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PENN STATE UNIVERSITY FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
September 15, 2015
University Park, Pennsylvania
COACH FRANKLIN: Once again, appreciate everybody being here. Kind of review some of the points from last week's game. Real positive for our offense. No sacks whatsoever. Quarterback only got hit two times out of 67 plays I think was the number. Rushed for over 200 yards, which was significant for us. Had seven explosive plays, six of which were runs. Real positive there.
Defensively seven tackles for a loss, six sacks, one interception. Defense ranks number two in FBS in tackles for loss with 11 per game and eighth in sacks.
Special teams, to me it's exciting right now. Big plays on special teams. Kick return was blocked really well. Nick Scott was able to take advantage of that, very similar to Coa Farmer in week one. Punt return was blocked really well. Thompkins showed up and did some nice things there as well.
We had a missed opportunity on a punt block. Actually came so clean, I thought Charles did a really good job of having a scheme designed to pop a guy free. He came so free that he actually ran past the punter. You're constantly coaching those guys to run on the side and block so if you do miss, you don't run into the punter. He got there so fast, he should have just took the punter out completely and ran through him. That would have been exciting to see that. So we'll get those things cleaned up.
We must improve on our punt team. That's magnified this week.
As you guys know, all summer I bragged about Carl Nassib. Good to see he's playing well. Three sacks, two forced fumbles, one interception, ranked number two in sacks and fifth in tackles for loss.
Troy Reeder made his first career start at seven tackles. Young play-makers, Barkley, Polk, Scott, Thompkins all doing well. We played 16 freshmen on Saturday. I think that's going to bode well for the rest of the season. I think that's going to bode well for our future as well.
Saquon Barkley making co-freshman of the week for the Big Ten. Our players of the week on offense was Saquon Barkley, defense was Carl Nassib, special teams was Nick Scott.
Got Rutgers coming in this week. They opened the season with a win over Norfolk State, then lost last week to Washington State. Rollercoaster of emotions. They return a punt with 1:38 to go in the game to take the lead. Then Washington State goes down, scores the play, gets called back for stepping out of bounds, then scores again. That was an amazing game.
The issue with them is their kick returner and punt returner, Janarion Grant. He's got three returns for touchdowns, two last week, a kick return and a punt return, and a return in the opening game of the season, as well.
Kyle Flood, I have a lot of respect for. Kyle has been at Rutgers for a while now. You watch Kyle, you watch their program, they're tough, they're hard-nosed, they play fast. You look at them on offense, he was the O-line coach there for a while. They played big and strong and physical up front. They had recruited well. They've been coached well at that position. You see the carryover from when he coached that spot.
His fourth season there. He's the only coach to ever start with three bowls in his first three years on the job. Offensive coordinator Ben McDaniels is doing a nice job for them. Joe Rossi, their defensive coordinator, doing a nice job for them. Their plan is a plan that's had a system through a couple coaches. Their offensive and defensive systems are the same. Special teams, Phil Galiano does a nice job as well.
It's going to be a nice challenge. We have 18 players from the state of New Jersey on our roster, from my count nine that have been recruited in the last two years. So this game is obviously a little bit more special to them.
Should be a great environment here. Really, really excited about the stripe out. The white out here has been embraced here for a long time, been a cool thing. We take a lot of pride in our colors, blue and white. What a better way to show that than stripe the stadium out, show that. This could be another tradition at Penn State that people get really excited bout and have fun with. It's going to look great on TV on the Big Ten TV network. We're excited. 8:00 game, should be a packed house, a great environment.
I thought our fans last week, our opponents have 14 penalties, seven of which I think you could attribute to our fans. We'd love for them to try to up the ante this week, get that number up even higher.
Last thing I'd like to mention is Ben Kline has been selected to the Allstate American Football Coaches Association Good Works Team. Really proud of Ben. Ben addressed our team Friday night in the hotel, did a great job. You're talking about a guy who is also up for a Rhodes scholar. Just a really special guy, has a unique perspective on his time here at Penn State.
That was longer than it was supposed to be. So I'll go to questions.
Q. James, when might you expect Andrew Nelson to be able to play again? Will Brandon Bell and Grant Haley play this week?
COACH FRANKLIN: I'm hopeful that we have the possibility of all three. I think Grant and Brandon we feel pretty good about that we'll have those guys. Those guys will be significant additions for us. Grant would be really important for us. He was fantastic last year as a gunner on punt team. That would be huge for us this week having him available in that role.
Obviously, as we all know with our depth and our confidence continuing to grow on the offensive line, being able to have Nelly available would be great for us as well. Playing a bunch of young guys at linebacker, so having Brandon back, also Brandon being from New Jersey.
I can't give you specific dates. I don't get into those things anyway. That's really up to our training staff and our doctors to make those decisions anyway.
Q. You had a lot of praise after the game for Troy Reeder in his first start outside. Did he surprise you a little bit? How did you think he played in August? What did you think of Jason Cabinda when you moved him to middle?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think Jason is a man. Jason is playing really well. He's very mature. He's leading very well. I think Jason has a chance to be really good. He's doing everything right. Got some great messages. His mom direct messages me all the time. She's a sweet lady, cares about her son, does a great job. She should be very proud of Jason because he's doing a great job. I think he's going to continue to grow and continue to play at a very high level for us.
Reeder is an interesting guy. He was a guy we were really excited about last year as a redshirt. Even thought about burning his redshirt and playing him. His testing numbers are really good.
This summer he got sick and just wasn't playing the same. It took him a little while to bounce back. In the last couple weeks he's really come on strong. Fortunately for us right at the right time as we lost some guys.
So he's a guy that as a freshman we're really excited about. Didn't have as good of a camp as I thought he wanted to him or we wanted him to have. The last two weeks has really come on strong and doing some really, really nice things.
I'm real pleased with him. I think that's two young guys, a true sophomore and a redshirt freshman linebacker that is able to provide depth and experience for years to come in play-making ability.
Q. James, last year when you had to shuffle things around on the O-line, you moved Mangiro out to right tackle. Last week was Brendan Mahon. How do you think Brendan handled the switch?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think a couple things. I think we didn't have Wendy completely available the last couple weeks. I think I mentioned that to you guys before. I think that factored into it.
The other thing is you could make the argument your tackles are very important to what you're doing offensively. But your center is the quarterback of the offensive line. Angelo has a calming effect on the entire group. The fact that he's right there in the middle, he's able to communicate, he's able to take charge, he's able to lead and be a real vocal presence in there. I think that's the biggest thing, having the one senior on our offensive line be at center we thought was valuable to do that.
Mahon has played some at tackle before. We felt like he'd be able to do it and get Paris back in there. I thought those guys played pretty good. I think having Wendy back full go this week provides a little bit more flexibility for us. But I think we feel good about that unit. We just got to continue getting those five playing together for significant amount of times to build the type of chemistry and cohesion that we want.
Q. Von Walker has had an interesting journey from walk-on offensive player to starting games for you at linebacker. Talk about his importance on the team, his role, what he means to you guys.
COACH FRANKLIN: I love Von. I think you know that. You've heard me talk about him over and over and over again. He came in as a runningback. He's returned punts. He's played safety, linebacker. He's kind of done it all. He's earned a scholarship. But more importantly, he's earned the respect of everybody in our program.
I made a big deal out of him on Sunday with our team, in our team meeting, on the PowerPoint. Talked about being a leader on this team. A lot of time the offensive guys focus on the offense, and the defensive guys focus on the defense, and special teams guys in their own areas.
Von I think did a great job of not only playing on defense and playing on special teams but also coming down to the offensive side of the ball, being real energetic and positive with those guys.
I thought Nick Scott was another guy that did that as well with offense and defense. I thought he brought great energy on special teams. Is really doing some nice things. We're excited about him and his future.
But Von is a guy, when he speaks in our team meetings, when he says something out on the practice field, our coaches listen, our players listen. He's earned everybody's respect. Really, really proud of Von.
Q. James, in your experience as a head coach, obviously you have more than a hundred kids under your control or you supervise them, help them make good decisions. Knowing 18-year-olds, 22-year-olds make bad decisions. How do you help them make decisions and how does that affect the perception of your program?
COACH FRANKLIN: It's probably the thing nowadays in your profession that you lose the most sleep over. A lot of times they're making mistakes, very similar mistakes that other people in the community or other people on campus are making, but it doesn't get the same type of reaction, obviously. We're held to a different standard, and we embrace that standard.
But, yeah, we do everything in our power to try to help them understand the significance of decision making, of perception, of the microscope that's on them, just what it's like to grow up as a young man in 2015.
When I was growing up, you could make a mistake, you could get in a fight as a young kid, you could do something, learn from it and move on. Those aren't the days now. You're going to get arrested. You're going to get hurt badly. You're going to get sued. It's going to become national headlines.
We bring a lot of people in all year long, especially in the off-season, different speakers, about making great choices with drugs and alcohol and relationships, academic integrity, all those things.
I think our community service stuff that we do with P.J. that really helps. I think you've heard me say this before. Every single day when we have a team meeting, in my PowerPoint, it's examples of professional athletes, college athletes, high school athletes, programs across the country that people have made mistakes. I'm hoping by doing that that our guys can learn from it.
It's a challenge. You're responsible for 125 17-year-old to 22-year-old males. Maybe the most unpredictable group of people on the planet. It's a part of our job, to help them grow academically, help them grow socially, and help them grow athletically.
I think the other thing that's challenging is there's times where you think a young man deserves a second chance because of all the other things you know about him, his family, his background, all the other wonderful things he may be doing day in and day out, but there's so much pressure outside that sometimes you're not able to do that.
I think that's some of the challenges that we have now in our profession.
Q. Grant, return specialist for Rutgers. What have you done in the past when you're playing against a guy like that? How do you game plan against a guy that can hurt you in the return game so much?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think the biggest thing is if you're doing the things the way I think, the way we think things should be done in terms of techniques and fundamentals, it should take care of itself. I think you have to be careful because you make a big deal out of it and you're going to have the opposite effect.
I think the biggest thing is we look at it as a tremendous challenge. It's exciting when a great player comes in and you have an opportunity to maybe do some things to make sure he doesn't have a big impact in the game.
We're going to basically continue doing the things that we're doing and emphasize the things we think are important and areas we need to do better in terms of our punt location and hang time, which hasn't been up to our standards at this point.
That's something that's going to be really, really important. These are the type of guys that when you aren't good in terms of your fundamentals or techniques, they can hurt you, and hurt you in a big way.
We're just going to continue to focus and emphasize those things. He's a unique guy because some guys have speed and they can make you miss, but maybe they're not the biggest or strongest guy. This guy breaks tackles, he's able to make you miss, and he's got the ability to run away and score.
So he's a threat, there's no doubt about it.
Q. Obviously you've been raving about Carl Nassib for months now. You mentioned him earlier. He wasn't a guy that came to Penn State with a lot of fanfare. What has been the biggest difference for him on the field? Is it just about adding size and strength or is there a confidence factor you have to hit?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think it's all those things. Typically guys put on 25 pounds. Typically they are able to get stronger and faster while putting on 25 pounds with the training that we do.
He's one of the unique guys that's put on about 65 pounds and is faster and stronger than he was. So he can be a real matchup. There's not too many defensive ends at 278 pounds that are as powerful and explosive and strong and also have the football IQ that he does.
I think it's a combination of all those things. The thing that's amazing, I don't know if I mentioned this to you guys or not before, last week was Carl's first start ever in high school or college. Never started a game in high school.
So you talk about an amazing story of a guy that's persevered, had a great attitude, kept believing in himself, kept working hard. I think it's all those things. I think it's size, it's strength, it's speed, it's mentality. I mean, he is one of the more driven guys that I know.
On top of that, I think he is really confident because that guy comes to work every single day. The more success you have day in and day out, that's going to translate to games on Saturday. I see that with him.
Q. Brandon Polk, he's obviously adding a new dimension to the offense. How did that idea develop? Did he run the jet sweep much in high school? Why him? What skills that he has lends itself to that and how does it put more pressure on the defense, aside from just gaining yards?
COACH FRANKLIN: Polk, a couple things. It became very obvious to us early on. It's funny, if you look at testing numbers, he's fast, but he's not probably the fastest guy on our team. He's probably in the top five, somewhere in that argument. But it became really obvious there's some guys that test really well and then there's some guys that play really well, then there's guys that do both. He was a guy, it was pretty obvious to the guys on the team as well as players, on the field he plays as fast as anybody. He really does. When he has the ball in his hands, not only is he able to accelerate and get to top speed quickly, but he's also able to change direction without losing a step and make quick decisions.
Even in his decision making, he makes quick, decisive decisions. We thought he brought some things to the table for us, him and Thompkins. Both of those guys could bring some speed and misdirection to our offense that I think we needed. I think you'll see those guys' packages continue to grow in terms of vertical threats in the passing game as well.
That was something that we saw on film recruiting him, felt strongly about. That was something when he came here and tested this summer, he backed it up with most of his numbers. Once we got on the field, it showed as well.
Although he's not the biggest guy, he also has very, very natural ball skills which I think I've mentioned before. If you have really good ball skills, it makes you faster and it makes you taller than you actually are because you don't have to slow down to catch the ball, and you're able to catch balls outside of your typical catch radius because you're able to change direction, control your body, and go up and get balls. He's got real confidence in that area, as well.
He's just a neat guy. I've just been real proud of him and how he's handled it all. It's funny, he has that touchdown. He comes back to the sideline. His facial expression never really kind of changed. I don't know if he was in shock. I don't know if he's still figuring it out. I don't know if that's kind of how he is, even-keeled. But I'm happy for him and I'm happy for our offense and defense and our team as a whole.
Q. You're 96th in the country with net punting. What are some of the issues with hang time, some of the things you talked about on Saturday?
COACH FRANKLIN: We want 40 yards. We want a 4.0 hang time. We want the location we're looking for. We're not getting that right now.
To me, you can probably live with two out of the three. You'd like all three. You'd like the distance, the hang time and you'd like the location.
Right now we're not getting the hang time or the location, which is really stressing our coverage units. When you have to cover 53 in the third, probably you could make the argument one of the better athletes on the field back there returning the punts, you're causing stress on anybody, then you're also putting our defense in a tough spot when it comes to field position.
We have to consistently punt the ball for the distance and the hang time and then we need to get the location more times than not. That needs to happen.
I make the argument I'd rather you punt it 37 yards out of bounds than 50 yards with no hang time down the middle of the field. That's what we need to do.
Q. Barkley's high school coach said in a cool story about him giving his medal to a fellow track member that he's an emotional, passionate guy that is trying to get his emotions in check. Would you describe him that way as well?
COACH FRANKLIN: I haven't seen a whole lot of that from him. He's a unique guy, he really is. Really doing well in school. Really doing well football-wise. From the day he got on campus it was obvious. Everybody says they want to play as freshmen, but he approached it that way. He was constantly harassing Hack about watching film, throwing with him in the summer, all those types of things. He really approached it as if not only did he want to play but he was going to make it happen.
It's funny, I know a bunch of people in that community from where I went to college. His position coach in college was one of my wide receivers. It's amazing now all the requests that I'm getting for people that want to come to games, are really excited about him because he's just such a good kid. I think that story last year about him giving the medal kind of shows the type of heart he has, type of family, type of person he is.
I'm proud of him. I really am proud of him. The emotions and things like that right now there's a lot. I literally was talking to him 20 minutes ago walking up the stairs. We put pictures up in our office after each win. There's a great picture of him on the hurdle. I mean, it is like perfect. I was telling him about it, so he wanted to come up and see it.
He was just telling me the amount of people texting him, calling him, sending him messages. His response was, It's only one game, it's only one game. I think that's one of the things that's different for young guys is making sure you handle that the right way.
It's special to be a Pennsylvania kid and come to Penn State and have success. The whole state rallies around you. I think he's seeing that right now. It's our job to make sure we continue to talk to these guys about how they handle it and keep that hunger and keep that humility and keep working through it.
Q. Last year Rutgers played a lot of man coverage against you guys. Are you concerned about seeing that same thing this year, trying to commit people towards the run?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think we're going to see a similar game plan as last year, similar game plan that we saw against Temple. I think you're going to see cover two to help with the young corners they're playing. I think you're going to see load the box, blitz, try to cause confusion with our offensive line. I think it's going to be those two things. It's going to be coverage, cover two, protect the corners, or protect the corners by blitzing like crazy to try to get the ball out of the quarterback's hand quickly.
The thing that's a little bit different right now is compared to game one and compared to our game against them last year is our threat to run the ball more effectively.
Those blitzes are disruptive, but being able to run the ball and crease them, you have an opportunity for big plays as well. That's also where our willingness to run the ball more I think helped us last week, not just on normal downs but in the red zone and third down as well.
I think that was a big factor in being able to protect our quarterback. Not only running the ball, but running the ball in different situations.
Q. A lot is made this off-season about whether or not Rutgers or Maryland are Penn State's rival. Instead of getting into all of that, what do you think makes up a good organic rivalry?
COACH FRANKLIN: The word you just used, 'organic.' It's something that comes up over time. Nobody comes up with it in a marketing meeting. It's something that happens over time between fans, schools, alumni. I think the word you used - organic - is the best way to describe it.
Q. Do you like playing a conference game in week three when the rest of the Big Ten is still in their non-conference schedule? Is it ideal to maybe get a head start this early on? Are there any advantages or disadvantages? Preparing for a conference opponent, can that help you when you get into the meat of the Big Ten schedule?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think you're going to see more and more of this across the country. I think conferences across the country, including the Big Ten, are going to go to this model more where fans and TV want to see good games, what they consider high-profile games, all year long.
So now you're spreading your non-conference games out throughout your entire schedule rather than the first three, four weeks of the season being predominantly non-conference, then all conference late. It's going to allow you to have a conference matchup in week one, week two for TV, all those types of things.
The other thing it allows you to do, it allows you to have a non-conference game later in the schedule. A really good example of that is you look at Georgia and Georgia Tech play each other. Well, a lot of times Georgia will play Georgia Southern right before Georgia Tech. Why? To help them for that scheme, similar schemes, things like that. You'll see people schedule out-of-conference games later in the season.
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH FRANKLIN: I think coaches, then from a historical perspective, you like to start out with non-conference games. I get why we're going this way. It's not like I'm opposed to it.
You look in the NFL, they have pre-season games. You look in college, they had out-of-conference games before you get into your conference, which in the end is what everybody is trying to do, win their conference, put themselves in position to get to a great bowl game or now the Playoffs.
I'm fine either way, I really am. I think there's an advantage to having non-conference games later in the season, I think there's an advantage to having conference games earlier in the season.
Sometimes you'll go on a seven week straight run with conference games without a bye or non-conference game and that can be challenging as well.
Q. On ESPN today, the Florida coach went off on the kid for a throat slash. Did you happen to see that?
COACH FRANKLIN: I did not.
Q. What is your philosophy when you have a kid that scores, a flag, excessive celebration the other day, can you speak to that?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think what you guys are going to find from me is when I'm going to try to come into this meeting, I'm going to come into this meeting each week postgame and this press conference, and it's hard sometimes after the game. You're emotional. But I'm going to try to come in and take a deep breath and have some perspective on the big picture and things that need to be dealt with I'll probably say that there's going to be things we need to deal with but I'm going to try to handle most of those things internally. Family business as much as we possibly can.
I'm not saying there's a right way or a wrong way to do it. I'm not saying how that was handled was right or wrong. Again, I didn't watch it, don't know enough about it. But I'm going to try to deal with things and get guys to understand the big picture and learn on how we're going to conduct ourselves on the field and off without necessarily doing it in this type of venue.
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH FRANKLIN: Our penalty during the game was justified. I couldn't tell during the game. After watching it on video, it was definitely justified. That's not who we are. We preach all the time about you score a touchdown, you flip the ball to the official and you pay respect to the guys that helped you get into the end zone, then you come to the sideline, celebrate with your teammates, go on to the next play.
It's been addressed, talked about. I think more times than not our guys conduct themselves in a really positive light. We want to continue to do that. We don't want to do anything that we view as being selfish, that brings attention to you or also puts our special teams or our defense at risk with field position.
Q. You mentioned earlier the trio of guys you're hopeful will be coming back on Saturday. When you have guys who have missed time and are working their way back, I would imagine it's different to be fully ready to go for Saturday or a practice on a Tuesday or Wednesday. What is the premium to you with guys working their way back for them to be available early in the week for preparation instead of saying, You're healthy on Saturday, let's throw you in?
COACH FRANKLIN: I don't really have rules on that. I've been on coaching staffs where the coach says, If the guy isn't ready on this day, he's not playing no matter what. I've seen that hurt us sometimes.
To me there's a difference between a senior who's missed a couple practices because of injury, that guy is going to have a better chance of practicing on Saturday with a limited number of practices compared to a freshman. Each situation is unique and specific.
First and foremost, it's going to come from our doctors and trainers. We're never going to put guys on the field unless they can protect themselves and play at a high level. Then after that it's, Does this guy give us the best chance to win? Is it the backup that gives us the best chance to win or is it the starter who maybe isn't 100%?
Again, based on experience, based on position, based on need, based on a lot of things, we'll factor into that. The ideal situation is the guy gets banged up in the game and is able to practice at some level on Sunday, a greater level on Tuesday, an even more greater level on Wednesday as the week goes on, and by Thursday he's full go, Friday is a walk-through, and Saturday he feels pretty good.
That's not always the case. Again, as you guys know, based on some of our challenges, sometimes we don't have the flexibility of putting somebody else in. You're real hopeful a guy is going to be able to make it back because you may be in a position of burning redshirts like we had to do two weeks ago because there's nobody else on the roster to put in from an eligibility standpoint or the next best player that you think can help you win the game. There may be other people on the roster, but burning that redshirt you feel gives you the best chance to win the game.
Q. When you watched the film, looked at Paris Palmer, what did you see differently in him from week one to week two? Do you think it was the pieces around him playing around him, or jitters?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think it was all those things and also the opponent. The team we played week one, like I mentioned before, had a top 10 defense the year before with 10 returning starters, good defense. I thought it was week two for him. He had played, gotten some of those things out of his system.
I think the other four guys playing together, being more confident, taking control of those situations as well.
I think the way we called the game. I think the emphasis on the running game, moving the pocket. All the things we've discussed, they've all factored into individual player's success as well as team success.
Q. Last Wednesday we talked about some of the internal changes you're making, managing the game. Are you satisfied with the results of those changes? Are you doing anything else this week to further that process?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think it's a progress. It's not like it's a light switch that you go from one scenario to the next and it just changes overnight.
To be honest with you, it's probably back more to the model we're used to over our time together as a complete staff. The more we get comfortable with Penn State, the more we get comfortable with all of our other responsibilities and duties, the more we're able to work together and have dialogue and have conversations on how we're going to handle situations and things like that.
I think it's probably more back to the way we're used to doing things. I thought it went well. I still think there's a lot of areas we've got to get cleaned up, a lot of areas we can improve on. I thought the conversation and the decision making and the plan made more sense for the situation we were in last week and that we're in in general.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports