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September 22, 2015

James Franklin

University Park, Pennsylvania

COACH FRANKLIN: First of all, really appreciate everybody's coming out. Everybody's aware we got great news yesterday, thrilled by the recommendation for the early conclusion of the monitorship that's been made and accepted, which is great. I think it's another sign that the healing is taking place and positive step in the right direction. Lot of hard work by a lot of different people to get us in that position, so I think that's exciting news for the Penn State Athletic Department as a whole.

Notes from the game, obviously real positives. I want to thank the fans. I had a chance to do that after the game, but want to do it again.

From the moment we left the hotel, the fans were everywhere. Driving down the street, they're pounding on the side of the bus. Monica, who is the officer who works with our program in terms of security on game day, she didn't like it, but everybody else on the bus did. Pulling up in front of the stadium, fans everywhere, P.J. telling me he was driving around and it was just electric. He had not seen the tailgating, the R.V. lot, the environment like this in a long time. So I thought that was great. I want to thank the fans again.

Get in the stadium, look up, the students are there in pregame, screaming and going crazy and supporting us. Focused on the warm-up, and next thing I know I look up in the stands and there is the stripeout. It's already formed and really cool.

Defensively we held Rutgers to 43 yards which was huge. Made them one-dimensional. We achieved our goal of three explosive plays or less. We created three turnovers, Reid with an interception and a fumble recovery which was caused by Apke which is awesome, and Haley had an interception as well in his first game back.

Five sacks, Cochran, Johnson, Lucas, Nassib all had one, and Brown and White, two red-shirt freshmen both shared a sack. Thought the D-line dominated the fourth quarter. Five sacks, five tackles for loss, one fumble recovery. I talked to them about I love for them to have more of an impact on first, second, and third quarter, although they were very disruptive, I still think more sacks earlier in the game would be helpful. They did take over the game and dominate the fourth quarter, which is awesome.

We've got to improve on our tackling, fundamentals, too many missed opportunities. We had a safety. That would have been a huge play in the game, and we just had a few examples show up of tackling fundamentals that we're better at, and we've got to eliminate the penalties.

Offensively, 330 yards rushing. Rutgers was previously leading the league in rush defense at 39 yards a game. Again, 39 yards a game they were giving up. We rushed for 330 yards, no sacks two weeks in a row. Nine explosive plays, seven runs, two passes. We scored touchdowns in three out of four trips to the red zone.

We've still got to eliminate our penalties. Look at that opening drive, we had two penalties in our opening drive. In my opinion, we stopped ourselves, and we've got to get those things cleaned up.

Huge emphasis this week on making with the offense about hands inside, which is going to create more power and create more leverage, and also eliminate penalties.

Special teams, I think we're playing really fast and confident on special teams right now. If you had to say what unit has improved the most on our team, I'd say it's special teams. So that's through scheme, that's through commitment and effort, and that's through just more depth that we have.

Nick Scott's making a huge impact. Everybody is focusing on him as a returner, he's having just as much or more of an impact in running down the field. If you guys get a chance and watch the game, watch all of the kickoffs and look who is the first one running into the end zone. Even the balls that are kicked and not returned, we take a lot of pride in being disciplined and covering down to the end zone.

Nick Scott first. Nick Scott first. The one time he's running like he's breaking the tape, running through the end zone. He's having a lot of fun with it and flying around.

I thought this was really important: Of the 13 drives that Rutgers started the game, because of our special teams they averaged the 18-yard line. Compared to our offense starting at the 34-yard line. So that was a big impact in the game what our special teams was able to do.

Tremendous effort and execution, Von Walker is doing well is there. I think all three phases, the exciting part is we can still get a lot better.

Big Ten weekly honors, co-freshmen of the week second week in a row, Saquon Barkley, 195 yards and 21 carries, two touchdowns. He's one of 18 freshmen that I played in the game on Saturday.

Players of the week for our staff, on offense, we went with the offensive line as a unit, as a full unit. Defense, John Reid special teams, Chris Gulla.

Onto San Diego State, a few notes about those guys. Head coach, Rocky Long, his fifth season. They've been to five straight bowl games there. He's the winningest coach in their conference. Their offensive coordinator Jeff Horton has nine years of experience in the Big Ten, knows our conference very, very well.

Their defensive coordinator is their head coach Rocky Long, and their special team coordinator is Bobby Hauck who used to be the head coach at Montana and used to be the head coach at UNLV. Returning starters on offense, five, defense, special teams two. We only have one player on our roster right now. We want to expand that, but we only have one player from the State of California, so we have Koa Farmer's family and relatives doing some doing some research on San Diego State for us in those communities.

I want to mention Saturday is the unrivaled band jam. My man Greg Drain bringing the energy, bringing the juice. Those guys do an awesome job for us in the stadium. Tuesday nights they practice on our turf, and I love it. They're out there jamming on Tuesday nights in the stadium. What they do, obviously, the environment that they bring is really, really special. So we're indebted to the commitment that our band makes to our program and the University as a whole.

So I know that was long. Wanted to make sure I covered all those things and open it up to questions.

Q. The Integrity Monitor Report you referred to said there is tension and mistrust between you and the compliance staff. Can you respond to that?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, the way I look at it is I think we have healthy dialogue. I really do. I think we have healthy dialogue, and back and forth with the compliance office. Look forward to continuing to strengthen those relationships. Representing Penn State the right way, representing Penn State football the right way, and building a program that everybody can be proud of.

The president talked about that tension when it's the right way is a positive, and we look at it the same way. I look forward to strengthening those relationships and building those relationships over the rest of this season and the rest of my career, no different than any other relationship on campus.

Q. The first week you said the most important thing for your offense was to establish the run, try and build confidence for the offensive line. How much progress do you feel the line has made these last few weeks and how might that help your offense evolve going forward?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think they've made real progress. Again, first week, don't really want to talk about it anymore. Everybody knows the details of the first week. But I think, again, you think about how we've been able to run the ball and protect our quarterback the last two weeks. That's the O-line playing at a much higher level. That is the threat of the running game. That's how we're calling the game and managing it a little bit. I think we need to continue to do that.

It's going to be even more magnified this year if anybody's had a chance to watch San Diego State already, they play what I would call a chaos defense. Anybody ever see those defenses where they don't even lineup, they just kind of walk around and do all those things. They blitz from every angle possible. So we're going to have to continue calling and managing the game the way we are right now.

But I do see those guys taking a lot of pride. I do see those guys building confidence. I do see them playing faster and more aggressive. Just like everybody else does, we want to get back to the point where we're balanced and we're able to rush for a number of yards and have success running the ball, but we're also able to threaten the people with our wide receivers and our passing game because we've got some talented guys there.

Really proud of Christian and how he's handled everything. I think he's doing a great job. We had very specific plays on Saturday that, if they were running a certain blitz that we wanted to check into the certain specific play verse the blitz, and those accounted for major runs and touchdown runs. I would say almost every single one of those touchdown runs are major runs was him checking into that specific look.

So thought he did a great job with that, but there is no doubt that we want to continue to grow our passing game. We have the ability to do it. We've all seen it in the past. But it all comes down to our offensive line and then continuing to grow and play confident.

Q. You just spoke a little bit about the passing game. How would you assess that through three games so far, in particular the fact that the completion rate is under 50%?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, it's pretty much all the things I just mentioned. Again, the things that we're doing. We're moving the pocket, we're doing quick game. We're not taking a whole lot of shots down the field where we have to hold on to the ball for a long period of time. It's what I've been mentioning the past couple weeks, it's going to evolve. We've shown that we've been able to do those things in the past. We've got the wide receivers to do it, we've got the tight ends to do it. It's going to be a gradual thing that we're going to allow it to grow overtime. We've shown it in our past. We have the confidence that we can do it.

You come out and watch practice in our seven on sevens, we're able to do some exciting things. But the game of football is not 7 on 7. It's 11 on 11, so it will happen. It will happen. I'm actually really pleased with how we're playing as a team right now. I thought that game on Saturday was probably the most complete football game we've played since we've been here. Now, have we played better on defense? Yes. Have we played better on offense? Yes. Have we played better on special teams? Maybe not.

But all three phases together, I thought we played great team football at this point where we're at as a program.

Q. Geno Lewis, very talented, had an up and down kind of season last year. Where is he at right now? Seemed like he dropped a few passes, what does he need to do to become more involved for you?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, it's no different than any other position. We're looking for guys to be consistent. We love Geno. He's had a great career here. He continues to be a great teammate. I got an email the other day. I don't know if I mentioned this to you guys, I got an email the other day. A Professor met him on campus and was just blown away by how he presented himself and how he carried himself, so much so that she took the time to write an email.

Geno's doing great. Consistency, I think, is the fact with a lot of our guys at a number of positions. They show flashes of doing special things. They want to be able to do it more consistently. We want them to do it more consistently. So I think Geno's in that conversation like a number of guys are.

Q. I know it was a bad day in Temple as far as third down conversions. Through through three games you're still only 30% in third downs. Do you see progress there, and what has to be done to get a higher figure?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, again, I think when we get more balanced and throw the ball more, that's going to help you on third down. It always does. But we are taking some approaches where we're running the ball on third down which we've been able to be successful on some of those third downs. We've been able to add to the punt on some of those third downs, and I'm not as concerned about specific statistics at this point as a program. I'm more concerned about playing in a style that's going to allow us to be successful as a team. The statistics will come later. Those things are great. The statistic I'm concerned about is being 1-0 this week.

Q. Saquon Barkley, it looks like he's going to be a star. And you may not want to use that word and he may not either. But I'm wondering how you think he's going to handle the attention, how he's going to handle that?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think Saquon's going to be a great teammate here. He's going to make the commitment and sacrifices to help his team be successful. He's also going to give credit to his offensive line and special teams for providing field position and the defense for playing great team football.

So this is about the team. This is about Penn State. There are conversations that I want to have with all of our guys about how to handle adversity, how to handle success, which can create adversity for young people. All those things. There are going to be people coming out of the woodwork.

So just making sure you have these conversations, not only with the young people in our program, but also their families and everybody involved. That's just kind of where we are as a society and when it comes to football you need to have those conversations and you need to make sure you're preparing your guys to be successful. But Saquon's focus is on the team and whatever he can do to help our team be successful.

I also want to make sure that he keeps his focus where his focus needs to be, which is being the best student-athlete he possibly can be and having a great semester, so I can sit up here at the press conference at the end of the year and tell you not only did our team do well collectively academically, but also individually. Our freshmen, this is typically the hardest semester, the adjustment, the first fall. So I want to make sure he's doing well in those areas as well.

Q. Are you surprised by how quickly the special teams have improved and the coverage even if it's in the return game? What is some of the stuff scholarship-wise that went out a few years back? It seemed like that was the group that took the biggest hit. But what kind of shape was that in when you took it over, and how quickly has that improved?
COACH FRANKLIN: It's different. There is no doubt about it. That's an area that probably got hit most by depth. That's where a lot of times you typically are going to have your starters on offense and defense try to start on one special teams unit, and then the guys that are twos and threes that are going to be really good players down the road, they're all over the special teams units, and we just didn't have that.

Last year was an issue and was a concern for us. But now you're seeing all these young guys. Manny Bowen is a guy we had a long conversation with last night. I'd love to see his maturation process go a lot like Grant Haley where Grant was playing on defense, but was really starring on special teams and that success led to confidence for him and trickled over to defense.

I'd like to say the same thing with Manny and Cooper and a bunch of guys. You look at Nick Scott not getting a lot of carries as a running back right now, but having a lot of success carrying the ball and covering on special teams.

Yeah, this was an area we talked about in the off-season that we felt like we could make the biggest improvement on. Charles went and visited a number of different places all over the country, from the Saints to the Steelers, to all over the place.

There is a special teams clinic where a bunch of college coaches get together every year. He went to that. We brought people in to meet with us as well. So I think the hard work that Charles has put in as well as our players committing to it, and just the more depth that we have right now is creating some opportunities.

I also think we have a two-deep at kicker. I think Tyler Davis could go in and kick for us right now and be really successful.

At punter, you saw we made a change. Daniel showed he could be successful, and Gulla comes in and does a great job for us. Same thing, the best thing that could ever happen for you as a long snapper is no one knows your name, and that's what Yaz does. Yaz does a great job for us just going and doing his job every single day, and we have depth at that position as well. With Ladonis and Vasey and Cox. So I'm pleased. But we've got to keep working at it and make sure it continues to be an advantage for us and strength for us throughout the year.

Q. I know that numbers always don't tell the story especially for a interior D-linemen. Anthony's numbers though, he only has, I think, two and a half tackles for loss, no sacks. Is he getting more attention this year, and overall is he playing as well as he did last year?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think the point you made probably the first part is there is no doubt he's got people's attention. We go into games doing the same thing. Saying for the team that we're playing this year, is there a guy on offense, defense and special teams or excuse me a team that we're playing this week, is there a guy on offense, defense and special teams that we feel like if we're not aware of them or have a plan for them that they can change the game single-handedly? And that's, I think, Zettel.

People are making sure they have double teams and they're chipping him and getting the ball out of the quarterback's hands quickly, all those types of things. So I think that's probably the biggest thing. We love Anthony. Think Anthony is doing a great job for us when you've got him and AJ on the field, it causes major stress.

Then to see Parker come in and doing well and Tarow coming in and doing well and also Antoine White. If you haven't noticed as a red-shirt freshman he's been getting more and more reps and making some plays. So that's going to be important for us, not just the rest of the season, but moving forward.

Q. I realize completion percentage isn't always on the quarterback and there are some other factors, but there were some throws Christian missed on Saturday. I'm just curious what you see on film or things he can tighten up? Foot work, technique, was rain a factor, just what do you see from Christian?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think you're exactly right, it's all of those things. It's some protection issues we've had. Two of our three games have been in the rain and fairly significant rain in my opinion. There are some footwork issues that we've got to get cleaned up. We're moving the pocket and doing a lot of those other things as well.

I think it's a combination. We've had a few drops. As you guys know, we've got to get foot work cleaned up. We've got to make sure we're protecting consistently. It's a combination of all those things. I think you're exactly right. The weather factors into it as well.

Q. I wanted to ask you, you mentioned Grant Haley. Just your thoughts on his return and what he means to your defense now that he's healthy? And also, Jordan Lucas' transition to safety, I know he's a veteran, but how has that gone for him the first three games?
COACH FRANKLIN: You're asking about Grant Haley and Jordan Lucas? Yes. John's doing extremely well. I would actually compare him and Grant Haley favorably to each other. Both came in very driven, very focused, very mature for their experience level and for their age. He's very, very competitive. If you watch practice, which I know you guys don't get the opportunity to do, but if you watch practice like we do every single day, every play for that kid is like the Super Bowl.

I mean, he is so competitive. He doesn't want a pass completed ever on him in practice. When he breaks it up or intercepts it, he goes crazy like he just won the Super Bowl. That is the same reason why I think it's translating to the game for us, he's the guy.

I'm at dinner last night. Monday nights is family nights. We're over at training table, and Addy and Shola refuse to eat with me and they go sit with the players. They go ask John Reid, and John's sitting there, eating on his iPad watching cut-ups.

And I don't even think he heard them ask him if he could sit there. It's just that's who he is. He's locked in. It is school, it is football, and it's his girlfriend. That's it. That is his entire focus, and I think that's also why you're seeing an opportunity to play. We decide to play guys, are they physically ready? Are they mentally ready, and are they emotionally ready? He's a guy that all three of those boxes could be checked.

Jordan, I think is really doing some good things. One of the things he's still adjusting to is the physicality of playing safety is completely different than being a corner. You have probably 40% more contact per game in the type of hits that you're making and things like that. You can get caught up in a pile more. When you're in the corner and out on the edge it's still different. So he's still adjusting to that.

Overall he's been really good from a leadership perspective. He's been really good from a play making perspective, and I think from a communication perspective, getting our defense lined up and adjusted.

Q. With respect to the tight ends, not a lot of action in the passing game so far. But I see you are using them in the I-formation. Can you talk about what the mindset is there, and are you getting as much out of them?
COACH FRANKLIN: We'd like more. I think if you look at the statistics, you'd like to be stronger. But you could also make the argument if you just based on targets and the opportunities they've had, we probably could easily have 300 yards more receiving at that position or maybe 200 yards more receiving at that position in big plays.

So, yeah. I think those three guys are doing significantly a better job in blocking. You guys know our philosophy is to recruit tight ends, not a fullback, but to be able to use those guys in different roles. Last year didn't make a whole lot of sense for us because we weren't physical enough at that point. Now we're becoming more physical. We've still got a long ways to go, but we're becoming more physical. Where now not only can they lineup at the tight end position, but we can lineup guys in the back field and lead and isolate and do some things like that.

So now the tight ends become a real threat. They're a threat in the passing game. They're a threat in the running game. You've got to decide how you're going to treat them.

Obviously, just like the rest of the passing game, we've been talking about that needs to continue to evolve for us to have the opportunity to play the way we're completely capable of playing and hitting on all cylinders.

Q. I wanted to go back to the question about Christian's footwork. As you guys move the pocket, we see him rolling out. Is it more the stuff on the run because you're seeing a lot of guys now on the run. Made a comment the other night watching football that you're seeing more players throw with their feet not even on the ground. What are the specific issues with his footwork and what do you think he can do to improve that?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think the one throw he missed rolling out, what you want to try to do is get your hips back downhill and running at your target. He was drifting toward the sideline and slightly back, which you can get away with it. And Christian has the ability to get away with it because of his talent and arm strength, but you're not going to have the same type of consistency. Sometimes you have to do that because there is pressure and you want to have the ability to do both. But when everything's clean and you can get your hips downhill, you're going to be so much more consistent.

In the pocket there are times where I've made the argument, coaching quarterbacks myself, that 90% of bad throws happen because of foot work. Now the comment you're making, I'm not sure if it was the NFL or not, but, yeah. You look at Aaron Rodgers, you look at Brett Favre, those guys had a whacky ability to make throws from all different launch points and without their feet ever being set. That was a big thing, I know, for my time in Green Bay with Brett, his was injury prevention. He never wanted his feet set on the ground and that's why he was able to play for so long.

So I think it's a combination. I think when the pocket is clean, there is no doubt about it that anybody in the country you want to make sure your feet and hips are aligned towards your throw. And there are just some times where I think he can be better there. Christian's got so much ability that he's able to get away with it at times. I don't think there is any doubt the more consistent we can get with his footwork, the more effective he's going to be.

But we've also, like I said before, we've also got to catch the ball better. We've had some drops that were significant drops on our season so far.

Q. At the half of the Saturday's game, carries between Akeel and Saquon were about 50-50. I think it was 9 for Akeel and 10 for Saquon. Just want to know what your game plan is moving forward? Was there anything you saw?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, right now we haven't discussed it this week. We have those discussions typically on Friday after the whole week. Right now our plan last week was Akeel was going to start and we'd go one for one. One series and one series, and then if someone was hot, we'd go with that guy. At this point that's what our plan is, depending on this week of practice.

Today is our first real day of practice. Sunday is more of a jog through and helmets. I'll have a better feel for that come the end of the week. We want guys to go out and compete for their job every day and focus. So some of that determination is based on what they did during that week of practice.

Q. Brandon Bell said earlier today that he likes to play with an edge, and the officials actually told him to calm down a little bit early in that game. How do you approach a player like that who plays with that fiery style where you don't want it to get him in trouble on the field, but you want to not change the kind of player he is. Marcus Allen said that, that he's seen Bell make those plays and get fired up and that fires him up too?
COACH FRANKLIN: I want all our guys to play with an edge. I don't want them to do anything that's going to cross the line. I don't want them to do anything that's going to embarrass Penn State, our athletic department or the University as a whole, but I want them to play with an edge. This is an aggressive game played by passionate and emotional people, and I want them to play that way. I don't want them to do anything that's going to get a penalty or be selfish, but to me that's how you've got to play the game. You've got to play the game with that type of a passion and play the game with that type of emotion, and you've got to be aggressive.

So I'm all for it. I want us to play even more like that. I'd like to see more of our team. I'd like to see our sideline, talk about our sideline, I'd like to see our sideline erupt when our guys make plays. I'd like to see our entire sideline screaming out pass or run or whatever is going to help our defense. When a guy makes a play, I want them to come to the sideline, and I want the entire family to support them and hug them and let them know how excited they are for him. When a guy comes to the sideline and just missed a play, I want the whole sideline to support him, pat him on the butt and tell him how much we love him and we've got his back.

I want everybody committed and bought into that. Just no different than our fans out there supporting and screaming for us as well.

Q. San Diego State's supposed to have a deep and veteran secondary. What do you see from those guys and what kind of problems do you think it might present for your passing game?
COACH FRANKLIN: They're real good at corner. We think the two corners are really, really good. They show up a lot. I think one of the things that really helps their secondary is what they do up front. Typically, offensive coaches for our rules like to put people in categories.

You're a four-down front, you're a three-down front, you're an under front, you're a bear front, whatever it is, and then we have rules associated with each one of those fronts how you're going to block in the run game. How you're going to protect. Where your issues can come from. Those types of things. These guys are kind of all over the place.

We've read a lot of articles on what they do defensively. We've watched a lot of film on what they've done defensively. We've listened to clinics and how they do things. When you watch the film it doesn't always fall in line with how you play football. So it doesn't help to put them into a category or put them into rules. So because of that, they have a lot of free runners at the quarterback. And because of that, typically the ball comes out early, which also aids in your defensive backs. No different than I tell our defensive backs. Our defensive backs should be recruiting the heck out of defensive linemen when they come on an official visit on our campus or unofficial visit on campus. Because the better the D-line is, the better the secondary is.

They go hand in hand. They complement one another. If the secondary is covering the guys, and there is nowhere to go with the ball, that's going to create opportunities on the defensive line as well as sacks. So I think they have two really good corners that we have a tremendous amount of respect for, but I also think it's because of what they do up front allows the quarterback or forces the quarterback to get rid of the ball quickly too.

Q. Harris is listed as first in the depth chart this week. Is that from what you've seen from him specifically? Because I know you said the line has gotten better overall. Is that what you've seen from him in the past two weeks or is that more where you see Andrew Nelson as far as his coming back from injury?
COACH FRANKLIN: It's a combination of both. Obviously, we went into the season excited about Paris' potential. Game 1 he played like a guy starting his first game, but there were a lot of positive signs to build from. Then obviously when we lost Nelly during that game, Paris came in and did a great job, which is exactly what you want. You want guys to take advantage of the opportunities when it comes. He learned from his first experience, he grew from it. He's playing pretty well right now. So it's a combination of what Paris has done. It's also a combination of Andrew and where he's at.

Q. Just to follow-up on that as well, when Nayeem went down, you did come talk to us postgame and tell us that he would be out for the season. We haven't gotten that with Andrew Nelson. So can we assume he's week to week at this point and we might expect him back before the season's final game?
COACH FRANKLIN: Typically I don't talk about injuries unless it's season-ending. A guy like him who is going in to get surgery and we were pretty confident that was going to be the end of his season, we're not gaining anything by not telling you guys that.

So, yeah, I shared at that point. But injuries besides that that are week to week or could even be a couple weeks, we don't get into those specifics. But, yeah, you could read into that however you'd like to read into that.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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