James Franklin met with the press on Tuesday. Auburn was the focus. The Tigers are going to run the ball, set up play action, and play in a hostile environment. Franklin answered a lot of questions about that - along with a lot of questions about wide receivers and quarterbacks - in the session.
Want to read the full transcript? Click here. Otherwise, here are this author’s quick takes on the highlights.
The general opening statement included recognition of players of the week on the game field (Nick Singleton, Chop Robinson, and Devyn Ford) and on the practice field (Grayson Kline, Robert Rossi, Jake Wilson, Stephen Ripka, and Tyler Holzworth).
Franklin was pleased with the fact that Penn State won the game, something he noted a lot of teams couldn’t say (looking at you Big Ten West). Also, it was a great chance to play a lot of players (70 in total) and he was happy with the explosive plays and some of the defensive efforts from his team.
Moving to Auburn, Franklin showed a lot of respect to the program and the Southeastern Conference at large. The Tigers’ running back room and defensive front are areas where he sees the most standout guys for Auburn. Before any questions, he mentioned how it was going to be a great environment and there will be a focus on getting players ready for that environment.
Coming off a strong performance in his first action at Beaver Stadium, Drew Allar was sure to be a topic of discussion. Franklin said there’s clearly room for improvement, but that Allar has been hard at work since arriving early on campus. He said the game is starting to slow down for Allar and he has been coached up well by Mike Yurcich and even Sean Clifford.
Going on the Road
Franklin was asked specifically about preparing for the environment of Jordan Hare Stadium and how it compared to Big Ten atmospheres. He said the team spent much of last week leading up to Ohio prepping with a silent snap count. Franklin said the staff has gone about trying to acclimate the team with the stadium by even showing pictures of the facility and talking about what some of the traditions look like. He was complimentary of Auburn’s program and the passion of their fans.
Linebacker Play Under Microscope
A really good question asking Franklin to assess the play of his linebackers through two games and how they’ll be ready for a game against a run-oriented team after seeing pass happy Purdue and overmatched Ohio in the first couple games - and James acknowledged that there were questions entering the season at that position because of guys moving on from the room. He said that a lot of time would be spent in Tuesday and Wednesday’s practices to get those guys reps because Auburn has game-breaking running backs and the ability to do good things with play action because of those guys.
Going on the Road Part 2
Franklin was again asked about the logistics of going on the road to Auburn. He alluded to the silent snap count again, but then did admit that the team had done a lot in preseason work in an attempt to mimic the heat they might face on Saturday. This included shutting all of the doors at Holuba Hall and cranking up the heat.
A reporter who had spoken to Sean Clifford asked Franklin to expand on what the team had done to emphasize yards after catch in their passing game. Franklin pointed to Parker Washington as a player who displays the kinds of qualities that they teach their receivers, though Franklin did add that it hasn’t been emphasized or practiced any more than in the past.
More on Drew
A somewhat long-winded question that really asked something valuable: How were Trace McSorley and Sean Clifford strong quarterbacks out of the gate and how does Allar compare to them? Franklin’s answer was that he believes Penn State gives quality reps to its backups as well as anyone. He said the way they practice simulates what those guys will see once they get in the game.
A Challenge with Auburn’s Offense
A reporter asked a schematic question about Auburn’s offense, while also asking how safety Ji’Ayir Brown is playing positionally compared to former Penn State safety Marcus Allen. Franklin pointed out that Brown’s position wasn’t really meant to mimic how Allen played, but that Brown has been good with run support in the first couple games as teams have gone to the run on non-traditional downs and out of non-traditional formations. Franklin reiterated that Penn State’s front seven would be challenged a lot on Saturday and that Auburn has the big-play ability to test with the play-action pass, too.
Left Tackle a Plus
Asked about the play of left tackle Olu Fashanu through two games, Franklin said the redshirt sophomore has played at a very high level. James continued saying how Fashanu has been impressive in the weight room, the classroom, and has proven to be one of the most consistent players for the Nittany Lions.
More about Auburn’s run game
A reporter alluded to an interview with Curtis Jacobs where the sophomore linebacker said he was ready to put on his hard hat to face Auburn’s offense. Franklin said that response was funny, considering Jacobs initially viewed himself as a wide receiver in the recruitment process. Then, Franklin once again emphasized that the game would be a challenge for Penn State’s front seven and that a good Tuesday practice would be necessary.
Abdul Carter got extended playing time against Ohio and Franklin said that he had flashed some good things. The freshman linebacker had a well documented (and questionable) targeting call that took him off the field at Purdue, so Franklin said it was important for Carter to get back at it. He said the freshman is gaining confidence in himself and is gaining it with defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, too.
Making it Back
Adisa Isaac is back in the lineup after missing all of last season. Franklin said he’s still a little lighter than where he played two years ago and needs to build back his weight in order to be able to endure the wear and tear of the position. Franklin noted that he’s a huge fan of Isaac’s and his consistent approach.
Holding the Ball
Penn State was sacked a few times more than we’d like on Saturday and one of the common criticisms is that quarterbacks (read Sean Clifford) were holding the ball too long. Franklin was asked about that and he talked about how sometimes that’s a carryover from practice where in scrimmages or drills, a quarterback knows he won’t be hit and will extend a play too long.
Sander Sahaydak will handle long field goals (52-yards and more), according to Franklin. Also, the Hollidaysburg Little League team visited a practice and that was good, even though Franklin didn’t watch them in the Little League World Series.
Franklin said that Omari Evans, Jaden Dottin, and Kaden Saunders were doing some nice things, but that his offense’s wide receiver rotation would look similar heading into this week.
QB Depth and Transfers
Will Levis’s name was included in the question and Christian Veilleux was alluded to as Franklin was asked how to balance quarterback rooms. Franklin talked about competition in practice and how every coach would wish guys would always stay to compete, but he did acknowledge that you have to be open and transparent in conversations with quarterbacks (and parents).
He was asked about the play of his freshman wide receiver who snatched Allar’s first ever touchdown pass. Franklin alluded to Evans’s speed, while noting that he had previously played quarterback. He’s still learning the nuances, but Franklin hopes the early success will help that development.
Speed at WR
A final question about the wide receivers to close. Maybe reporters had SEC speed on their mind, because that was the focus of the question and Franklin did talk about the importance of having those guys who can get vertical. He also addressed the competition that he liked in the room and how, from top to bottom, it’s a faster group than Penn State has had.
Obviously Count: 41