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PENN STATE UNIVERSITY MEDIA CONFERENCE


September 16, 2014


James Franklin


COACH FRANKLIN:¬† I like to start with a review after watching the film, from the Rutgers game, No.1, we were able to win the turnover battle 1‑5, which I think was significant in this game to say the least.
The penalty battle, we were able to win the penalty battle, five penalties to nine penalties; or 40 yards to 75 yards, which was significant.  Especially when you're considering the fact that you're on the road and having to deal with the noise and things like that, so I thought that was big in the game.
Explosive plays, the offense did not make their goals, which is always eight a week.  We only had six.  But the defense was able to meet their goal, which was three or less, and they gave up two.  So those things are huge.  They will be every single week, turnover battle, penalty battle and explosive plays, gaming or giving them up.
Overall I say it was a great team victory, and by that I mean that's the offense, that's the defense, that's special teams, that's the coaches, that's the trainers, Doctors, that's the administration; that's everybody that has a part, academic support, great team victory, really proud of the guys for that.  Really pleased with how they persevered in a really difficult, hostile environment.
Offensively, in the second half, offense gained 12 first downs and 271 yards and 13 points in the final 18 minutes of the game.  Obviously we're going to have to improve in the running game and our protection.  That's going to be very, very important.
I think it really comes down to our communication and coordination up front, making sure that all five or six guys, depending on the protection or the play, are all on the same page and working together and that has not been case so far.
So we're going to make sure that's happening.  That's time, that's chemistry.  That's all those things that have to happen.
Defensively in the second half, we allowed just three first downs, compared to offense, get it in 12; and 95 yards compared to the offense getting 271.  Also, Rutgers came into the game averaging 39.5 points per game and 446 yards.  We held them to ten points total and 294 yards.  So I thought that was a real positive.
Continued to create turnovers.  I think that was a real difference in the game, and then continue to be able to get pressure and hits on the quarterback, and we love sacks.  We fence, playing wefense, playing consistent in all phases of special teams right now.
Right now we are not really a positive or a negative special teams.  We must start providing more value, better coverage on return units, big plays in the running game, blocks, etc., things like that.  The block that we gave up was, again, it's a communication error, you've got one guy that doesn't do his job.  What's interesting is the punt before, he did his job.  The next punt, he did something different and now we give up a block.  So the consistency in everything that we're going.
Players of the Week by our coaching staff on offense was Bill Belton and Christian Hackenberg.  On defense was Trevor Williams and Anthony Zettel.  And then on wefense was Grant Haley.  Right now I think Grant is doing a lot of really nice things for us.  Maybe some of those things go unnoticed on the stat sheet.  But for a freshman, he's really bringing a lot of value in a lot of different areas for us.
And then obviously the Big Ten Player of the Week, Defensive Player of the Week, Trevor Williams.  I think also Anthony Zettel was also able to get an award, as well, but not specifically from the Big Ten.
Moving on to UMass and Coach Whipple, his first year back there, seventh year overall, it's his second stint there, 16 years as the head coach.¬† They won the National Championship, the I‑AA National Championship when he was there last time, 31 years of experience.¬† His son was here and transferred back, so we've got a lot of history with the Whipple family.¬† Sean Spencer, our defensive line coach, worked for Coach Whipple, so we know him and his staff pretty well.
We've got two Nittany Lions from Massachusetts; that's D.J. Crook and Johnathan Thomas on roster.¬† They return 11 of 22 starters, five on offense, six on defense.¬† We're 0‑0 all‑time versus UMASS.¬† Never played them before, and Mark Whipple has never coached against Penn State.
UMASS is 0‑3 right now.¬† They started the year losing to Boston College, 30‑7.¬† But then they have had really two competitive games against Colorado and Vanderbilt and you can make the argument they could have or should have won both of those games.¬† 38‑41 with Colorado and 31‑4 with Vanderbilt.¬† If you compare statistically like we do every week, the turn over margin, they have the advantage.
Penalties per game, they have the advantage.  Total offense and defense, we have the advantage.  Scoring offense, they have the advantage and scoring defense, we have the advantage.
Pretty cool that we're celebrating the 50th anniversary of women's athletics at Penn State.¬† That's going to go on this weekend and really all year.¬† Hopefully we'll have a bunch of former student athletes returning to campus for a three‑day celebration.¬† The returning students will be honored at half‑time of the game after the band performance, so that's pretty cool, something that makes us really, really special in my opinion.
Defensively, Tom Masella, the defensive coordinator and defensive back coach, he's in his third season as the defensive coordinator there.  He was there in 2002 and 2003 before becoming a head coach, very, very experienced coach.  Been a head coach at Fairfield, Boston U, Central Connecticut and Fordham, besides also being his defensive coordinator in the past, Coast Whipple's.
Defensive notes, returning six starters, they place a base 3‑4 defense.¬† Defense runs very well.¬† They play really hard.¬† They utilize, really, an unorthodox scheme and concepts, and I think that's kind of part of their plan.¬† They are trying to make up for some challenges that they have by being unorthodox.¬† A lot of different fronts, a lot of different pressures and a lot of different looks at the secondary.
Impressed with linebacker No. 3, Kassan Messiah, 6‑4, 237‑pound junior; and quarterback No.4, Randall Jette, 5‑11, 180‑pound junior.
On offense, Mark Whipple, the offensive coordinator, five starters, they run a multiple offense.  They are unorthodox, as well, in a lot of ways, utilize a lot of different formations, misdirection and deception.  They scored over 30 points in their lost two games against FBS opponents.
Wide receiver, Tajae Sharpe, 6‑4, 200‑pound junior, 15 receptions for 246 yards, 16 yards per catch, averaging 82 yards per game.¬† And then their quarterback, Blake Frohnapfel, 6‑6, 229‑pound senior; and then they have got a really athletic tight end, No. 87, Jean Sifrin, 6‑7, 250‑pound junior.¬† He actually was on ESPN, I think two weeks ago for a top‑ten play.
UMass, special teams, from what I understand, Coach Whipple will be running the special teams this week and for the remainder of the season.¬† We've got to do a better job with our kickoffs and be more consistent.¬† They do have a really good returner and we need to be aware of that.¬† No.9, Trey Dudley‑Giles, 5‑11, 282‑pound junior is doing both their kick return and punt return.¬† Punt return is averaging over 15 yards and kick return is averaging over 35 yards.¬† So there's no doubt he's a playmaker and we have got a tremendous challenge.
Excited to get back out into Beaver Stadium.  Excited about our first sellout that we will have this week, 107,000.  They will be outside the stadium trying to get in.  But hopefully it will be sold out.
Open up to questions. 
I just want to make sure everybody's clear:  We are not sold out yet but we intend on being.  Just want to make sure everybody is clear on that.

Q.  Why do you think the offense has had success late in the fourth quarter?
COACH FRANKLIN:¬† You know, I don't know‑‑ I can't really describe that.¬† I think, number one, I think we've been able to kind of wear some people down.
I think our guys have done a great job of having a sense of urgency when we've needed it most.  I think our defense has really given our offense some momentum and some juice, the way they have been able to hang in there and keep us in games.
So, you know, I think there's a lot of things that factor into it but it not like we are just waiting until the fourth quarter to call those plays.  I think there's a lot of factors that go into it.

Q.  By I wanted to ask you about Anthony Zettel.  He's been such a disruptive player for you in three games, and I know he's playing a new position.  What is it about his physical skills and even his mental makeup that you think makes him able to kind of thrive inside like he has?
COACH FRANKLIN:  Well, I think the biggest thing is, I think whenever you can move guys positionally, if it makes sense; so what I mean by that, big corners moving to safety, big safeties moving to linebacker, big linebackers moving to defensive end and big defensive ends moving to defensive tackle.
Obviously if you don't have to do that, great.  But what I think it does is he was an athletic defensive end, but by moving him inside, he's now becoming an even more athletic defensive tackle.  He's got a tremendous motor.  He's got really good quickness.  He's really sudden off of the ball.  His spin move I think is really, really good, which is one of his big plays last week he made off of his spin move.
His tenacity is unbelievable.  His quickness is unbelievable and he's not the biggest guy.  I mean, he's big enough at 285 pounds, but there's much bigger defensive tackles.  I think it's a combination of his strength.  He's got one of the strongest power cleans and deadlifts on our team and his quickness, which makes him so disruptive in there.
We've been pleased with him that that's going to need to continue.  I think the fact that we were able to play some more guys in terms of number of reps on Saturday, allowed him to stay fresh longer and we want to continue to do that.

Q.  You mentioned a little bit earlier that the team needs to improve communication and coordination.  How much of that comes from guys getting more experience playing together and how much of that can be affected by the staff during the week and in practice?
COACH FRANKLIN:  I think it's all of the above.  I think, you know, as fans and as coaches and as players, we'd all like it to happen faster.  But those things take time, and I did see improvement.  You're watching the tape and I did see improvement this past week.  We've still got a ways to go.  But they are doing a good job of that.
A lot of times when I talk about communication, that deals with really being confident and brave to make a call.  Because what happens is, if you're the tight end and tackle working together or the center and guard working together, or the back side guard and tackle working together, usually the first person to make a call, then it affects everybody else's call from that point on and who they are working to and things like that.
A lot of times when you have a young, inexperienced line, they don't want to make the call, because if someone makes the call and it's the wrong call, then there's someone to blame.  And I don't want them to approach it that way.  I want them to make a decision.  They think it's the right decision for the team and move on; if we make a mistake, we learn from it. 
No different than the head coach calling a quick kick that probably wasn't a right decision.  You learn from it, you man up to it, you own it, and move forward and you learn from the situation.  I want our guys to take the same approach.  And I think they understand that.
So it's going to take some time.  We've got to do it in practice over and over and over and over again.  They have got to trust one another and they have got to be willing to communicate and work together, and make sure that that information gets communicated from the front side tight end all the way to the back side tight end or tackle, depending on the formation.

Q.  Regarding special teams, you said you want to see more value.  In what places and what kind of value do you want to start seeing from that group?
COACH FRANKLIN:  I think when you're talking about kicking, punting and the kickoff, it's the consistency.  I think Gulla has done a nice job for us so far with his kick location and eliminating the returner.
We talked about that before the season started.  We don't believe in kicking the ball down the middle of the field, so now the returner has got 53 yards to work with.  We want to pin them to a sideline and I think we have done a good job of that.
But I still think we can be a little more consistent with our hang time, with our location, with our distance, and also just the rhythm and the timing of how quickly we are getting those things off.
Kickoff, same thing.  We almost had a kick there at the end of the game that cost us.  Christian Campbell, who played his first game, had a huge play because he made a tackle in the open field against a dangerous returner, which could have been dramatic.
So our kickoff and our kickoff location is important.  In the return game, just being able to give our offense better field position, giving them some momentum with a big return; whether it's a return for a touchdown or whether it's just a chunk of field position.  That's what we'd like to do.
So I think we've done some nice things, I really do.  There's still a lot of areas for improvement.

Q.  I wanted to ask you about your tight ends.  What do you think about the group so far, their production?  Happy or not, beyond Jesse James, the guys behind him?
COACH FRANKLIN:  I think it's still evolving and I think we've made improvements from last year.  And everybody gets so caught up in catches and yards, but that really hasn't been our focus.  Our focus with them since the day we arrived on campus was their impact in the running game and that area still needs to improve.
I think the offensive line hears a lot about what they need to do, and I think the tight ends are a big part of that, as well.¬† I think we have to make sure the tight ends and the O‑line are working together and finishing well and finishing blocks.¬† That's the area we have to improve.¬† I think when that happens, you'll see bigger plays happen in the passing game because off play‑action and things like that.¬† That's what happened with Jesse a few weeks ago.
They go doing some nice things in the passing game but we never questioned that.¬† It's the running game.¬† So that's all those guys that are a part of that:¬† The O‑line, the coaches, the players, the tight ends, that's everybody working together to get our O‑line where it needs to be.
The thing is, sometimes it's because of lack of size.  We have the size and the strength at that position to be dominant in the rubbing game, and that's the next step we need to take.

Q.  Christian was sacked five times the other night, took some other hits when he released the ball.  What are your thoughts about his durability, and how much concern do you have at all the shots he's taken in the first three games?
COACH FRANKLIN:  We have to do a better job of limiting how many times he's getting hit.  There's no doubt about that.  I think again, being able to get the running game more involved with help with that.
But that's why he's worked so hard in the off‑season, and he's been great.¬† He really has been great, making plays with his feet, moving the pocket, things like that, extending plays.¬† But there's no doubt about it.¬† We've kind of talked about it to nauseum.¬† We have talked about it enough.¬† We've got to get the running game going and we've got to protect the quarterback.¬† We take great pride in those things.

Q.  I wanted to talk about how it's a relatively young team but it seems to be mature in terms of the way they compete.  You talk about, this is Saturday night, they don't crumble and they don't point fingers.  Where do you think that comes from, how do you explain that?
COACH FRANKLIN:¬† I think it comes from a lot of factors.¬† I think first it comes down to kids from this region of the country, I think they are hard‑nosed, blue‑collar guys and they have been coached very well in high school.¬† I think all those things factor into it.
I think it has to do with how we practice and how we coach them.  Put them in really difficult, challenging situations.  I think the fact that they go into the classroom and compete with some is of the finest students in the world, that creates mental toughness, as well.
I think the fact that a lot of our guys, especially 49 of them, have been through a lot of different things on and off the field the last couple years.  I think all these things factor into it.
You guys have heard me say it before:  I feel like there's tremendous parallels between the game of football and life, and I think you see things off the field, you see things on the field.  You see things in the classroom.  We've made tremendous improvements in the classroom, and I think that discipline shows up everywhere, and we believe that.  We believe that, we truly do and we're committed to that.

Q.  What impresses you most about Bob Shoop and the job he does preparing for games?  What were your first impressions of him when you two met?
COACH FRANKLIN:  Yeah, I think Bob does a great job, but I also want to make sure that it's our whole defensive staff.  It's our whole coaching staff.  I think we've got a really good coaching staff that works extremely well together.  I think Bob does a great job of leaning on his staff and using them as a resource and a sounding board.
I think we do a good job of playing to our player s strengths.  I think a lot of coaches make those mistakes all over the country where they try to force something in that doesn't necessarily fit.  And Bob has done a nice job of that.
We came into this season feeling really good about our starting unit on defense, and some of our depth at certain positions.  I think Bob does a great job of studying film and tendencies and understanding his system.  I think that's a real big thing.  I think understanding your system and knowing what your strengths are and what your weaknesses are in your scheme, because every system has weaknesses, and Bob understands those.
I think that's one of the big mistakes that head coaches make a lot of times.  If you're an offensive head coach, you see all of the things that have given you problem over the years, and you tell the defensive coordinator:  We are going to do these things.  Well, it's not really a system.  It's just a bunch of things that have given you problems over the years.
Or, vice versa; if you're a defensive head coach and these offenses have given you problems, and now you force your offensive coordinator to run an offense that's kind of a combination of all of the things that have given you nightmares in your career, that's not how you want to do things.
I think we have a true system that Bob understands inside and out.  It's not perfect, but it allows our kids to play fast and aggressive and I think that's what you're seeing right now, and they are starring to build confidence every single day.  And what I love is you're even starting to see the younger players who have had significant less reps over the last couple years, they are starting to play with confidence, as well.

Q.  A lot of defensive players after the game talked about how they are really impressed that they know what plays are coming, and they only see a couple plays a game from the opponent that they haven't seen or haven't been told about or practiced against.  Attribute that to Bob Shoop, of course and the rest of the defensive staff.  Is that something you see as a strength of the defensive staff in terms of their preparation and having the players ready to go for every scenario they are probably going to see on the field?
COACH FRANKLIN:  Yeah, I think like I mentioned before, I think Bob does a really good job of studying tendencies, formation tendencies, backfield tendencies, field zone tendencies.
I think that's where that economics degree from Yale really helps them out.  He's got a really pretty good understanding of what to expect and he trains his guys during practice like that.
So certain formations, they are expecting probably one of three plays, and his calls are based on that and the players' anticipation is based on those things.
I've been on the head set with the defense where Bob's called out 75 percent of the plays before they have been run.  He's called out, we are going to get an interception here and things like that.  It's pretty impressive at times, it really is.
And I think that confidence that he has coming into the game, because of the amount of time he's put in, spills over to our players, and I think the same thing with our staff.  I think the fact that our defensive staff has been together for four years, with the exception of Terry, I think is really helpful.  And I think the fact that Terry is working in the secondary with Bob has been really valuable.
So they all bring unique skills to that side of the ball, our defensive staff.  They all compliment Bob really, really well.  So I think that's what you're seeing.

Q.¬† You obviously have gotten some great production from Geno and DaeSean.¬† I'm wondering how important it is moving forward to get some of your younger wide‑outs a little bit more involved in catch willing balls, that sort of thing?
COACH FRANKLIN:  I think so.  Obviously the more guys that we can get involved to build confidence and now the defense or the opponent we're playing that week, it's not stopped this one guy or these two guys.  If you adjust too much to stop one guy, this other guy is going to hurt you, and now that's where it becomes really difficult.
You have tight ends who we know can make plays.  You have two receivers on the outside that can make plays and you have a guy in the slot that can make plays.  And that's scary.  It's no different than on offense, you have two defensive ends on third down that cause you issues, and now how are you going to deal with them; who are you going to slide to.
That's really valuable.¬† That's really valuable for not only short‑term success but long‑term success that we can build that type of depth so that Hack has the confidence in whoever is in there that they are going to make a play for him and consistently do what we are expecting them to do.

Q.  You talked a lot so far about somebody stepping up and makes plays in the secondary and getting those turnovers and also someone stepping up and taking the second corner position.  How important is it that you got the turnovers but that Trevor got two of the interceptions and seemed to come up and step up and take that position.
COACH FRANKLIN:  I think it was very, very important for us.  I think the play making, I think the turnovers, I think the confident, I think the execution, all of those things are important.  And you love to see young men have success.  When they work so hard at something, you love to see them go out there and get rewarded for all the hard work that they have put in.
Life isn't fair and it doesn't always go that way but you just keep working and you keep a great attitude and eventually good things are going to happen for you, and I think Trevor is a great example of that.  I hope our younger players, and I hope that players at other positions, see the same thing.  You just come in and work hard every single day and have a good attitude and eventually good things will happen for you.
So I expect Trevor to make a big jump when it comes to confidence and play making from this experience this past weekend.

Q.  During the caravan, you had mentioned you keep a file with a running list of coaches that if something happens, you'd like on your staff.  When did Bob first make an appearance in that folder on that list and what did you see that kind of made you want to have him on your staff?
COACH FRANKLIN:  Bob got recommended to me by somebody that I really trust and respect in the profession.  And I got a chance to sit down with Bob, and it didn't take me long to realize that he's got a really sharp mind when it comes to the game and understanding, and his package.
At the time he was at William & Mary, and I think the one year, it wasn't the year we hired him but may have been the year before.  I think they finished No.1 in every single category in that conference, which is hard to do.  That spoke volumes to me.
The other thing is, it's got to be a good fit.¬† It's not just the scheme.¬† Personality‑wise it has to be a good fit.¬† I think me and Bob complement each other very well.¬† I think those things are important.¬† I think the staff that we have surrounded Bob with I think is important.
I'm a huge believer in fit and gut and things like that, and chemistry, and we have that.  We have that on the defensive side of the ball.  But Bob is a sharp guy.  He works really hard at it.  It's important to him.  He's a football guy and he's a football junkie.  He's got his family and football, and they are the two things he loves to do.
I think it's also interesting that he comes from a football family.  His dad is a lawyer and his dad sends his son to Yale, and I don't think it was to be a football coach, but two of his sons are football coaches.  His other son is the offensive coordinator at Purdue, and I think that's important.
It's kind of like being a coach's kid.  You grow up talking football and being around football your whole life, you're learning things that you don't even realize.  And just like Bob; Bob goes for Thanksgiving dinner at home and him and his brother are talking football, and he's having discussions and bouncing ideas off people.
Now he can't do that any more because we're in the same conference, but I think all those things are valuable, I really do.  I think they go a long ways.

Q.¬† One more thing on Trevor.¬† When did you start to see him take that next step, either late spring or once fall camp started or even the games and you're through three games now, where do you stand maybe on some red‑shirting decisions and situations, guys that have played early, will that be it, or will a couple more still be playing in a game or two?
COACH FRANKLIN:  I don't think with any of the guys there's like an Aha! moment where you're at practice and all of a sudden you see this light bulb go over their head and it happens, the moment.  I don't think it really works that way.
I just think it's what we talked about.¬† It's guys coming to work every single day, having an attention to detail, bright‑eyed.¬† I love bright‑eyed guys; and what I mean by that is guys that are locked in, that are excited, that are attentive.¬† I don't like these sleepy‑eyed, drooping in their seats.¬† We don't allow that, but we also ‑‑ that's a big part in our recruiting, as well.¬† I want guys that have a real strong, powerful body language.¬† I think that's important in how you present yourself.¬† I think that carries over into meetings and on the field, as well.
It wasn't kind of one moment.  Trevor has been really good since the day we got here.  He needed to have some success on the field.  He's having that right now.  I don't think there's any doubt that you'd recruit that guy every year when it comes to his measurables and his intelligence and his approach.  He's got all the things you're looking for.
Now he just has to have some success, and he's starting to have that, and I'm really, really happy for him.
The second part of that question, the red‑shirting, the guys that have played obviously will continue to play and their roles will get bigger.¬† It's not like at this point of the year we'll start throwing new guys in there, unless there's a need.
And what I mean by that is injuries.¬† If there's injuries, there could be guys that play‑‑ I remember I was as a previous school and a young man that I recruited by the name of Domonique Foxworth, and Domonique had not played the entire year.¬† And the last game of the year, he had redshirted and we got a guy hurt and he burned his redshirt for the last game of the year, played, we went on to a Bowl game, he played in the Bowl game and I think he played nine years in the NFL.
So there's not one exact pattern of how it's going to play out.  It's all based on the situation that we're at and we talk to the guys about that.  We talked to you guys about that before, where, okay, you're a green and we're going to play you right now from day one.
You're a yellow, as a guy that we are going to try to hold and redshirt you if we can, but if there's any injury at any point, we're going to need you to go.
And then there's a red where you're probably not going to play, you're more in redshirt role.  But with injury you could turn into a yellow or a green pretty quick, if that makes sense.

Q.  There's been a few new sponsorships for different aspects of the program that have not had sponsors like that before.  I know you're not going out to make sales pitches to clients or anything, but did you want that?  Is that something you wanted, to have more of those revenue streams available to come to the football program in that way?
COACH FRANKLIN:  I have no idea what you're talking about.  I understand what you're saying, but I didn't know that there was anything new.  We do typically pick up donuts and now the donuts have these awesome blue boxes that say "unrivaled."  I did notice that.
But no, that's kind of out of my area of expertise.  That's the administration; they are doing a great job.  But I'm focused on graduating our players, making sure that they are doing everything that they can on and off the field; that they are making great decisions and choices and that they are having an awesome athletic experience, as well; and that they are a vital, positive, thriving part of this campus; a small part, but a part.
All that other stuff, that's out of my area of expertise.  There is some things in the spring and the summer that they will ask me to go do, different speaking engagements and things like that which I'm more than happy to do.  The way I look at it is every single person I meet is a Penn State fan, and if they are not, by the time I get done talking, they should be.  Besides that, that's not my areas of expertise.  Does that make sense?

Q.  The redshirts, Koa Farmer was a guy, I would guess was probably in the yellow category.  How has he been coming long in practice?  And going along with that, we saw more of Grant Haley than ever.  Was that by design?
COACH FRANKLIN:  Like I said, I hope the snap count for all those guys continues to improve, because then it was worthwhile in burning the redshirt.
Koa, for example, we think Koa has got a really, really bright future, but there's so many factors that go into it, and I told you guys that before.  It could be they are physically not ready.  It could be they are mentally not ready.  It could be they are emotionally not ready, or it could be just experience.
Just like every single day, we and I am gaining institutional knowledge and community knowledge.  I am learning more about this place every single day, which is going to help me do a better job in representing Penn State.  It's the same thing with our players.
Koa Farmer, for example, he was a great athlete in high school.  He played tailback.  So you're asking a guy who played tailback and safety to now play outside linebacker, and there's a transition.  Some guys are able to make that transition pretty easily, and other guys, it just takes some time.  I think Koa is going to have a very bright future.  He's doing great in school.  He's got an awesome family and he's a talented kid and he wants to be really good.
So I think Koa is going to end up having a great career here.  Just today, he's not ready.  Now, next week, maybe different.

Q.  Because UMass played Vanderbilt last week, does that give you a better feel for their personnel and some of the things that they can do?  And also, I wanted to ask you about your punt return game, whether you're still trying to find your way there as far as getting as much out of it as you want.
COACH FRANKLIN:  UMass playing a team that you're very familiar with in terms of matching up personnel and things like that is helpful, there's no doubt about that.
When it comes to punt return, I think right now we kind of know who we are and what we have.  I think one of the things that I want to see us do is there's a couple balls that we're letting get to the ground.
I think Jesse Della Valle does a great job of going up and catching punts and making really good decisions, but there's a couple of the short ones where I think he can really bring us all value, or he runs up in there and either somebody makes contact with him and we get a penalty, or he's able to catch that ball before it hits the ground and that maybe saves us 15 to 20 yards.
I think what we are also hoping is, we continue to kind of work guys back there that maybe have the ability to create a little bit more big play potential.  But it starts with catching the ball.
We need someone that's going to consistently catch the ball, first of all, and then their role will grow into that position.¬† But you've got to have those two things.¬† You've got to catch the ball first and make great decisions, and then be able to be more of a play‑maker.
We have a bunch of guys back there in practice every single day working at it.  We feel like right now our best option is Jesse Della Valle, and he's done a great job over his career here.

Q.  The first three weeks of the season were pretty travel heavy, and now you're focused on UMass, but four of the next five are at home, you play three games in five weeks, there's no bye weeks in there.  How important is it to find a rhythm with the comforts of home and be able to focus on things, rather than, do we have our whistles packed up in a box?
COACH FRANKLIN:  I think your point is really valid.  I probably have learned that more over the last couple years than anything, and I still struggle with this personally.
My answer in life for everything is:  More.  You want to have success, you work harder, you work longer, you do this, you do that.  That's just kind of how I was raised and how I was brought up personally and professionally.
But I think the older you get, you realize that it's not always about the schemes.  It's about chemistry; it's about morale, is so important, and a big part of morale is making sure guys are well rested and healthy and fresh and that's physically, as well as mentally.  And that's not just the players; that's the coaching staff, as well.
So I think probably more than ever, the last couple years, where there's times where we can throw the guys a bone, the players, the coaches and everything, to take advantage of that, we do it.
And I think that's where Dwight Galt comes in handy, his 30 years of experience, as a father, as a parent of a Division I player, as a coach, is really valuable.
That's where a guy like Brent Pry as the assistant head coach will come into my office and say, "Hey, tomorrow is the first day of school in State College, can we all take our kids to school the first day?"  I had no idea it was the first day of school.  But once he said it, I was like:  I'm so glad you said it.  Awesome.  I'm going to take my kids to school, too.
So I think those things are really important for all of us, for the health of our families, for the health of the coaches and for our team.  That's where taking the guys bowling in preseason and going to the movies and things like that, where they are expecting a practice and you do some of those things.
The other thing that I learned years ago is, I've worked on some staffs where the practice schedule at the beginning of the season is exactly the same for the Bowl game, and it really shouldn't be.  Your practices over the season should start to cut back, and those are the things that I think I've learned, because I'm kind of a hard, charging guy.  That's important.

Q.¬† You talk about developing offensive linemen, developing young players.¬† Can I assume that when all you guys came in, the staff, you've got a long‑term type of plan for this program‑‑
COACH FRANKLIN:  Yes, sir.

Q.  Just how satisfied are you with the progress at this early juncture?
COACH FRANKLIN:  You know, that's a good question.  I think that's one of the things that we do a pretty good job of is, I've been a lot of places where your focus is so much on the game that week that you're not really connecting with the freshmen.  And you have a lot of turnover with the freshmen class because those guys get sent to scout team and they are kind of forgotten about.
I meet with the freshmen probably once a week.  I'm actually meeting with them I think Friday.  I think that's so important to keep those guys connected and involved.  On Tuesdays we do the Lion's den drill.  You guys have been the Lion's den drill.  Now the Lion's den drill on Tuesdays is not for our guys that are playing on Saturday.  But it's an opportunity for the young guys to get up in front of the whole team and compete.  And that's been great to watch those guys improving each week.
The other thing we'll do is during the two bye weeks, we'll have scrimmages where we'll have the young guys scrimmage and play, really basic game plans to go out and have fun and enjoy themselves, and also to see that they got bright futures here.  And for us to evaluate them.  I think that's really, really important, as well.
So we try to balance that, no different than a lot of times, coaches recruit in the off‑season and then once the season starts, recruiting goes away and they are 100 percent on football.
To me, recruiting and coaching and developing, you're really splitting those things year round.  So we take a lot of pride in that.  We take a lot of pride in developing the whole program and developing the whole kid.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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