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Tuesdays with Obviously: UMass

Bye week behind them, James Franklin met the media to talk Massachusetts

Penn State v Northwestern Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

It’s game week again in Happy Valley. James Franklin met with the media at his regular Tuesday press conference. You can read the full transcript here or follow along with me for the highlights.

Opening Statement

Before delving into information about homecoming opponent Massachusetts, Franklin paused to talk about the outstanding play of Johnny Dixon this season. The cornerback is a starter opposite Kalen King and was praised for his ability to play both the run and pass.

As for UMass, Franklin mentioned that he had worked with Don Brown at Maryland. He also noted that the Minutemen have an extremely explosive offense that is led by a transfer quarterback that Penn State once heavily recruited. In fact, Franklin spent a lot of time talking about the talented transfers throughout the UMass roster.

Bye Week Work

Franklin detailed some of the specifics that got done during a week where Penn State didn’t have to prepare for an opponent. There was a lot of self scouting and, of course, recruiting.

A Pair of Important Players

Franklin was asked a follow-up question about Dixon and the importance of having both he and King on the field at corner. Franklin spent time answering how he believes that cornerback and defensive line are the two most integral positions in playing defense in modern day football.

A Significant Impact

Next, Franklin was asked more about Don Brown and the impact that the veteran coach had on Franklin. In an interesting story, Franklin alluded to the fact that he’s taken a lot from Brown and that a fair amount of what he does at Penn State in terms of teaching and installing offense traces back to his time going against Brown in practice.

Scheduling and Expansion

The Delaware and UMass style games are here to stay, according to Franklin. He mentioned a conference rival that has been buying out many of its non-conference games and has had a ton of success in the last couple years. You don’t need two guesses to know who he is alluding to with that comment.

On Allar

Asked about how Drew Allar has not yet committed a turnover in his career, Franklin said he didn’t want to talk about it before going on to answer a lot of questions about why Allar has been successful in that area. He mentioned his poise, his practice and throwing the ball away, and his knowledge of where outlet receivers are as reasons for that success. Then, the conversation turned to letting Drew air it out for the sake of airing it out. James went full “that’s not what we do” and went on a long diatribe about how he’s always coached his quarterbacks to not put the ball in danger or take a shot for the sake of taking a shot.

Healthy-ish

No update was given on J.B. Nelson beyond what had been previously reported: he’s injured, but it’s not been deemed season ending at this point. As for the team’s overall health, Franklin said “they were in a good place”.

Taking What the Defense Gives You

In a question going back to his opening statement on UMass where Franklin mentioned a lot of impressive defensive linemen for the Minutemen, a reporter slyly asked about getting the running game going early. Franklin said that he believes the explosive plays - what we have all been waiting on - are going to come in time. But, he also reiterated that it’s crucial his team take what the defense is allowing.

Nourzad’s Impact

Franklin was asked about starting center Hunter Nourzad and his adjustment to Penn State over the past two years. It was a lot of what you expect. Nourzad is a smart guy who is getting his MBA and him returning to play center this year has been both beneficial for him and the team.

Manny’s Good

Another week, another question about Manny Diaz. Franklin went on plenty about his second-year defensive coordinator. Nothing but love.

Defensive Line Growth

About a year ago, Franklin stewed after the Michigan game and the play of his defensive line, giving the somewhat backed away from line that many of his players wanted to “be Aaron Donald”. Asked again about the play of his defensive line, he said the group has put on good way. They’re playing bigger and smarter in terms of being gap sound. It’s made a huge difference according to James.

Praise for Zuriah Fisher

A simple question about how Zuriah Fisher has grown as a player meant plenty of James praise for the defensive end who has battled back from a 2022 knee injury.

The Right Balance

Speaking about the offense, Franklin said he believes this is as balanced an offense as he has coached. He noted that truly shows up with the short yardage pickups that Penn State has been able to generate...oh, to have had that in 2017.

On the Receivers

The press conference closed with a question about Allar’s level of trust with his receivers. Franklin mentioned that the absence of Harrison Wallace III has been tough, but that him returning (sounds hopeful!) should help the rapport between Allar and his wideouts.

Obviously Count: 11