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PENN STATE UNIVERSITY FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
September 26, 2017
University Park, Pennsylvania
COACH FRANKLIN: Hey, guys. How we doing? It's beautiful out there. Crazy.
Obviously start out reviewing the Iowa game a little bit. Offensive player of the week was Saquon Barkley. Defensively, Shareef Miller. Special teams, Blake Gillikin.
A couple general thoughts, a play that probably has not been talked enough about is obviously Saeed's huge play on fourth down. You know, what a huge play in the game. Had not had a whole lot of action this year. You go to a veteran player at a critical time, makes the play. So that's a big one.
We need to get more production and execution out of our kickoff return. We need to clean up our PAT field goal protection and operation. A little bit of that is personnel. Mostly fundamentals and technique things that we've got to get cleaned up after watching the tape. So it will be good having Chasz back at 6-7, 357 pounds. It will be nice to have him back, his size and length there.
Offense, I think we've got to finish some blocks in the run game and consistently protect our quarterback. Defensively, we played probably as good of a first half of defensive football that I've seen in a very, very, very long time. And then obviously in the second half, we gave up a couple big plays to a really good team, a really good offense and a really good back.
But the reality is, on defense, it's one of those deals, you can play great for 30 minutes or 40 minutes or 50 minutes. You've got to play the full 60, and we're going a great job. We're playing great defensive football, but I know that's an area that we could get a little bit better.
A couple things I would say that, again, probably have not been talked about a whole lot. Everyone is talking about Saquon Barkley's runs and receiving and all that kind of stuff. His tackle on the interception where he thought through about three different defenders to make the tackle, may be one of the more critical plays in the game.
You know, I think an example of offensively, if you're kind of looking for, well, how come we didn't -- how come we didn't do as well as we've done in the past in terms of points, yards were good, but in terms of points, I think a really good play to look at was third and two, 12:53 to go in the fourth quarter, Penn State 15, Iowa 7, we run Trace. And if you watch that play, you go back and watch the play, we hold our block for a half second longer, Trace goes at the very least for a 40-yard run, if not scores a touchdown on a third down situation. They are in Cover 0. Cover 0 is one of those things, it's a very aggressive defensive call but obviously if you can take advantage of it and split it, there's nobody left. That's why they call it Cover 0.
So I think if you watched that play, that's kind of a really good example. We've just got to be a little bit better. We've got to be a little bit sharper. We've got to sustain blocks a little bit longer. That was probably the difference on Saturday.
I would probably say the same thing in the red zone. Everybody is talking about that last play. I think that last play is probably a really good example of why we didn't execute as well as we would have liked in the red zone is you watch that ball thrown, there's like eight people going for that ball, defensive players, offensive players. Our distribution wasn't really good. On the back side, our routes, we're kind of shortcutting routes, we're rolling routes. We're not getting to our depth. So that's why you saw way too many people near the ball.
When you get into the red zone, all the details are magnified because you've just got less field and you've got less space. We've just got to do a better job with those things, which I know we will.
Obviously we played really well when it comes to first downs, 29 first downs in the game, a lot of yards, but in critical times, we just have to make sure we execute.
The thing I'm most proud of is situational football which went spent a lot of time on. Two areas, specifically: The two-minute, the game-winning drive there. That's something we do all the time. As you guys know, we take actual situations in games.
So we're doing to do that situation again today in practice. Tuesday is always the day where we do -- no, excuse me, that's Wednesday. Tuesday is just speed-on-speed, seven-on-seven, either normal downs, third down or red zone. So today we will do red zone skelly ones versus ones.
Tomorrow, we'll do the two-minute situation from Saturday because it's such a good two-minute situation, two time-outs, 80 yards to go, those type of things. But that makes me real proud that we work a lot on those things and it worked out.
But overall, special teams is playing really well. We went into the game saying 52 was a major factor on special teams and we needed to make sure that he wasn't a major factor in the game and felt like we were able to do that.
Defensively, like I said, could not have played a better first half. And then even starting the second half, we started the game with two three and outs and we started the second half with a three-and-out, so some really good thing. Just got to keep getting better.
The other situational football thing I'll mention and I'll move on. We always start practice every single day with a two-point play to win the game, and there are two situations that step up our defense stops, two two-point plays which were probably the difference in the game, as well. That makes me real proud that our guys were able to kind of take that from the practice field to the games.
Indiana. Obviously Tom Allen is doing a great job there. You know, got a lot of respect for him and the Indiana program. Obviously last year we battled with them and found a way to get a W. Obviously being at home this week, kind of an interesting tidbit for you guys. A lot of you guys know Jevon, our video guy. Well, Tom Allen was his high school defensive coordinator and high school head coach. Kind of an interesting tidbit for you guys.
Offensively, comes down to their quarterback, Lagow, No. 21. Big, strong, can really throw the ball into tight windows, very accurate. Simmie Cobbs, getting him back, obviously we all saw the Ohio State game to start the year and their chemistry and their connection together, that's going to be a challenge for us.
Defensively for us, Tom Allen is a defensive guy. That's what they pride themselves on and obviously their linebacker, Scales, being All-American and very, very productive.
And then the last point is J-Shun Harris I think is No. 1 in the Big Ten and maybe No. 2 in the country in punt returns. So once again, we've got a special teams guy that's going to be a major factor that we have to deal with. I know I probably talked more than I should have, but I'll open it up to questions.
Q. Saquon had 43 touches in a game that had no margin for error. How do you balance what the team needs from him and how his workload might affect him?
COACH FRANKLIN: It's funny because early in the season, I was getting grief because he didn't touch the ball enough. And now he touches it 43 times. So I want to balance that, as well. Want to balance not only the amount of touches he gets but also the follow-up questions I get after the game Saturday night or Tuesday press conference.
You know, I think we all know he's a special player. How we handle him during camp, how we handle him during practice during the week, how we use him during the season, I think we all see he is a special, special talent and an impactful player in so many different ways, more so than I have ever been around. Can't imagine there's a better player in all of college football.
Yeah, I think Saquon is a guy that is very, very honest with us, so if he needs a break, he'll tap. And we have a lot of confidence in Andre and Miles going in there, and getting the job done when they do. I think the run that Miles had on Saturday, I thought was excellent, as well. You know, Andre has been as productive as anybody.
So you know, right now, we've got a special player and we're going to use him and when he feels like he needs a blow, then we'll tap the helmet. I do know when he taps his helmet and he comes out and he's getting some water, and we have a stoppage of player, Joe looks over and goes, "Saquon, you ready? Saquon, Saquon, you ready?" Third time, "Saquon, are you ready to get back in there?"
So yeah, I think obviously there's a confidence from our team and the coaching staff, you know, with knowing that every time Saquon touches the ball, something really special can happen. I think our fans realize that and the media realizes that and our players realize that.
So obviously using him as a kickoff returner and then the balance that we're able to use as a runner and as a receiver, I think has been really important because there's so many different ways that he can hurt you.
I think where our balance is really going to come, I guess how I'm answering this question, is the way our balance is going to come is how we are handling him during the week to make sure that he's recovered. He's a very intelligent player and he's also a very focused player.
So he's a guy that at practice can not take a rep, and he's standing right behind the running back in his stance, going through his footwork, his eyes and his reads and all those types of things.
So he's a guy that you can hold out, and get him as recovered as you possibly can and he's still going to get a lot of value out of the practice. It's just managing all those things.
Q. I know it's Indiana week and that's what the focus is, but I wanted to ask you a two-part question. Do you have any reaction or comment as to what went on in football stadiums on Sunday and Monday night? And more importantly, have you had any chance to maybe discuss any concerns your players or coaches might have moving forward and how it affects them?
COACH FRANKLIN: Could you be more specific so I know exactly what you're talking about?
Q. Yeah, the President came out and said anyone who protests in any shape or form should probably be fired and a lot of players and NFL players chose to react -- wondering if you had any reaction or comment to what the President said and regarding the anthem and the flag -- and is it a priority for you to maybe talk about it with your players or coaches as far as their feelings?
COACH FRANKLIN: Well, the first thing, let me say, is this: We spent a lot of time discussing this last year. Had a lot of discussion about this really when it all first started.
So as a team, we spent a good portion of the bye week of talking through this, talking through this issue. I think it was really good for our team to hear different perspectives. They had great dialogue. To me that's what college athletics is about, that's what Penn State is about and that's what this country is about.
Fortunately for us we spent a lot of time talking about this last year. This year we still spent some time talking about it but we didn't need to go into as much depth, because they knew how I felt and I knew how they felt and how we were going to handle it moving forward.
As you can imagine, I want my focus to be on Indiana as much as I possibly can. I have strong feelings as a United States citizen. I do have strong feelings as a college football coach, and I have very strong feelings as an African American.
But to me, those conversations and those things are personal. They are private to our team. What I love is I love how our guys are handling it. We are able to have really good discussion as a family. There's guys that are voicing their opinions with their teammates face-to-face. There's guys that are voicing their opinion socially.
What's most important for me is that guys don't react and make an emotional decision or have an emotional outburst; that they take their time and think it through and their thoughtful and express themselves and are articulate.
That's what this country is about. It's funny, yesterday I was at Rothrock and I'm coming out of getting another one of those green smoothies that we talked about last week, and somebody asked me about it and they had an opinion on how we should be handling it. I appreciate their opinion. But to me, that's what's so great about this country is that people have the ability to express themselves and people have the ability to have different opinions and different perspectives; but that we respect one another and we respect all different backgrounds. That's what makes this country so special.
So to me, the answer is pretty simple. We're in a free country and people have the ability to express themselves the way they think is right and it's our job as educators and as coaches, especially at collegiate level, to just make sure our guys are being thoughtful about it.
Q. You've worked with Brent Pry for a while now, known him longer. In that time, what has stood out most about his coaching style, and how has your relationship grown over the last couple years?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, I'm a huge Brent Pry guy. I'm a huge Jim Pry guy, his father.
I'll tell you a funny story. Not to go backwards, but Brent told me that his mom thought that Keegan was me. You know, and I've known her for 35 years. But I love Brent Pry. I'm a huge fan of Brent Pry as a person, as a father, as an educator.
I sit in the defensive meetings when he addresses the defense and just tremendous leadership and passion for what we do and how we do it. He's a guy that really understands the X's and O's and the schemes and how important they are but also the motivation and the development that also is such an important part of your jobs. He does a great job with his staff, you know, with the defensive staff. There's so much respect for one another and different opinions and perspectives and experiences in there.
I think I said early on to you guys: He grew up in a family of coaches and his dad is a very, very good coach. And he learned more ball that he didn't even know he was learning, just as conversations at dinner, over conversations in the summer. Just he's a tremendous ball coach, and more importantly, a better friend and tremendous husband and a tremendous father.
I'm a huge fan and I'm fiercely loyal to Brent, and Brent has been fiercely loyal to me. To me, that's really important.
Q. You mentioned Juwan Johnson an awful lot since last spring. How is he a different receiver from this time last year, and what's the next developmental stage for him?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think the biggest thing with Juwan is confidence and experience. He's gained those things over the last couple years being here at Penn State. Obviously you go from high school, being the man: He was very highly recruited and played in some national All-Star games, all those types of things.
But you get here and some things that you were able to do in high school don't work at this level. He's worked really hard. He's a guy that takes a lot of pride in working on his craft, on the JUGS machine, on running routes, on --- going and working out with his brother when his brother was in Tampa Bay and training.
He's just one of those guys. You walk through the weight room and he's in there getting extra work. You look out there on the field, he's getting extra work. He's with Trace watching film. He's just a guy that really matured and really showed up on campus very mature but has grown in so many ways in understanding what he has to do to be successful at this level.
Always had really good ball skills but could be inconsistent at times and really worked on that. Now he's like a vacuum; anything that comes in his range. Especially with his length, how tall he is, how well he can jump and then his arm length, he's going to come down with any ball that's near him. He's just one of those types of guys.
I think the quarterbacks have a lot of confidence in him and then he's also -- probably an area that, you know, probably goes unnoticed is when you've got a 6-4, 225-pound wide receiver, he's having a major factor on Saquon and the other running backs' production on perimeter running game.
Most corners, if you had to average, I think the average corner is around 5-10, probably 180 pounds and you've got a guy who is 6-4 and 225 pounds engulfing him; that creates a great situation for yack yards, explosive plays, things like that.
Q. You mentioned your offensive line a little bit, holding blocks a little longer. Most of the guys are back from last year. Are they playing at the level you think they should be after four games and some of the things you talked with having to do with, I think Trace had six balls knocked down on Saturday, was sacked four times. Does that also go into what you were saying about holding blocks?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think I said holding blocks, sustaining blocks in the run game, and then consistently protecting the quarterback is the two things I said.
The batting the balls down, I think that's a combination; if you look at their defensive line and probably one of the tallest defensive lines in the country. I think they have two guys over 6-6. I think one guy is even maybe 6-7 or 6-8. I think that was part of their plan is that when they try to get the ball out quickly, they are going to stay at the line of scrimmage and jump up and bat balls down. I think that was part of their plan. Obviously fits their personnel very well because they are so long across their front.
I think the O-line is playing probably about where we thought they would. Can they be better? Yes, no doubt about it. Will they get better? Yes, there's no doubt about it.
Yeah, I'd say probably about where we thought they were going to be, but I did think there's still a lot of room for growth and improvement there up front, and I think that's what we're going to need to happen in every area for us to continue playing and finding a way to get W's on Saturdays.
Q. You mentioned in your opening remarks about the field goal kicking. I just wondered if you could talk specifically about the snap and hold for Tyler, and the specific problem you were saying with the last block, which I guess was on a personnel break down. Could you talk about these, please?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think the snaps and the holds for the most part have been pretty good.
If you watched the one that got blocked, we had an offensive lineman lean forward and fall out of the hole and basically between our tight end and our wing and our tight end and our tackle, guys came pretty much, you know, unblocked through that hole, through that gap. Again, we had some changes there, not having Chasz Wright in the lineup and things like that; that we had some moving parts. Either way, we got to get it done. You know, we didn't in that situation.
We've done a study now this weekend, over the last three and a half years, all the balls that we had blocked were missed: Is there a trend there of why it's happening and what can we do to fix it. That was pretty much yesterday's special teams emphasis and focus. Just like Will Fries went in and stepped up in the game and has got to get the job done; that's no different on the PAT field goal. When guys get in there, they have to get in there and punch their gaps.
I think what happens a lot of times with young players, they see an overload inside of them. Say there's three guys over your guard; so the tackle feels like he has to help him, and he leans in to help. And when you lean in like that, you've just helped one guy but you've created a weakness in another part of your protection. That's what happened. We leaned in to help to the left, created a scene to our right, put Castagna really tough position now, and he's got two to three guys over him with no one helping him.
So we've got to get those things cleaned up. That's on us. That's our responsibility. But I feel confident that we'll be able to get that done.
Q. You said something Saturday night about the way Indiana defended you last year and how it kind of informed the way Iowa did it on Saturday night. What are you seeing in that sense about how teams are trying to deal with what you guys do offensively, and how can you sort of react to their reaction, I guess?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think we've reacted to people's plans pretty well over the last year and a half. We've been pretty successful. Sometimes it's taken till the second half to do it, but we've been pretty good and everybody has a theory or philosophy on how they are going to stop us.
It's not a consistent deal. One week it's this and the next week it's that; whether from a coverage perspective or from a pressure perspective or whether from a front perspective. So we did see some similar philosophies pop up on Saturday.
But yeah, I think that's what we're trying to do is we're trying to kind of figure out: Are defenses going to stay with who they have been based on the film that we have been able to break down; did they have a bye week the week before us and is that going to factor into how much creativity they are going to have and are they going to change; are they going to copycat from things they think other people have had some success against us; and that's what you're trying to figure out, coming up with your game plan, factoring all those things in.
And then what you're trying to do is early in the game, as early as you possibly can, within the first couple drives is, are they who they thought they were going to be, or are they playing things differently.
So you look at a lot of offensive coordinators, they are going to try to get all their formations called early in the game to game to see, are they aligning to those formations how we anticipated them to align. Or in third down situations or in red zone situations, are the pressure percentages the same, all those types of things.
That's what you're trying to figure out as early as you possibly can in games is all the time we spent game planning, is it consistent with what we thought or do we need to adjust based on what now they are doing.
Q. Inside the five with the offense, is there an area that you think they have to be better as a group, or a couple of drives there Saturday, is it just something that Iowa did a little differently? What's the key there when the defense is really packed in and they just don't have a lot of room to cover?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think part of it is what I mentioned earlier. You go back and you look at that play I was talking about with Trace, you know, they got everybody within seven yards of the line of scrimmage, and we sustain that block a half second longer, it's probably a 40-yard gain.
So when you get into the low red zone or when you get people that are playing tight coverage, or it's third and short or it's this fourth and short and they have got everybody at the line of scrimmage, it's high-risk, high-reward. And we've got to get to a point where our guys get excited when they show that look because it's an opportunity for us to create a really big play.
The red zone and short-yardage situations, it's about details. You know, everything is magnified because of the amount of field that you're dealing with.
I think the other thing is what we talked a little bit about, short yardage situations, third and one or fourth and one or four-minute offense like we've talked about in the past, is being aggressive. Who says you can't throw the ball down the field 30 yards in those situations? Joe spent a lot of time talking about that in the off-season.
I think the thing is -- the natural thing to do is to hand the ball off and run in those situations. But when you are running a one-back offense, you get into some situations where they may be able to outnumber you.
Being able to stay aggressive and to do some of the things we are doing in open field and normal down situations I still think have a lot of merit. I think more than anything, it's us sustaining blocks a second longer, or it's protecting the quarterback for a second longer because I think we have shown over time when we do that, we're one of the more explosive, one of the more efficient and productive offenses in the country.
Q. During the preseason, everybody kind of figured Saquon would get a lot of attention. That certainly has been the case. How do you think he has handled everything so far, and what would the balance have to be going forward as more people want some of his time and interviews, and comparisons to Barry Sanders, how do you think he'll handle all of those things?
COACH FRANKLIN: Well, all I could do is base it on what I've seen since he showed up on campus. And he's handled these things really well, probably better than anybody I've ever seen, especially at his age.
The hard part is really not for Saquon, it's on Kris. Because she's disappointing you guys. The reality is, we get literally hundreds of interview requests per week and we want to obviously take care of you guys, our local beat writers, that are here all the time covering our team; and balance that with some national coverage for Saquon and for our program, as well, which is important.
But we are saying no, a lot, and that's where we as the head coach and as Kris -- Kris what is your specific title? That is a lot of words there. She's the boss. She's the media boss of football. But basically, it's our job to manage that and make sure that Saquon has the time to be the best student he possibly can, be the best teammate he possibly can, still prepare to be successful on Saturdays; but also allow people in this community and across the country to get to know him because he's a special young man. And it's that fine balance that we're trying to find with all of that.
Q. You've been talking about the short yardage offense. I'm just wondering, is there much thought to tweaking it that could include an occasional quarterback sneak or use of a fullback?
COACH FRANKLIN: I'm just curious, is this a question or a recommendation from you?
Q. Well, I'm putting it into the form of a question.
COACH FRANKLIN: Right. No. No.
Q. The answer's no?
COACH FRANKLIN: Correct.
Q. Can I move to another one?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, is this going to be a question?
Q. The first one was a question.
COACH FRANKLIN: Okay.
Q. I said, "Is there."
COACH FRANKLIN: All right.
Q. The last play that you brought up, you said that there was a lot of traffic in there. I was wondering, was that the correct -- was that what you wanted? You had Hamilton and Thompkins crossing into the primary receiver, or was --
COACH FRANKLIN: Okay. I think I already -- I think I already said it. But what happens is on the back side of the route, we cut short our depth and we did not get our width and we sped into the routes faster than they should have.
So we ended up with a bunch of people near the ball and our distribution wasn't right, and those things are magnified in the red zone. If you come up short, you're going to end up with too many people around the ball.
Q. This morning, Ryan Bates said on the conference calls that he thought that Will Fries held his own against Iowa. How do you think he did?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think for a true red-shirt freshman starting on the road in a really, really tough environment, I thought he did well. He's a very mature guy. He's very prideful. He's gotten big and strong and physical.
You know, I think that's a really good front. I think that's a really good team. I don't know if that's the ideal situation that you want your first start to be in from a coach perspective but I thought he handled it really well. I think he's going to grow from it.
Did he play perfect? No. Is there areas that he can get better? Yes, there's no doubt about it. But actually I think long-term, this is going to pay dividends for him and for us, just having another guy that's been in there in the heat of the battle in a very, very tough situation.
I think we feel pretty good about our depth inside. We've got to continue developing our depth at the offensive tackle position, and he's one of those guys. So it's great that we've been able to go on the road in the Big Ten against an undefeated opponent and win with an offensive tackle starting his first game.
Q. We saw Kevin Givens out at end a little bit in this week's past game and I can't recall seeing that before. What went into you switching that package, and what do you like about moving guys around?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think that was probably one of the better coaching decisions that we made last week; that Brent Pry made and Sean Spencer made last week. We are playing a power running team. We lose, obviously, Torrence Brown, and we feel good about our depth and talent that we have at the defensive end position, but we're young.
So are you going to put a young, inexperienced, maybe slightly undersized guy out there, or are you going to take one of your D-tackles who started out at defensive end, and now you've got a 285-pound defensive end at the point of attack, when we all know they want to run the ball.
I think that's kind of one of the story lines of the scenes that went into our success in that game is having Kevin rotate and feeling so good about guys like Chavis and Windsor and those guys behind him; that we can take one of those D-tackles and move him out and create a little bit more of experience on the edge and a little bit more size on the edge.
That was literally a Sunday discussion as a staff, probably more so me and the defensive staff about what they were thinking and why; and I think it was critical to our success on that side of the ball on Saturday.
Q. Would you go --
COACH FRANKLIN: If it fits the game plan and who we're playing that week. I don't know if we would do that, probably against a spread team; one of those types of teams possibly.
Q. I want to ask you about Indiana linebacker Tegray Scales. What is your assessment of his skill set and what sort of challenges does he present for an offense with those skills?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think the biggest thing with him is he's a physical guy. He's got really good instincts. I think his greatest strength is in the box, you know, getting the defensive lined up, making adjustments and being a physical, downhill player from tackle-to-tackle.
I think probably the area that he's improved over the last couple years is outside of the box, you know, being able to make plays on the perimeter running from sideline-to-sideline.
I think that's a natural evolution for a middle linebacker is a lot of times those guys are really good at stopping the run and underneath coverage and things like that early on in their career, and as they develop -- like I think Jason Cabinda in a lot of ways. Jason Cabinda goes from 250 pounds to 235 pounds, knowing that he's physical and big enough to hold up at 235 pounds in between the tackles, but for him to be the every-down, Mike linebacker that he wants to be and we want him to be, he's got to be able to play sideline-to-sideline.
I think you see a lot of that with this young man, as well. But I think the thing that jumps out is just how productive he is and how efficient with his movements he is and obviously has tremendous instincts.
Q. Indiana obviously has two really good receivers in Nick Westbrook and Simmie Cobbs. They have been in a tough spot injury-wise with Simmie missing last year and Nick missing this year pretty much. How has their passing tactic changed? I know they are both really good but every receiver has a little different of a skill-set.
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, I don't think it's changed a whole lot to be honest with you. I think Simmie Cobbs is the difference-maker for them that they missed last year. You're talking about a guy who is 6-4, 220 pounds, averaging 12.7 yards per catch I think, two touchdowns. The plays they made against Ohio State were just fantastic, the two of them. The back-shoulder fades, the over-the-shoulder fade balls, making the catch on the sideline, contested catches, guys hanging all over him and coming down with circus catch after circus catch.
Those guys are match-up problems. The fortunate thing for us is our defensive backs are used to going against wide receivers that size in practice, when you go against Irvin Charles and Juwan Johnson every single day and even -- red-shirt freshman from Baltimore, Dae'Lun -- thank you. I had a mind break. My mind was frozen right there. Dae'Lun, I apologize. But Dae'Lun is another 6-4, 215-pound wide receiver who has really improved over the last year.
I think those guys, having to defend those guys in practice all the time, I think helps. Does that mean that we are going to be completely prepared and ready for Simmie Cobbs? We'll find out Saturday. But I do think the accumulated reps that our guys have gotten going against big receivers in practice through camp and through the season so far, I think helps.
Q. Just wondering about Troy and what you've seen from him. A lot of times he seems like one of the guys in the secondary that flies under the radar. He had a big, blocked field goal on Saturday. How would you evaluate him overall?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think Troy is playing extremely well. Our coaching staff has a lot of confidence in him. Very mature, very athletic, runs as well as anybody in our secondary.
I think he just keeps getting better each week, growing from all the reps and the experiences that he's getting; his confidence. You know, we think he's going to have a tremendous year. I think you're just going to see him continue to get better as the season goes on. You know, very smart, cerebral player back there. Very good from a coverage perspective. A lot of confidence. Tremendous ball skills. Obviously being a former wide receiver and those types of things.
So I know Brent Pry and Tim Banks have just tremendous confidence in him and Marcus and the combination of those two, and then obviously continue to develop Ayron and Nick behind. We feel really good about the four safeties we're playing with.
Q. Mike DeBord, the offensive coordinator for Indiana, how are they different under him than, say, Kevin Wilson?
COACH FRANKLIN: That's an interesting question because I think we all realize Kevin did such a great job on the offensive side of the ball and while he was at Indiana, I don't know how many school records they broke and gave a lot of people problems.
I think he's done a really good job of coming in. You're talking about a veteran, experienced coach. What I think he did a really good job of is saying, okay, these are the things in my background that I'm very comfortable, and we're going to run those. But there's some things that they did in the last offense that the quarterback has confidence in, the receivers have confidence in, and we're going to keep doing those things. We're going to add that to what I do.
You see that all the time and sometimes it works and more times it doesn't, where a coach goes out and hires a coordinator to come in and not run their system but run the system that's already in place. And that's a really challenging, difficult thing to do. You're hiring that guy because he was successful running his offense, and now you're going to try to get him to adjust.
I know from a common sense perspective, it makes more sense for your program to keep the same system because the coaches know it and the players know it. But at the end of the day, that play caller needs to know the strengths, the weaknesses, how to solve problems, and their system is what they know the best in doing that.
So I think a veteran coach like him, he's done a really good job of saying: Okay, here is my system and there's a few elements from the previous regime that still fit what I'm doing and we're going to be able to add them. I think that's what you see. I think that's what you see.
Q. Since it's Indiana, we couldn't let you escape without a Tommy Stevens questions. Going back to his recruitment, what do you remember about him? Schools were also looking at him as a safety at that time, too.
COACH FRANKLIN: I'm not sure about that. I know we were strictly looking -- it's not like the Trace story. We were strictly looking at him as a quarterback, so I can't really speak on that.
But you know, he was a kid that we were really excited about, a kid that we knew early on and then we had gotten some commitments before it ever really got going. Then we were able to kind of be fortunate enough to go back on a guy that we already kind of knew.
I think that's kind of how the recruiting process has kind of changed now is sometimes guys commit to you before you're ever even really able to get into the process, especially for a kid that maybe is out of our region. We're going to obviously know about guys in our region a little bit earlier but he's a guy we were able to go back on. Great family, athletic family, great mom, dad, brother, sister -- I'm wondering -- just kind of caught myself there about making a recruiting comment about his family. I probably can't say that.
But just a great family, great high school program. Football is very, very important to him. I think once they were able to come here and kind of see the stage and see the opportunity, and we've just got to keep developing Tommy. We have so much confidence in him and so much faith in him and want to keep him involved in the game plan. I think he sees kind of how this thing is evolving and how it's going.
You know, when his opportunity is going to come, you know, I'm not sure, but based on how he's handling everything, I know he's going to be ready when it comes. So couldn't be more proud of him and how he's grown in every area, and we are blessed and we are fortunate to have those guys.
Q. Going back to the acts of protests in the NFL this weekend, I know you mentioned briefly that there have been players that are expressing themselves in the team and also on social media. I know one player I saw in particular was Lamont Wade. He posted a couple of videos and he seems to be having dialogue with, you know, followers of his, things like that. He describes himself as an activist on his Twitter profile. Two questions. One, have you seen any of his videos and two, when you see a player in particular who has a strong desire to have these conversations, do you give him a platform within the team to have those conversations or do you seek him out maybe privately to talk about it?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, we had an open discussion last year in detail kind of with our team, with our entire team. This year, we kind of talked about it in detail with the leadership council and kind of let them talk and kind of get back to me.
But difficult for Lamont Wade, I'm proud of him. I'm proud of him because he spent time thinking about what's on his heart and what's on his mind and expressing himself, and being thoughtful and being articulate.
To me, that's what college athletics is all about. That's what Penn State's all about and that's what our country is supposed to be all about, embracing differences; appreciating that embracing differences is what makes our country so strong and so wonderful.
I think we're probably in a time right now where that's not being focus on enough and probably not being emphasized enough. We are focused on our differences from a negative perspective and we really should be focusing on our differences from a positive perspective, and it's what made this country so powerful and so wonderful and so special for so many people for so many years.
That's why I was very proud of Lamont Wade, because he took time and expressed himself, and to me, that's really good. There could be somebody else that has a complete opposite perspective of LaMont's, but as long as they are thoughtful and caring and looking at things from as many different perspectives and angles, which I think is something that I think we probably all should do more of.
We kind of look at it from our perspective and our world and how we were raised and how we grew up and the area that we live in. I think the important thing is making sure that you're looking at things from both perspectives.
I think you guys have heard me talk about before with my background, being biracial, African American, and my mom being Caucasian and being from England. I think that's one of my greatest strengths is I look at things from a lot of different perspectives.
That's what I want our team to do is to be able to have dialogue and be able to have love for one another and support for one another and respect each other. Not always agree, but respect. And to me, that's what we're trying to do in our locker room and that's what we're trying to do on our team; with also trying to keep the balance that we need to get ready and we need to get prepared for Indiana. But you need to balance both of them, because that's part of our job, too.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports