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PENN STATE UNIVERSITY FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
February 3, 2016
University Park, Pennsylvania
COACH FRANKLIN: To me that's what it's all about. You want to try to stay out of the recruiting game as much as you possibly can, and what I mean by that is the end, the end of recruiting where you're scrambling and selling. You really want it to be about relationships and about the things that we think it should be about, which is getting a world class education and surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals that want to go on and be really, really successful. So it's been fun. It's been crazy and looking forward to getting these guys on campus so we can continue to build on the foundation that their parents have laid and help these guys mature and leave here as educated men and prepared for life.
We had a morning workout yesterday with our team at 5:30. We hadn't done that in the past. So we were able to get a workout in yesterday, and then the coaching staff will have off. We're going to be really nice and give everybody off Thursday and Friday, and then we'll get back to work on Monday and get ready for spring ball.
We've got a lot of work to do obviously with Coach Moorhead as our new offensive coordinator, Coach Limegrover as our new offensive line coach. Coach Pry moving into a new role as sole defensive coordinator instead of co-defensive coordinator, and Coach Banks with our safeties and co-defensive coordinator. So lot of work to do.
Some of the things I'd like to mention as some interesting facts that maybe you guys have or don't. We've got 16 team captains which, to me, is always interesting. You want to look at those things. Obviously, that speaks a lot for how their team looks at them and how their coaches view them. But 16 team captains, six State Championships, four Under Armour All-Americans, six Semper Fidelis All-Americans, two Gatorade Players of the Year and one Army All-American.
I think a stat that's pretty significant and shows the progress that is being made is we've signed 21 four- or five-star recruits in the last two years, and we had 11 four-or five-start commits in the previous three classes before we arrived. So 21 in two years and 11 in the three classes before we arrived. That's star rankings. Those things are not the end-all be-all.
Matt McGloin was with us this morning. I think obviously he's a great example of a guy that took advantage of his opportunity here. Carl Nassib, I think are two of the better stories in college football. But the rankings do have some significance, there is no doubt about that. Two commits that were rated five stars, first time with two five-star recruits in the same class at Penn State since 2006. Twelve commits rated four stars or higher, according to the four major recruiting services. The second most four-star signees since 2006.
So if you look at it, in 2016, we had 12. In 2015, we had 13; and then before that in 2014, there were six. Then in 2013 there were three; and in 2012, there was one. So I think it is clearly obvious that there is progress being made, and we're always going to focus on the young men that are joining our program and how we're so excited about those guys.
No. 3 in the Big Ten in rankings, and we're not going to be satisfied until we're No. 1 in everything we do. Like I say all the time, we take pictures, I take pictures all the time with fans and people in the community, and I always throw up that No. 1, and that's because we want to be number one in graduation rates and we're working to be number one in all the other areas as well.
So a few points that I thought you guys would be interested in that I would throw out to you, we also had eight states represented. You guys know how we feel kind of about the footprint. You look at Florida, Texas, and California generally somewhere in the ballpark between 250 and 350 Division I prospects. Pennsylvania's usually around 35 on average somewhere around there. So we look at the footprint, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland. Basically a five- to six-hour radius at campus. So, you know, appreciate you guys being here, and I'll open it up to questions.
Q. There were a lot of kids de-committing and flipping to and from other schools to you, your school to other schools. How stressful is that on a coaching staff? How difficult does it make it, and how do you feel you've come out of that flurry of action?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think if you take everything into consideration, I think we did really well.
We hired a new offensive line coach. We didn't lose one offensive line commit. We got the number one running back in the country committed to us, and he stays true. His mom was a huge part. She really saw the big picture and really believed in everything that was going on. You look and there is a program in the ACC I think had 24 de-commitments this year. I saw a stat somewhere where there was some ridiculous number like almost 250 de-commitments from the convention on, from the coaches' convention on. So it's a little bit the way the industry is going.
It's really not the way we do business. We've been pretty fortunate over our last five years not to have a lot of drama. We pretty much knew who was coming and who wasn't beforehand. This year was a little bit different from that perspective. But overall, we don't do a whole lot of recruiting in the 11th hour. We were able to build relationships and stick with the guys for the long-term. If you look, most of our commitments that was the case with. But there was some challenges, no doubt about it. I'm really, really proud of the coaches and how they handled that, how they handled that adversity. I couldn't be more proud and more excited about the direction because it's easy to look at things when everything is going smooth and easy. It's how do you handle adversity.
Coach Moorhead talks all the time, which I think is a great quote, is the storm. At first you kind of overcome the storm and then you become the storm, and that's what we're really trying to do. Overcome some of the adversity that we've been through and then become the storm later on.
Q. James, you mentioned the scrambling, the challenges particularly this last month, I believe, with some de-commitments and things. Why do you think that was more the case this year than in previous years? And you also mentioned not being satisfied until you're number one. What's it going to take to take that next step up the ladder?
COACH FRANKLIN: What I'd prefer to do, which I know you guys don't want to, but I'd like to focus on the progress. I'd like to focus on the last two recruiting classes were clearly two of the better recruiting classes in the last five years. I know you don't want to talk about that, but I'd love to talk about that. We had the number one running back in the country committed to us. I'd like to talk about all the significant positive things that are going on in our program.
Obviously, everybody knows coming in here I don't need to get into the challenges. Those things have been talked about enough. So what I'd like to talk about is all the tremendous progress, all the great families and all the great football players that are joining us, and that's our focus.
Q. When you were speaking to Miles' mom this morning, you joked around with her that you guys might try to write a book with all the things that you guys went through when you were trying to recruit Miles? What specifically were some of the things?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think what happens is at Penn State we spend almost all of our time doing all the wonderful things we have here at Penn State: the academic reputation, the history, the traditions, the tremendous support that we get, and the direction that we're going. You've heard this before, this is a four-year decision, I think when you look at it that way, Penn State is a tremendous option. And I think Miles and his mom understood that. That was the commitment and that was the reason they made the decision.
What happens is, at the end of the recruiting period, it can get aggressive, and it can get nasty, and it can get relentless at times. I think we've been fortunate that we've got kids that get that. And what happens is if you leave the door cracked open for people to come in, that's what they're going to do, they're going to attack.
I remember in the past I've heard about schools saying they want kids to commit to schools because they know that's the school they have to attack. That's all they do is spend their time attacking that one school. So, you know, I think when you have a strong young man, and when you have a strong parent and you have strong coaches that kind of get it and understand why they made the decision in the first place, then it helps. This is difficult. This can be challenging and stressful times on young people. They're making a very important decision. You're hearing a lot of different things from a lot of different people.
So Miles and his mom were awesome. Every time we'd go visit them, like I said, it was a celebration. It wasn't recruiting. We didn't really recruit Miles for the last six months. It was just going and having fun with him. And we're talking about Miles right now, but I'd say that for a good portion of our recruits it was going in and spending time with the families and having fun and laughing and enjoying ourselves. Not really selling Penn State because they were already sold.
Q. Unless I'm overlooking someone, I only saw one recruit from the Delaware Valley/South Jersey area, which seems unusual to me. What are the factors that contribute to that?
COACH FRANKLIN: There are a lot of different things that go into it. If you look at even next year, we look at different positions, certain positions are really strong in our region, other positions may not be strong in our region that year. That's why we say, okay, we need to know that because say it's a certain position and a long snapper and there are no long snappers in the region, and we've got to identify long snappers nationally. So some of that is that.
Some of that, you look at certain areas maybe, they had some players that were great players but didn't fill a need that we were looking for this year. Some of those battles we won, some of those battles we didn't. And that's across the board in college football. So, you know you look at our last two years and we've done a significant job in recruiting those areas. But you're going to have that. You're going to have years where you're strong one year, and you're going to have years where you don't get as many, and that's going to be for a number of reasons. That's going to be need. That's going to be fit on both sides, our fit compared to their fit as well.
Q. Over the years have you had many recruits that show up to every home game like Connor McGovern? And how much does him coming in early help him to have an opportunity to crack that two deep the first year?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think Connor's another example. We were talking about Miles. I think Connor is another good example. His mom and dad are unbelievable. His dad is the superintendent of the high schools. They've been great. He made a decision. He was very thorough, like most of our guys are on the front end, asking the tough questions, doing all the research. Then he made a decision and never wavered, never wavered one bit. Again, even when Coach Limegrover came in, I think his home visit there was four hours. It was not four hours of recruiting. It was four hours of eating sausage and kielbasa and laughing, and pizza, the squares from Old Forge, and just kind of really enjoying yourself.
He's kind of unusual because typically centers are usually a little shorter. You can get away with centers 6'1", 6'2". I think the ideal if you look at the NFL, 6'3" is what they're looking for. He's a 6'4", almost 6'5" center. He's 312 pounds right now. He's still baby faced. He can run. He can jump. He came to our camp and tested unbelievably well.
We try to get guys to get on board with us, and then we still want them to come to camp and compete and develop a relationship, a working relationship with our coach, how he coaches, what the drills are going to be and things like that. And he came to camp and tested even better than we anticipated him testing, his running, his jumping, all of his numbers.
Then the fact that he graduated early and is on campus is going to give him a chance. It's hard to play on the O-line as a freshman. But the fact that he's here six months early and he's already a big, physical, strong guy and very, very intelligent gives him a shot. It gives him a shot. So he's a unique guy. Great family. He was very emotional today.
His dad came up for the signing day celebration. He was in the war room with us, and he was able to announce his son. So he got up behind the podium and announced his son and he got emotional as his dad introducing his son coming to Penn State. So to me, that's what it's all about.
If you're a Pennsylvania kid and you've got a chance to play at the state school and stay home and get all the things you're looking for, it's a pretty unique opportunity. It really is. Their family realized that early on.
Q. Curious about two things. First, how important Tyrell Chavis was to this class considering moving on to the NFL as defensive tackle. Also how important are Alex Barbir and Blake Gillikin to this class, and if those guys can have a chance to participate in the 2016 season?
COACH FRANKLIN: Great questions. I would say we had identified Tyrell very early on in the process. Again, just like I said with the O-line, it is difficult to play on the D-line as a freshman. Although we're going to probably have to have a few guys do that. So being able to get a guy who is older, more mature, he's about 6'4", he's about 300 pounds, right in that ballpark right now. It was amazing, when he came on his visit, I don't know how, but he wears number 7. He wore number 7 in college. He wanted to wear the number 7 jersey here when he took all his pictures, and that number 7 jersey was like a s'medium. And watching him trying to get that thing on and get that thing off was impressive. But he was able to get it done.
But, yeah, having a veteran older guy like that that's played against older players and been very successful. He had offers from everybody in the country, and being able to get an older guy like that on board with us was significant, no doubt about it.
Your second question was again?
Q. The two specialists?
COACH FRANKLIN: Obviously with Ficken moving on, we hadn't had a recruited scholarship player in the program in the kicking, punting and snapping positions. As you guys know, as well as we do, you could probably make an argument over the last four years -- or excuse me, over the last two years that maybe four games could come out differently if we could have been a little more consistent on special teams in terms of swinging field position and things like that. So having two guys come in that we've seen kick in person have been very, very successful at camps that they've gone to have been very successful at games.
You look at Blake Gillikin and what he did in his State Championship game was as impressive of a performance as we've ever been around. And then Mr. Barbir came to our camp and crushed a ball. He's got a really, really strong leg, is really, really competitive. They both train with the same coach, so they had a relationship, so that helped to go to Georgia and get two guys to come here. And they'll have an opportunity to come and compete.
We really like the guys we have in our program. I think they're going to take a step this year with what they learned last year, and they're working really hard right now. This is going to allow us to bring two more guys in to compete with them to give us the best opportunity to be successful on Saturdays.
Q. James, at what position do you project Michal Menet, first of all? And you went through a little bit of drama at the end of recruiting. Would you like to see an early signing period like in basketball?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yes, yes. Yes, I would. I'd love an early signing period. I'll answer that question as quick as possible. Yeah, I do. I think an early signing period would make sense. And I think you could put something on there if there was a change at the head coaching position that they would have the opportunity to be null-void at that point.
To me I probably have a little different opinion on this. I think the early signing period should be for the kids that wanted to go to Penn State their whole life and don't really want to go anywhere, so let's get those guys locked up. They don't want to go on any other visits or do any of those things. This is just the school they wanted to go to. So why not get those guys locked up? At each state and each school there are kids like that. That actually helps the schools that are maybe wasting their time recruiting a kid as well. So I do think it makes a lot of sense.
The problem is we all know these decisions seem very simple but there is a trickle-down effect. There is a trickle-down effect to a lot of other things, when that signing period would be, what are you doing with the national letter of intent. There are so many things. Are you going to offer official visits early? To me, I don't want to get into those things. I don't want to change the calendar on official visits. I'd like it to be the same and keep it for the kids I just described.
The kids that says I was always going to Penn State, that's where I'm going. It may not be a huge number. But it also lets you know how committed they are. You commit, okay, here, sign the paper. Well, if they waiver, you know they're not truly committed. So I think it's good for both. You talked about Michal Menet. He's another guy that committed very early on. The whole family committed. The high school coach committed, the AD committed, never wavered. We lost our offensive line coach, another offensive line coach in his conference called him and said, hey, I don't know if you know, we really want you at school X, and they don't have a line coach at Penn State right now, so are you interested? And Michal's response was, well, if you want me, you better take the Penn State O-line job. To me, that just talks about how that family was committed to us.
You talk about what position he's going to play. We try to recruit guys that create flexibility. I'm not a big believer in recruiting guys that are going to play guard and guard only or center and center only. You'd like to recruit guys that create flexibility, guys with tackle body types. Guys that are 6'4 or longer. They could go in and play guard. Typically guards are a little bit shorter, maybe a little more girth to them. But the reason I'm saying all this is we want guys that create flexibility in terms much athleticism, their movement, in terms of power, in terms of intelligence. And I think Menet is one of those guys.
If you look at all four of our offensive linemen. Fries, everybody has slated as an offensive tackle, and we do as well. But if you look, he played a lot of guard in high school, big, physical guy.
Menet's a guy that I think has the athletic ability to play tackle, has the intelligence to play center, has the power to play guard. I'd say the same thing for, which is unusual, for McGovern. Typically centers are center only or they're center and swing guys to guard. But I would not put it past that McGovern could play tackle for us as well.
Gellerstedt is the one guy at this point in his career who is probably a true prototype tackle, 6'6", 277 pounds or whatever he is right now. And you've got to remember too, he was a defensive end up until his junior year, so offensive line is still new to him. So I would say he's more of a tackle. But we would like to train him, Coach Moorhead and Coach Limegrover would like to train him overtime to be able to give us flexibility. That is something I'm excited about, as you guys know.
We kind of had a situation on the offensive line where we had to train all those guys to play five positions because that's how we were creating depth. When you do that, it's difficult to master one. So now that we're starting to get the depth, a true three deep on the offensive line, you're allowing guys to stay at a position and become a master of their craft at that specific position.
Q. Penn State isn't yet a top 25 team on the field, but for the last two seasons you've had top 15, top 20 classes in recruiting. And you've had guys that have picked Penn State over the likes of Ohio State and Alabama. Why do you think those guys have been so receptive to Penn State and your staff? And how close do you think because of these two groups Penn State is to cracking the top 25 on the field?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think that's a great question. If you look at the programs across the country that are consistently successful they have a roster full of those guys. They have five recruiting classes like that. Are there some exceptions to those rules? Yes. But not many.
So I think our coaching staff, the combination of our coaching with this university and what it stands for and what it's all about, our history and our traditions, the pride in this place, and our players. I think our players are probably our greatest asset. Because when we do a player panel -- I've been to a lot of schools where you do a player panel on an unofficial or official visit, and if that recruit has been there five times, it's the same five guys up there. And I hear parents afterwards talk about every time they come there is a different player up there, and how articulate they are and how thoughtful they are and how they handle themselves and how they present themselves. So we just have so many positive things to sell.
Are there other schools that we're competing against that also have positive things to sell? No doubt about it. But I think what everybody is looking for is a fit. We're looking for the right type of kid that makes sense at Penn State. The recruits are looking for the right type of fit with the university and coaching staff as well. And when those stars align, you've got a chance to bring in guys that have opportunities all over the country.
You know, the next phase that you're talking about on the field is taking those steps. I think we have made progress. We've still got a lot of work to do. This spring ball is going to be a big part of that. These freshmen reporting this summer and being able to contribute in significant roles or in backups is going to help with those things as well. So progress.
But I think if you study those things, it's pretty apparent, it's pretty obvious, the programs that are able to do it for the long-term are able to sustain it.
I'd also make the argument that the programs that are taking shortcuts or are making some choices early on to have instant success, it's hard to sustain that. When we're trying to do is make very thoughtful decisions about Penn State, about the direction we're going, and how we want to build it, and feel really good about that. Feel really good about that.
Q. We've seen a lot of creativity in this recruiting cycle from pretty much everywhere in the country, and you took, it looked like a van or a bus to Pittsburgh a few weeks ago. We've seen sleep-overs. Are you ever surprised at kind of where this is going as a whole and would you be open to going to some of those more unconventional methods, if that's what it takes?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think, like anything in life, there is a fine line to it. I think social media is a real challenge because there is so much information, there are so many things being said, there is so much interaction between fans. Obviously we all know there's rules and our Penn State fans do a great job of not interacting and tweeting recruits and things like that. But that's going on all over the country.
To me, we want to be creative, not creepy is how I would describe it. We want to be creative, not creepy. That's what our staff likes to do. We like to kind of have fun, we like to think outside the box. We like to have fun with recruits and their families. But to me, it's more about relationships. It's about the coaches. It's about the athletic directors. It's about the guidance counselors. It's about the parents. It's about building those relationships. And those other things are fun, and I appreciate other people being creative and thinking outside the box, and we're going to try to do the same things. But, like anything in life, there is a fine line to it.
Q. Is that the first time you've ever taken a bus to get kids or have you done that before?
COACH FRANKLIN: No, that's not unusual whatsoever. A lot of times families or young men need the opportunity to get to campus, and you find ways to be able to do that and help them. Obviously, when we were bringing a whole group from one specific area it made sense to bring them all like that. So it was a black, big SUV/bus-type thing. So I wouldn't characterize it as over the top.
Q. You mentioned the Miles Sanders recruitment ended six months ago for all intents and purposes. But obviously six months ago Sequan hadn't happened yet. So how do you have a conversation with a kid who sees himself in one role and you have someone else step up and make that impact and balance out the fact that they're roughly the same age, they're going to have to share that load? How did those conversations go with him specific or maybe any kid that has to face that?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think that's a good question. If you look around college football right now and you look in the NFL, you need multiple backs. You're going to need three backs that you can depend on.
You look at the programs like Penn State, they're going to go out and sign significant players at the same position every single year. And you have to embrace competition. You have to embrace the ability to come in and compete. I think in a lot of ways the success that Sequan had this year I think was actually a positive, because Miles could see himself having success like that and knowing that we were going to need multiple backs that are elite to help us go where we want to go.
It's not just Sequan. You look at the other backs we have in our program right now. It's going to be really good competition there. And I know they're excited for it as well.
All the rankings are great, and Miles has earned those things. But he's going to come to Penn State and have to earn them again.
Q. You signed seven players from the Philadelphia area last year, and this year you only signed one. Do you wish you had more success in Philadelphia this year or does that go back to not having the prospects to fill your areas of need?
COACH FRANKLIN: Well, yeah. I would make the argument that every year that we want to obviously do a great job of recruiting the state of Pennsylvania. That's very, very important to us, and the region. But I think you're going to need to look. That's going to change every year. There's going to be one year where there is 15 Division I prospects that come out of the city of Philadelphia or area of Philadelphia. There will be years where there's five. Same thing in Pittsburgh. Same thing in Harrisburg. Same thing throughout the state. There are going to be some years where there are 45 BCS players in the state of Pennsylvania. There are going to be other years where there are 15. So that's going to happen.
But, yeah, we always want to have as much success as we possibly can in all these areas. But if you guys are going to study numbers about how many guys we sign out of certain areas, it's going to be different every single year.
Q. You guys mentioned Chavis earlier, but Brenon Thrift, the kid from Lackawanna, what did you like about him? At what part of the process do you guys start thinking junior college kids for the positions where you're going to be shorthanded after graduations?
COACH FRANKLIN: He was a guy that we've been aware of for a long time. He went to Gateway High School, which we have a guy on our staff that was the head coach at Gateway. So you talk about having a relationship for a long time and knowing the guy and knowing what he's all about, knowing his family, those things help. Obviously, we've got a great relationship with Lackawanna as well. So when you're able to get a guy, it's a little unique because he's 3 for 3, so he can come in here. It's not like a junior college player or high school player. It's in between. He has three years of eligibility. He's 285 pounds right now, so it's a unique situation and something that we knew there was mutual interest, and a guy that we'd been kind of investigating for a long time.
Then at the end it made sense for both parties. And Terry was a big part of that as well, as well as Coach Rahne. Again, it just came back to the fit. It made sense for him and his family and Penn State based on the need we had at the position and the talent and his background. He's done extremely well academically there as well, so looking forward to getting him on campus as soon as we possibly can.
Q. I saw one of the comments from the kids that you wanted to not red-shirt anybody in the class. Did I misinterpret that or did he misinterpret that? Do you plan to red-shirt some of these kids?
COACH FRANKLIN: This is the same discussion we've had the last two press conferences like this. We tell them all that we want them to come in with the mentality that they're going to play. Then once they show up on campus and right before camp starts or right after camp starts we'll get a couple weeks into camp and we'll determine that. We recruit every single one of these guys with the mentality they're going to come in and play and impact the roster and play as freshmen. The guys that aren't ready, we'll have those conversations with them. It has to do with them. It has to do with our depth. It has to do with their physical maturity, their emotional maturity, and their ability to pick up the playbooks on offense, defense and special teams.
Yeah, I want them all to have that mentality.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports