that have been doing it since 2016 and the programs that have been in place; there’s very few people.
I’m very proud of that. I know how much hard work went into that, from our players, from our staff, from the administration, from President Barron, from the board, taking some really hard looks at ourselves and saying, where do we need to get better, me doing the same thing, all of us. There’s been a lot of hard work, blood, sweet and tears poured into it.
So I’m very proud of it. I think whenever you can point out some things and have some conversations with people that illustrate some of the success, and some of the adversity that you’ve been able to overcome, I think is important.
To be honest with you, I don’t know if it’s talked about enough in my opinion to think about how far we have come in the last eight years. It’s remarkable. To me, it’s not -- it’s not talked about enough.
So I’m very proud of it. It’s interesting, as we went out and did some trips this summer, went and visited some people, and even our own people, you kind of sit down and you say, you know, bullet point one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, of what we have been able to do in the last six years and what we have been able to do specifically in the last three years and people are like, I wouldn’t have known that, if you didn’t tell me.
So we probably could do a little bit better job of that. We’ve got a pretty amazing story that we should be very proud of, but again, all that stuff is wonderful and we’d better go 1-0 Saturday. FastScripts by ASAP Sports ...
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports