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PENN STATE UNIVERSITY FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
January 23, 2016
University Park, Pennsylvania
Q. Have you had a chance to talk with Christian?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Well, first of all, I'm really happy for Christian and his family and wish him nothing but success as he prepares for his future in the NFL. Christian called me the day after announcing, and we had a great conversation, was very appreciative. Thanked me and the staff for everything they've done, and we had a great conversation on the phone.
I think Christian is going to go on and do wonderful things. Very, very supportive of that. But I was glad that Christian picked up the phone and called me the next day, and we had a great conversation.
I had talked to AJ and Christian. I think it was about two weeks before the bowl game, and then I had another follow-up meeting with them a week before. Christian had a way that he wanted to go about doing it, and AJ had a way that he wanted to go about doing it, and we were supportive of both of those. Really excited to see what those guys are going to do as well as our seniors that have left the program.
Q. I know you pay pretty close attention to fan reactions and media reactions. Were you surprised by some of the reactions after you lost a couple of coaches and how people seemed to be kind of riled up about it?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Well, two things: I told you guys when I took the job that I read everything and I follow everything. I changed my philosophy this year, and really just kind of spent my time focused on things in our program, the players and how they're doing academically and football-wise, as well and game planning and recruiting and those types of things. So to be honest, I didn't follow it a whole lot. Kris does a great job of kind of keeping me informed of kind of the pulse.
This isn't a time of year where I typically kind of follow those things, as well, once the season ends. But yeah, you know, I think we've got a fan base that is very, very proud, and our history and our traditions, the type of support that we get, you don't get that type of support at a lot of places. You don't fill up our stadium the way we fill up our stadium without people that truly, truly care. When we have a big win, people are unbelievably excited and kind of make big jumps in terms of where we're going and what's the next step for the program, and when we have losses, people take it very hard and personal, and that's what happens when you're a part of what I would consider one of the top-10 programs in the country in terms of the type of support and traditions and history we have.
So that's part of it. But I would also tell you we get numbers and numbers and numbers of emails that are sent to the administration as well as to me personally that couldn't be more positive and couldn't be more supportive. I get a bunch of phone calls. Obviously the people that are angry are usually the loudest, but we get a lot of positive feedback, as well.
Q. James, you had Coach Haslett with the staff for the entire football season and now he's moving on to the Bengals. I wondered what it like having him, and what did you learn from him that will help you and your staff and beyond?
JAMES FRANKLIN: He was great, he really was. I thought he handled the situation extremely well, was very respectful of our defensive staff and our offensive staff, and really blended well. They were able to ask him questions and were comfortable doing that. He was able to give feedback, as well. He really worked at it, and he really probably kept the same schedule he's always kept. But he was really good.
We had a long conversation when he took the job about kind of how we both saw this thing playing out and then possibly afterwards. You know, me and Coach Haslett had a lot of conversations afterwards; there was some possibility he may stay on for us unless there was a few jobs and a few coaches in the NFL that he was interested in working for, and if those didn't happen, we had had conversations about him staying here. That was one of the plans, and really we had that conversation from the very beginning.
I talk to Jim still all the time. He calls me from time to time. Coach Pry does, as well, and I consider Jim to be a friend, and I consider Jim to be someone that is going to be a great resource for us moving forward. I've actually already reached out to him about possibly our defensive staff coming and visiting the Bengals and spending some time with them this spring, as well. He's been great. He's been great, and I was very, very happy and appreciative to get to know him on a much deeper level.
Q. When you got the job, you set some pretty high expectations with 107,000 for every game and you talked about how you would be an innovative offense, an exciting offense. I'm just curious, as you look back over your two years, would you have tempered expectations a little more at the beginning? Is there any way that maybe you yourself might have set some expectations a little too high early on?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Well, I would say two things with that: Number one, I think I did do that. I mean, if you remember, I made a comment multiple times that one of the most difficult challenges of a head football coach, especially walking into the situation we walked into, is how do you get people excited about the direction of the program and where we're going without setting up false expectations. I think I made that comment several times. I think that's one of the most difficult parts of the job.
I think the other thing is I'm a positive guy. I was a positive guy the day that I was born, and I'll be a positive guy the day that I leave this world.
You know, so I made that comment. I think it really depends on what people were listening to, but I made that comment several times that that's probably the most challenging situation for a football coach is to explain to people kind of where we truly are but get people excited about the program, as well, and that's a delicate balance. That's a very, very delicate balance, and filling the stadium up is very, very important for us to continue to grow. I made those statements, as well.
But I think anybody, anybody that logically sits down and takes the emotion out of it and lists out all of the challenges and situations that we've been through over the last four to five years, it makes sense. You know, it makes sense. But you think about the success that we have had and haven't had a losing season and one of the few programs that have done that, I think that's a testament. That's a testament to our players, that's a testament to all the coaches and all the hard work that's gone in, and we've just got to keep taking positive steps in the right direction, and I know the best way to do that is to sit back, look at the situation, and truly -- the challenges that we've had, but also be positive about moving forward and keep taking positive steps in the right direction with the development of our players in the classroom and on the football field, and recruiting, as well. We've got to do it all. And the best way to do that is to stay positive and be excited about the direction of Penn State football.
Q. I'm just curious, you talked a lot about the time that it takes to build a program. I'm just curious two years into this where you feel like you are in terms of the timeline that you felt like you could build this thing versus where you sort of fit in reality.
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think it's -- they're fairly consistent. I've had a lot of conversations with the administration about that, as well, from the beginning, from the day that I showed up. I was told from the administration and from the previous staff that everybody had recognized that year three and four the sanctions were going to be the most difficult. Everybody realized that. That was said to me during my interview process, as well, and again, if you take the emotion out of it and you take a piece of paper out and you write down all of the challenges that we have had as an organization, as an institution, as a football program, I would actually say if you did it that way, we're probably ahead.
As coaches and as fans and things like that, you always want more, and we will always strive for more, as well, but in terms of the facts and putting those things out on paper, you know, it probably makes a whole lot of sense where we're at right now and where we're going.
Q. You had some coaches coming into the program. To what extent will you kind of go to them or allow them to bring some different ideas to the table based on things they've done at previous stops, and how will you blend that in with what you guys have done so far?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think you do that with every person you hire, whatever business, whatever organization, whatever team you're on. That's one of the reasons why you go out and hire new people and you bring them in, to get their ideas, to get their experience. Now, all those things have to blend with the overall mission and the overall philosophy of the organization, but that's why you hired them, because you felt like their views, their philosophies, their schemes, whatever it may be, they align with what you want to do, as well.
That's why they were offered the job and that's why they accepted.
So yeah, it's not like you go out and hire people and they're going to be the same person or in the same role as the people that left. That's why you're going out and you're trying to acquire as much talent and experience as you possibly can, and that's what we've done with these men.
Q. If you look at the linebacker depths, was Reeder's departure a surprise to you, and do you have any concerns heading into the spring that you could be a little thin there?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, Troy was probably the one that was a surprise. I had a real long conversation with him, and I think it's obviously already been documented the reasons why he transferred to Delaware. But yeah, that's a position that we are a little bit thin because that one was a little bit unexpected.
But we also have some young players that we're really excited about. We also have the ability to do some things with our safeties in terms of nickel and dime that we've done in the past and our star package and things like that.
You know, really the issue for us is really spring ball, not really the fall, because we had some guys that we lost from an injury perspective, and some of those guys may or may not be back for spring ball. But once all those guys are healthy and back for the fall, I think we'll be in really good shape.
Q. In terms of your familiarity with Tim Banks, what was the process like in bringing him here? And I am kind of curious as to whether he was one of the coaches that was involved in the Illinois recruiting opportunity after the sanctions hit Penn State.
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I've known Tim for a very, very long time. We worked together at the University of Maryland, followed his career as a coordinator in the Big Ten. I know the type of man that Tim is. I know his values. I know his morals. Tim was a part of that staff, and Tim was put in a very difficult situation, and we've discussed that. We've discussed that. There's no doubt about it.
But I think once you guys all get to know Tim as well as our community gets to know Tim, they'll have no concerns or issues about that. Tim was put in a difficult situation as an employee, and I know the type of man he is.
Q. James, I'm just kind of curious now, you have two defensive coordinators and a run game coordinator. How is that dynamic going to work exactly, and who's going to do the play calling versus game planning? How might that operate with that lineup?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, it's no different than it was last year. We had a defensive coordinator and a co-defensive coordinator. We have a defensive coordinator this year and a co-defensive coordinator this year. Last year on offense we had a run game coordinator. This year on defense we have a run game coordinator.
Q. Can you explain it, though? So it's probably going to be calling everything? What exactly will Sean Spencer's responsibilities be as the defensive run game coordinator?
JAMES FRANKLIN: It's Sean sitting down with Brent Pry as well as Tim Banks in more of a game plan situation when it comes to the run game and what we're trying to do and why. He's had a lot of success, obviously, in terms of rushing the passer and the success that we had there. This is the next step for him in his development as a coach, and felt like Brent and actually Coach Banks, as well, felt like he could bring a lot of value for us in this area.
It's not a whole lot different than it was last year, just more of an emphasis for Sean moving forward and the impact that he can have on our defense.
Q. Matt Limegrover, you made mention that maybe you didn't know him quite as well. How did you kind of get to him as Herb's replacement, and the combination of him and Joe? How do you look at how maybe the offense will be different with those two guys helping lead it?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Well, I think the first thing is he's a guy that was on my list. I had a list of coaches by position. I also kind of have asterisks by guys that are from this region and specifically Pennsylvania. You're talking about being able to hire a guy who's been an offensive coordinator in the Big Ten. We're talking about hiring an offensive coordinator, a guy who's been an offensive coordinator for over 15 years. Very respected. When I called around the country to contacts about a guy that's very well-thought of, his name kept coming up. On top of that, being from Pennsylvania, him and Coach Moorhead went to the same high school, him and Coach Moorhead went to the same elementary school. He's also a guy that was on Coach Moorhead's list, and when we sat down and met with him, right away it was obvious that not only is this a guy that I think made sense for us moving forward, but also he was really fired up about the opportunity and excited about coming back home. Still has family in Western PA, got a chance to talk to his wife and his kids, and everybody is just jacked up about being here.
Just sometimes things align at the right time. I don't know if the circumstances would have been different we would have been in a position to hire him, but fortunately we were, and I'm really, really excited about what he's going to be able to bring to the table.
I would say the same thing with Joe and the same thing with Tim and the same thing with Matt. Every day I'm around them, I feel better and better about the decision that we made. I think those guys are going to be great team guys. I think they're going to be great Penn State people in our community. I think they're going to treat our players with love and respect, and of course they're going to have an impact in us being successful on the football field.
Q. James, how much has the staff turnover affected things from a recruiting standpoint, whether it's building new relationships or whether it's other schools maybe trying to use that turnover against you on the trail?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I don't think there's any doubt that we've been getting a lot of negative recruiting. It's kind of really been that way since we arrived, about Penn State, about some of the challenges that we've been through. But I think that's one of the things I'm really proud of the staff. We were able to get guys in position as quickly as we possibly could, thanks to the support of our administration and President Barron, and I think the fact that we were able to get these guys on staff as quick as possible, not too fast that we weren't able to make the right decisions and hire the right people, but got them here, and those guys were able to get on the phones as quick as possible, have contact and interaction with the recruits and their parents, and then we were able to get them into their homes as quickly as we possibly could.
I actually think it's been real positive. Has it been a challenge? Yeah, yeah, there's no doubt about it. But I'll tell you what, I'm really, really proud of how our staff has handled it. I think the adversity has been a bonding thing for us in a lot of ways. I talk to the team and our players and our coaches all the time that every time you go through adversity, no different than your family, every time you go through adversity as a family, you get through it, you become closer, you become stronger, and it's the same thing with us.
Very, very appreciative, very proud of our staff and how they've handled those things.
Q. Even in the context of the reality of college football as you described it, were you caught off guard by Bob Shoop's departure, especially in light of your history together, his contract extension last year, and he said just a few days before leaving that he wanted to stay at Penn State forever?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think you're always a little surprised. You're always a little hurt, because we spent a lot of time together as family, as families and people. Our coaches get opportunities and they get offers, and we've been very fortunate, over five years we've had probably as little turnover as most staffs in the country. But every year these guys get approached. Every year they have to make decisions, what's in the best interest of their families personally and what's in the best interest of their families professionally.
You know, what we're seeing also in college football is certain programs and universities and certain conferences are willing to pay significant amounts of money. I mean, you look at the way some conferences are set up with only maybe having 16 to 18 varsity sports, where we have 32 sports. Those things have an effect on budget and how you handle things and how sports are -- how budgets are used for sports and specifically football.
You know, the Big Ten has a model of the way we do things. Penn State has a model of the way we do things. We've been competitive. We've been supportive. But at some point guys are going to have to make some decisions.
I've been very proud of some of the decisions the guys have made. We've had a number of guys that have turned down raises, have turned down advances, have turned down opportunities to stay. And my focus is on those guys. Like I mentioned earlier, I wish those guys nothing but success personally and professionally, but when people keep knocking on the door, obviously you start to kind of make plans about if you're going to lose these people, what you're going to do moving forward, and we've done that, and I think we've handled it well.
Q. James, I wanted to ask you, you've had some changes on your staff, obviously at the O-line spot, the OC spot, and now the DC spot. I wanted to ask you about special teams and maybe the job Charles has done the last two years. There have been some plays you guys have given up and you haven't made a lot of plays. How do you look at the special teams position in year three and maybe the need for them to improve this year?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think that's a fair point. Obviously we look at all those things. We'll have a lot of conversations in the off-season. It's an area we knew based on our depth, that usually shows up on special teams before anywhere else, so we knew that was going to be a challenge for us.
You look at the numbers, there's no doubt about it, that's the area we probably need to take the biggest step, that and the offensive side of the ball, need to take the biggest step this off-season. That's been an emphasis in recruiting for us this year, as well, and the development of the players that we have.
You know, that's going to be a focus all off-season, going and visiting people, coming up with some plans, making sure we have our personnel in the right place, and there's a bunch of guys that we redshirted this year that could have had an impact for us last year. I think that's some of the decisions that we've made. Looking back at it, I think if I hadn't had the conversations that I had had with the administration about building this thing for the long run and building it the right way and redshirting some guys, maybe you would handle it differently. Maybe you'd burn redshirts and play a bunch of those guys on special teams and have a huge impact there. Those guys will be coming off redshirt this year and having an opportunity to impact there.
But that's a lot of the conversations that we had really from the day I got the job, and then also when Sandy got the job and meeting with Phil, as well, about making decisions every single day and every single semester and every single year that are the right decisions long-term.
I think our staff as well as our players know that that's a great opportunity for us next year is to be able to make more plays on special teams and be more consistent in our coverage and be able to swing the field. I thought at times we punted better this year, but we have to be able to swing the field. I mean, it's amazing, I go and watch high school state championship games, I go and watch college bowl games and the playoffs, and you watch the NFL, and people that are able to swing the field and be able to create long fields for people and get that hidden yardage in games is really, really valuable.
I think your point is fair, and myself and Charles as well as the rest of the staff are going to sit down and find a way to make this a strength moving forward for us.
Q. Earlier you mentioned in response to the question about negative recruiting, how do you and your staff go about combatting that?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Well, to be honest with you, I think you guys know that's kind of not how we do things and not who I am. When you have a great product to sell in a place like Penn State with our academics and our history and our traditions and our facilities and the type of support that we get, we spend our time focused on Penn State. And a lot of other schools approach it a different way.
And I think a lot of it, to be honest with you, is a strong Penn State makes it really difficult for a lot of other programs in this region. A strong Penn State makes it challenging for a lot of people.
There's a lot of people that their backgrounds, their success on line, if Penn State is not successful it's going to help a lot of those other programs be successful. We just focus on Penn State. We focus on all the positives we've had here, all the unique opportunities that we're able to extend to families and young people, and then obviously all I ask is if you are getting negative things and you're hearing negative things, just share them with us. Just let us know what you're hearing and what people are saying to allow us to be able to explain, and what we're always going to do is we're going to be transparent. We're going to tell you the truth and allow you to make an educated decision. That's myself, that's our coaches, that's our players, and that's the administration. Our administration has been really good in being able to answer some of those questions, as well.
That's just how we're going to handle it. I think in the long run, when you take that path, it's going to pay the dividends you want, and I think the negative stuff is going to catch up to you at some point, and you're going to burn bridges.
Q. James, I was just wondering, will McSorley be No. 1 going into the spring or how do you evaluate the quarterback depth chart, and will the early enrollee be in the mix?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think at every position you have guys that have experience, and those guys obviously have a little bit of a head start, but we're going to go into the spring and the fall with an open competition at every position, obviously with quarterback being a part of that, as well.
Obviously it was great to see Trace come in in more of a live situation and make plays, make plays down the field with his arm, make plays with his legs, make plays with his mind, and it was great to see him go in there and have some success against one of the better defenses in the country and watch the guys rally around him. But no, it'll be an open competition. I know that experience gave him some confidence moving into the off-season, but the quarterback position as well as every position will be open for true competition and see who's going to give us the best opportunity to be successful on Saturdays.
THE MODERATOR: We thank everybody for your time today and appreciate everybody calling in and not risking their lives. Everybody go dig out, and appreciate your time on a Saturday.
JAMES FRANKLIN: Thanks, and I know the TV people, this was tough on you guys, so appreciate everybody joining us today, and enjoy the next couple weeks, and obviously we'll all be getting together and spending some time together on signing day, as well. Have a great day and stay safe.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports