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Tuesdays with Obviously: Illinois

James Franklin met the media ahead of Penn State’s Big Ten Opener

Syndication: York Daily Record Dan Rainville / USA TODAY NETWORK

James from State College met with the media on Tuesday and the usual happened: there were questions about quarterback, questions about depth, questions about process, and even an attempt to get James to opine on the state of Big Ten coaching suspensions/investigations. In the end, you can read about it all HERE or let me play the hits for you.

Opening Statement

Franklin opened by mentioning that September 11 was on Monday and recounting where he was at that time. He then mentioned that the Big Ten once again has Penn State opening on the road for conference play. He recapped a bit about the Delaware game, mentioning that Drew Allar, Dom DeLuca, and Alex Felkins took home player of the week honors from the staff. Moving to Illinois, he mentioned the respect he has for their coaching staff and named a lot of players to watch for the Illini before mentioning that this will be an 11 a.m. local kickoff.

Drew on the Road

It’s the first road start for Drew Allar, but Franklin noted that playing last year in the opener at Purdue in relief of Sean Clifford for a series is the kind of experience that should have him ready for Saturday’s Orange Out.

On Those Overtimes

Franklin was asked what he was able to learn in terms of strategy from the 2021 multiple overtime loss to Illinois. He mentioned that game taught people all around the country to have even more two-point type plays ready and practiced than in the past.

On Drew’s Leadership

Franklin was asked about Allar’s leadership and the coach explained that his staff wasn’t asking Drew to be a great leader yet. Instead, while the quarterback position requires a certain amount of leadership, Franklin wants Drew to simply focus on being the best quarterback that he can be.

No Need to Balance

Asked about how he bridged the gap between wanting his players to be aggressive and also gap sound, Franklin was simplistic in saying that he believes those things do complement each other. He preaches that his players should be as aggressive as possible in their zone or in hitting the correct gap.

Ready for the Next Step

Franklin mentioned that preparing as though you will be a starter is important to his team and he believes an important lesson to take beyond playing football at Penn State. He noted how preparing to be the manager when you’re just the assistant manager is crucial in order to be ready for the job. Franklin added that most players say that they are preparing in that way, but that his staff is constantly monitoring the work that the “understudies” are doing.

Managing Depth

Franklin shed some light on the process of figuring out who will play each week along with balancing the scholarship players. He said he’d love to always get guys more reps, but that means less time for the first and second stringers. He added that it’s a huge balance to find reps/playing time that keeps everyone happy while still maximizing the practice/gametime. It’s the focus of daily meetings from the coaching staff.

Ready for a Close One?

Franklin was in a roundabout way asked if he’d like to see a close game for his team. Instead, he used that time to answer that he really wants to see continual improvement and some of that comes in practice. He did add that he thinks his developmental/scout squad is better this year than it has been in the past.

Managing Olu

Star left tackle Olu Fashanu has had his snaps limited in games thus far, but Franklin said that carries over the practice as well. He said that his staff wants to highlight Fashanu, who he called the best lineman in college football. So, he said the amount of snaps he gets in games is situational, while the staff has been able to limit him in practice dating back to the spring.

Ignoring the Polls

Franklin was asked if he talks to his teams about the Top 25 polls and he said they didn’t. He added that his focus is getting better week to week. Franklin also added that while the polls can dictate perception of a program and maybe a spot in the playoffs, he pointed to TCU last year as a team that was able to reach its ultimate goal without beginning the year highly ranked.

Mack Lyons

Great name, but it’s a pair of players. Franklin was asked to assess two freshmen, King Mack and Jameial Lyons, who played quite a bit against Delaware. He said the typical superlatives about their work since coming to campus. Franklin did note that Lyons is still in the “yellow” category in terms of his play for the rest of the season, so that will be something worth monitoring.

Scheduling Preference

Unlike the past couple years, Penn State did not open with a Big Ten game. Franklin said he does prefer playing non-conference games as a run up to the conference schedule.

Praising the Line

Asked about three linemen (Anthony Donkoh, J’ven Williams, and Nick Dawkins), Franklin gave each credit for working hard and showing on the field Saturday what they had shown in practice. Seems good to me.

Living in a Fishbowl

Franklin was asked about being a head coach in a time where he’s seen so many peers at the center of investigations and firing. The veteran coach acknowledged that it was a challenging job and he was thankful to have such a supportive wife and administrative team.

An Over Clarifier

Outing himself as what his wife called an over clarifier, Franklin noted how communication has changed in college football in recent years. This is very comparable to some other notes that he’s said during press conferences this year where he’s acknowledged that coaches have to talk about playing time now where in the past, they didn’t.

Facing a Mobile Quarterback

Here’s your lone question that was actually about Illinois - Franklin said his team would be better prepared to see Illinois quarterback Luke Altmyer having played against West Virginia in the opener and facing Beau Pribula every day in practice. He said that even in practice, it was hard to simulate because plays get blown dead.

Obviously Count: 10