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PENN STATE UNIVERSITY FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
March 14, 2016
University Park, Pennsylvania
COACH FRANKLIN: Appreciate everybody being here. Obviously this is a time of year that we all get excited about. I know it's a great opportunity for you guys, as well, to kind of get to know the future Penn State football and what it's going to hold this year.
Our guys have done a great job. I've got some stuff here, I probably don't want to read this all because Kris tells me I shouldn't, but there is some interesting tough. BOB POD is something we've really embraced with our training staff, of making sure that we're not just gaining weight but we're beginning the right type of weight, so I'll give you some stuff that you might be interested in.
Saquon Barkley lost five pounds of fat and gained 12 pounds of muscle.
Mark Allen lost eight pounds of fat, gained five pounds of muscle.
Buchholz lost zero pounds of fat but gained ten pounds of muscle.
Christian Campbell gained 12 pounds of muscle.
Irvin Charles lost two pounds of fat and gained 16 pounds of muscle.
Alex Gellerstedt lost 13 pounds of fat and 20 pounds of muscle.
DaeSean Hamilton gained 20 pounds of muscle, lean mass.
Shareef Miller, pretty amazing, lost 14 pounds of fat and gained 17 pounds of muscle.
Mahon lost 12 pounds of fat and gained 20 pounds of muscle.
Antoine White has really been working on changing his body and he's lost 13 pounds of fat and gained 12 pounds of muscle.
So pretty interesting there. Some of these numbers you guys already got from performance enhancement, our testing period.
Barkley had a 4.0 pro agility, and just so you guys know how we do that, they are hand-timed but we have six clocks and they take the average of six clocks.
So they will do one station here with three clocks, they will go to another station and do a separate pro agility with three clocks and we take the average of all six times to come up with our numbers.
(Barkley) Ran 4.38 in the 40, had a 390-pound clean.
Look at Mark Allen, he had a 4.03 pro agility.
Kevin Givens had a 410-pound bench and 600-pound squat.
Colin Castagna, to me, is an exciting store you for you guys. A guy that we were looking at out of high school, was not recruited, actually went to play volleyball first, transferred in here and is really kind of blowing up right now. Colin had a 10'4 broad jump at 254, had a 365-pound clean, had a 465-pound bench and he looks like a Greek God. He had his shirt off the other day, I said, if I had a body like you, I would show up to the press conference with no shirt on. He is just beautiful.
Nick Bowers is a guy who is 265 pounds right now. He had a 34 1/2 inch vertical jump, had a 4.23 pro agility, ran 4-7, had a 10.01 broad jump, a 355-pound clean, 565-pound squat.
Antoine White had a 395-pound bench, a 600-pound squat.
Koa Farmer may be the best size-to-speed and explosive movement athlete we have on our team right now at 232 pounds. Ran 4.43 and had a 350-pound clean. Throw some numbers out to you there.
Some position changes, I think you guys are aware of but Curtis Cothran from defensive end to d-tackle.
Kevin Givens from defensive end to defensive tackle. Just so you know, both of those guys now are over 270 pounds. Curtis got some good cooking at home and he's over 270.
And then Nick Scott from running back to corner, I think you guys are familiar with that already. Just some nuggets that I thought you guys would be interested in.
We got our chalk talk starting this Friday with high school coaches, Friday and Saturday, with our two first practices, and the rest of the stuff I'll kind of cover with you guys with questions.
But I know Coach Moorhead working with the offense is really excited. We've been able to use the new NCAA rules we've had for the last year to get meetings and get a head start, which is really important obviously when you're installing a new offense.
Defensively, obviously being able to replace the guys that we lost up front is going to be really important. I think it helps having the experience that we have at.
Linebacker and then special teams, being able to return all of our punters, kickers and snappers to build off their experience and then learning from some of the things. I think the other thing is a lot of those guys that we red-shirted now, looking at special teams and having a two-deep of guys to create true competition at those positions is going to be great.
And then the last point and then I'll be quiet is obviously the quarterback battle. Coach Galt has matched Trace and Tommy up in everything, and they are fiercely going at each other. And what's great about it, they have a very close relationship.
So it's one of these competitions where they have a lot of respect and really like each other, but they truly are really competing in everything.
So when they lift today, they are at the same station listing together every single day, when they run, they are right next to each other.
And obviously the young pup in Jake Zembiec is right there with them as well, trying to prove his opportunity.
So I will stop talking now and open it up to questions.
Q. How much does leadership play a part in your evaluation of the quarterbacks this spring and do you expect or hope to settle on one before camp in August?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think it's always a factor. It is always a factor. That was a big part of us recruiting Trace, taking his team to four state championships. You look at the type of success they had before he became the starter and until afterwards.
Tommy, some similarities there, as well, what he was able to do at his high school had not really been done before. That's a major factor. Leadership is going to be really important for us.
I talked about last year, there was a team in our conference I think had 44 seniors recognized on Senior Day. We're in a situation where we still don't have many seniors. We are still working through that. So there's going to be a lot of responsibility put on those guy, as well as the quarterbacks.
So we look at that. We look at that, obviously how they are doing academically to make sure we are going to be able to depend on them. We look at how they are working out in the weight room, how much self-motivation and self-starters they are in terms of throwing on their own in terms of watching film on their own with the guys.
The ones that I have been around that I think have had the most success, that's what they have done. They have taken ownership of the offense. They have taken ownership of the receivers, and the O-line and watched film and met and had some discussions and asked really good questions. And right now, I see these guys doing that.
Q. You mentioned the defensive line, you lost three really good players, and you also lost Terrelle Barney (ph), as well. When you look at the defensive tackle position, who are some guys you think might be able to step up this spring and later this summer and where does a kid like Givens factor into the equation?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, they are going to have to factor in. Obviously we did some things in recruiting; that those guys are going to have to factor in when they show up.
But for spring, you look at Antoine White has been a guy that really is the model that you would like. A guy that's sat behind some veterans and been able to get some game experience and build some confidence as he matured over time.
Windsor is a guy that on scout team really kind of had opened some eyes and really caused some struggles on the scout team and really is a competitive, powerful kid.
You look at Kamonte Carter who was a high school quarterback and now I think he's 305 pounds and maturing in a lot of different ways.
Curtis Cothran is the one I think a lot of people are intrigued by; the fact that we are moving him to defensive tackle and people are saying, I don't really understand that.
Well, I remember a lot of the same discussions about Zettel, when we first moved Zettel and that worked out okay, I'm not necessarily saying Curtis is going to be Zettel, but he is a long, powerful athletic guy. He's 270 pounds right now and still looks skinny. We obviously still need him and Kevin Givens to put some weight on before camp. But we feel comfortable that's going to happen. That's going to happen.
So you've got Curtis and you've got Givens. The guy who I kind of got a man crush on right now, as you guys know, every year there seems like there's one guy that we talk about a lot and that's Monk. This Monk guy, I'm telling you, his work ethic, his attitude, his demeanor, is unbelievable. I'm really, really proud of him.
I think he's a great example for our entire team about you get an opportunity, you take it, and you run with it. He's done great in the weight room. He was a pain to deal with on scout team. He is as driven and as motivated as any guy that I've been around.
I'd put him in a lot of ways -- I think Carl Nassib, and a lot of the guys that came even before Carl have started kind of a tradition of some of these walk-ons. Carl used to throw up in practice all the time, he would throw the "U" up, and his deal was this was "Walk-On U," is what he used to say.
He kind of had this little following of the other walk-ons that kind of, look what Carl was able to do, and have embraced it. I think Monk's that type of guy. So he's another guy that I think is going to factor in for us.
So we've got those six guys in there and excited to see what they are going to do this spring and then there's going to be obviously a large number of guys coming in in the summer, as well. Some of those guys are going to have to factor in.
But it gives these guys, these six guys, an opportunity to get a bunch of reps this spring and try to establish some roles going into the fall.
Q. You installed new offenses before as a head coach and coordinator. What have been maybe one or two of the most important things you've seen that helped smooth out that transition?
COACH FRANKLIN: A couple things. I think one of the things that helps is even last year, the last two years, we taught concepts, and Joe teaches concepts.
So although everybody is focused on this being a new offense, and it is, it's not like Joe's coming in here and running plays that have never been run before in college football or the NFL. Everybody's running the same plays. You're running inside zone, you're running outside zone, you're running power, you're running horizontal stretch, you're running vertical stretches, you're running high/lows, or whatever it may be.
But what I think the important part, is how you package things, how you complement things and how you're able to take things that may seem complex and make them seem easy to other people. And Joe's got a really good way of installing things and making it look like you're doing a lot of things when you're really not.
Tempo helps with that. Formations help with that. Not a big motion team, but I think Joe's got a really good feel of his system and how one thing complements the next.
So I think that's one of the important things is how you install it from day one, where the guys have a chance to go out and be successful, and I think where the art comes is, you know, how much do you give them: Do you give them too much on day one and they don't have the type of success and they are not confident; or do you give them too little. And that's where the art comes, is to find that blend right in between the two of them and from what I've seen, I feel really good about that.
And I think the other thing is Joe's passion for his offense and him being a former head coach; and we talked to all the assistants, where if you look at football compared to a lot of other sports, the coach to player ratio in football is completely different than other sports.
So we try to empower all of our assistant coaches to be the head coach: To be the head coach of the linebackers, to be the head coach of the receivers, to be the head coach of offense, defense or special teams.
And obviously with Joe being a head coach in his background, he's really done a great job of taking that and running with it. Not only being able to implement his scheme, but being able to motivate and lead his side of the ball. And I think Brent Pry and Charles Huff also have those attributes, as well. I think him and Brent have worked really good. We get together and go over all the installations, go over all the 15 practice shells.
I remember back when I was at Kansas State and I was the offensive coordinator, and Raheem Morris was the defensive coordinator and it wasn't about winning spring ball. It wasn't about the defense beating the offense or the offense beating the defense. I would go in with Raheem and Raheem was going to call cover three this play and Raheem wanted me to go four verticals against his cover three to really stretch the defense. He wanted me to put the defense in one of the most challenging situations, so he could see how they wore going to deal with it.
And I think whenever the offensive and defensive coordinator can work together like that, to get the things that they need to get covered, and also to challenge each other, is really important. I've had a lot of conversations with Joe and with Brent about that. And so far, that seems to be going really well. That seems to be going really well.
Q. Considering the upgraded numbers you mentioned regarding Saquon Barkley, weight, speed, what is the next step for him as a sophomore?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think it's the knowledge. Physically, you look at his size and strength and speed numbers, they are good. They are as good as anywhere in the country, college or I would even say the NFL. His numbers are really good. He has the experience now. He's played some football. He's had some success. He's met some challenges.
So that's the next step. It's how can we continue giving him the reps that he needs to grow and develop. How can we get the game to slow down for him so he can play aggressive and be decisive in his pass protection and things like that, anticipate when things are going to come. And that's really when you become more aggressive. That's when you become more physical and that's when you actually play faster.
So you see guys that may test at 4.38 but they play at 4.06 because they are thinking too much. Or you can see other guys that, for example, B Smith, B Smith is a guy you look at his testing numbers at linebacker, his testing numbers are solid. But when we put him on kickoff coverage, he actually was playing at the speed he tested at and a lot of times, you have guys that play slower.
They may run a certain number in shorts and t-shirt, but when you are timing, we time our guys on kickoff cover, so we'll time them on how quickly they are getting down the field. Some guys play as fast or some guys play slower. Very few play faster. So we kind of want to look at all those things.
With Saquon, that's a big part for him is all these testing numbers are wonderful in the weight room and in Haluba (ph), but how can we make sure that translates into on to the field with him, with the scheme, with the improvements that we are making on the offensive line with their experience and their strength and their size and the depth that we have there.
But also just understanding football: Understanding what cover two means; understanding zone blitzes and where they are coming from and why and really embracing and studying the game. That's some of the stuff that I love, I kept Tweet -- sending direct messages or Tweets -- excuse me, or text messages to our guys about some of these quotes that Peyton Manning talked about.
We talk to our players all the time about controlling the controllable, and you know, Peyton talked about there was more talented guys, there was more this, there was more that. But he controlled one of the things that he could control which was preparation. Nobody out out-prepared him.
So whenever I would see quotes like that, I would be texting those things to Saquon. I would be texting those things to the other players on our team, a lot of quarterbacks, because that's something you can control is how much film you watch, how many questions you ask, how inquisitive you are about your growth.
So I think that's the next step for Saquon is to really become a student of the game and master all those things so he can play fast and aggressive.
Q. You have a bunch of first- and second-year offensive linemen. What are you looking for from them this spring and how big of a spring it is for them, especially in light of learning the new offense?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think it's really important. They have done all the things necessary in the off-season. I think a lot of you guys saw Bates the other day. One of you guys said you almost didn't even recognize him. He's put on 20-something pounds. He's got a full beard. His beard game is strong right now. Just everything, he just looks like a different guy.
As you know, Bates was a guy we struggled with as a freshman, should we play him or not, because his talent and his maturity allowed him to be a part of that coverings. The issue was, you know, he was in the high 270s, low 280s and it's hard to be able to do that in the Big Ten at 18 years old. Now the fact I think he's around 305 pounds, there's a lot of excitement about him and what he's going to bring to the table.
All those guys, McGovern is a guy that from a maturity and from a discipline and from a mentality standpoint, he's a lot like Bates. The difference is, he's 305 pounds right now. We haven't done anything on the field yet, but he's a little bit different than most freshmen because he's going to have a chance to legitimately compete at that position because of his demeanor, because of his work ethic and because of his size. He's a grown man right now. We'll see if that translates on to the field with the speed of the game, which is always the difference for these guys.
There is a group of guys that have been sitting and waiting their time. I would actually put some of the other guys like Beh and Wright and Gonzalez and McGovern and Bates and Jenkins, a lot of these guys into that category, as well, that have kind of been waiting their turn to be able to prove that they are ready. Some are more ready than others but these 15 days will give us a really good opportunity to see how much progress they have made.
I think Noah Bey, I mentioned him to you guys before, he's right around 290 pounds I think right now. He showed up here at 238 pounds. So you talk about a guy that's really made some nice improvements. I think it was on thon (ph), the day we had the guys in here, I was standing back with some of you guys in the media. I said, "Look at Noah Bey, he looks like a legitimate Big Ten lineman now," and that's exciting. He's worked really hard at it.
You're exactly right. It's a huge spring for those guys to show that they are ready to step into that role of being either legitimate guys competing for starting jobs or probably just as important to be legitimate two-deep guys so we don't have as many moving parts on the offensive line that we have had for the last couple years.
Q. What are you expecting from Nyeem Wartman this spring? Is there anything he's going to do? And how important do you think he could be to the linebackers in the fall?
COACH FRANKLIN: You know, Nyeem will probably be limited this spring. Not sure how much he'll do this spring.
You know, it's interesting, because Cabinda has gotten a lot of work at Mike linebacker right now and he doesn't want to give that up. So I think the battle between him and Nyeem is going to be really interesting whether it's part of this spring or whether it's fall camp.
They both want to be the Mike linebacker and neither one of them want to give it up, which is great. Our Mike and our Will linebacker are two box backers. They are interchangeable in a lot of ways, so I think that's going to be interesting and going to be fun.
But I think his experience, he had kind of a share with the team the other day and really did a nice job. You know, talked about how last year, kind of coming into the season, he had a certain mentality and after going through what he went through, the injury, he realized that in some ways, that mentality as you get older, I think we all realize, when we're younger, we're selfish. And he talked about how his mentality coming into the last year may have been a little selfish in some ways and how he's grown from that experience; and in a lot of ways, how it might have been the best thing to ever happen for him as a football player and as a person.
He's been amazing how he's handled this whole injury to be honest with you. If he's limited this spring, like I expect him to be, I want him back there really coaching the young guys, taking as many mental reps as he possibly can.
But it's going to be great obviously to see Cooper, Cabinda, Bowen, Walker, Jan Johnson; he's going right from the wrestling mat right on to the football field. Had a long talk with him last night to make sure he was leaving wrestling the right way. I don't want him just, you know, dropping and running over here. I want to make sure it's handled the right way. I'm going to follow up with a phone call to Coach to make sure we're all on the same page. And then Brandon Smith and Vranic. So there's exciting guys -- to see what they are going to do.
And then obviously, we have talked a little bit as well about playing more star, or possibly another unit we might be calling stud. Where you have your star is more of a nickel corner and your stud is more of a nickel safety, which creates some flexibility with our field linebacker with our numbers being a little bit short this spring with in injuries.
Q. Your running back depth, obviously I'm thinking you must like what you have there to move Nick Scott. What do you like about Andre Robinson and what do you expect from him?
COACH FRANKLIN: Nick is actually a guy that came to me about moving. And it was a couple things. I think Nick is a competitor, but I think he also saw that Saquon Barkley has got some special qualities, and that's kind of what he said.
It was interesting, he was saying through the recruiting process, a lot of people were recruiting him as DB but at the time he didn't really want to hear it.
And he's excited. He's taken a lot of initiative. I see him getting together with John Reid and Jordan Smith and Haley and those guys, and spending time with them and kind of working on the fundamentals and techniques.
The corner position was something I thought was important, to start him there. We feel like safety is probably the position that we have a pretty good amount of depth right now. We have six or so guys that we feel really good about.
And at corner, we want to continue to create the depth. And the other thing I said to him was, you talk about six-foot corners, he's one of our better athletes on our team and if you can find a six-foot corner who can run the way he can run and has the length to get his hands on you at the line of scrimmage. Obviously as a running back has great feet and hips. So it's just learning the position.
I would say safety, there's a lot more learning that goes along with it. Corner, there's a lot more techniques that go along with it. So we are excited. I know I was kind of impressed in the morning work outs just watching them, the first couple days, I thought he would actually look a little bit more uncomfortable than he did. He looked pretty comfortable the first day out there and that got us excited.
So you know, he's got a great opportunity. He's obviously had a big factor for us on special teams the last couple years, and I think this will allow that role to grow, as well as fighting for a spot at corner.
Q. Andre Robinson, what do you expect?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yes, since I never answered that part of the question, sorry. I got excited about Nick.
Andre is a guy that came in here as a big, strong kid out of Harrisburg that was faster than everybody in high school, and has lower body strength was the thing that really jumped out to us when he got here. It was weird, because he wouldn't necessarily run people over with his shoulders. He would take kind of guys on kind of upright, but he was so strong in his lower body that he was hard to bring down.
The next step for him was to change his body a little bit more, drop some body fat, and get leaner and be more explosive. So be able to match his lower body strength up with the speed and explosion that he needs to be successful at this level. And then also, be able to lower his pads so he could take people on with his shoulders and then still use his legs to break tackle.
So kind of becoming more of a complete running back rather than just depending on being bigger and faster than everybody in high school. He's done a great job of that. His weight is down. His body fat is down. He's a really strong guy in the weight room and on the football field. And opened a lot of eyes. Opened a lot of eyes on scout team. He may have the most natural hands out of any of the running backs we have. Does that extremely well.
And that's not a knock on the other guys. It's just something that he does; it's effortless for him and then build on that. We would do some of those young guys' scrimmages during Bowl prep and things like that, and he kind of stood out.
So this is going to be a really, really important spring for him. I just texted him this morning about there's still some things between now and summer camp he needs to continue to work on. But this is going to be a very, very important spring for him, and really all of those other running backs, to see how the depth chart is going to figure out.
Q. Do you hope to make a QB decision before the end of spring --
COACH FRANKLIN: I didn't answer that question earlier either, did I.
Q. No. And what position battle excites you sort of as much as that one? That's the one that's going to be talked about the most. But which one excites you besides that one?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, you know, I think you always would like to try to have your quarterback named as early as possible so they can go into the summer and really take ahold of the team. But I also, we don't want to make that decision just because of that.
We want to make sure we're making the right decision, No. 1. And if that becomes obvious very early on, great. If it needs to go to summer camp, we're willing to go to summer camp and if it needs to be the first game, you guys are waiting for us to announce the starter, that could be the case, as well.
I think we've had a history around here of you announcing the starting quarterback before the head coach and that didn't really go over very well. Hopefully we can get that announced a little earlier.
I think it wouldn't surprise if me that goes to camp, just as competitive as those two guys have been with each other. And you never know what's going to happen with a guy like Jake Zembiec, you just never know. It's hard to keep him part of the equation right now because we haven't seen him but you never know. It wouldn't surprise me if that goes to camp.
I think the other positions that are kind of intriguing is the offensive line that we've already talked about with the development and experience of those guys.
Paris Palmer is a different guy right now, he just is. He's physically is different, his confidence is way different. And then those guys we already talked about, those guys behind him, are fighting.
Nelly, this is the first off-season he's really been able to work. Truly been able to do the morning work outs, truly been able to do all the weight work outs and his strength numbers and explosive numbers are unbelievable. Jumped extremely well, ran extremely well. And we weren't able to do any of those things the last two years with him and that's been great. He's kind of fanatical right now about his nutrition, about everything.
It's amazing, Zettel came back and said the workouts that he's doing right now are really no different than the workouts he did here, but he goes: You know, I sleep more and I'm eating better and he's like, it's amazing what that does.
We're like, yeah, it's the same thing we told you for the last two years, but now the agents tell them so they listen. So we have been kind of hammering our guys. So the O-line I think is something that's intriguing.
Then I think the other thing is the wide receiver. That's a position where people would come to practice and they would look at -- they would look at -- you look at Irving Charles and you look at Juwan Johnson, two guys that we kind of went back and forth on whether we were going to red-shirt or not. Those guys are kind of, you know, they are exciting, and I think they are going to create competition for starting jobs and also for two-deep. So those guys jump out at you.
And then the thing we have already talked about is the D-tackle situation; who is going to step up and take advantage of the opportunity that's here for them and make the most of it. I think Sean as proven over the time I've been with him for five years that his position has been as productive as any position on our team for again, the five years I've been with him.
So I know they are going to get great coaching and they are going to have a tremendous opportunity and see who is going to jump up and take it.
Q. We've gotten to see Trace over the last year, Wednesday practices and in the Bowl game, but we haven't seen Tommy. How would you describe how he's evolved and compare and contrast those two players?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think the Bowl game was obviously important for Trace because he got into a game at a point where it had not already been decided and really made some plays. Made some tough throws, made some plays with his feet. Really took control and showed some fire on the sideline and had fun doing it. That was great for him I think, and his confidence going into the season and really for the coaches, as well because you never truly know until someone gets in there in that type of situation, and I think he did pretty well.
Tommy has a lot of those traits from a leadership standpoint. The guys really like him on our team. Obviously he has a different body type. He's a big kid and he's getting bigger every single day. His length, his movement. If you look at testing numbers, he did not test as well as Trace in term of pro agility in terms of 40.
But if you talk to our players, he plays as fast as Trace on the field. That goes back to kind of what we were talking about before, when he would pull the ball down, he would take off and he's got this long stride and he's a guy that could make plays with his arm or his feet.
He's handled everything really well. He's embraced his role and his opportunity. He is approaching this as if he is going to be the starter and believes that 100 percent as well as Trace feels the same way. But I think to be honest with you, there's a lot of similar traits.
There's just two different body types. You've got one guy who is 6-3, 6-4, 220 pounds and you have another guy who is 6-1, 195, 200 pounds, a little bit quicker maybe in testing but on the field, they both are very, very productive with those things with his feet.
Q. It was O'Brien that didn't want to tell us the quarterback. Joe always cooperated.
COACH FRANKLIN: I know who it was. Joe always cooperated? I've heard different stories. (Laughter).
Q. Your special teams generated some concern last year. How much are you spending this spring over-viewing those and to make the adjustments for better performance there?
COACH FRANKLIN: We actually improved in the return game, but gave up way too many plays in our coverage, and I think that was a number of factors.
I think we're going to have a more competitive two-deep this year, which I think is going to help there probably as much as anywhere. I think our kicking, the consistency in our kicking, is going to be really important. The height of our kicks, the hang time of our kicks, the kick location, the depth.
I think you guys remember me talking about the Northwestern game. Everybody thought our plan was to squib it. We weren't supposed to squib any of those.
So our consistency in our kicking. But the fact that those guys now, all of them have experience, good and bad experiences that they can learn from, Ficken I think is a great example. It's not where you start; it's where you finish and how you handle the adversity and grow from it.
We've done a lot of things. Frank Novak is a good friend of mine. We were together with the Green Bay Packers. He came and visited us over spring break with Coach Huff. He's going to come back again.
Coach Huff went on a tour, as well, and visited a number of schools. Got together with a special teams clinic he was with and went and visited some other coaches, some NFL coaches, as well.
We know that that's an area that we have to improve. We need that to be an area that we are winning games, not an area that has had a major factor in us losing games.
So there's a major emphasis on it. We started this morning on it at 7:00 A.M., met from 7:00 to 8:00 before our staff meeting at 8:00 on special teams, kind of going over units. I think there's some things that we have adjusted from a scheme standpoint that's going to help us.
But it's like most things in life: It's not one thing. There's some scheme adjustments that we needed to make. There's the having more personnel to work with is a part of it. Our kicking, the consistency in our kicking is really, really important and we haven't done a great job of those things.
It's going to be a huge emphasis this spring. It's going to be a huge emphasis this summer. Spent a lot of time this off-season studying what we do, studying what the better special teams units in the country are doing; how do those things fit what we are trying to do here at Penn State.
But there's been a major emphasis on getting those things resolved for us.
Q. You said the biggest challenge since you've been here is managing expectations. Is that still a challenge and what level will that be in the coming year?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think it is. I think it's been our biggest challenge. I think it's still our challenge moving forward, because there's still work to be done.
Think it's something when you're at a place like Penn State, you have to embrace. I love the fact that we have such high expectations, I do. I love that.
You know, I think obviously me coming in in the opening press conference and even moving forward, I've heard from a number of people that I've been too positive. But I think there's that fine line of, we have to build excitement for the direction of the program and we have to build excitement of where we're going because we're going there. There's signs of it all over the place.
But as fans and as coaches and as players, it doesn't always happen at the rate we want it to happen. And again, at a place like Penn State with the history and the traditions and everything we've been through -- I think that's part of it. I think everything that we've been through over the last five years, everybody's ready to get back, and I get that, and I appreciate that and I respect that and our players do and our coaches do, as well.
There's so many signs and so many great things heading in the right direction for this program and getting back to the Penn State that everybody wants to see on Saturdays and everybody wants to see at the spring game.
It's going to continue to be a challenge of that fine line of getting people excited and stating all the different things that people should be excited about, and also educating.
Also educating what's going on in our country and the game of college football what's going on all across the country when it comes to facilitates and recruiting and all those things. It's that fine line between educating where we're at, where we're going and how we're going to get there.
I do know this: The only way we're going to get where we're going is all of us together; that's the players; that's the that's the coaches; that's the campus; that's the community; that's the alumni; that's everybody doing it together. And to be honest with you, 99 percent of everybody has been great. The one percent that isn't, they are loud. They are loud. But that's anywhere. I've had that in every college I've been at.
Q. Kind of going off that word, expectations, I think there might have been some high expectations and maybe some unrealistic ones placed on the offensive line as a unit for improvement from two years ago to last year. What is your honest evaluation of that unit's potential this season, and do you think it will be on par with the rest of the Big Ten?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think if you look at the guys, to me, there is reason for hope. There's reason for hope because you've got Paris Palmer now.
You look across the country, junior college players make a dramatic improvement in year two. Very similar to be honest with you, you look at freshmen coming in. They make a dramatic improvement from year one to year two. He's got all the things you're looking for but now he has the experience and the size and the strength to go along with it.
You look at Derek Dowrey and the experience he's been able to get the last two years. You look at Gaia, the experience he's been able to get. You look at Wendy Laurent, the experience he's got. You look at Mahon and Nelson.
So you've got those six guys that all have a number of games of experience and reps, and then you've got Coach Limegrover, who has been an offensive coordinator I think for 16 years and been an offensive coordinator in the Big Ten coaching that position. I think the combination of those two things is going to bode very well for us.
And now, you have guys legitimately behind them working to take their job every single day at practice. I don't think people understand the importance of competition at every single position throughout our program and really anywhere.
When you've got a guy behind you at every position, that if you don't come to work every single day, has a legitimate chance to take your job, that changes things. If you're looking behind you and you know the guy behind you has no chance to take your job, it's different, and it's human nature.
We should all be really motivated to be the best we possibly can and we're working to do that, but there is a difference when there's a guy behind you that's waiting for you to slip up to take your job and we have more of that right now with the Jenkins of the worlds and the Bates and the Wendys and the McGoverns and the Wrights and the Gonzalez' and the Behs and the Sorrells, we've got some guys that have now been kind of marinating and waiting for their time, and this spring is going to be very important.
I think what I can tell you is those guys that I started out first, those six guys that have played a lot of football, those guys I think now after the experience and the time in the weight room are much further along than where they have been the last two years.
The question mark now is: That next line, are they ready to truly fight for starting jobs, or our worst-case scenario, are they truly ready to be legitimate two-deep guys. I think that's kind of where we're at. The starting unit, at least the guys that we have pencilled in right now, is the starting unit.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports