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February 1, 2017

James Franklin

University Park, Pennsylvania

COACH FRANKLIN: First of all, appreciate everyone being here once again. The support we get all year long and the coverage has been excellent. Very appreciative.

Today is a day to celebrate all the hard work that the coaches, the families have put in, the players have put in. It's a special day for these young people. Made probably the most important decision of their life up to this point.

But like I told them this morning, they think they've worked hard up to this point. The real work starts tomorrow morning at 6:00 a.m. I want them to enjoy tonight and kind of savor it. We'll do the same thing as a coaching staff. We have a lot of stuff going on today obviously. Tonight we're going to be going to my house. Anybody that lives in Port Matilda, I apologize. We're going to get after it pretty good tonight and then give the coaches off a long weekend.

We'll have a staff meeting Monday morning at 7:00 a.m. and it's back at it. It's back at it.

The coaches haven't had a day off since July. This will be a well-deserved break.

But just really proud. I think the thing that probably jumped out to me is we've been recruiting most of these guys for a long time, anywhere from two to three years with most of these guys. This morning Skypeing with them all, just impressive, to be honest with you, how articulate these guys were, how appreciative they were, the type of high school programs they come from, the parents. It was really nice.

I was glad there were some other people in there to see it, for them to kind of get to know these young men and their families a little bit better like we do, because they're special people. The type of football players is important. Obviously that's where it starts. But the type of students they are, the type of people they are, the type of communities they come from, the families they come from, then ultimately the fit.

We got a great locker room right now. Our chemistry and our culture is really good. We want to bring people that are going to come in and they're going to complement that, they're going to build on that. We feel really good about that.

I want to thank the coaches. I want to thank the administration. I want to thank Andy Frank, our recruiting department. This takes a lot. As we all know, we don't really have an international airport here. It's not always the easiest place to get in and out of. Planes, trains, automobiles, camels, whatever it takes. Andy Frank and his staff do a great job of organizing all those things so we can get in touch and come in contact with as many recruits and high school coaches and families as we possibly can, so we can bring in a group of young people in here that are going to continue to allow us to build in the direction we're going.

I want to thank everybody. To be honest with you, I want to thank everybody in the community because it goes a long ways. I want to thank the people that work on this campus because it's amazing to me how many people talk to me about how beautiful the campus is, how clean the campus is. That's OPP. That's all the people that work on campus, cleaning things up, shoveling sidewalks, picking up trash. That's the president reinforcing that football is important, but academics are number one. That's our athletic director Sandy Barbour. That's the people that work in the restaurants and the hotels and the stores, people walking down the street.

This is a true college town. It's a true community. For the kid that's looking for that, for the family that's looking for that, we're hard to argue with. You talk about one of the best educations in the world, U.S. News and World Report rankings back it up. You talk about great tradition and history when it comes to athletics, not just football but athletics in general. You talk about a caring and supportive community. We're going to check a lot of boxes for people.

Obviously the Big Ten Championship. This is the first time since the game that I have not had the ball in my possession. I've taken it into every high school. I sleep with it. My wife rolled over the other night and almost broke her elbow on it. That obviously helps. That success on the field helps, as well, because the type of kids that we're recruiting, they want it all.

Penn State is one of the few places in the country that can really offer that. I want to thank the administration. I want to thank the lettermen who have been unbelievably supportive. I want to thank the alumni. I want to thank all the Penn State fans. Again, I want to thank this community. I want to thank our students. Our student section is the best in the country. Our fan support is unbelievable. That's why we were undefeated at home.

Before I open it up to questions, I want to say, we have to keep headed in this direction. Right now things are going really well. I think a big statement that would be made is for us to sell out the spring game. 107,000 people would make a tremendous statement across this country about Penn State football and where we're headed. I want to thank all the people that are buying season tickets. I think we sold over 400 season tickets today. There are a lot of really good things going on.

I want to talk briefly about Penn State football and where we're headed. I want to thank all the people that are buying season tickets. I think we sold over 400 season tickets today. There's a lot of really good things going on.

For us to get where we want to go, it's going to take everybody. It's not the head coach. It's the players. It's the coaching staff. It's the administration. It's the fans. It's the alumni. It's the lettermen. It's everybody. It's all the other coaches. It's the athletic department. Everybody pulling the rope in the same direction. We're at a really good place right now, so we have to keep building on it.

The one stat I will throw out to you that I'm pretty proud of, if you look at the three previous years, before we got here, I think the average class ranking was 40, almost 41. The last three years, that one year where we got the job, that was kind of a combination year? If you take that out and go to the three previous years, then the past three, it's 16. Average class rank of almost 41, average class rank of 16. We still have a lot of work to do. We've made really good progress.

I don't know if there's too many other good programs in the country that can say that. That year, talk about in the middle, we got the job January 11th. That was kind of a blend of two staffs. But we got great players here. We got great kids. We're able to build on that. I want to thank the players in our program because they've been unbelievable, not only academically, but also football-wise, but really recruiting. These guys come up on visits. Our players sell the program. They sell all the wonderful things and the type of experience they're having here, how special it is.

We're heading the right direction. I'm really, really excited. But we still got a lot of work to do. It's going to take everybody to get to where we want to go.

I'll open it up to questions.

Q. You talked about being involved with a bunch of these kids for multiple years. Ellis Brooks, talk about the logistics and how you were able to get all that done so quickly.
COACH FRANKLIN: It probably wasn't as quick as people think. We've been in steady contact with Ellis for a long time. He was very active in hitting me up on Twitter, direct message. I did the same thing. Coach Pry. A lot of people say, How come you didn't keep offering guys? We don't normally do that. We don't offer a lot of players. Then once we get commitments and people tell us they're coming, why are you going to keep offering other players if you can't take their commitment. Maybe we're a little old school like that, but that's what we're comfortable in doing. That's how we would want to be treated. As parents, that's how we would want to be treated as prospects.

The guys that choose not to come here, we wish them nothing but success. But the guys we do have coming here, we're really, really excited about. Fortunately with Ellis, we were able to get in there and get in his home. Really, really sharp kid, sharp family. What I would characterize as a Penn State kid and a Penn State family.

Obviously it helps that this was a school he was always fond of. There's a really cool picture I think they put out where you see him at Michael Robinson's knee at Michael Robinson's graduation from here, him and his dad. There is Ellis down by his knee as a little kid looking up at this place.

I think those things help.

We felt like if we got him on campus that we would be able to make up some ground in a short period of time. But, I mean, literally, he had all kinds of people coming to his house. He had visited all over the country from the West Coast to the deep south, everywhere in between. He had a lot of opportunities.

When he came on the visit, dad was awesome. We felt really good about dad. Mom I was scared of. Mom got after me in a home visit pretty good. I survived it. We got her here on campus. Then dad went downtown to the bookstore and bought $300 worth of gear. Pretty good sign. Pretty good sign. (Smiling.)

He just has got really good parents. He has a really good family. Mom, as most moms do, she loves her baby, wants. To make sure he's protected, in the right place. We were able to get a really good person from a really good family and a really good high school coach to jump onboard with us. The big man upstairs works in mysterious ways and things happen for a reason. I hope it works out really, really well for both parties, most importantly the party that's coming here.

Q. James, could you talk a little bit about the importance of the last three guys you got to finish out this class. Why was it important to get them onboard and what they bring to the table?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think really keep recruiting. Our staff was a lot like our season. We persevered, just kept battling. I know fans and people think the recruiting process should go smooth and perfect. I've been doing this 23 years. It never does. You just keep recruiting. You stay positive. You keep selling all the wonderful things we have here at Penn State.

Even with some of the guys that you think were solid the whole time, there were ups and downs, twists and turns. That's just kind of how it is. I think our staff just stayed positive and persevered, kept pounding positive messages with guys.

We were fortunate. We were fortunate to close. I do think Ellis was a great one to sign with us late in the process at a position in need.

Obviously Jason Cabinda is going to be a tremendous mentor to him. There's one we can't speak on yet.

Corey Bolds, you talk about a huge pickup. We have a need at defensive tackle. We lost some guys to the transfer process. Corey Bolds is a guy we recruited really early on. Once his mom and him got on campus, it changed completely. We got some commitments. Corey stayed patient. We just kept talking. I really got to know him really well from a great high school. Coach Rahne did a really good job. Coach Spencer. We're jacked about having that guy.

You talk about a big, physical, strong, athletic guy that's going to have a chance to come in and compete, we're really excited.

Sean Clifford is a guy who is the first commitment of the class. That one's a big one. The last one's a big one. Everything in between.

I do want to thank Sean Clifford and Yetur Matos, a lot of those guys that jumped onboard with us really early in the process. They saw something in us very clear that maybe others didn't. It's really cool that we were able to reinforce that they made a great decision with how we played.

I read a bunch of interviews with Sean talking about he wasn't surprised one bit. He saw this coming the whole time. His family was really, really good. You talk about him having a storybook year, as well. Bunch of injuries on his high school team. They end up being 5-5. Took his team to four straight championships. That guy is a winner.

Tommy Stevens, Jake Zembiec. We're starting to get winners stockpiled at that position, every position. That's one of the things we didn't have when we got here, was depth and competition at every position. That's going to make for an exciting spring. That's going to make for an exciting fall. I'm really looking forward to it.

That experience that we got this year, then creating the most competitive environment in the country at practice every day.

Q. With some of the early commits, how important were they in terms of, I guess, establishing leadership, getting the later commits onboard? Who were some of the specific players that emerged as leaders early on in the cycle? What have you seen from them as a coach, those leadership qualities?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think obviously the guys that jumped onboard were really good. They had a group chat going. They all became really good friends. That recruiting weekend we had a couple weekends ago, it's not a recruiting weekend, it's a celebration. They come. They're all buddies. They're all friends. They just enjoy themselves.

Their parents know each other. The players know each other, the coaches, and our families. It's just kind of a weekend to celebrate and answer any last questions they may have and go through everything for the third or fourth time in detail.

But it's special. Those guys that jumped onboard, they were very active. It's one thing for it to come from an area recruiting coach. It's another thing for it to come from a position coach or head coach. It's a complete different thing when these guys are out recruiting each other.

To be honest with you, it's not just telling guys to come here. It's also telling us, Hey, coach, I don't know if this is a guy I necessarily want to play with. Our current players telling us that, recruits telling us that, Coach, he's not a great fit for us, doesn't fit the culture.

Those guys are significant. They always will be.

Q. You've obviously assembled a pretty strong class here. Is there any area of your depth chart that you would have liked to have fortified a little bit more that you weren't able to with this group?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think we're in a little bit of a different point now. When I first got here at 65, 75 scholarships, that was a major issue. We're at a little bit different situation now. I still think we're going to be recruiting guys to come in and play as freshmen.

In the past we had guys coming in, and they walked in and they were in the two-deep, where now it's going to be iron sharpens iron. It's going to be walk on campus and compete like crazy. We're going to play freshmen. That's something that we're committed to doing. We're going to play the best players, whether they're freshmen, seniors, returning starters or not. We're going to play the best guys.

Needs? We're just in a different place. I think we're going to go back and kind of look through some things that we've kind of already identified at this point. It's not like we have glaring holes now like we did before.

I think we've done a really good job of solving problems. I think getting Corey Bolds late in the process was important. We had a couple defensive tackles transfer out. Got a little bit of a hole in one of the classes.

I would prefer at every position to sign at least one player every single year so you don't have gaps in development in your program, but that never really happens. You try the best you possibly can, but that's going to happen from time to time.

Q. Two western PA guys I am curious about, C.J. that Thorpe and Journey Brown. C.J. you had to fight for a little bit at the end. Journey is a guy you offered and added. Where do you see Thorpe fitting in in year one? What attributes does Brown have?
COACH FRANKLIN: Thorpe is a grown man. He's got something that I think most coaches are looking for. It's hard to find. He's an offensive lineman with a nastiness to him. He plays with a really nasty demeanor. He wants to finish it. He wants to be physical. When you can find guys like that, they're really valuable.

If you look really at this entire offensive line recruiting class, they all show that. When he was able to do that in one of the better, more competitive high school conferences in the country, the WPIL, and specifically with Coach Totten over there at Central Catholic, then able to go to an All-Star Game and jump out again, he's got really long arms. He's over 300 pounds. His dad played here.

I know you say we had to fight for him at the end. I don't know if that necessarily was the case. He did look around a little bit, but we didn't feel that from things that were communicated with us.

Then Journey is a great story. You don't really see it a whole lot now where -- you know, guys usually have offers at the latest their junior year. He's a guy obviously that's done some really special things in his career. When he came to camp, kind of things changed for us. We saw him on tape. He did a great job at Meadville. Whenever you rush for over 700 yards and 10 touchdowns in one game, you know, when I offered him and he committed, I said, We got one deal here. For this to work, you have to promise me you're going to rush for 700 yards and 10 touchdowns in one game at Penn State. He guaranteed me that's going to happen.

When he came to camp, it changed. He broad jumped over 10 foot. His pro agility was really good. He ran 4.4 on about 10 clocks multiple times. He's 5'10", 190 pounds at least. He's not just one of these little speedbacks. He's going to be over 200 pounds and he's going to be able to run.

He was a guy at that point that we were trying to find a way to get into the class. We felt like we had some other needs. You can never have enough runningbacks. Those guys can change a game. We all seen what Saquon Barkley has been able to do. I'm fired up because I think next year for the first time our offensive line can be a strength. I thought we really improved this year, but I think it can be a strength.

You say Saquon Barkley, the rest of these backs, put them behind an offensive line, that's a strength. It's going to be fun. I think that's why we probably sold 400 season tickets today.

Q. Coach, you seemed to make a pretty strong late push for Mark Webb. What did you think when you heard he was staying with Georgia? What do you think of his dad taking to Twitter and thanking you?
COACH FRANKLIN: I don't know if I'm allowed to talk about another prospect. Maybe I can. I'd rather focus on the guys that are coming here. We're always going to recruit the state really heavy. We're going to form relationships. We're going to make it difficult for guys to leave because we offer such a great education. The relationship aspect is going to be really, really important to us.

What we're going to do and what I hope the prospects do is not burn bridges, and be thankful and appreciative of the time we got. But I can't talk specifically. I don't think I can. I'd prefer to talk about the guys in our class.

Q. When you first got here, offensive line was a major point of emphasis. We've talked about C.J. Thorpe a lot. Talk about Miranda, Rob Martin, Desmond Holmes. What did you see in them?
COACH FRANKLIN: I'll starred with Miranda. Miranda is another one that really, really plays with a nastiness. You watch his highlight tape. There was one game where this one kid, at one point I kind of felt bad for him. I mean, he's just pancaking him over and over and over and over again.

When we had a chance to get him early on in the process, and after he committed to us, everyone came back in and offered him.

I don't know if I've ever heard this before. He was his league's MVP. Not offensive lineman of the year, I think he was the offensive MVP and the league's MVP. I'd never heard of that before.

He's on campus right now. He went from looking like a WWE wrestler with his hair down to his back, to now he's like a European model with a stylish haircut he's got.

We love him. He said about nine words through the recruiting process. He said about nine words since he's been here. We went through the process with him today like the other guys. I think he said, Thanks, and walked out of the room.

But he brings a toughness to us. He's an inside guy. I think he can play center and guard.

Des Holmes is a guy that came to camp. Massive human being. His dad and brother played basketball. His dad played in the PSAC, basketball player. Massive kid.

His high school did a great job of turning that place around. You're talking about a 6'5", 320-pound kid with really light feet. Hadn't really showed it to the point on film yet. But I think after camp, we felt really comfortable offering him.

His senior year I thought was really good. We talked to him about finishing people, playing with a toughness. I thought he really showed that his senior year.

We were fortunate to get him early in the process, because watching his senior year, I thought he had a great year.

Then Rob is blue-collar, hard-nosed. His high school coach played in the NFL. Great high school program. He's a swing guy that can play multiple positions. I'm really excited about Robert because he doesn't have a hair on his face. His face, looks like he's about 14 years old. He's about 275 pounds right now. He has so much room for growth.

When he decides to start growing some facial hair and fill out, I think we're going to have a chance to get a guy who has got a really, really big upside.

He's the opposite of some of the guys I told the staff I don't like to recruit. I don't like to recruit the guy we played little league with at 12 years old and he's standing on the mound with a 5:00 shadow and a receding hairline. That guy, you're all scared of him.

Then everybody grew and went past him. I like the baby-faced guys that you know are still growing and still maturing. He really fits that model. His dad was a basketball player. Played at Lehigh. He's got a big, supportive family. We expect him to come and do really good things.

Q. (No microphone.)
COACH FRANKLIN: The offensive line? I think, yeah, the offensive line will be a strength moving forward. I really do. I talked about how Saquon Barkley behind that line, I think this year we have a chance for it to be a strength.

Q. Talking about the offensive line again, you mentioned a couple times how nastiness and toughness were some of the characteristics shared by the offensive line recruits here. You mentioned in the past how that's something you've been searching for with the guys you have on the roster.
COACH FRANKLIN: I wasn't talking about the guys on the roster. I'm saying in general in my 44 years on this planet, my 23 years coaching, offensive linemen, you know, usually are big, nice kids. They've been bigger than everybody their whole life, and parents and teachers are have been telling them, Be careful, you're going to hurt people. You have to be careful.

No different than like Shaq in the NBA. He was doing the same thing as everybody else. Because he's so big, he's getting more fouls. People, their whole life, have been telling them to be gentle, be nice to people.

We don't want them to be gentle and nice to people on the field. We want them to be gentlemen off the field and for them to have a nastiness and a toughness that really sets the tone for our offense and our whole organization.

I wasn't talking about our team. I was talking about an issue in general. I would like to see our team play a little nastier and tougher, but that's been something I've been saying to offensive lines since the beginning of time.

Q. James, two-thirds of this class committed before you ever played in the Big Ten title game or the Rose Bowl. Do you look at the next six or seven guys you can talk about and say, This is where we got that value? Can you play that card for 2018?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think it had a little bit of an impact this year, not as much as people think. I think where it's probably going to have the biggest impact is the '18 class and the '19 class. These guys were sitting in their living rooms and at their high schools watching Penn State be really successful and play an exciting brand of football.

Yeah, I think it helped us a little bit. Lamont Wade, for example, I think it helped us a little bit about Lamont. Mom, dad, and really the star of the family is his little sister. I felt like we were in really good shape with his family. The dad realized that Lamont wanted to see that. Lamont is a guy that had been going through this recruiting process for a long time and wanted to see it all.

I think it probably had a little bit of an effect on him. It's a few guys at the end. Really, to be honest with you, not as much as people would think. It was more about the '18 class and the '19 class.

Q. What excites you about the receivers in this class?
COACH FRANKLIN: Cam Sullivan-Brown is a kid that came to camp the year before. He was really confident. I mean, he was really confident. He's one of the guys, you go to these camps and there is a line, but there's really not a line. It's just like a mass of bodies fighting for reps.

He was taking almost every rep and winning and turning around and telling Coach Gattis about it almost to an extreme.

But he's a big, physical guy. Really good ball skills. What I love about him and all of our prospects is you watch his tape, not only does he make plays on the offensive side of the ball, but the defensive side of the ball. Really he guys we recruit should dominate high school football on both sides of the ball. He does that.

I think with Hamler and with Hippenhammer, they're two guys -- one of the areas I still think we need to take a step in is in the return game. You know, kickoff return, punt return, guys that when they touch the ball, everybody in the stadium is on the edge of their seat.

Hippenhammer had as good of a year as anybody in the country returning punts and kicks. Really, really successful. Tremendous feet. Really, really polished already as a wide receiver. He needs to get bigger and stronger. Both of them do.

K.J. came to camp and ran really fast, really fast. He's one of those guys, as fast as he runs this way, he can stick his foot in the ground and go in a lot of different directions. He hasn't played in the past year. Those two guys have work to do in front of them just in terms of getting bigger and stronger. They're electric players.

What we like about them, Mac is a guy that we think can play Z as well as the slot. We think K.J. is a slot who can maybe play out at Z. We think of Cam as being an X. Those again, guys can come in and compete. Usually DBs and receivers usually have a chance to play earlier in their career than other guys. We're looking at those guys and expecting them to come in and compete.

Q. With Hippenhammer, is a baseball shot also in the works? How did he pitch that to you?
COACH FRANKLIN: We talked early on. He's a high-level baseball player. He's a switch hitter. Wanted to play baseball. Coach Cooper was involved in his recruitment, as well.

That's something selfishly as a football coach, I want him to play football. But if a young man like that has an interest and has the talent - and I love Coach Coop; that's my guy - so we're going to work together. If it works out, great. I think it will be really exciting. It will be really cool having the whole football team over there supporting the baseball team, watching one of our own guys compete, kind of like Jan Johnson in wrestling.

At the end of the day my focus is on football and making sure he's ready to do that. I think we all know it's hard enough to get into Penn State. It's hard enough to study and be successful here without football on your plate. So to have football on your plate and baseball, then do all the things he needs to be successful in all those different areas, it's going to be a challenge.

But we're going to support him every step of the way. We'll see what happens, how it plays out.

Q. You mentioned Yetur Matos a little bit earlier. Do you recall the first time you saw him in person? Was it the Old Dominion camp?
COACH FRANKLIN: I don't know the specific time. He's a guy we identified early on. He's got the body you're looking for. Really good student, really good family. As he keep watching this guy play, he's a guy that I think -- to be honest with you, I know this sounds ridiculous, but you say the sleeper of the class. He may be the sleeper of the class. I know he's a four-star recruit, all that kind of stuff.

He came to camp and ran one of the more ridiculous times that I ever timed a guy for the position he plays. He's just going to get bigger. He's just going to get stronger. He's going to get more explosive. He's 6'5", 240 pounds right now and he's playing basketball. We're really, really excited about him. Him and his family have been awesome. His little brother and sister, his mom and dad, they've just been really, really good the whole time. Very supportive. Never wavered. Reinforcing the message.

They come on the visit, you know, as parents, they were recruiting the other parents. Yetur, although he doesn't say a lot, he was loving up the other recruits. They're a special family. You know, one of 21, I guess, special kids and families we've got.

Q. James, I think at the Rose Bowl you said there were things about broadly in recruiting you wanted to change when you got in here in 2014. In that sense, over the past four years, how have you approached the investment, time, and money you have to make as a football coach, with the athletic department? Roughly how many miles did you fly in the last month in recruiting?
COACH FRANKLIN: I have no idea.

Q. Roughly.
COACH FRANKLIN: Literally, I didn't know what hotel I was in. I know that sounds, like, funny. I wake up in the middle of the night, the night before the bathroom was on this side of the bed, and the next night it's a closet. That's not an exaggeration. Half the time I didn't know where I was going. I just get on the plane, where it landed, I get off, and start talking about Penn State.

I could not tell you miles.

I think we've made progress. I still think we got a long ways to go in studying what other programs around the country are doing. This is a challenge for us. We don't have an international airport. This isn't an easy place to get to. When you're trying to be efficient with your time during the season to get out of here, but also do a great job of coaching the team we have, making sure they're prepared, that's challenging.

How can you get to places and still do a great job where you're at? So those things are difficult. Even during the recruiting period when a season ends, not only getting me around, but all the assistant coaches around.

So it's a challenge. It's something that we've got to continue working at and find the best solution for Penn State that's going to allow us to continue not only recruit regionally within six hours of campus, but nationally, and be able to give those students on the other side of the country or in the south or in the west, whatever it may be, similar attention that the local prospects get.

That's challenging. It's one of our challenges here at Penn State.

Q. You mentioned 2018, the Big Ten title. You mentioned the average ranking of your classes the past few years. The one for next year is ranked a little bit higher than those at this point. Do you and the coaching staff see next year as the chance to maybe gain some ground on programs that have been ahead of you the past few years?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think we're doing okay. I don't really kind of want to talk about next year. I can't really do a whole lot about that anyway.

Pre-season rankings are ridiculous. Recruiting rankings right now are ridiculous. All that matters is come signing day, what are you able to do. How do you develop the players once they're in your program. Pre-season rankings in terms of your football team and where we rank before the season starts, none of those things really matter.

We need to recreate our team this year. We need to build on the experiences we had and the confidence that's come with it, but be willing to do the dirty work, be willing to start from the ground up and build this thing each year.

There's players that have moved on. There's players that are coming in. We need to assimilate those guys in our program as quickly as we possibly can so they have a chance to impact it.

I do think the experience of winning the Big Ten Championship, I thought that was one of our real challenges playing in that game. Wisconsin has been in it pretty much every year. We hadn't been in it. Not one kid in our locker room had been in that game before. So having that experience is valuable, it really is.

We got a lot of work to do in a lot of areas. We have made great progress, but we still got a long ways to go. For us to catch the programs that we view that we're competing against, we still got a long ways to go in a lot of different areas.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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