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November 14, 2017

James Franklin

University Park, Pennsylvania

JAMES FRANKLIN: Hey, guys. How's everybody doing? Just quickly kind of go over the last game summary, the Rutgers game.

Offensively, Player of the Game from the coaching staff is Trace McSorley; defensively was Brandon Smith.

I would like to take a moment just to talk about what an unbelievable kid Brandon is. His story, has a tremendous Penn State story, like a lot of our guys -- married, graduated. Got a bunch of guys, and he's one of them, that I think has a chance to be an Academic All-American this year. He's applying to medical school. He's just been unbelievable. He's brought so much leadership. He's brought so much maturity to our program. He gets up and speaks to the team.

I wish fans and media could see how wonderful this guy is when he gets up and talks to our team. Just blessed to have gotten to know Brandon.

And on special teams, Blake Gillikin and Lamont Wade, a combination of those two guys.

Just some notes, defensive positives again. Positive on sudden change. We start the game in a way we obviously didn't want to start the game. Our defense does a great job there. We only gave up 43 yards passing, which is a Penn State record. Really, to me, this is a really impressive stat. We had eight three-and-outs in the game, and seven-on-seven straight drives, which was really impressive.

Areas to improve. We've got to get turnovers. We've got to get more turnovers. We dropped two interceptions. We've got to do a better job there. We only had one sack. We need more there. We probably missed four sacks on scrambles.

Offensive positives, great job protecting the football. That's been something I'm very, very proud of, we take a lot of pride in and spent a lot of time in practice on and things like that. Done a nice job with that. Then great job of being explosive and making our goal from an explosive play perspective.

Areas to improve. We've got to be more physical up front at O-line and tight end and sustain and finish blocks, then continue to improve on third down. We've made progress there, but we can still be better.

On special teams, our punt team unit has become elite. I think we were able to down three punts inside the 10-yard line in one game, which is really impressive. Blake and that whole unit have become a real weapon for us.

Areas to improve. We've got to eliminate the penalties. We've got too many penalties on special teams, which are negating some of the really good things that are going on there.

So good win. Very appreciative of the fans and the environment, and being back at home here in Beaver Stadium. But we're 1-0, and we've moved on now. Obviously, getting ready for Nebraska and Mike Riley.

I think -- when I think of Nebraska, I think growing up, I look at Nebraska in a lot of ways, a lot of similarities to a Penn State -- tremendous history, tremendous tradition and pride. One of those types of programs that you view that way.

I really like Mike Riley as a coach and as a person. Great guy. I've gotten to know him and his wife fairly well. He's been doing it for a long time at every level and has been successful wherever he's been. So I think that's going to be a tremendous opportunity for us, and I know our guys are looking forward to it.

Kind of studying these teams like we do, kind of surprised Nebraska leads the All-time series 9-7. They've won the last four games against Penn State, which was also something that was probably surprising to me. So we want to chip away at those two things.

Offensively their quarterback makes them go. From what I've seen on film and everybody I've talked to, big, strong quarterback that's going to look great in warm-ups. Can make all the throws, sling it all over the field. Dynamic at the wide receiver position.

On defense, a 3-4 style defense. Very similar to what we faced last week in some ways. Bob Diaco was the defensive coordinator. He was the defensive coordinator at Notre Dame when they went to the National Championship. Was the head coach at UConn as well.

I do think it's somewhat helpful that we're playing two, three, four teams in a row for our offense. That's going to be a challenge. Very long, athletic in the secondary.

Then on special teams, they've got some returners that scare you.

So tremendous channel. Excited about being back in Beaver Stadium again. Stripe-out game, Senior Day. Obviously these seniors, couldn't be more proud of those guys. Very confident that they're going to go on and be tremendous fathers and husbands and businessmen and leaders. Really, really proud of those guys. They've seen it all here in their Penn State career and have done wonderful things on the football field. I'm very confident the type of men that they're going to be leaving our university and how they're prepared for life.

Some of those guys will have the opportunity to play in the NFL, and when they get done, their football careers, I'm very confident that they're prepared to go on and do great things.

So open it up to questions.

Q. James, you've mentioned your concerns about the offensive line several times, including a few minutes ago. You rotate players at other positions, several other positions. So how close have you come to trying other offensive linemen during games?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Well, actually what I said was I said the O-line and the tight ends. There are a lot of things that factor into it. It's not just those guys. But we're playing the guy that's we feel like give us the best chance to win on Saturdays. We've obviously had some injuries which have factored into it. We don't spend a whole lot of time talking about injuries, because it's the next-man-up mentality on offense, defense, and special teams. But we've got to be more physical up front with the O-line and the tight end. There is no doubt about it.

But we're not planning on making any changes there.

Q. Will you have Manny Bowen available this week, number one, and I wanted to get your thoughts on Ayron Monroe, the young safety? He looked like he was pretty active against Rutgers. You saw some of his development on his play and what it means to the future.
JAMES FRANKLIN: No on Manny Bowen. And Ayron Monroe we're really excited about. He's very athletic. He's got really good range and ball skills. He can run. He's growing. I know Coach Banks is really excited about his development for our future. He's playing a lot on special teams for us as well.

I think you guys know I've got a lot of history with Ayron and his family. I recruited his older brother, Andre, to the University of Maryland. Dad's a cop in Baltimore. Great people. I think Ayron's got a chance to leave here having a great career before it's all said and done, and we're excited about his future.

But, yep, that's where we are with those two guys.

Q. What sort of impact did this senior class have on not just the program but you personally, considering many of them did join up just a few weeks after you got started?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, it's kind of a combination. You've got a few red-shirt guys that were brought in the year before I arrived. You've got some guys that were committed when I got the job. Then you've got a few guys that we brought in that those guys, some of those guys played as true freshmen.

You know, it's hard. Senior Day is an exciting time for those guys, because it kind of starts to kind of get them in the mode of thinking about the next step in their life and the natural progression that happens through a football program.

These guys are part of our family. They're part of the locker room. But it's more than that. You get to know these guys on a very personal level. You experience highs; you experience lows. They're there for you; you're there for them. My daughters, Addy and Shola, these guys are like big brothers to them.

We do family night every Monday where we have dinner and all the families go up in the training table. It really is a family environment. I know a lot of places say that, but it really is here for us, probably more so than anyplace I've ever been.

That doesn't mean that the family is always puppies and rainbows, but no different than any other family. I used to get in fights with my sister and arguments, but you work through those things, and every time you work through them, you become stronger.

I think that's how we are. Tough conversations, honesty, holding each other accountable and ultimately preparing these guys for life. That's what we're trying to do.

But it's hard. These guys come in, and they've got all the answers. They're 17, 18 years old. They're highly recruited. They've got all the answers and they've got it all figured out. And they get humbled on the field like we all do. Because it's a very humbling sport, very humbling profession. Then you grow. You grow together as an organization from individual relationships.

To be honest with you, it's not enough time. Because right when you start to get to know each other on a significant level, they're leaving and they're moving on. So it's hard. It's emotional. I think they're probably a lot like us. There is a part of them that would probably like to stay longer, and there is probably a part of them that they want to get out of here.

It's like I tell them all the time, they all look back at high school now, and at the time they thought high school was so hard and stressful. Then they get to college and they look back and high school is kind of a joke. Then they're in college, and they're stressing about college and how hard college is and how hard and tough we are, then they look back at college and they're like: Please, can I go back to Penn State?

But that's kind of how life is. Now they get it. They get why you've had some of the hard conversations or made some of the tough decisions you had to make.

But it's hard. It's hard to let these guys go. But the thing that probably is the thing that helps me through it and helps our organization through it is knowing that Penn State does an unbelievable job of preparing these guys; that they're ready for the next step to go on and be successful.

Q. You mentioned Brandon Smith a bit earlier and how he speaks to the team. What is that like when he gets up speaking to the team? Just what kind of impact does he have as well on the football field in being able to shift positions, move around, and play different spots at linebacker?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Well, we take a lot of pride here in -- and I think Penn State does a really good job, probably better than a lot of places I've been where you want the scholarship guys and walk-on guys to not be able to tell the difference. Is it perfect? No, it's not perfect. But I want everybody to feel like they have a significant role and bring value to the organization but it's hard.

Being a major college football player in general is hard, and to do it as a walk-on. Brandon was the guy that wanted to have a bigger role. He started as a fullback, then linebacker, and thought he should be playing and playing on special teams. We kind of kept saying -- we'd meet with Brandon: All right, we heard you, we heard you. He's one of these guys that he just was so persistent. So persistent. To be on scout teams, special teams, and he'd be making guys look bad, with his effort and his tenacity and his perseverance, just day after day after day. Kept fighting for his opportunity.

It's like I tell all the guys all the time. You never know when your opportunity is going to come. It's probably not going to come at the time that you think it should. But if you keep working hard, it's going to happen for you, and that was Brandon.

He kept telling us he was ready, and we kind of kept shoving him away. He kept coming back. Instead of sulking, he just worked harder. Then he gets his opportunity and he's been put on scholarship. He's played a significant role on defense. He's played a significant role on special teams. He starts last week. He has ten tackles. He's the player of the game. He brings so much maturity. The coaches trust him.

He's got, obviously, different perspective, being the only married guy on our team. Depending on where you're at in different parts of the country, when I was out West coaching Idaho State, that was a little more common. But having a guy who is married, very spiritual, really thinking about his future.

We do the guest coach program, which I'm proud of, with professors and significant alumni or whatever it may be, and I'm always telling the players to introduce themselves and network and all those types of things. They don't always do it. Well, Brandon does. Through that he's developed a relationship with David Hahn, who is on the board and represents, I think, the hospital in Hershey, Penn State Medical in Hershey. Now Brandon's developed a relationship with him and getting advice about medical school.

He's a guy that's really kind of taken his entire Penn State experience and embraced it all. Really has embraced it all. When he gets up and talked to the team, it's different. He's experienced it all. He's a senior, he's been a scholarship player. He's been a walk-on player. He's been a starter. He's been a scout teams guy, he's been a special teams guy. So I think when he talks, it has a lot of credibility with our team, our coaches and players. He speaks from the heart, which is great.

I'm just really proud, really proud of him. I'm hoping -- no disrespect to our medical staff that we have now, but I'm hoping that he can graduate medical school in a couple years and be our team doctor and never leave because he's just got great perspective on this university, on this program, being a student-athlete, and being a football player. He's a special, special guy.

Q. You mentioned again today about more physicality up front on the offensive line. Is there any reason you think why that's been such a continued sticking point for you guys on the offensive line? And what can you do to help that, change that or make it better?
JAMES FRANKLIN: In my time, as you look around, it's probably the toughest position to play in college football from a physical perspective. There's positions like quarterback that are really hard to play from a physical and mental perspective. But I think O-line is probably the next toughest from a physical and mental perspective. I think playing corner in major college football is maybe the physically most difficult thing to do.

That's where experience counts so much. We've still got some growth to go there. We've got one senior on the unit. We've got a red-shirt freshman, a red-shirt sophomore, a true sophomore, a junior and a senior. So the best offensive lines that I've been around, there are exceptions to that.

Now, the best ones I've been around are senior laden or junior and senior laden. And sometimes there are offensive lines that are successful and not have that type of experience. But I think it's a combination of those things. I think it's youth, I think it's experience, and I think it's mentality.

I think the thing that's exciting to me is I think Will Fries has a chance to be a really, really physical, intimidating offensive lineman. He has the ability to do that. Steven Gonzalez has the ability to do that. Connor McGovern has the ability to do that. Brendan Mahon has the ability to do that. And so does Chasz Wright. We've just got to get them playing consistently with that type of confidence and that type of mentality.

I think what happens is, it's like anything else when they start getting praised for it and patted on the back and having success for finishing blocks, it becomes contagious. And we need more of that. Like any other position or any other unit or team, you need one guy to really start saying: I'm the guy. Watch me. I'm going to show you how to do it. And then it becomes contagious for the group. So I'm looking forward to seeing who that's going to be and when that's going to be.

Same thing at the tight end position. It's probably harder than it's ever been at the tight end position, because most tight ends in high school were big wide receivers, and getting all those guys to embrace the physicality of the position and the importance of being complete players on the O-line and the tight end. The running game as well as the passing game are critical for us to go where we want to go.

Q. On your defense, obviously, not two great games against Ohio State and Michigan State. I just wondered who are the guys on defense that kept your guys focused and positive, and what kind of meaning did last week's performance have on their overall well-being?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I guess I don't look at it like that. Football in general is a crazy sport. College football at this level is a crazy sport. The NFL. I watch games on TV, I watch games on coach cut-ups and edits, the consistency or lack of consistency that you see all over the country and at every level. They try to sustain it for 12 straight weeks is challenging. That's the challenge for all of us.

I think our defense has played really good football, maybe some of the best defensive football in the country for most of our weeks. And there are a lot of things that factor into that. Playing good teams is part of it. Part of it is having some guys that aren't available for whatever reason is part of it. Us coaches consistently doing a great job and being aggressive is part of it on offense, defense, and special teams. It's all of those things.

But I don't think it was ever that. We played two really good teams and didn't play well enough. We've lost two games this year by a total of four points, I think. So I guess sometimes the way you guys ask questions and the way you guys kind of pose things, I don't necessarily look at it the same way. We didn't play as well as we needed to two weeks on offense, defense, and special teams, and lost to two of the better teams in this country on the road by four points.

So we're excited about how we played last week against Rutgers. That's behind us. And we're looking forward to the opportunity we have this week playing Nebraska. Another storied, historic program.

Q. What are some of the different challenges playing against a 3-4? Which I don't think you see as often in the college game or in the Big Ten like you would in the NFL, especially in terms of the ongoing effort to get the running game going.
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think it changes combination blocks and who you're working to, and how you're coordinated across the board and how you're accounting for the second level players and things like that. So identifying most people that play a 3-4, they're typically bringing a fourth man.

So that's the other challenge with the 3-4 defense is figuring out who is that fourth man. Are they equally, which is to me always the most challenging form of a 3-4 is when they have two outside linebackers and they're bringing those guys equally, and you have to figure out by safety rotation or linebacker skew of who that fourth rusher is going to be. Most people typically have a fourth rusher who is the guy who is coming most of the time.

So it's that. It's playing a style of defense and a defensive front that we don't see that much. Our defense doesn't play it, and we don't see it that much in this league and how you're dealing with it.

To me, it's like Stanford, for example. Stanford runs a pro-style, pound-you-in-the-mouth offense in the Pac-10 which doesn't really fit the rest of the teams out there. So in some ways it gives them an advantage.

So for us, it's our guys being confident to understand how our blocking rules and protection rules change for a 3-4 versus a 4-3.

Q. I'm assuming you heard the comments from Jonathan Vilma on ESPN about how the offense might be telegraphing plays based on how one of the tackles lines up, but it's something a lot of fans have been talking about on social media. Is that something you agree with, especially considering how many RPOs and check with me's you guys use?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, but that's what defenses do. I can say that about every offense in the country. There's tells. That's what our defense does. That's what our offense does. Are there some things that we can do better? Yes. No doubt about it. But that's a lot of stuff we did during the bye week, is scout ourselves from the opposite side of the ball. And whether it's the tight ends' alignment or whether it's the backs' alignment or depth of those things, there's tells. And every on offense has them, and every defense has them. That's what we spend our weeks studying.

I'd also say, if the tells were so obvious, I still think we're averaging I think 31 points a game. And if everybody knew what they were doing on most of our plays, I would think we'd be scoring a lot less than that.

But are there some things that we need to get better at? There is no doubt. Are there some things that we're doing with backs' alignment and things like that, disguising? Yes. And I think people have seen that the last couple of weeks.

But I would tell you the most important thing that we've got to do from a coaching perspective is fundamentals and techniques and making sure we're winning the one-on-one battles. At the wide receiver position, at the tight end position, at the offensive line position, running back position and quarterback position we're winning our one-on-one battles and knocking people off the ball and sustaining blocks; that coaches are doing everything in their power during the week to make sure that we're disguising some of the tendencies and tells that we have. But he's talking about tendencies, which everybody has. So I appreciate it.

Q. You talked about some of the ups and downs the seniors have been through. I wonder how appreciative you are of these kids taking a chance with you. And I don't mean that in a disrespectful way, but with you and Penn State at a very difficult time for Penn State. A lot of these kids had other opportunities and they decided to come here.
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I talk about that when guys commit even now. To me, I equate everything back to my own kids. I think about me trying to pick a kindergarten for my daughters or me trying to pick an elementary school. It's a huge decision, let alone college. So I take it as the ultimate sign of respect when a young man and his parents decide to choose us, Penn State, Penn State football, our coaches, our players.

To me the biggest compliment you can get is someone saying: Look, I've spent 18 years investing in my son, and I'm handing him over to you to continue to build on the foundation that we've laid.

For the guys that we're recruiting, it's not like we're the only option. There are other really good options for him. So, to me, it's the ultimate sign of respect. It's the ultimate compliment you can get. That's why we take it so seriously. That's why every decision that we make once they join our program: Is this in the best interest of the team, first; is this in the best interest of the individual, second? And every decision is made like that.

So these guys came at a time that was a challenging time for all of us at Penn State. These guys believed in Penn State. They believed in this community. They believed in our professors and our faculty and the deans, the administration. They believed in our coaching staff. They believed in their teammates and felt like we could do something special here.

Those guys should be very proud. I would hope that we sell out the stadium on Saturday for no other reason than to show these seniors how much we appreciate all their hard work and sacrifices that they've made.

Then it's our job as coaches and players to play well and to thank the fans. To me, that's the relationship we have. They come to support us and show us how much they appreciate the commitment and what these players have done. Then it's us as coaches and players to thank the fans by going out and playing well and representing them well during the week and in the off-season, which we take a lot of pride in as well.

Yeah, I'm really proud of these guys and couldn't be more thankful and appreciative that they chose to come and be a part of our family.

Q. A couple of weeks ago you had said that you wanted your offense to be more committed to the running game or more committed to -- committing to the run game, however you may have put it. Seeing as we can't --
JAMES FRANKLIN: Before I answer your question, I'd like to know what I actually said. It's hard for me to answer it, because I don't remember saying that.

Q. You wanted more commitment to the run game, and I had asked you because of the nature of your offense, that's more of a traditional running-style offense comment, where you line up and run the ball. Because we can't know from the results of the play whether or not that has happened, do you think in your eyes that you've been more committed to the running game, and how have you seen that go the last couple of weeks?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Again, I don't remember the front end, so I'm not going to base it off of that. I'm just going to talk.

Yeah, I see what our coaches are doing. I see what our players are doing. I see us being creative. I see us running a little bit of a wildcat variation. I see us being a little more personnel driven. I see us trying to disguise our running back alignments a little bit more. I see us making a commitment in the time that we invest in practice and all those types of things, individual and team periods and stuff like that.

But, yeah, it's not like we're just going to hand the ball off. But I am aware, and so are the rest of the staff, that for us to get better and for us to go where we want to go and be able to compete against the teams that we want to compete against, we have got to be more balanced. We have got to show that we can run the ball when we need to. We can run the ball with mentality, and be more balanced. I think that's the biggest thing.

I don't know if we're ever going to be a team that lines up and runs the ball down your throat for 300 yards, but we don't need to be. We do need to be able when we get the right look, we need to be able to run the ball consistently and into the right look and into the right situation, and we need to win our one-on-one battles from a protection standpoint in the passing game and in the running game in terms of creating space.

To me, that's a quote -- I'm not even sure where the quote comes from, but it's an offensive line deal where there's no better feeling than to take a man and move him against his will three, four, five, six yards. That's the stuff that offensive linemen love. We need a little bit more of that. I don't want you to take this the wrong way. I love our offensive line, and I love Coach Limegrover. And they do a great job, and they're going to get better.

But I would love to see a little bit more of that nastiness that I've been talking about for a couple of years. I think you guys have talked to me about it, and I met with some of the young linemen the other day about it, that they were brought in and told that, and they understood that. They need to bring that, bring that in practice, bring that into games.

Some of them have the ability. Man has got the ability to be one of the most physical offensive linemen in the country. He's an older guy. He's a senior. I think when he does it, the rest will follow. So probably going to have another conversation with him this week, and the impact that he can have and the legacy that he can leave here.

Q. Staying on the offensive line, James, obviously Andrew Nelson the last couple years, I'm sure you guys envisioned it, I'm sure he envisioned it going differently. What have those been like for him from a leadership perspective, what he's brought to the team despite everything else?
JAMES FRANKLIN: He's an unbelievable kid. I think he's a great example of what we've been talking about, which seems like this entire press conference is the offensive line. But I think not having a guy like that, a fifth-year senior, you'd love to have two fifth-year seniors on your offensive line at the very least, and a really talented guy. He's got the size, he's got the strength, he's got the intelligence, he's got the experience. It's really important to him. He's kind of been on a roller coaster since he's been here.

He's a guy that's handled a lot of difficult situations really well. We do the ultimate teammate deal where we go around in a team meeting every day, and I ask guys who their ultimate teammate is. And he's the guy that a lot of different players mention. A guy they look up to and how he's handled everything, and how he's kind of a coach at practice, and a coach on the field. We're excited because we think that he's back in a situation where he's available if we need him.

But, yeah, you'd love to have another fifth-year senior like him starting and leading and showing the young guys the way. But he's been awesome. He's been awesome, really, since day one with everything that we've asked him to do.

Q. You expressed some concerns after the Michigan State game with your team's focus. Do you feel that that's been heeded? Just a little bit on handling success, how do you think the team has handled success and what it can learn going forward?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I get your point. There is kind of part of that that I did feel like there was a lot of outside noise on a lot of other subjects rather than just being 1-0. But I think it was magnified because of the circumstances of that game. How do you keep a team locked in and focused for three and a half hours in a situation that we were in? So there are a lot of other things that went into that.

But I think we've all kind of grown and learned through last year and this year and our best model to keep the team on the path that I think we need to be on is taking the 1-0 mentality, and not focusing on anything else. Trying to limit as much of the noise in the conversations as we possibly can. And I feel good about that. We've done that since that game, where I think probably this entire year, probably, and even early in the season when we were doing some really nice things probably had a little bit more of those conversations outside of being 1-0 than we had in the past.

Q. Does Bowen has have a chance to make it back this season?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Bowen's not available right now.

Q. With Tanner Lee getting hurt last week, and Mike Riley said yesterday he wouldn't count (indiscernible) out, have you guys tracked that, when the other team's quarterback may or may not play? How does it affect preparation throughout the week with the defense?
JAMES FRANKLIN: The quarterback?

Q. Yeah, with Tanner Lee being hurt.
JAMES FRANKLIN: I'm sorry, I couldn't hear the name that you said. Yeah, I don't think it's going to hurt a lot because they're going to run the same style of offense and the same plays. So it would be different if one guy was a really mobile quarterback and one guy was straight pro-style and stuff like that.

So they're going to run the offense. And if he's available, they'll play. It's going to be a game-time decision type deal. And he's a veteran quarterback, so he could probably handle that better than most.

It doesn't affect us a whole lot. All we can do is prepare for what we see on film, have an awareness and understanding of who this other guy is and what his strengths are and things like that.

But, again, we just got to prepare for what we see on film and have an awareness of what may happen and go from there.

Q. Coach, going through the stats from the Rutgers game, you guys had one sack, three (indiscernible). Despite their quarterback being hurt, an offense that can sling it around --
JAMES FRANKLIN: Who did you say about being hurt?

Q. The quarterback's hurt from Nebraska. An offense that can sling it around, they're third in the Big Ten, what can you guys do to make sure your guys get home this week, so to speak?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, hopefully we'll get some guys back from injuries, which would be helpful. I think getting back to the fundamentals and techniques and making sure that we're winning the one-on-one battles, for whatever reason. The last couple weeks we've been rushing down the middle of people, which is the last thing that you want to do in pass rush. You want to be on the edge of people. For whatever reason, we've done a little bit of that the last couple weeks. So I think that will help.

I think, obviously, making sure we're spending enough time and understanding how we're going to attack protections to get free runners at the quarterback as well. Do a great job disguising. I see some of our players. I think last week John Reid did a great job -- excuse me, I said John Reid. Grant Haley did a great job. The one time we're playing cover two, but he made it look like he was blitzing, got the quarterback to change the protection and dropped into cover two. Things like that. I don't know if our guys understand sometimes how much we disguise what we're doing, how important that is in having some personality. The problem is when you play these tempo teams, it's hard to have that personality because the ball could be snapped. That's one of the reasons they do what they do.

It's going to be important for us this week, whoever the quarterback is, to be able to get pressure on the quarterback. Whenever you're playing these style of teams that have made most of their success through throwing the ball, it's going to be really, really important.

To be honest with you, that's when we're at our best defensively. When we're getting tackles for loss, getting people off schedule, which we were able to do last week in the run game. Then in the pass game, being able to get pressure on the quarterback. That's always kind of the formula for success on defense.

Q. How has Tommy Stevens been an asset to the team when you're able to use him in certain situations, whether it's a decoy or when he's in late in the game as a back-up? Also, what is his mentality like off the field and during practice?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, he's been great. He's one of the most respected players on our team. Him and Trace have a very strong relationship and work very well together. They challenge each other. They compete with each other. There is no doubt he brings a component and aspect to our offense, and really has all year long, and including last year. We want to continue to do that. It's that fine line of what do you do to continue to develop Tommy from a game perspective without messing up the rhythm of what we're doing offensively as well.

Each week Joe has a certain portion of the game plan for Tommy and how we're going to use him and then where he'd like to use him in the game.

Even last week, with six minutes to go in the game, we had decided that we were putting him in and Miles in and a bunch of these guys in, and then we don't get the ball back because we did the same thing on defense. They get a significant drive there at the end.

But Tommy has been great. It's not easy being the back-up quarterback, it never is. I've lived that life myself. But the most important thing is how he conducts himself, and how he prepares himself and how he trains, and he's a pro. I do know when time comes that Tommy Stevens is going to be ready.

Q. Mike Gesicki has proven to be a very good pass-catching tight end. In terms of blocking, how would you rate his career as he's grown in that area? Matt Millen got into him on the broadcast. Jesse James was kind of like that as well here. He came here, was a very good pass-catching tight end but struggled with the blocking. What are the challenges to make sure the tight ends understand their role in blocking?
JAMES FRANKLIN: I didn't hear the broadcast. I think Mike has come a long ways. Considering when he got here, he had never blocked anyone in his life. He made tremendous progress early on, and continues to chip away at that. He understands it. It's been very clear conversations for me and Coach Rahne, fundamentals and techniques. I would say when I watch Coach Rahne's drills and we go over practice plans, I would say probably 80 to 90% of their drill work is not running routes and catching balls, it's all the run game. So he understands very clearly what he needs to do. I don't think there is any gray area there.

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