What memories do you have of your first dorm room at Penn State?
I’ll mostly never forget the awful smells and constant puddles of something or rather in the corners of the elevator in Packer Hall back in the late summer of 2001. You learned to survive and thrive in the cramped quarters of those tiny rooms, right?
Well, Tuesday’s James Franklin press conference ahead of Saturday’s game against Central Michigan took a turn to dorms. We’ll get to that near the end. As always, if you want to read the whole thing - click here. If you’re looking for the highlights, we’ve got them.
The 1982 national championship team will be honored on Saturday. It’s been 40 years since that team played and it’s another reminder to this writer that he’s now hit that remarkable number in years of age.
Going back to Saturday’s demolition of Auburn, Franklin mentioned that Dan Connor and Hunter Nourzed spoke to the team at the hotel as part of a regular tradition of sharing out important things ahead of the game. Franklin said both of those speeches resonated and carried over into the game.
Speaking of Nourzad, he was one of the seven offensive players of the week, being joined by all of the other regular rotational offensive linemen who helped Penn State’s running game to a breakout performance and kept Sean Clifford clean in the pocket. Ji’Ayir Brown and Adisa Isaac were defensive players of the week, while Jake Pinegar was tabbed with the special teams honor.
Franklin spent some time talking about the respect he has for Central Michigan, specifically for head coach Jim McIlwain and offensive coordinator Paul Petrino.
Still Work to Do
The offensive line was in the forefront, but for once, the question had a subtext of praising them. Franklin reiterated that he was remaining in wait and see mode and that there was room for improvement.
Hard Hit Hammer
You’ve likely now seen the giant hammer that is carried onto the field by a player and you may have seen defensive back Marquis Wilson pounding the SEC logo at Jordan-Hare Stadium with that same hammer. It’s an idea from Manny Diaz to keep the focus on physical play from his defense. James didn’t know the origin of the actual hammer, but I’m sure they’ll be more digging done in the future provided Penn State’s defense keeps playing so well.
A question fishing for answers about how well Brenton Strange has been playing took an interesting turn. Franklin absolutely gave sound bites praising Strange for his all-around play. He then mentioned how national awards don’t always reward overall play, but become too fixated with stats. James mentioned how Jordan Stout was tops in the country in net punting last year, but how that doesn’t always draw headlines. He equated this to the level of play that Strange was reaching, while noting that tight end awards and accolades too often go to oversized wide receivers.
I love local questions like these. My transcript doesn’t identify, but a paper from near Anthony Ivey’s home asked about the freshman’s progress. Franklin relayed that Ivey is doing well in school and making good progress on the practice field. Paraphrasing, Franklin said readers of the newspaper would be happy to see how Ivey plays and progresses. Unquestionably, this is a dominate the state type recruiting message that will keep the locals happy.
If you haven’t already checked this out, click here. Retired Super Bowl champion quarterback Eli Manning appeared in disguise at a run-on tryout earlier in the year. Franklin gave some background on the event. There were a couple later questions where James said he found it to be fun and he was most pleased that it didn’t really impact his team’s camp preparation. Later, James fielded a question about keeping Penn State in the positive light with fun events or things that could be shared on social media. He said those were good things, but that Penn State must not lose track of the most important message to be shared: graduating students and helping them achieve their goals.
Penn State’s offense, specifically Saturday, saw Sean Clifford taking more snaps under center. Franklin said that has helped with his team’s physicality and has also helped give his defense diverse looks throughout camp and early in the season. The formations also help highlight that tight end group that he has praised so much in the past.
After being asked about the impact of Nicholas Singleton, Franklin stressed how the freshman standout has worked hard, kept his mouth shut, and really listened and learned during his first months on campus. James also explained that he believes more and more young players are ready to contribute from the beginning because of increased exposure events, camps, and the like where they see good competition regularly.
Planning for the Future
Asked about the relatively recent change in the redshirt rule that allows a player to see action in four games while preserving eligibility, Franklin said that is something that his staff takes into account regularly. He did also mention that there is an unidentified freshman who James would have liked to redshirt, but that injuries have forced him to already play in two games. Franklin does like the flexibility of the rule.
Playing to Strengths
Franklin was asked about the different defensive formations and personnel groupings that have appeared in the first few weeks. He said part of that was because of question marks and linebackers and his belief that the defensive back room is a major strength.
About that Bye
My own observation, but this is the one response that stood out as the strangest to me from this press conference. Penn State has two games remaining prior to the bye, but Franklin was asked about what the team will do during that time. He gave a detailed answer about practicing some with development in mind, some with rest in mind, and some with the future opponent in mind. It seemed a little off from the typical 1-0 mentality response with CMU and Northwestern coming to Beaver Stadium in the next couple weeks.
Not so Fat Man
Kaytron Allen is down in weight from signing day and Franklin praised the freshman’s work ethic and talked about how IMG helped get him ready. Again, I love the very subtle (or maybe not so subtle) recruiting pitches. Allen is transforming his body and so too is Maleek McNeil, who drew praise for his work in the weight room.
Franklin was asked about Abdul Carter and James remarked on how explosive an athlete the freshman linebacker is and even talked about how his house looks with a weight room. Franklin said that his mom was happy Abdul was at Penn State because it’s let her get the house back in order and some of the equipment in the basement. James went on to say that the staff is trying not to overload Carter with too much responsibility and that the freshman is still learning the game.
DDS and Dorms
This transitioned to a question about Dani Dennis-Sutton and, in classic Franklin fashion, James took the time to both praise the freshman defensive end and let the folks know that Penn State still trails in the facility arms race compared to their competition. Dennis-Sutton is happy and thriving at Penn State, but he almost picked Georgia, in part because they have better athletic dorms. Franklin then mentioned how Auburn just recently built a sparkling new dorm for its football players. Franklin closed by mentioning how there’s a current NFL player who likely would have wound up at Penn State if living quarters had been better. I was left wondering if the holes from EZ Smith’s crossbow incident had ever been repaired.
Obviously Count: 16 total, 15 by James