Big Ten Media Day is in full swing out in Indianapolis as James Franklin took the podium for Day 2 of the event. Here’s a full video of Franklin’s 13-minute remarks and Q&A from Penn State’s Rivals site, but as always, I have some thoughts on his comments.
Franklin opened his presser by mentioning that Penn State’s overall depth is the best its been in a number of years. He specifically pointed out how much the highly regarded 2022 recruiting class (and transfer portal players, too) played into this, and that those guys are expected to help during their first season with the program.
We actually talked about this last week with the Green, Yellow, Red Light article, but players like Nick Singleton, Kaden Saunders, and Dani Dennis-Sutton largely have the training wheels off. When you land a consensus Top 10 class, you don’t have the luxury of having all of them wait in the wings. You need to throw them into the fire, and you need impact from a few of them from the get-go.
QUICK HITTERS ON POSITION GROUPS
Franklin continued to emphasize the depth across the position groups, going out of his way to mention a few position groups individually.
- QB: Obviously, Clifford is going to be the starter, but likes the competition forming between Christian Veilleux, Drew Allar, and Beau Pribula.
- RB/TE: Believes that the tight end room of Brenton Strange, Theo Johnson, Tyler Warren, Khalil Dinkins, and Jerry Cross could be the most talented in the country. Said something similar about the running back room.
- WR: Losing Jahan Dotson hurts, but thinks this years three starters and overall depth could be better than last year.
- OL: “O-line is the group that we come and talk about every single year, and I tell you, ‘This is going to be the year for the next step at that position.’ I’m not going to do that this year. I’m going to let them prove that to you on the field, but I’ve been very, very pleased.”
- DL: Likes the defensive line, especially with PJ Mustipher (Franklin said he is “ready for camp”) leading the group. Thinks both defensive tackle and defensive end will be the strength of the defense.
- LB: “Linebacker’s the question.” Franklin did say he liked the two outside linebackers (presumably Curtis Jacobs and Jonathan Sutherland), but that the MIKE linebacker job will go deep into camp — i.e. not a good sign there.
- DB: Somewhat surprisingly given the guys coming back (Joey Porter Jr and Ji’Ayir Brown), Franklin didn’t seem pumped about the secondary. Said it had a “chance” to be a strength, not that it will be.
One of the last things Franklin discussed before going to questions from the media was saying how he supports Sean Clifford’s role as far as NIL goes and the potential unionization of players to gain additional benefits. Perhaps just as importantly during his answer, he mentioned that new A.D. Patrick Kraft has jumped into his tenure with “two feet” and has accomplished a lot during a short amount of time.
FRANKLIN’S DIG TOWARD THE BIG TEN
Ah, Passive-Aggressive James was out today. He ended his opening remarks by saying that the Nittany Lions have had “pretty good practice” over the last nine years of opening the Big Ten season on the road. For those that don’t know, Penn State’s only Big Ten opener played in Beaver Stadium during Franklin’s tenure was Rutgers in 2015 — which was originally scheduled as an out-of-conference game when Rutgers was in the Big East. You actually have to go all the way back to 2009 when Penn State opened the conference schedule at home. So yeah, James not happy about that.
REPLACING DEFENSIVE END PRODUCTION
Franklin discussed the challenges of losing productivity at defensive end over the years — Yetur Gross-Matos, Shaka Toney, Odafe Oweh, and now Arnold Ebiketie — but thinks getting Adisa Isaac back from injury will really help there. Chop Robinson, the Maryland transfer, was also discussed with Franklin pointing out that he’s tested extremely well and has the chance to be a high-production, low-maintenance player.
PJ MUSTIPHER CRUSHED A MASSIVE DINNER LAST NIGHT
When asked about Mustipher’s health (good to go, as mentioned above), Franklin talked about how PJ crushed it at dinner last night — steak, two lobster tails, mashed potatoes, and shrimp — because he passed the physical conditioning test.