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September 8, 2015

James Franklin

University Park, Pennsylvania

An interview with:


COACH FRANKLIN: -- you spend a lot of time, you work really hard, you know you're capable and we didn't do that. A lot of times discussing those things and then getting to work, because once you have those conversations and address them then it's time to move on and start solving the problems and getting to work. If you look offensively, obviously the sacks were the big story line on the offensive side of the ball. Everyone had a role in them, the offensive line, the quarterbacks, the receivers, we had communication issues in all three phases, offense, defense, and special teams.

We need to do a better job there. We're going to be looking at different possibilities this week, moving some guys around to find out what's going to be our best five for Saturday. We will look at that, we have to look at that for me to come in here and say we're not going to look at the possibilities, I don't think is the right thing to do for our program.

So we will look at those possibilities this week, what are the best five to get on the field to give us the best chance to protect our quarterback and be able to sustain a running game.

We gotta make plays in the passing game, we got to eliminate dropped balls, we gotta eliminate the penalties and we gotta move the pocket and move the launching point for the quarterback. Those are the things I think we can do to help.

Defensively we had communication issues, especially after losing Nyeem Wartman. I looked out on the field at one point, and we had Reeder as a redshirt freshman on the field, we had Cooper as a true freshman on the field, and we had Manny Bowen as a true freshman on the field. Manny and Cooper didn't take any reps; they were on scout team. We weren't expecting to play them, and they went right from the scout team to us burning their redshirts and getting them on the field. So we had communications issues that we need to get cleaned out. We gotta get off the field on defense, with three and outs and turnovers. I thought a critical drive in the game was we were up 10-nothing. We punted them down to the 7 yard line line. At that point we had the lead and had field position.

They went on a 93-play drive and the momentum started to kinda swing at that point. Combination, again, of offense, defense, and special teams, all of those phases. On a positive note I thought Carl Nassib played really well defensively, a guy that's been as locked in and as focus and had as committed as anybody in our program. I think our commitment levels is high across the board, but he's been a guy you have heard me talk about a lot for the last year and a half.

I'm really proud of him and how he's played, and I expect him to continue to play well. Special teams, I thought Joe Julius played well for his first start. Need more consistency in his kick-off location, but I thought overall he kicked the ball deep, he kicked the field goal effortlessly, like he's been doing his whole career.

Punter, we have to be more consistent at that position. We had some good distance but our hang time and our location wasn't right, and it put our coverage teams in some tough spots. I think that had an issue in field position starting the swing in the game.

We talked all off-season, and I probably could have done a better job of this, talking about practice depth compared to game depth. We were so excited to be able to get back to practicing in more of a normal, standard way, but we still don't have tremendous game depth.

Again, we go from -- you lose one or two guys and now you're putting a true freshman on the field that you were planning on redshirting. So our practice depth is much better, we need to continue to develop our game depth.

Again, I get it. I get it. It was tough to walk into that press conference after the game. It was tough to walk into this press conference today, the last couple of days have not been great. The only positive thing that's happened in the last two days is seeing my wife and daughter after the game and getting a chance to hug and kiss on them. I did not bring my daughters into the press conference, because all those discussions we had in the off-season, but that was the one real positive. What I will say is this: There is a lot of positive program -- a lot of positive things going on in the program right now. You look at all the academic success that we have had, you look at the impact that we're having on the community. I couldn't be more proud of our team and I couldn't be more proud of our program and our organization as a whole.

We gotta get the football part right, now. I get that. But all those things are important. It's been my experience and my history that if you're disciplined in the classroom and disciplined off the field then that equates to on the field success as well.

We got a lot of areas that we gotta get better at but myself, the staff, the players, we're as motivated as we've ever been. I think coming in and practicing on Sundays and being able to move on from it, watch the film and practice and get those corrections made helps, and then give the guys off all Monday while the coaches game plan has also been a positive force. I know there will be more questions about the Temple game, but I wanted to address it with you guys and move on now to Buffalo.

They're coming in here 1-0, they beat Albany last week 51-14. I think Coach Liepold does a great job, he has an amazing background. You look at his record and he has a lot of amazing things he's been able to do in his career. They have seven offensive starters returning, three defensive starters returning, one on special teams. Kind of an interesting game for our coaches. There is some carryover. Brent Pry played at Buffalo, Jim Haslett coached at Buffalo, Akeel Lynch grew up not far at all from there, at St. Francis, so there are some interesting things about the game.

We are looking forward to being back at home in front of our friends and family and our supporters. I think it's going to be really, really important for our team to be in this environment, and I ask for people to be positive, I ask for people to be patient and good things are coming. Open it up to questions.

Q. James, you answered my first question about what you're planning to do about the offensive line. What do you plan to do at middle linebacker now that Nyeem is out for the season and will Brandon Bell and Grant Haley be able to play Saturday?
COACH FRANKLIN: Brandon and Grant are questionable for Saturday. I can't answer that at this point. I think Wooten is an option for us at middle linebacker, I think Jason Cabinda is an option at middle linebacker, and I think Jake Cooper is an option at us for middle linebacker. We're going to spend this week trying to figure that out. That's based on what we get from the injury reports, and that's also based on what guys do at practice and how they take over that leadership role. Those things will be really important for us, but, yeah, we're going to have to look at some moving parts and getting guys ready to take over that responsibility, not just from a physical standpoint but also from a leadership and mental standpoint.

Q. James, you talked about the offensive line. As you look at them this week, who is a guy you think that is maybe close to being ready to play at left tackle or the guard spot other than the guys that you started against Temple?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, I don't know if you're necessarily going to see a bunch of new starters. I think you're going to possibly see some guys move around, things like that. Wendy, he's a guy that can figure in for us as well. Chance Sorrell is a guy that can possibly figure in for us as well.

But I think more than anything you're going to see some moving parts, but, again, we had a walk-through on Sunday, we gotta go out and practice on Tuesday through Friday and determine some of those things. Obviously we spent a lot of time in the off-season trying to figure out who our best five were going to be. We had some question marks. Again, felt like we would play better than we did on Saturday, but we're going to have to figure that out throughout this week.

Q. James, early you mentioned communication at the top of the press conference here. I know early on last season you said you thought maybe that was one of the issues for your offensive line, guys getting antsy about making calls as things were snowballing. Did you see that come up at all on Saturday or did you see more be mental mistakes or physical?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think it was probably a little bit of both. We had some communication issues from the sideline with signaling, plays coming in, that happened a few times. We had some situations where I think, again, in practice, guys had been taking control and being able to help some inexperienced players by telling them what to do, and I think we got into the game and things started flying around and that communication stopped. So I think that's one of the things that we gotta continue to work on and continue to stress because you guys have heard me say this before. A lot of times on offense and defense, you can be wrong as long as everybody is wrong together, and we're all on the same page, and that didn't happen at times on Saturday.

Q. James, where do you think the offensive coaching staff can be better on a game day, particularly this week against Buffalo?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, we're evaluating everything, had some hard discussions this weekend with all of us, the entire staff. I think there are some things we can do a better job of in terms of managing the game, continuing to run the ball, obviously the more success you have running the ball it makes it easier to continue doing that, but I think we can run the ball more, move the pocket more. There are things that I think would be more helpful for us, for a lot of different reasons. And I think we have to be able to take more shots. When they're going to load the box and play cover 1 and cover 0 and play press man and outnumber you in the box, you have to be willing to take shots down the field. Issue with taking shots, obviously you hold on to the ball a little bit longer and if you don't complete them now you're in second and 10, second and long, which creates third and long situations, which was one of our big challenges on Saturday, we were in way too many third and longs.

The issue though is you have to threaten them deep to loosen them up so you have to be willing to take those shots. There are areas I think we could be better and we have discussed those things as well. Another example where I got to do a better job is after they did go on that long drive we talked about earlier we gotta come out and maybe go huddle and not go no-huddle and run the ball to maybe give our defense a little bit more time on the sidelines.

Q. James, I wanted to see, could you evaluate your tight ends? How do you think they locked on Saturday? Some people were surprised not one catch from your tight ends. Could you talk about that?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, I don't think we blocked well. I don't think we blocked well. I think that's an area that we can definitely improve on. I think getting Kyle back into the mix a little bit more will help us this week. I think Mike Gesicki playing a more prominent role will be better this week, and I think Wilkerson, I think all those guys can do a better job. Again, the speed of the game sometimes is difficult to replicate in practice, and I think that caught up with the tight ends a few times on Saturday.

In the passing game there is no doubt we want to get 'em involved. They were targeted a few times. We got some things we gotta clean up there and I think there are some things we can do, plays that we have run in the past to get those guys the ball and get the ball to them quickly would be helpful.

Q. James, you've told us in the past that sometimes you would like your quarterback to get out and maybe scramble and gain 3, 4, 5 yards. Are you going to be reminding Christian of this, and do you think he should be getting rid of the ball maybe throw-aways out-of-bounds when the rush is heavy? Do you think he should do that more?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think like I said with the sacks there is a combination of reasons. It's not one person, it's the coaches, it's the "O" line, it's the quarterbacks, the running backs, the receivers, everybody had a hand in it. I think there are things we definitely can improve on and I think at times throwing the ball away and at times, stepping up in the pocket and getting 3, 4 yards would help but I would also say the pressures which you typically do with a pro-style pocket quarterback is you pressure up the middle, you pressure up the middle so a lot of times he didn't have those opportunities as well.

Q. Pinstripe Bowl last year you talked after that game about how good you were in blitz pick-up and gave Christian time to have a huge game and receivers to get open and so forth. Some of the Temple kids after the game Saturday talked about how they did some things blitzing that you guys didn't pick up. How much of it was just failure to recognize blitzes?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think part of it -- that was the communication stuff that I mentioned earlier. They did a lot of stuff where they were having all five of our offensive linemen covered, blitzing and playing cover 0 or cover 1 behind it, so a lot of times you're able to create double teams if they only bring four guys, but when they're bringing five guys and sometimes six, now basically every single offensive lineman and your running back or your tight end, all of them have to win; not one guy can get beat. So, yeah, they were doing some things as well as twisting and things like that. Their game plan was obviously to attack our offensive line and create confusion, that was their plan going into the game, it was pretty obvious and obviously press on the outside to make it difficult for you to get rid of the ball quickly. So we will probably see that game plan again, people are going to study that film, the Boston College a little bit different you have the last three, four games of the season to study, kind of anticipate, you might get one or two different blitz in the game, but Temple did a good job of doing those things off-season, saying we're going to attack their offensive line and tack protections and overload the box for the running game.

Q. We haven't seen a lot of them, but obviously you have what does he bring to the table with Nyeem out, and with -- also, how have they been able to step in there be able to handle the job that Nyeem did?
COACH FRANKLIN: I'm sorry, I didn't hear the first part; it was breaking up.

Q. Wondering about -- you've seen Wooten more than we have. What does he bring to the table leadershipwise with Nyeem out, and on the defense things like that, and kind of and the same thing with Cabinda.
COACH FRANKLIN: Wooten and Cabinda are both guys that have played and have experience. Wooten is a guy that's been playing here for a number of years here now and has played well in his back-up role. That's what we're going to look at this week. We're going to look at who is going to take control not only physically be able to make the plays but out there on the field making the calls and the checks. That's one of the things with our defense there is a lot of communication that goes on and everybody's got to be on the same page.

So that's going to be the thing we're looking for this week of who steps up into that role. I think in general Gary is a soft-spoken guy; I've probably heard him say seven words since we've been it here, where Cabinda is more of an extrovert and he's always got something to say.

It will be interesting this week to see who steps up and takes control of that opportunity and that responsibility.

Q. Just wondering, going back to dealing with their defense and their pressure, could there have been changes in the play calling to offset that? Maybe it seems simple, few more draws, screens, just things that, you know, would take advantage of what they were doing and turn it into your advantage?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think, like I mentioned, one of the things we could do is move the pocket. I think that would help us. Draws, you know, again, if you're blitzing and you got the entire box loaded and they're in man coverage a draw is more of a zone concept, attacking a zone concept defense than necessarily man-to-man. So there is no doubt moving the pocket I think could help. Screens, same thing, they're in man coverage which sometimes makes it difficult for the line, the offensive linemen to get leverage to block the linebacker that's covering the running back, unless you crack 'em or something like that.

So, again, they had a good plan to attack an area that we're still working through, but, yeah, I think there are some things we can do in terms of moving the pocket and things like that. It was similar to the game last night, I watched the highlights of the game last night, overloading the box and things like that, you know, similar plans.

Q. James, it's the nature of the beast for fans to be upset after that sort of game. You had some former players be vocal and critical. Are you disappointed by that? What's your reaction when you hear that?
COACH FRANKLIN: Again, you know, the fans are going to be passionate, the former players are going to be passionate. They take a lot of pride, they take a lot of pride in this place, and they should. They should.

We have been through a lot in our last three years. We need to continue to work through these things and the only way to get those things done is to stay positive, to stay together and work through it. Work through it. I can sit here and list out 15 reasons that we're in the position that we're in but those don't matter. We gotta find a way to get it done, find a way to overcome the situation that we're in. I know we're capable of playing better, we gotta do it, we gotta do it. Again, there is going to be criticism and THURT feelings and there are going to be people that are upset. The reason people are so upset is because they care so much. I get it. I get it.

Again, I would just ask for everybody to take a deep breath and have some patience, because the negativity is not going to help, the positive, the positive energy and the support for our players is what's going to be able to get us through this. I know if people are patient and they're positive, good things are coming down the road.

Q. Along those lines, one person, some of the former players and fans have criticized heavily is John Donovan. How would you analyze what he's done since he's been here and how confident are you that he's the right guy to be the coordinator?
COACH FRANKLIN: Everything in our program is being evaluated, every single aspect of it, and we all have responsibilities. The head coach has responsibilities, offensive coordinator has responsibilities, the defensive coordinator has responsibilities, all the position coaches, the recruiting coordinator, everybody has responsibilities, and everybody's gotta pull their weight. Do I think there have been some challenges more so on the offensive side of the ball than the defensive side of the ball since we arrived? Yeah. But we also have to be creative to overcome some of those things, and everybody is being evaluated. My job is to support everybody and find a way to overcome some of these challenges and issues that we have right now.

Q. Are you disappointed in the adjustment level once you guys went up and Temple outscored you 27-nothing? What did you see on that side particularly on offense that you guys should have been able to react to?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think a lot of things fell into place. Again, I don't think it was just one side of the ball or one player or anything like that, it was a combination.

Right at the same time that our offense started to struggle we lost Nyeem Wartman; that had an impact on our defense. Offensively we were trying to establish, you know, the running game, we weren't able to do that consistently. When I think we gave up that first sack, I think you saw a change, you know, on our sideline in terms of some confidence and we got to be able to be mentally tough and fight through those things.

There is no doubt about it, we gotta find a way to solve issues, solve problems with a lot of the things that I already mentioned, moving the pocket and things like that to create some more time, to create some more throwing lanes, things like that.

Q. (Away from mic.) -- compared to taking snaps under center, not just for the quarterback but also for the run game rather than taking a -- (Away from mic.)
COACH FRANKLIN: If you look at us historically, we have been about 50/50 and that's including third downs, so if you were saying normal downs we have probably been under center more. When you're in the gun I know for our defense you look at every time Temple went under center on Saturday our defense stopped them because there was no threat of the quarterback running.

Those things, some of the misdirection and the threat of the quarterback running slows the defense down, so there are some of the things that we're looking at in terms of the misdirection and having the quarterback in the gun, and the other thing is for protection. When you're passing the ball and when you're trying to check from a run to a pass, something like that, and our protection issues that we have had there is a reason why we're starting them back at 5 yards from the beginning rather than under center.

Obviously the faster you can get him away from the defense, those things help. But, again, if you look at us and our history, we have been about 50/50, we have been a lot more gun wins we've been there, but a lot of that is because of our "O" line.

Q. Coach, what did you see from Akeel Lynch in his first action as the back, if you will, and do you expect his workload to increase as the season progresses, and what's your plan going forward with Akeel?
COACH FRANKLIN: I thought Akeel did some nice things on Saturday. He's going to continue to have opportunities in practice and the game to show us that he's "the guy!"

Right now he's listed at the top of the depth chart, and I think from an experience and from a mental standpoint he's ahead of the rest of the guys. I would love for him to take control of that job and say, "I'm the guy" and be a difference-maker for us. He's shown flashes.

Q. You guys look -- (away from mic.) After you have looked at it in hindsight, would you have done that again, and five of the ten sacks came in the fourth quarter and the attitude changes. Does that concern you? Do you think there was a "quit" moment there?
COACH FRANKLIN: No, I never mentioned that. I said there was a confidence issue once we gave up the first sack, I think, you know, there was a confidence issue at that point.

I think at the end of the game you're in a situation you don't want to be in where you're down by a number of points and you have to pass to get back in the game, and now you're in a situation where the defense knows what you're doing with an inexperienced offensive line that's not a situation you want to be in. I would actually say us managing the game before we got to that and running the ball more, I think that would have helped more than anything. At the end of the game, again, I think you can make arguments both ways. Again, the message that we're always going to present is we're going to fight until the last whistle.

I know after the fact you look back when you don't win the game and you give up those sacks late in the game you say, yeah, you should have got 'em out of there but there is a mentality that we're going to fight to the last whistle as well.

Q. -- (Away from mic.) How the adjustment mechanism works, talking about the things that -- (Away from mic.) If you had done this this would have helped you, but it doesn't seem like those sorts of things matter. How do you go from knowing you should have done this or could have done this to knowing -- (Away from mic.)
COACH FRANKLIN: I think we gotta get it done, there is no doubt about it. It's got to be recognized faster on game day. When things aren't going well we're going to go to these things. This is first thing we're going to go to when we load the box, press man; this is the second thing we're going to go to when we get load the box, press man, so on and so forth. We're having a hard time during protection, these are the things we're going to during the game. There is no doubt we got to recognize those things and get to him faster, I agree with you.

Q. -- (Away from mic.) Palmer's play and what was the situation football that seemed, there was a question, your question about the inflation.
COACH FRANKLIN: Yep. Palmer I think played like a guy starting his first game. That's accurate. I think he's worked really hard, I think he's improved dramatically and this week we're going to have to make some decisions, but I think he played like a guy starting his first game. The balls, you know, we all know we had this thing in the off-season in the NFL. It wasn't something that was stressed that was going to be an area of emphasis in college and when my quarterback's coach and quarterback comes up to me before the game and said the balls were a lot different than they exported them to be, we had a discussion about it.

Q. (Away from mic.)
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, Jim is working like he's still working for the Redskins, in terms of hours, he's there all the time. He's been a really good sounding board for all our coaches. He's sitting in the staff meeting. For him, again, it's more of what we have discussed already. He's a sounding board. We talk about a lot of different things like that but in terms of strategy and things like that he's not really involved in those types of things.

Q. Coach, how do you look at the way your safeties played, specifically Jordan Lucas in his first game at safety with the long runs that happened later in the game? How do you evaluate that performance?
COACH FRANKLIN: I didn't think as a defense -- two things. I thought we allowed the ball to get out into open space more than we normally have with some of the zone reads and things like that, and then I didn't feel like we tackled as well as we have in open space in our past. So that's an area that we gotta improve on. I think that showed up on Saturday for sure.

Q. You had a conversation during your halftime interview talking about -- I believe it was about free snap adjustments, making calls that they were forcing you to check out of a run and forcing you to check out with what they were showing. Are there things you can do presnap to counteract that and dictate back to them?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think there are some things that you can do. You could lineup an empty and spread 'em out to force them into a check, you can like up an unbalanced, which we did, have an unbalanced check, the issue with going empty is you can create is stress on your offensive line. So, yeah, we have discussed this in the past and I know everybody wants it to be an easy solution, but it starts up front on defense it starts up front on offense it starts up front.

You can build an offense or a defense around your front. The better you are up front the more flexibility and the more creative you can be in terms of attacking the defense in terms of solving problems in terms of dictating the style of play. There is no doubt about it. But when you're calling a game to solve your problems rather than attacking, that becomes challenging and that's one of the situations we have been in for the last year and a half.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.

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