James Franklin entered the press room unseen, from the shadows, and announced his presence to the startled media with a biting interrogative.
“What’s the Latin for ‘Roman’? Come on, come on!”
Coach Franklin reached down and grabbed Cory Geiger by the ear, pulling him up from his front row seat, and walked him to the white board at the back of the stage.
“The vocative plural of Romanus is...?”, James demanded of Geiger.
“Romani”, chirpped a disheveled Bob Flounders. Coach Franklin shot him a glance that said this was Geiger’s problem to resolve, alone. Turning back to Geiger, Franklin continued his interrogation.
“Conjugate the verb ‘to go’!”
Geiger couldn’t. He couldn’t do it in English at that moment, let alone Latin. There was no chance that he’d elicit the full ‘Romani ite domum”, and so a disgusted Coach Franklin shoved Cory back toward his seat in the front row, removed his Legionnaire helmet, and broke character as he addressed the crowd of bewildered media.
“Guys - this is the start of the 2019 college football season, okay! You expect our team to be ready to go. Well, I expect you to be ready to go. If I come out here wearing a 1st century Roman legionnaire’s uniform, and I ask you to conjugate the verb ‘to go’, you gotta come back with ‘imus, itis, eunt’.” Coach Franklin snapped his fingers with each conjugation. “There’s a standard, guys. And the standard doesn’t change. You need to get better, because frankly, this wasn’t good enough. It’s not championship level.”
And Then The Press Conference Started
JAMES FRANKLIN: Good to have everybody coming out. Obviously I’d like to start with a statement rejecting Dr. Lynch’s claims. We’ll continue to vigorously defend our program and all participants in this manner. As always, the health and well-being of our student-athletes is of the utmost importance to us. But after that, we’ll have no further comment, so I just wanted to make sure we covered that.
On positive news, academically, I don’t know if you guys saw we put out yesterday, very proud of what our guys accomplished this summer. And we’re talking about guys that took up to, I think, 21 credits in the summer; a couple guys with 18 credits, very similar to a couple summers ago. But with that, we had 32 guys earn from a 3.0 to a 3.49; 17 guys that earned a 3.5 to a 3.99; and then 11 guys that earned a 4.0 for summer school. So really proud of how our guys are handling their business, which is awesome.
Obviously getting into Idaho, we’ve never played Idaho before. There’s not too many things, when you talk about 2019, that you can say from a football perspective. That’s never happened before, so playing Idaho for the first time. Coach Petrino, I think everybody is familiar with Coach Petrino, his family. He’s got a football family, very well respected, in his seventh season, was conference Coach of the Year a few years back. They return 14 starters. I won’t get into a whole lot of the stuff that you guys are aware of, but Coach Cinkovich, the offensive coordinator, has been the offensive coordinator all seven years there. If you look in 2016, they had a phenomenal year offensively, really across the board. Spread offense scheme, but they will go 11 personnel, 10 personnel, 12. And then you’ll also see they’ll bring an extra tackle in on short yardage and go some 20 key personnel.
Their schemes that they love to do, they do a split-flow zone that everybody seems to be running now, the old-school power G, zone read, stretch weak. And then obviously impressed with their quarterback Mason Petrino, wide receiver, Jeff Cotton, and then wide receiver Cutrell Haywood.
Defensively, Coach Breske, fifth year as a defensive coordinator, Idaho, 39 years of coaching experience. Has been a defensive coordinator for a very, very long time. They’re a base front 4-2. They’ll mix in some three-down stuff on 3rd down. Primary coverage, you’re talking about some type of coverage, cover four, they will mix in some fire zone 33 or cover one.
Guys that we’re impressed with is their defensive tackle, No. 55, Rahsaan Crawford. If I have read this correctly, 297 last year, but I think he’s like 330 pounds right now is what I saw most recently listed. Strong safety, No. 25, Jalen Hoover, and then also cornerback, No. 5, Lloyd Hightower.
And then on special teams, Adam Breske in his first season as the special teams coordinator there. Impressed with their -- it’s something you don’t see very often, Cade Coffey handles both their kicking and punting duties, you don’t see that very often anymore.
We had a great camp. We’re as healthy as we have been after training camp in a long time. A lot of the sports science adjustments we have made after gaining all this information over the last couple years has been really valuable. So we’re in a good place. This is going to be obviously an important week of prep for us, and then go out and play well on Saturday and build confidence.
Excited about the opportunity, excited about Idaho coming in here. I think you guys know I’ve got some history with that part of the country, was a GA at Washington State. My wife went to Washington State. What I was told in my time out there is when Washington State and Idaho used to play against each other years ago, the loser would have to walk back to the other campus. They’re only about seven miles apart.
Excited about the opportunity, excited about the game, and open it up to questions.
Q. What was the deciding factor or factors in naming Sean Clifford the starter, and how did Will Levis handle the decision?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, Will handles everything extremely well. Mom and Dad were really good about it, too. Obviously disappointing. You want to be the starting quarterback, I get that, but handled it extremely well.
I think it really comes down to a lot of things. I think obviously consistency -- for us, very similar to when we named Trace the starting quarterback, the experience factored in. You’ve got an older guy who played in games, and really had competed like crazy and done everything that he needed to do from the time the season ended. But Will did as well. Will is very, very talented and has got a very, very bright future. But I think when it’s close like that, you’re always going to go with the older, more experienced player, and that’s really what Sean is and has done a great job. Both of those guys have earned all the coaches’ respect. Obviously he’s also earned all the players’ respect, and Sean was also voted as a captain.
So all those things kind of factor into it.
Q. Just sort of building off that, as a coach handled the aftermath of a quarterback decision. You talked about Will handled it pretty well, but we’re seeing across the country QB’s looking to transfer less than 24 hours after a starter is named. How did you approach that with Will?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Really no different where we are. Probably different at the quarterback position than we are at other positions is we’ll bring those guys into my office. So me and the offensive coordinator will bring them in, tell them the decision that’s been made, why the decision has been made. That’s how I’ve done it for years, you know, and see if there’s any questions. And then kind of keep it -- and then we ask -- we usually tell the one guy and we ask them to keep it quiet because we don’t want guys to hear about it until we’ve had time to talk about it. And based on academic schedules and things like that, sometimes you can’t meet with them one right after another.
So meet with both of them, and then obviously let the team know. Because same thing, I really don’t like the team as a whole or players individually to find out things online, through the media, through social media, whatever it is, before they’ve heard it from us. So we try to kind of have that process, that the family hears these decisions first before it’s announced publicly. So that’s how we’ve handled it for nine years.
For the most part, again, it’s never an easy conversation to have and there’s disappointment, but for the most part it’s gone as well as you could expect.
Q. In the off-season position games, closing games, and getting turnovers, especially fumbles. In what ways do you address those elements during training camp?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Could I get an in-house media translation?
Q. Finishing games.
JAMES FRANKLIN: Sorry, you were breaking up there, it’s hard to hear you.
Yeah, I think for us, I think your point was about finishing games and closing people out. I think the first thing is obviously playing well enough for four quarters that we don’t play as many close games. I think that’s the first thing. And then the other thing is obviously making sure that we are prepared both mentally and physically to handle situational football and understand how we’re going to play those things and our philosophy in all three phases. And then, obviously, build the confidence up that when those moments come, that we’re all confident to make the play when the play comes. And that’s coaches, that’s players, that’s all of us. So that’s what we’ve spent all camp working on and talking about.
I think those games the other night -- the first games of the season I think were really valuable. Our players all watch them, and then we come in the next day and kind of go through them. You know, what are common mistakes that show up in early games like that, that we have a process in place that hopefully eliminates some of those things, and then some positives. You look at the Arizona-Hawaii game, that defensive tackle’s play late in the game was a pretty good example of you could have a pretty good career off of effort and hustle and mentality. What a big-time play that is. If the D-tackle doesn’t get involved, that guy may fall in the end zone and go into overtime.
We try to take those games and break them down and cut them up and have discussions with the team about them, no different than we do with our coaching staff. Hopefully our players can learn from experiences we’ve had over 25 years or 30 years or whatever it may be. I think it’s been good.
Q. I wanted to ask you about your offensive line; what is the next step in the development of that group from the last year to now? What did you see in preseason camp that stood out to you about your line?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think obviously it’s building confidence, number one. I think going against our defensive line and our defensive ends every single day is something that we really embrace. Iron sharpens iron mentality, going against Yetur Gross-Matos and going against Shaka Toney and Shane Simmons and Jayson Oweh and so on and so forth. List out a bunch of guys, we’ve got so many guys that are playing at such a high level at the defensive end position. Daniel, Joseph, as well. We’re excited about Adisa Isaac. All those things are really valuable.
I can’t imagine we’re going to see a better defensive end group in the country.
And then I think the other thing is the way our defense plays in practice, blitz, and pressure. It’s a fine line as a coach because you want to build that confidence, but you also want to be able to go against challenging situations to force growth. But there’s a fine line in that, and I think that’s kind of -- as the head coach, you kind of balance what’s going in per day from an installation standpoint on offense, so our defense isn’t seeing unbalanced and empty and all these non-traditional things early on in camp. And the same thing, that our offense isn’t seeing every blitz under the sun when you’re trying to install base. So I think that’s where we’ve all got to work together on that.
But I think the biggest thing is instilling confidence in those guys, continuing to build depth. I do think we have a little bit more depth than we’ve had in the past in terms of guys that we think are game ready. I think we’re going to have three guards that are going to play, probably more of a rotation than we’ve done in the past. Not that necessarily our philosophy has changed, but more we’ve got three guys that we think need to play. Then the same thing at tackle; three tackles we feel good about as well, that those guys will play. And then hopefully as the season goes on, you feel good about four guards and you feel good about four tackles, and the same thing at the center position.
Hopefully getting Juice Scruggs back here soon will also help with that depth and rotation.
Q. Regarding the running backs, you talked during camp about the four, Slade, Brown, Cain, and Ford, and I wondered if there was a clear starter emerging from that pack or more of a running back by committee operation?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, we’ll have a clear starter in terms of the first guy that guys out. Ricky has earned that for a lot of the same reasons that I talked about at the quarterback position. But one of the things that we do as well, and I don’t know if we’ve talked about this before, the last couple years is part of our -- when we come out with depth charts, and part of our -- we come out with making decisions on who redshirts and who does not -- we have the players rank them, which is, I think, a really good discussion.
And a really good way to go about it is have the defensive line rank the defensive line. How do they do it? How did the receivers rank and the running backs do? I’d say more times than not, fairly consistently, the players see it the same way as the coaches. I wouldn’t say individual players always see it the same as the coach; the group does. And I think that’s been real valuable.
The running back room, saw the running backs the same way we did, that all four should play, but that Ricky Slade would be the starter, but we’re going to rotate those guys. We plan on playing all four, and then obviously either by game or as the season goes on, play whoever we think is hot. It could be based on match-ups, because we’ve got different styles. Obviously Noah Cain has got a very different style than Ricky, and there’s some games where that may make sense, or there’s some situation where that may make sense, four-minute or whatever it may be. We’ll look at all those things.
Q. I had a different question in mind, but what you just said about letting the players rank themselves is pretty interesting. How do you do that? Is there a formal process, or do you just kind of informally talk to them, and does it actually show up on the depth chart what the players have to say?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, so we actually have magnets in the room, so there’s -- this started with Terry Smith. Terry did this, and I found out and me and Terry got into a big discussion about it. It was something I thought was really valuable for the team, as well. We have magnets in there, so it’s the coaches’ ranking and it’s the players’ rankings, and we do the players first. But yeah, each room sits there, and Pat Freiermuth ranks all the tight ends, and Kuntz ranks all the tight ends and Bowers ranks all the tight ends. And then obviously whoever gets the most first place, second place, third place, fourth place votes is how it comes out. Again, it’s a really good discussion. I think a lot of times it’s great information for the players, because I think a lot of times when it’s just the coaches doing it alone, they will look at it and say, oh, well -- be able to rationalize or justify whatever is going on. But when they’re hearing it from their peers, and more often than not it aligns with how the coaches see it, there’s value in it.
It started with Terry, something he did with his guys, which -- a lot of guys that maybe are a little bit further down the depth chart and may be disgruntled, it really creates a healthy discussion. And then also it allows maybe those guys to hold each other accountable in the room and say, no, this is why I’ve got you ranked fourth or why I’ve got you ranked fifth. You’re not doing these things the way you need to do them consistently. And I think that feedback and that accountability, not just from the coaches to the players but the players within each other, I think that’s powerful. I think that’s a really powerful thing.
I think you should want your teammates to hold you accountable. You should want the coaches to hold you accountable. That’s the only way that you’re going to truly grow. I think it’s been a nice little addition to what we’re doing. We’ve got guys like Terry Smith -- we’ve got a fantastic staff. We really do. There’s been some good discussions recently, and our staff meeting is at 7:00 a.m. Gerad Parker had an experience the other day that he shared, I had him share with the staff, which was really good for us all to sit in there and discuss for a while. And Tim Banks brings great perspective. Got a really good staff like that.
When one assistant coach or one coordinator is doing something that I think is really valuable, as the head coach, I can kind of see it all and I hear it all. And there’s stuff that I’m going to steal from Terry Smith that Terry does real well that other guys may want to add to the way they manage their rooms. Or I’ll be sitting in the defensive installation meeting, and something that Brent does with the entire defense that I think, Hey, Rick this is something really good for the offense as well and vice versa. And maybe quotes, whatever it may be. There’s some really good stuff going on.
So a lot of times -- what you don’t want is there to be silos where you’ve got the receivers’ coach doing it his way or the defense doing it his way or the quarterbacks doing it their way. As the head coach, I kind of break into all those silos and say, Hey, these are things I think we’re doing really well, and here’s some areas we need to improve. We brought in a lot of different people from the outside, as well. We’ve had a lot of NFL coaches working with us this off-season. We’ve got NFL coaches with us right now currently.
We brought in educational specialists we’ve gotten to know over the years from a couple different leadership summits and things like that that sit in our position meeting rooms and talk about even just subtle changes in our language that create better learning environments for our players and for our team has been really valuable. We’ve had a really good camp and a really good off-season. Our chemistry and our culture is as good as it’s been in a long time right now. I’m excited about it.
Q. What kind of progress have you seen on special teams with Coach Lorig running things for the first time? Is there any specific differences like coverage teams or kickoff, things like that, that you’re particularly happy with so far?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Well, I think the biggest thing that I’ve -- obviously when we hired Joe, we did an analytics study, statistics on the top special teams coordinators in the country, and his name just kept coming up. And then it helped because I’ve known Joe for 15-plus years. We were roommates at Idaho state with Larry Lewis. So that helps. It also helped that his wife is a dairy farmer and that he loves fly fishing, and this area is pretty good for fly fishing. That helped, too.
But I think the other thing that really jumps out to me is he is a special teams coordinator. He lives it, he sleeps it. Some guys are special teams coordinators but they would want to be defensive coordinators. Some guys are special teams coordinators, but they want to be head coaches. This is who he is. He lives it, he sleeps it, he eats it. He is passionate about it. He’s got a plan for it. There has been a culture created in our program now. Our players have bought into it. There’s a lot of pride that we’re taking in it. To be honest with you, the schemes -- there’s some subtle differences, but really think it’s more just about how we meet, how we manage.
We do some unique things with how we meet and how we sell the -- CTG is what he calls it, change the game -- culture that we have in our program, and I think it’s been really good. I know the players are excited about it, the coaches are excited about it. It also helps that we’re not relying on true freshmen. We’ve got an experienced punter, we’ve got an experienced kicker, we’ve got an experienced field goal kicker, and we’ve got some of the best return men in the country, which is also part of it, as well. We’ve got the guy running it and we’ve got the pieces that we need to execute it, as well.
And then I think obviously our speed and athleticism on defense usually also helps to translate on offense as well as us trying to get more offensive players involved.
One more thing. I don’t know if I’ve given you guys -- have I given you all the guys that are green-lighted? Do you want that? So the guys that we’re green-lighting right now -- again, these things could change. Guys can go from green to yellow or yellow to green, but just green-lights from week one is Keaton Ellis, Adisa Isaac, Lance Dixon, Smith, Caedan Wallace, Noah Cain, Devyn Ford, Jaquan Brisker, Jordan Stout, and Weston Carr, which probably doesn’t make sense for him really to be on that list, but they’re the green-light guys.
Q. I wondered how you divvied up first team reps at cornerback in the preseason given you have two guys who played so much football and then behind them you have a lot of guys who are relatively young and how did those young guys do in pressure situations?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, so I think early on, we tried to play the guys that we think are the returning starters as much as possible because I think you can fall into that trap of saying, these guys are ready, where they still got room for growth, as well. So we try to do that. But, again, kind of once we feel like they’re in a good place and also the unit -- because that communication between the corners and the safeties, that communication between the outside linebacker, those things that need to go on and those guys need to get comfortable with each other -- we’ve got to build that chemistry of the unit.
But then once we get to a good point -- I think your point is a good one. We want to start cutting back the reps of the guys that we know who they are. They’ve shown it in games over a number of years. They’ve shown it in practice and in their preparation, and then you need to find out. To your point, we need to find out Trent Gordon with an expanded role. We need to find out Keaton Ellis and Joey Porter with expanded roles, and really the other guys, too, evaluating the Marquises and a bunch of those guys, evaluate them too and see where they’re at. That also determines whether they’re a green or a yellow or a red.
So we were able to do that obviously with John Reid as experienced as he is and with Castro-Fields as experienced as he is to give us an opportunity to evaluate those other guys, we do think it’s a position of strength for us. We felt like that last spring, we feel like that probably even more after this summer camp.
I think our recruiting class last year was good. We got a bunch of long guys that can run and can make plays on the ball. I think whenever we can recruit guys -- I think you’ve heard me say this before. The DB’s really should be high level wide outs and vice versa, and I’ve seen that go up. So we’re excited about it.
Trent Gordon, I think, is a guy that creates flexibility for us. He’s a guy that we think could be a corner and also a safety. I think he’s going to have a great career here, very mature, very mature approach, very appreciative of his opportunity here, so he’s a guy that we think could do a lot of different things for us.
And then obviously also when we get into our nickel, our star package stuff, obviously that magnifies also that third and fourth corners even more.
Q. For Lamont Wade, what are the biggest areas of growth and strength that he’s shown?
JAMES FRANKLIN: I think more than anything, Lamont is confident right now, and I think Lamont is comfortable right now. He has paid his dues. He has overcome adversity. He’s always been a playmaker. We’ve been very pleased with how he’s tackled this training camp.
I think -- him going up against K.J. every single day at practice, I think, has been really good for both of those guys. So I think he’s a year older. I don’t know if I mentioned this last time as well; the funny thing is a lot of times when these guys transfer either to us or away, a lot of times guys are coming -- like Stout, for example. He’s doing great right now. Well, is it the new location or is it just that he’s a year older and more mature? I think that’s also a little bit with Lamont. I think the amount of pressure that he came into this program with in terms of how he was recruited and rankings and all those types of things and expectations, I think all that adversity and all of those experiences really helped him grow.
At the time you don’t probably want to go through it, but I think looking back at us, all of us, we know we are who we are and where we’re at in life because of all those experiences. So I just think he’s in a really good place. I think he knows the defense inside and out. He’s an experienced guy. He’s a mature guy, and I think he’s excited and ready to take that next step.
Q. How difficult is the wait from maybe the bowl game leading into your first game of a new season, and how do you keep your guys kind of level-headed?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think it’s fine. You know, for me, I don’t mind it because I’ve got the whole thing mapped out, and I know there’s a lot of things that have to get covered. There’s so many situations in football. You look at those games last weekend, so many situations to get covered, and there’s really not enough time in one week to cover all those situations. Whether it is the last play of the game when there’s time on the clock and you’ve got to throw the pass and then toss it around with no one coming down with the ball -- whatever your term is for that play -- that you don’t get tackled with the ball in your hands; or whether it’s the kicking game at the end of the game from the Miami-Duke game. There’s just so many situations to get covered, wet ball, all the things, four-minute, two-minute, overtime, making sure your guys really understand all those situations.
So for me, it kind of -- it’s the right amount of time because we’ve got to get all those things taught and all those things covered, as well as our base offense and defense. I think that’s a mistake that I think a lot of young coordinators and head coaches make is if you’re not careful, you’ll spend all your time working on those things that may or may never show up during the season. If you’re investing too much time on those things, then you never get good at the things that you need to, your base offense, defense and special teams. It’s finding the balance of all of that.
But I do think we get to a point in training camp where they’re getting grumpy and they’re sick of going against each other. And the DB’s know our cadence and know our checks, and the offense has got a good feel of their tells on blitzes. And you just say, okay, we want to line up in Beaver Stadium and play. But we also try to change it up, from practicing in the morning to practicing in the afternoon, practicing in Beaver Stadium, practicing in Beaver Stadium at night, taking a break and going to the pool, different things so it’s not monotonous, if that makes sense. And I think we’ve found a pretty good balance of all of that.
Q. You mentioned a couple of these players a bit ago. At your star position you’ve got John Reid, Lamont Wade, Keaton Ellis. Those seem like three different types of players at that position. What went into the depth chart there, and are you looking for something specific from each of them?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, you know, I get what you’re saying, and you’re right from that standpoint. But really in a lot of ways the way they’re played -- John Reid has played the nickel, so that’s part of that, the star. Keaton is a guy that we would like to grow into that role. But also depending on how the depth chart completely plays out this week, who’s going to go into the corner spot when John Reid goes in to the star position.
And then Lamont, a lot of times when we’re in our man coverage scheme and we rotate the safety down, Lamont is a guy that a lot of times is lining up over the slot receiver anyway, so it’s very similar to what he does a lot anyway.
That’s part of it, and then we also think Lamont is a good blitzer. So it’s more that than anything.
Q. I wanted to ask you about a Harrisburg High guy that’s not named Micah Parsons. It’s rare. But Damion Barber, he’s on the second team, I think at nose. Could you talk about his progress since he’s got here and specifically maybe what you’ve seen from him this off-season?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, so his development as a football player has been impressive. You look at the amount of weight that he’s put on, learning a new position, gaining confidence in there, the size, the strength, the quickness. He’s had a really nice camp. He really has. And he’s grown up in a lot of different ways.
But I think you’re going to see him factor in. We’re in a situation at defensive tackle that we probably haven’t been in in a couple years where you’ve got Windsor and Barber and Hansard. That’s a three-deep that we feel good about with Shelton, Mustipher and Culpepper, and I think most of those guys will play. That’s a pretty good situation to be in. You talk about everybody being 285 pounds or bigger with three guys over 300 pounds, and then the speed and athleticism that we have at defensive end. So it’s a nice combination. But yeah, we expect him to have a good year.
Q. Can you talk about the challenge of the first game of the season and maybe equate it to last year where you guys got a real challenge out of your first game?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, yeah, so I think, again, you look at those games last weekend, they were unpredictable. In college football, we don’t have the preseason that a lot of those kinks get worked out. You’re talking about younger players and things like that. And then you’re talking about, depending on how your scheduling goes, whether it’s the conference schedule, it can be interesting. App State was a team that obviously we had tremendous respect for coming in, and they had a history of playing this conference tough in big games and upsets and things like that, and then this year Idaho.
For us, ultimately, it’s about us and our program and our preparation and our approach. But obviously you’d better have a really good feel of what your opponents do, their strengths, their tendencies, to be able to attack it. But really week in and week out, it’s really about us and playing up to our standard and how we do things, and then making sure that we’ve done enough of what we just got done discussing in camp and covering all those situations, especially when it’s magnified with a young team and a young quarterback.
I was watching that game the other night, they’ve got a young quarterback playing his first game, national television, all those types of things, and you know, whether it’s turnovers or whether it’s clock management or whether it’s any of those types of things, they tend to show up in those first couple games, and you want to make sure you’ve done enough to eliminate them.
Q. I was just curious on the player assessment, it’s unique; are they allowed to vote for themselves?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I don’t get into the specifics of like the rules of how they do it. Each room kind of does it their own way. But at the end of the day, I think it all kind of evens out. But yeah, whether they vote for themselves or not, I don’t get involved in that. Terry Smith probably does it different than Brent Pry. I know in captains, they can vote for themselves, as well. I don’t think very many guys do, but yes.
Q. Also, can you clarify Cam Brown? I know he has to sit out. Will he start in the second half, or has that been figured out?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, he won’t play the first half, obviously, because he’s been suspended for the targeting hit from last year, so he’s got to finish that out. But in terms of who starts the second half, we haven’t talked about that yet.
Q. Justin Shorter is reflected as a first-teamer at receiver. What did he do in camp to make you feel comfortable making that choice? And collectively in the receiver room from when Parker got there to where they are now, what are the biggest advancements you’ve seen?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, so with Justin, he just continues to get better. We look at his college career, which he told me, and his parents told me, very similar to his high school career. He’s a guy that just kept getting better and kept getting better. He’s had some -- in the past, not recently but in the past, had some injuries that have affected his development and his opportunities and slowed some of those things down. But I do think Coach Parker has done a fantastic job with that unit, very similar to how Lorig has been on special teams, his confidence, his experience, his knowledge of fundamentals and techniques to give our guys the ability to separate and route-running to being physical perimeter blockers to understand the scheme in the big picture. So it’s not memorizing routes; they’re learning concepts, which I think is always the best way to teach.
But I think obviously as you guys know, that position last year, as well as some other positions, maybe didn’t play as well as they would have liked. I think those guys are going to have a very, very impressive year based on what Coach Parker has been able to do. But also just, again, those guys are older and more experienced. K.J. Hamler had a really good year last year. He’s going to be better because of that. John Watson, the same thing. I actually believe the same thing about Shorter. The injuries and the adversity he had to overcome last year, I think is going to help him. Daniel George was able to gain some experience.
I think we’re in a situation again where we’ve got a two-deep at the very least and some positions three deep with Cam, Sullivan, and Brown that we feel very good about. Dan Chisena, I think is a guy that’s got a lot of buzz on our team right now, and Mac Hippenhammer, I would describe him as he’s just a ball player. He’s the guy -- he goes to play baseball, Coach Cooper doesn’t really know what to expect. Next thing you know he’s starting and playing well for them. We lose him for obviously all of spring football for baseball. Coach Parker has never worked with him and doesn’t know what to expect. Shows up, and he’s just one of those guys, he understands spacing, he understands -- he’s got great body control. He’s got tremendous ball skills. He’s just one of those guys. I can’t speak for baseball, but I think he’s got a very bright future when it comes to football.
You know, so I think you guys -- I think everybody will be pleased with that group and excited to watch them play.
Q. You mentioned the three offensive tackles, but Rasheed Walker is a guy you guys are still expecting a lot of. How did he fare during camp and how do you think it’s benefitted him because you’ve mentioned those ends as a strength so many times?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think Rasheed we knew was a very, very talented guy. You could make arguments that he may have been able to play last year for us but had a great off-season. He’s much more confident. He’s much more comfortable. Probably sounds crazy, but he’s a skinny 324 pounds. Very light feet. There’s a lot of things that really I would say kind of remind me with Caedan. Caedan, I think early on has shown a lot of things that Rasheed did, although Caedan is a lot bigger at this stage. But he’s just a big guy who’s got light feet, who’s got understanding about hand placement. He’s got understanding about leverage. I think he’s really reacted very well to Coach Limegrover’s coaching. He’s just one of these guys that really has embraced the process since he stepped on campus.
Between him and Fries, we feel really good about our tackles. And then Des Holmes, you talk to our defensive linemen, you guys will have a chance to interact with them, ask them about Des. Des is a big man, and he’s got light feet, and he probably has the heaviest hands of our offensive line. When he punches you, you feel it. I mean, it’s like two bear claws coming at you. He’s a powerful guy, and we’re excited about him, as well.
Caedan, Caedan would be the next guy as well as Bryce Effner. Those two guys are going to factor in. Bryce, we thing is kind of a guard wing guy, but we fell like we’ve got three guys at both those positions that have bright futures, and we’re going to need them. We’re going to need them. Caedan will factor in.
Q. You’ve said a lot of good things about Keaton Ellis over the past couple months, so was it necessarily a surprise to you the summer he had? Were you expecting him to work himself into that role and what did you like about him?
JAMES FRANKLIN: I think it’s just a combination. When you get a guy that’s got his length and ball skills, all the way back from high school, was a high school wide receiver, was really good. He’s also smart, and he’s mature. You know, I think the other thing that I think kind of jumped out to us early on was his playmaking ability and confidence. And then obviously graduating early, that helped him. That helped him. I don’t think there’s any doubt that extra time.
But again, he’s just got a combination of traits. He’s long, he’s fast, he’s quick, he’s athletic, he’s put on some good size. You look at him physically, he looks strong enough. He looks like he’s got a Big Ten body now. And then I think you take all those things and you put him in a situation where he’s been able to get a bunch of reps through swing ball, through summer camp, through summer skellies on their own and things like that, I just think he’s going to have a really good year for us and going to have a great career because he’s just got so many characteristics that you’re looking for.
But really that whole freshman class we feel really good about.
Q. At right guard you named C.J. Thorpe ahead of Mike Miranda. What did you seen from C.J. throughout camp?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I don’t know if we necessarily look at it that way because I think it says “or” on the depth chart. I don’t know if I would describe it the way you just did. Yeah, we look at Mike, C.J., and Gonzales as all starters, and those guys are probably all going to play an equal amount.