home jobs contact us
Our Clients:
Browse by Sport
Find us on ASAP sports on Facebook ASAP sports on Twitter
ASAP Sports RSS Subscribe to RSS
Click to go to
ASAP Sports e-Brochure View our


September 29, 2015

James Franklin

University Park, Pennsylvania

COACH FRANKLIN: We're having an interesting fall when it comes to weather so far. But I love that it's raining today and the next couple days, so hopefully it will clear out for Saturday's sellout crowd honoring our service members. Sold out, which is another example of what makes Penn State so special is that our fans and supporters have donated I think over 10,000 tickets to our service members, which is special. So I wanted to take a minute to mention that.

Some notes from the previous game. Defensively gave up only 101 yards rushing, and we've given up 101 yards rushing or less in the last three games, which is something we're really proud of. San Diego State completed only 33% of their passes, 242 yards total, which was the least they'd given up or the least they've been held to all year. Two takeaways late in the first half resulted in scores. Totaled nine tackles for loss and five sacks.

We're playing really, really well up front. That was kind of the expectation going into the season really the last two years. I feel like our depth and our talent at that position is really strong. Our defense kind of feeds off of how our D-line plays. We're first in the nation in sacks with 18 sacks. We're second in the nation for tackles for loss with 40, and we're third in the nation for tackles for loss per game with 10.

Played well on third down. We're 71% effective on third down. We must improve our tackling fundamentals. That's still showing up. It showed up at probably the safety position as much as anything. But we've got to be more consistent in our tackling, and we've got to minimize the big plays. We didn't meet our big play goal of three or less. We had four in the game, so we've got to do a better job there.

Offensively kind of first half versus second half. First half, offense had 45 plays and 22 minutes of the clock, compared to San Diego State only having 20 plays in eight minutes on offense. So that's how we'd love to be able to play, control the ball, make plays, keep our defense off the field. Play great, complimentary football there.

Scored 27 points in the first half. Lost some key players and both our tailbacks, and only scored ten points in the second half. Averaged over almost 7 yards per play in the first half, and then just over four yards per play in the second half. So got to be able to clean those things up.

I thought for the most part we handled next man up pretty well, but we've got to continue doing that.

326 yards passing, 224 in the first half. We had our explosive play goal of 8. We had nine explosive plays, two runs, seven passes. The nice thing is the week before it was the opposite. 7 runs and two passes. Red zone we scored 6 out of 6 times in the red zone.

We've still got to improve our hands inside, which is something I'm going to keep harping to our guys about. When you say that everybody thinks right away you're talking about penalties, and that's part of it, but even more than that it's about leverage and it's about power. Getting our hands inside, then ball security. We've done a pretty good job of this this year so far. It's going to be a major factor this Saturday.

These types of teams and them protecting the ball and us protecting the ball is going to be huge in this game, probably more so than ever because these option teams will go for it more than most teams on fourth down. That's their style of play. Three, four yards a play being satisfied with that, and then when you break down from a discipline standpoint, they hit you.

Although we've done a pretty good job of ball security, there are just too many times where I see the ball away from our body where we're not practicing great fundamentals. We had a couple balls that got on the ground but were ruled down before the fumble occurred. But we want to clean those things up.

We've got to eliminate missed assignments, drops, penalties turnovers, like always. Special teams have to be more consistent, been playing really well. I probably got up here and bragged too much how well the special teams were playing, and then we fumble a punt. Which I think also factors into what we already talked about about the first half compared to the second half. You fumble a punt, puts our defense in tough position, and also takes a possession away from the offense. So those things factor into it as well.

Big Ten weekly honors. I think you know Anthony Zettel being the co-defensive player of the week; his first time getting that award, and one of the first players since last year, Trevor Williams getting it against Rutgers. So we haven't gotten that award as much as you would think we would have gotten it.

PSU players of the week on offense went to Chris Godwin, five catches, 78 yards and a touchdown. On defense, we went with the defensive line similar to what we did a few weeks ago with the offensive line. 21 tackles, eight tackles for loss, five sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, two pass break-ups and a touchdown.

Special teams, Cris Godwin. We went with him as well. Two tackles and one fumble recovery, so you talk about a young guy that was the player of the week for our coaching staff on both offense and special teams.

So this week Army. Got an opportunity to play a service academy, which we're excited about playing. Got a history with these guys. Army scored 58 points last week against Eastern Michigan. Time of possession, kind of like what we just got done discussing a little bit, the importance of that. They had 48 minutes in time of possession in the game against Eastern Michigan.

Coach Monken, got a lot of respect for him. Coach Monken and Coach Pry were on the same staff together at Georgia Southern as well as together at the University of Buffalo as well.

Offensive coordinator, Brent Davis, defensive coordinator Jay Bateman who we have some history with him from his time at Wake Forest, and then special teams coordinator, Jovan Dewitt. Returning starters on offense 14, defensive starters 11, and special teams 3, so really a veteran team from last year, much more veteran.

Again, want to thank the fans for selling out the game. This is the first sell out at home for a non-conference game since 2011. We've got some guys on our team from New York, Albert Hall, Jordan Lucas, Charlie Shuman, as well as DaeSean Hamilton having military connections as well. So open it up to questions. Look forward to visiting with you guys.

Q. Akeel Lynch, Mark Allen, and Evan Schwan suffered injuries Saturday. Are any of them season-ending? And if I could follow that up, if you're going to be without Akeel and Saquon for a while, what is your confidence level in Mark Allen and Nick Scott?
COACH FRANKLIN: Part of this is challenging because we send out the depth chart to you guys and you get it, and then we have this press conference on Tuesdays and it's hard to tell. Although I don't talk about injuries a whole lot. To be honest with you, this early in the week, even if I wanted to, there is not a whole lot I could tell you. We didn't know about Jordan Lucas last week until basically Saturday morning. From everything I know this morning, none of them are season-ending injuries. Anticipate getting them all back, whether it's this week or next week, we'll see. We'll see how the week goes, how they heal.

I know they're committed and I've been down in the training room every morning around 7:00 o'clock and walking around and checking on those guys and seeing how they're doing, obviously the feedback from our medical staff. So this is why obviously the development of the guys in your program and recruiting is so important, so you have the depth to be able to handle some of these issues.

Losing two guys that were playing at a pretty high level, it was exciting to see Mark Allen come in and touch the ball and score a touchdown in his first touch and a pretty exciting play, and Nick Scott got some opportunities.

Obviously, they were behind those other two guys on the depth chart for a reason, but that also doesn't mean that we don't have tremendous faith and belief in them and think that they're going to have an opportunity to do good things for us. So we'll see how the week goes. We'll see who is available for the game on Saturday.

But it's next man up, and those guys have an opportunity and I know they're excited about it.

Q. I wanted to ask you two quick ones about your safeties. You mentioned the tackling and the concern there. Overall, how did you think Malik and Troy played last week, and how big of a concern is the tackling from them when you're going against an option offense this week?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think Malik and Troy did some really good things. There were some times that we needed to be more consistent with our eyes and our eye discipline and also their tackling. I think obviously the challenge as a safety is you have to be the last line of defense when it comes to passes. But then you also have to defend the run. With these option teams you have to be even more disciplined than ever because they will, they will take a shot when you're overcommitted to stopping the run.

So those guys got considerable minutes last week. They'll build on that and learn from that and grow from that. The meetings were really important for them. But I'm excited. I'm excited to see those guys go out there and play.

We also anticipate having Jordan and Marcus back this week. So that will give you now a number of guys that have played and played winning football for us.

Q. After the game Saturday, you mentioned Johnathan Thomas' name briefly. Where is he in his development, and is he someone who could work his way into the mix here in the short term if he's needed?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, again, depending on how this week plays out, we've brought Johnathan up. He practiced on Saturday with us. He is a guy, as you guys know, last spring we were really excited about. I think probably would have been in the rotation anyway. But he's had some setbacks, so he's been on the scout team. So we brought him up. He practiced well on Sunday. Didn't practice well on the scout team, and depending on how things play out this week with those other two guys, he could factor in. He could factor in on Saturday. We'll just see how the whole week goes.

Q. Talked initially about the defensive line. You've been able to play a lot of rotations this year. What goes into managing that?
COACH FRANKLIN: That's also where we go back to the development and the recruiting is so important. Developing the players you have in your program so you feel comfortable putting those guys on the field and keeping everybody fresh. Kind of like what we've talked about in the past. We'll sit down either Friday night or Saturday morning, depending on the time of the game and have a staff meeting and go over that.

So we'll sit there and I'll go through the entire staff. Start with the defense, and with an overview and the safeties and each position coach. They go down the depth chart and say, well, my plan is to go -- I'm going to say for example, Jason Cabinda. We're going to play Jason the entire game. But I'd like to get Gary Wooten a series in the first half and a series in the second half. Or I'm going to play Jason Cabinda the entire game, and I'm not comfortable at this point putting somebody else in the game. Or it may be a two to one rotation or a three to one rotation, three series to one series.

So each position is different based on the experience and the depth, and how the guys practice and prepare. We really want to stay out of situations where you're playing one guy the entire game. We'd like to have a rotation not only to keep them fresh but also in case something happens you've got an experienced player behind them.

On the defensive line, we've been fortunate that we've been able to do that. That's been really helpful for us. And you see young guys like Antoine White getting more and more reps and having success. That's going to help us even more. It's basically a case-by-case scenario. I'll either agree with them or challenge them. That we like to do some other things, and that's typically been a big part of my role is pushing our staff to play more guys, to create that depth, because as position coaches, all you want to do is make sure that your guys play well in the game.

Well, obviously playing the veteran the entire game rather than rotating a young guy in allows you to grade out higher. But I've got to push our guys to make sure that they're willing to play those other guys so they can gain the experience. Then obviously you like to try to make sure you're not doing it at critical times in the game, so third down. Obviously, you'd like your best guys in there when the game is tight or you feel a momentum swing coming on.

But even then you still have to be committed to playing those guys. We look at it as a case by case, position by position scenario.

Q. Your wide receiver, how do you think they're doing so far collectively route running, being on the same page with Christian? Helping him out in the pass game?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think better. I thought we had some drops early on in the season, but I think overall we're doing some good things. We need to continue building there. I think we've got some guys that can have a more significant impact in the game and making opportunities for them in the way we're calling the game. Those guys getting separation.

I still think there are some things that we talk about a lot about top of the routes, attacking defenders, leverage, nodding, doing things like that where they're getting open roll. Well, now there is a yard separation where we can do some things at the top of our routes with nods and stick moves and things like that, to now go from a one-yard separation to a three-yard separation, those things are really helpful.

I think overall well. I think they can do better. But as we continue to build confidence on our offensive line and grow with experience there, that those guys will be able to have a bigger and bigger impact as the season progresses.

Q. I was wondering if you could describe the running styles of Nick Scott and Mark Allen? And the fact that you went right to Mark with the little swing pass after Akeel went out, does that show confidence in him as a pass catcher out of the back field?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think so. Mark is probably more of our slash, make-you-miss-type of running back. He's very, very explosive. He's very confident. Only thing that moves faster than his feet is his mouth. Has a lot of fun at practice challenging guys. Really, really, really enjoys and loves the game of football and loves being part of a team. I'm excited to see what he's going to do.

We talk about YAC yards. YAC yards you can break tackles and make people miss. His YAC style is going to be more about making people miss. Akeel is the guy that's going to be able to push the pile as a big back, and Saquon has the ability to do both.

Then Nick Scott is, at this point of his career, is probably more of the slasher. You can make the argument maybe our fastest guy. Biggest home run threat of all of them. In terms of you look at him and Mark, and him and Mark are similar weight-wise but Nick's taller. So he's still a little bit lankier and angular in terms of his build.

I think Nick has got a chance to be a special running back for us as he continues to grow and get stronger. But I'm really excited to watch those two guys play on Saturday depending on how the week plays out.

Q. When you -- my question is how do you improve tackling? How do you work on tackling in practice especially now with less contact in practice than maybe there was years ago?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, it's magnified right now too because my discussion with the staff this morning and on Sunday was doing some things where we changed some tempos up in practice this week and go to some more jog throughs and walk throughs at times. That makes it difficult when you're playing a wishbone team because it's not really one of those types of games.

But it goes back to what we were talking about, just being really disciplined about your fundamentals and technique, even when you're using those other tempos. Lot of young players, they don't get that and understand that because a lot of them didn't do that in high school. So getting them to be really disciplined when it's tag off that year in a great football position, with great bend in your knees and your hips and your ankles, and break down in a really athletic position and you're not reaching with one hand or two. That you're legitimately in position to make the tackle.

So working on those things you can do a lot of stuff with bags as well. Bags and dummies. But we try to do those things as much as we possibly can.

The other thing that probably doesn't get talked enough about when you're talking about tackling is not just the fundamentals of tackling, but it's also making sure your angles and your leverage are correct. So if you do miss a tackle, you're forcing it back to the other ten defenders on the field, and that we're doing a great job of running to the ball.

As we've talked about before, offense is about creating space. Defense is about taking space away. By running to the ball and having great leverage, it allows you to do those things.

Q. Are you happy with the progress Mike Gesicki has made early on this season? How do you think he's handling some of the ups and downs that come along with learning as you go on the job?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think he's playing much more physical. I got after him on Saturday during the game at one point. When I actually went back and watched the tape, overall I thought he played more physical and is embracing that role much more than he did last year. He's had some opportunities to make some plays for us this year earlier in the season that I know that he'll make moving forward.

But I do. I think he's progressing. Mike is a really, really good athlete that's still learning how to be a tight end. He's really worked hard in the off-season in terms of his body and his strength and those types of things. But now the translating all that work in the off-season to the field and the physical aspects of the game. I still think it could show up as a receiver as well. Being a guy that once he catches the ball, that lets defenders know he's willing to lower his shoulder and run you over at 250 pounds, that's also going to create opportunities to make guys miss and jump over people and those types of things. Buts it's got to start with the physical element.

So he's doing some nice things. We've got to continue building on him and his opportunities as the season goes on.

Q. Troy Apke said he was recruited as a receiver and then switched to safety. He got switched to safety. What was the thinking behind that, and could you assess his development from last year?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, it was really more just about need. He was a guy that we recruited. I remember walking through high school and his high school coach saying you guys are recruiting him as a wideout, I think he could also play safety for you. You say great. That is really our mentality is with all these positions you'd like to be able to recruit guys that have the ability to play both. The defensive backs that have ball skills to play wide receiver, and wide receivers that are tough enough to play defense and so on and so forth. You look at some of the highlight tapes of the guys that we have recruited or are recruiting, they should be making the impact on both sides of the ball at the high school level.

He's a guy that came in here, everybody was impressed. He tested well with his numbers. He's got a great frame. He's very mature, very intelligent, and we had a need at safety. So made some changes, as you guys know in the last two years. We've taken some of the corners and moved them to safeties. We've taken some receivers and moved them to safety. Again, that's trying to balance out our roster.

We've done a similar thing right now with one of the freshmen in Buchholz. Buchholz, we had a meeting with him last week about moving him to defensive tackle because we have some holes in our roster. So I think it's just more of an example of that.

He's a really good athlete. He's a good kid. He puts the team first, and he saw an opportunity. We don't ever just tell these guys you're playing safety. It's, hey, are you open to moving to safety, and this is why, and we think there is a great opportunity for it. And we think obviously you have the skillset to do it and handle it, and it goes from there. Troy's an example of that. Buchholz is an example of that. Guys that have embraced that opportunity and kind of see the same opportunities that we've seen.

Q. I don't know if you can answer this or not, but something I noticed watching the games the past few weeks is Brandon Polk's role in the offense as both a weapon and as a decoy. Can you elaborate on what he brings to the table when he steps out on the field?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think you're exactly right. We've noticed that defenses have had a specific plan. That when he's on the field how they're going to handle it. Couple weeks ago it was go cover two and not give up the big play when he's in there. Early in the season, we've been able to get some people man-to-man situations.

So, yeah, I think people are very aware when he's in the game. It also creates a misdirection opportunities for our offense, where now they have to defend him on the edge, but they also have to defend inside zone or power that the offense is trying to run. So it creates really good change of -- kind of change of pace for us and some misdirection.

I remember we were doing that at one point last year, and Hamilton was doing it. If you guys remember at that point he had pulled his hamstring, so we're running fly sweeps with a guy hobbling. Didn't have the same type of impact, although we do think Ham has the ability to do those things as well. So he's made some big plays for us.

But I would agree with you, that 50% of the value he's bringing is them making sure that they have a specific plan on how they're going to defend the speed sweeps as well.

Q. Can you describe the amount of pressure?
COACH FRANKLIN: Just so you know I appreciate you always wear some variation of blue at every press conference, and you get brownie points for that. I appreciate it.

Q. Thanks. Hey, how much pressure does the triple option put on your defense, and in the commitment to assignment football this week as well?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think the triple option puts stress on everybody. It always does, not just because of the scheme that they run, but also the style of play and the fact that you only see it maybe once every couple of years and things like that. It also, I think, aligns really well with the type of kids that they have.

You're talking about, and I'm going to talk to the team about it today, you're talking about a group of young men and women at the service academy that are willing to die for something they believe in. Now you take those same people and you put them on a team, and it's that type of commitment and that type of sacrifice, you better be ready. You better be ready for a battle.

One of the advantages that I think we have, our co-defensive coordinator, Brent Pry worked with this head coach at Georgia Southern, and Brent was the defensive coordinator and defended this type of offense every single day at practice. We also played Army when we were at the last institution.

Brent always has a strong voice in our game planning. I've said that to you guys before. I don't think Brent probably gets enough credit as he deserves as well as the rest of the defensive staff, but this week he's going to have even a stronger voice just because of the history that he has with defending it.

It's one of these deals where you can't have just one or two answers. You've got to have a couple different answers of how to defend the fullback dive, how to defend the quarterback, how to defend the pitch, and then how to defend their version of the speed sweeps and things that they do where they motion and then toss the ball out to the guy on the edge. Then once you overcommit to those things, now you're susceptible to giving up the big play in the passing game.

His experience, I think, is really valuable with that. Obviously we knew we were playing this team at this point in the season. So we did some game planning and studies this summer to get ahead of it.

Q. I noticed during the game the other day that the grounds crew was trying to stay ahead of some issues with the field. How much of a problem could that be given the weather, given five games in five weeks? Are you concerned about that field staying intact for this stretch?
COACH FRANKLIN: We've had an unusual amount of rain, obviously, so that's always a concern with that. But Herb and our turf management people, I think are the best in the business. Our turf management program is probably one of the best in the country. So I have tremendous faith in those guys that the field will be in great condition come Saturday.

I haven't had a whole lot of issues with it overall, but I agree with you when you go five straight games at home and also you include, I think two possibly three games now in bad weather.

So we'll see. We'll see how the whole thing plays out. But I've got tremendous faith in those guys that the field will be in great shape and we'll be prepared.

But, again, I'm praying that we get rain all week long and we'll be outside practicing in it to prepare. But to me, weather forecasts that happen a week ahead of time, let alone 48 hours ahead of time aren't usually that accurate. If come 48 hours to game time we're getting the same reports, then we'll prepare at that point.

But right now I'm expecting it to be beautiful, blue skies, about 77°. Beautiful, a few white clouds in the sky, and a great environment to see a college football game here in Happy Valley and honor our servicemen.

Q. Juwan Johnson's a guy that we haven't seen yet. Will we see him this year? Do you anticipate playing him? At what point if a guy is in that red-shirt category, are we at that point where if they haven't played yet they won't? Obviously, things change with injuries?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, Juwan went from a green back to a yellow where we didn't play him in the first couple weeks. Just feel like the depth we have at wideout right now, though we think him and Irvin got a chance to be really special.

Those guys are both exciting. They're both 6'4", I think both of them are 225 pounds right now and running extremely well. I think both those guys have a very, very bright future. But just with our depth that we have at wideout right now, we don't feel like it's necessary.

I don't know if there is a point. There are always discussions throughout the year. I had a young man that I'm still very close with him and his family. I think I may have told you this story before, named Domonique Foxworth. Domonique basically burned his red-shirt the last game of the year, and then went on and had a great career and played like nine years in the NFL. I just got a text message from him the other day from him and his family.

So every situation and every player is unique. Some guys say, coach, I'd prefer to keep my red-shirt. Some guys say, coach, we'll do whatever we have to do to help the team. Obviously by NCAA rules you have up to, I think, Game 4 now is the way it goes, when it comes to injuries. But without the injury, once you play, you play.

I would say kind of the coach's mentality is if you're going to play a guy, you'd like to play him earlier. If you're committed to playing him all year, within the first four games. But, again, based on injuries and things like that, you could be forced. Aaron Monroe was a guy we had a lot of conversations about this week, depending on where Jordan and Marcus would be, he's another guy that's yellow, based on our safety situation that we might need to make some decisions with. So at this point, we're still looking at Aaron as a yellow.

Q. James, I believe you joked before saying that you used Carl Nassib as an example to the team so many times that the team was sick of it. I'm just curious. When is the last time you used him as an example? And during your career, have you ever seen a transformation like his going from 218 pounds to 275?
COACH FRANKLIN: It's hard. Again, it's hard for me to say that because I've only been here a year and a half so I don't really know the transformation. They're just things that I've been told.

But if you want another Carl Nassib story, I've got one. I got an email this morning about a woman and her daughter at Chipotle, and Carl met the daughter and they had a really nice interaction. The mother just went on and on and on about how that interaction had a huge impact on her daughter and just brightened her entire day and just was so impressed with Carl. Not only by how he carried himself and presented himself, but how he connected with her daughter.

They're actually coming to practice today, the mom and the daughter are coming to practice today. And I try to use these examples to reinforce the amazing for all of us every single day just by common gestures of kindness what you can do in making an impact in others.

So Carl's a special guy. He doesn't like me talking about these things in public. He doesn't really like coming to press conferences. He was actually supposed to come today, and he said no. Made up a story that he had a chemistry exam, which I don't think is accurate, but he's just not comfortable in these settings.

Part of it, and you have to remember, last spring is the first time he'd ever done an interview. So it's a fairly unique story. But I think there are probably one or two of these guys in every college football program in the country in terms of guys that were given an opportunity and kind of ran with it.

Von Walker's got a great story. I could probably name ten, 15 guys. Carl's probably a little different because he's leading the country in sacks right now and things like that, so there's probably a bigger light on him nationally and regionally. Probably not as big of light as there should be, based on all the success that he's having right now.

Q. James, last on conference game. I was wondering if you were hoping to get some work for one of your back-up quarterbacks in the non-conference season if you can assess how the back-ups are showing in practice?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think we'd like to do that kind of all the time. You'd love to get those guys some work and some experience. We're excited about those two guys. Trace and Tommy are both doing extremely well in practice and in their preparation. There is a lot of confidence on our team with those guys as well.

But there is no doubt you'd like to get those guys and get them some work in not just non-conference but conference games as long as the situation of the game presents itself.

We're not really a staff -- some staffs will say no matter what we're going to play the back-up quarterback in one series in the first half and one series in the second half. I don't necessarily believe that, because you're working to try to find a rhythm on offense.

So we haven't done that a whole lot. I haven't done that in my career as a head coach. I haven't done that in my career as an offensive coordinator. But I see why people do, just getting those guys experience is valuable. There is a fine line to it, especially at that position. It's just different than other positions. Defensive linemen rotating and our wide receivers rotating is one thing, quarterback is another.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

ASAP sports

tech 129
About ASAP SportsFastScripts ArchiveRecent InterviewsCaptioningUpcoming EventsContact Us
FastScripts | Events Covered | Our Clients | Other Services | ASAP in the News | Site Map | Job Opportunities | Links
ASAP Sports, Inc. | T: 1.212 385 0297