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December 19, 2018

James Franklin

University Park, Pennsylvania

HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: So again, like always, appreciate you guys coming out and covering and supporting Penn State Football.

I thought we had a good day. You know, really, kind of the way our recruiting operation is built, we really don't want drama. So you know, for us, we want to build strong relationships with parents, with high school coaches, with prospects, try to get them to jump on board early, and then, you know, not waiver, because they are very comfortable with their decision.

For the most part, that's how things go for us when you look nationally, how -- how those things usually go and how it usually goes for us. We usually stick to that plan. We usually don't have a whole lot of drama. I think when you get older, you want to eliminate as much drama from your life as possible and that's what we try to do even if recruiting.

So we got a couple guys that, you know, had some questions and some guys that needed a few more days or weeks to kind of make their decisions. We had a little bit of that but not a whole lot, so I'm proud of that.

Had a couple late-night phone calls, but overall, I thought we did a really good job. You look at our class, most people have it ranked I think Top-10. If you look at it in terms of quality, I think we're the only program in the Top-10 that has less than 20 commitments, which factors into it, so if you look at it from a quality standpoint, I think we're top three in the country in terms of the quality of how services have those guys ranked. So excited about that.

I'm also proud of the fact that since we've -- since we've arrived, we've been able to continue to broaden our reach our reach. You think about Oregon, you think about Florida, it looks good today, on paper, and I think it will end up looking good on the field, as well. I don't know if I necessarily felt that way when we were flying all over the country multiple states per day.

At the end of the day, I thought our staff did a great job of identifying high, high-character kids that want to come to a great institution like Penn State and compete in the classroom and compete on the football field and keep chipping away at where we're going. And that's kind of what I see. I keep seeing us take positive steps in the right direction and to continue to surround ourselves with families and kids that want to be a part of -- of doing something special.

So that's exciting to me. You know, and I love how the staff is going about doing it, as well. You know, doing it the right way. So you know, open up to questions, but very pleased with how the day went and then obviously we still have another signing day left. We'll have a little bit of wiggle room left, a couple guys that we've identified that, you know, we feel good about that just needed a little bit more time in their process for a variety of reasons.

So open it up for questions.

Q. Are the dynamics of a two quarterback class, putting that together, convincing both players that it's the right situation for them, how did your staff go about that and how would you describe those two guys that you brought into the position?
HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Well, I think the first thing is we started with that approach because we weren't sure what Tommy was going to do and then once we kind of committed to that, we stayed with it. We stayed with it. We always wanted to have five quarterbacks on scholarship. That's going to allow us to do that. In a perfect world, you love one spread out: One is a senior, one is a junior, one is a sophomore, one is freshman, but there's not too many programs in the country that have it like that.

But like we try to do with everything, we're just up front and honest and transparent from the beginning with their families and with them. And you know, Taquon never really seemed to phase him at any point. And really, Michael jumped on after the fact, and he already knew.

So they both were great about it and I thought Coach Rahne did a great job and two guys that really kind of fit our profile with what they are looking for. I think they are excited about Penn State. It just worked out really well.

You know, with Michael, I've known Michael's dad for, I don't know, 20 years. He was the quarterbacks coach with the Atlanta Falcons with Michael Vick, and I was offered the receivers job.

So we go way back. And then obviously having an opportunity to develop a relationship with his son and seeing what he was able to do, you know, that was really good.

And then New Jersey, where Taquon is from, great football, very competitive. He look at that league in New Jersey very similar to the League in the Maryland, D.C. area. High-level football. Coached really well. Very competitive and Taquon came to camp, and you know, earned it the hard way. You know, came to camp. We loved how he threw the ball, came out of his hand but he didn't run a 40, and we said, hey, you need to come back. You need to come back and do all the testing, and he came back. And we offered him and he didn't -- it didn't take much longer after that. He committed and you know, never changed. I think that's the thing I'm really proud of is you guys have heard me talk about this before, we don't pressure guys.

In a lot of ways, we try to talk guys out of committing. You know, you sure you want to do this, you sure you want to do this. You know, what if you get this offered next week; what if you get that offer. I'd rather you not commit than commit and change your mind later. Make sure the high school coach is okay with it. Make sure the parents are all okay with it. Everybody on the same page; you sure this is what you want to do. Once you shake my hand, we're engaged and there's no more dating. There's no more flirting. Once you sign, we're married and there's no divorce.

You know, I ask them, what's their favorite n will team. Okay, well what if they want to draft you right out of high school. That's how strong I want you to feel about it, or I'd rather you wait.

It's funny because then some people say, well, shouldn't they have a right to go on five visits? Yeah. Yeah. Don't commit. Go on five individuals it's.

Yeah, we just try to be very up front and honest with them about the process and kind of what we're looking for and what we also talk about is that commitment and that loyalty is a two-way street. They are committing to us and we're committing to them.

You know, I feel really good about how the whole thing has played out, and those two guys, those two guys have been great. This isn't like the old days where, you know, there was no scholarship limits and you would show up and there was six quarterbacks in the recruiting class and nobody had Internet and you just kind of showed up and that's what it was, before the scholarship limits.

You hear some of those nightmare stories being the ninth quarterback at School Y. I think it's good, everybody knows, so guys can make informed decisions that will allow them to go on and be very successful.

Q. You had some staff turnover early in the process. What have you seen from the new guys on the trail fitting in with the way you guys recruit, and specifically JaJuan Seider and the job he's been able to do in Florida?
HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: JaJuan has been a great hire. What I love about JaJuan is JaJuan is the type of guy that I want to surround myself with in terms of all that. Really JaJuan is interested in is his family and football and he lives it. You know, it's talking football with Coach Rahne, or his phone is ringing and it's a high school coach or it's a player or it's a contact. It's all the time, we're on vacation, and it's constant, back and forth, back and forth, we're back and forth to each other about a play we saw, a scheme that we're interested in or a prospect that's out there.

You know, so it's really important to him. I know he's really happy being at Penn State and with the climate and the culture that we have. Obviously his son is joining the program, which is a good sign, as well. But he's just done a really good job.

Tyler Bowen, it's obviously a little bit different for him because this is what he knows, you know, our model. Tyler played for me at Maryland and then was a GA for me when I was the offensive coordinator. Then obviously was a GA -- it was a student assistant for us when I was the offensive coordinator and then was a GA for us here and then obviously went to Fordham and then came back after going to the University of Maryland as the -- as the offensive line coach. So he kind of gets how we do things, so that transition was really easy for him.

And then David, coming from Army, obviously you could imagine this is very different than Army. Been a little bit of an adjustment there. But overall, I think we've got a really strong foundation of kind of how we do things.

We've got a lot of moving parts, but we've got a lot of personalities and people that have been with us for a large number of years, so we're typically able to handle some of those things.

Obviously I don't want turnover. I want to try to keep as much consistency here as we possibly can. But I think those guys did a really good job and Andy Frank and the whole recruiting department helps -- helps with that, as well, so when these guys show up and we try to figure out what their recruiting area is going to be -- because that's another thing.

It's not like when you lose a coach, that next coach, you come in and you just plug-and-play. It doesn't work like that because you want to make sure you're taking advantage of everybody's strengths, and you know, if you hire JaJuan Seider and he is replacing a coach, well, you're not just going to put him in that same recruiting area. You want to play to JaJuan's strengths as much as you possibly can.

It forces us in some ways to adjust the entire staff, so the entire staff is impacted in recruiting when you lose one guy, and that's why it's -- that's why it's so impactful.

But I also think that's why we do it the way we do it, where I've been on staffs where one coach recruits one area and one position, and that coach is really the only coach on the staff that has a relationship with that -- with that young man and their family, so then he leaves, you're in trouble. You're in trouble.

For us, I want it to feel like for each recruit and each family that we're dealing with is that they are not really completely sure who their recruiter is because everybody is involved: The head coach is involved, the coordinator is involved, the area recruiter is involved, the position coach is involved.

So now when you do have turnover, we do it because I think that's the best way to be thorough and detailed like we do with everything. But I also think there's an aspect that that allows you to overcome some turnover, too.

Q. You guys have been very successful at recruiting the running back position over the last few years. I think on Twitter, there's been a number of people using the hashtag #RBU. How and why did that come to fruition, and how much of a factor was Saquon Barkley to getting to you this point?
HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: I don't think there's any doubt that that factors in. Obviously we were able to get Saquon before we had Saquon, so that was an important step.

I do think once you have a guy like Saquon that's such an exciting player to watch, you know, was just named Rookie of the Year in the NFL -- did you guys know that? It hasn't happened yet but I think he -- I think he is; I just kind of made that decision, with all of the juice that I have in the NFL.

But when you've got a guy like that that plays such an exciting style of football and then obviously carries himself so well, too, you have players all over the country, eighth, ninth, tenth graders watching him play, and -- and, you know, you look at Penn State Football and you see the colors and the uniform and the exciting style, we play in the Rose Bowl and he's got that run where he made 17 people miss, and you know, it's a signature run, I do think that that has an impact because players sit there and they try to envision themselves doing something similar.

So I think whenever you have exciting players like that, you know, it can make a huge impact.

Now, one of the questions I got earlier is: Now are you out there looking for the next Saquon Barkley. No, I think that's a huge mistake people make. No different in hiring, you lose a coach, you go try and hire somebody just like the other guy? No, you don't do that. That's not how it works.

Now there's traits and skills and things you're looking for. Yeah, I think we've had success; if you look at how we play and style, like Saquon -- one thing I was talking about earlier, I don't know if it's been talked about a whole lot is this year, I think if you look at us statistically, we lose Saquon Barkley and we rush for more yards this year and I think we rushed for more yards per carry and that's something that hadn't really been talked about our offense. I think that's a pretty strong example of our commitment to running the ball.

Now obviously we don't throw the ball as well as this year so we need to be more consistent. But when you're able to do both of them, you know, we've already shown that we can throw the ball; we've led the Big Ten in two of the last three years. We wanted to make a commitment at running the ball better this year. You know, it's going to be scary when we're able to do both, do both at a very high level. I think it's all those things. I think it's all those things and they also see Saquon and other backs and Miles, who we couldn't be more excited about in this Bowl game and his future moving forward, too; that we use our backs in a lot of different ways, as runners, on the inside, perimeter, pass protection and obviously try to get him involved in the passing game, too.

I think there's all those factors that go into it, and I think Miles is a really good extension of that.

Q. Congrats on the class.
HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Thank you, appreciate that.

Q. You added two pretty good junior college prospects. How important was it to get them in this class and also what's the realistic expectations? I think fans always expect them to play right away.
HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: I think Lackawanna is a huge opportunity for us in this state. Coach Duda has done a tremendous job. Obviously being able to get two players from our state to stay home that are a little bit more mature. You know, they won the National Championship this year, went 11-0 first time in school history. I think Brisker was named first team All-American. What's great is Wiggins is graduating early. He's graduating early and going to be here on campus, which is great because he's a skinny 300 pounds and played well this year. I think that's important.

I think the challenge with junior college players is do they graduate early or not. I think with Wiggins, that's really going to help him out. And then like I always talk about, Brisker, the fact that he plays away from the ball, I think that helps. I think that helps. When you're an offensive lineman kind of getting coordinated with the other offensive lineman and the tight ends, and also just the complexity of the schemes and combination of blocks and communication that occurs that the line of scrimmage, that takes some time. I think Brisker is a pretty skilled guy and he's going to have an opportunity to come in and compete for a safety job.

So we'd like to be able to sign multiple players every single year out of there; if it makes sense for us it makes sense for them. That's something I think Coach Duda does a great job, him and Coach Pardini and the rest of the staff, they do a really good job.

Q. Going back through the running backs, can you take me through the moment with Noah Cain. I'm assuming you're watching that unfold like everybody else was, and how did you develop that relationship?
HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Well, the first thing I would say is very rarely in my time doing this, did guys announce and no one knows. It happens every once in a while but most of the time, you know. A lot of the exciting things that were going on today, we knew, both good and bad. We knew several weeks ago. Sometimes several days ago. It depends on the situation.

But Noah committed to us a few weeks ago. Felt pretty confident about that until last night I get a call at 12:05 and it's Noah, mom and dad, and they want to have a discussion, and the discussion is coming off, like they have not made their decision yet.

So there I am in my boxers having a heated discussion and selling on why this makes sense. Same thing with Coach Seider and then again this morning. And I think that happens. This is a big decision guys are making, and I think when you wait till the end, you start getting pulled in a thousand different directions, so we get that.

He stuck with what he was saying. He had some questions there at the end. But we were pretty confident. And then same deal, sometimes, most times, guys have already sent their paperwork in when they are even making an announcement, it's already been in at 7:00. I think we had all of ours in by 8:37 this morning. The one we were waiting on was Noah, when he announced -- even after he announced, I was like: Get the paperwork in, get the paperwork in.

You know, it worked out really well. I think we've got two really good backs that are really mature. One will be coming in early and one will be coming in this summer. You know, highly, highly productive guys. Both of them, if you combine their stats, it's ridiculous. You look at Noah, what he's been able to do, obviously at IMG and his high school before that, it's impressive. It's impressive.

We're pretty fortunate. With Devin, he had over a hundred touchdowns in high school, so we're fortunate to get two really good backs coming in here that are also highly competitive guys and both very mature.

This weather towards the end of the year, we have rain every single week and cold and my head isn't really built for that. All over the country and flights, I got pneumonia, so I'm still kind of getting over that, so I apologize.

Q. Is there anything you're waiting on in the next couple days?
HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: No, we've got a little wiggle room left. Some guys that were going to hopefully sign in the next signing period and some guys that we have a lot of confidence in and some guys that we have medium confidence in and some guys who are still kind of trying to figure it out.

Q. John Dunmore, can you talk about what it means to add a talent like him into your receivers room?
HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: I think whenever you're able to go into an area like Florida and start to get some guys, it's going to open up some opportunities for you, because there's just so many Division I players in that state.

But John was great. John came on a visit. John came on a visit with his mom and his little brother, and loved it. We were downtown, I think at Tap house, is that what it's called? We were down at Federal Tap House. I went to the bathroom and we're coming out of the bathroom and he's like, "I'm coming here."

I'm like, :You're really coming here or" --

"No, I'm really coming here." Got emotional.

Went back to talked to Mom and Little Brother and Little Brother, he's kind of like -- for some reason we have a thing with like -- we usually kind of get in really good with the little brothers, and they are usually like kind of our ace in the hole, you know. They are behind the scenes kind of working for us.

It was the same way with Brandon Smith. Brandon Smith's little brother had committed to us long before Brandon did. You know, he told us he was coming, had been committed for a long time and then publically came out and did it, and then obviously in the 11th hour, people start -- people start coming after him, and obviously local schools.

I think the specific local school had three commitments from his high school, so it got interesting. You know, it got interesting. But you know, we had a really strong relationship with mom, a really strong relationship with Uncle Todd. Had a really strong relationship with the little brother. And really, JD, you know, never wavered with us. Obviously he wanted to go on to visit and that's already a little concerning, especially a place that has calm trees and sand. But he was great. You know, he was great. You look at how his senior year progressed and then you look at how the end of his senior year progressed and how many plays he made, winning the state championship, all those types of things. So really good. Really good. So hopefully we can build on that and JaJuan and John can kind of be the Pied Pipers together and really open up some more doors for us down there.

Q. With Ellis two years ago, Micah and Jessie last year and now Brandon and Lance, how effective do you think you guys are at attacking recruiting linebacker, and what do you like about Brandon and Lance in particular?
HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think we're kind of getting into a rhythm now. I think we really understand Penn State much better. I think our institutional knowledge is much better. Our community knowledge is much better. Also, recruiting areas and places that -- places that we're going to have the most success, you know, you look at Lance -- Lance is an interesting one. Lance came to camp, very early on. Ran 4-4 for us in camp. That's not a short trip; I think they came up here seven times on their own. You know, we created a really strong relationship with mom and dad, Rosy and LeBarron. You know, mom was the one kind of at the end, that before he -- before he committed, that was concerned about the distance a little bit. He never -- he kind of never flinched. What's interesting with Brandon is we are one of the few schools in the country, he came up -- he had a bunch of offers and he came up, his dad tells a story -- it's interesting. You know, they came up here and we didn't offer, and he had offers from everybody, and a lot of times when you do that, guys leave and they feel slighted and for whatever reason, that was something that they really liked; that we weren't just going to throw an offer out. We wanted to know the family.

We probably take a different approach to a lot of people. When we offer, it's serious. If we offer you and you commit, that very second we offer you, we should be doing backflips. We didn't offer and they left, and just built a really strong relationship with his family. He's got an unbelievable support system and really, we built really strong relationships with all of them. Because this wasn't a decision that Brandon was making; you talk about being raised by a village, that's Brandon. Mom, dad, crazy uncle JJ, the whole crew. You know, those two guys, those two guys we think have a chance to come in, and they are both graduating early. They are both going to be here. That room has gotten competitive real quick. I mean, like really competitive. It's obviously been competitive since we've been here but I'm talking about a whole other level. Those guys coming in December is really going to help some things.

This is, to me, this is what makes it so fun. You know, we don't really want the guys that say, well, how many linebackers you got or how many quarterbacks you got or how many receivers you got. I understand that that's a factor in it, but we want guys that want to come in and compete at the very best at the highest level. I tell guys all the time, I'm going to go out and recruit a linebacker next year to beat you out, and you're going to be crazy enough to help us recruit him. That's kind of what we want to kind of create, that type of mentality, and we're starting to get that where you know, if you start here, you've earned. I mean, it's -- it's a battle to do that. That wasn't always the case obviously when we first got here.

Q. You mentioned how important the lines are in success of a program. How does Wormley fit into that? What do you like about him?
HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: I'm a huge is a Saleem Wormley fan. He's always got a huge smile on his face. Very, very physical. Interesting, throughout the year, I was kind of playing those guys against each other, so Wiggins and Keaton and Sal, you know, each week, I asked them each week to send me their highlight tape in the game. Sal, Keaton, he had 11 pancake blocks this week and you only had 7. The next week Sal would have 11 and I would call him, go back and forth with those guys.

I think that's the hardest thing to find, especially on the O-Line, is big, physical, athletic guys that will be tough and will play with a nasty streak. It is hard to find. So part of it is starting to train that mentality now.

Sal is a guy that carries 300 pounds very easy. He's really thin in the upper body. I think he's going to have a chance to really develop. He has a chance to be a road grader (ph) guard with really long arms. That's something that we spend a lot of time on is arm length at the offensive line position, and he has that. All these guys have really long arms.

Q. Grant and John are good examples of guys that are not necessarily tall but great in coverage. You were pretty short in that area last year and all five of these guys are over six feet. Is that what the field gave you is that what you're looking to are? Does that throw an athlete tag on him a little bit more than a corner --
HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Good questions. Coach Pry will not be happy with you right now or Terry.

First thing I'll say is the guys that we're recruiting, really should be dominant on both sides of the ball in high school and you should. I mean, you think about Michal Menet, Michal Menet's high school film on the defensive line is pretty darned good. So that's how it should be.

Yeah, Keaton had an unbelievable year. Came to our camp, ran really well, ran high 4-3, low 4-4, but got a little sick and missed the camp circuit so didn't get all the attention he probably deserved. Kept getting taller. Kept getting thicker and had an unbelievable senior year. It's funny, like you're saying, every time he comes to the building, the offensive coaches start talking to him and the defensive coaches get nervous, getting away from him.

That's what we should have, guys that create position flexibility, which I think is huge. You hear me talk about it all the time on the offensive line but really I'm talking about our receivers should have the mentality and the physicality to play defense. Our defensive backs should have the ball skills to play wide receiver.

So he's one of those guys.

I think height -- we're like everybody else in terms of we'd love to be as long as we possibly can be across our defense and on our offense and specifically defensive backs. But as you guys know, and I've said this before, we're not going to pass on a really good player because he's 5-9 and there's a lot of programs that will do that. They are cookie cutter. You've got to be at least six-foot to play this position, 6-2 to play this position. I don't want that. We don't want a roster full of exceptions, but I think we're going to trust our evaluation and take those guys.

I think your point is valid. You look at these guys that we were able to sign in this class, you know, it just happens that our region was really strong. You know, Keaton is a long corner, lives here right in town, literally his mom came over and she works on campus and she was able to do the announcement this morning.

You know, Marquis from this region Tyler Rudolph from this region, both of those guys came to camp. We fell in love with them at camp, tested well and did unbelievable. Wait till you see Porter; he's got the longest arms you'll ever see. He's kind of the interesting one because you just don't know. His dad I think played wide receiver early in his college career, and then ends up being one of the better 3-4 outside linebacker, defensive end type guys to play in the NFL, very successful NFL career. You just don't know; is he going to have a similar progression, corner, to safety, to outside linebacker, you never know.

But we love all those guys at corner right now but I do think a lot of these guys create some position flexibility with corner or safety and we'll see how that plays out.

Did I answer all your questions?

Q. You mentioned family. Seems like a new trend where you're getting family members posing in uniforms. What's the genesis of that and what do you think of that?
HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: So the first thing I'd say is, I think it started at Florida. This went kind of viral on social media, so it's no different than anything else. One guy does it and somebody else wants to do it and I don't have really like kind of following other people's patterns, but at the end of the day, I will tell you, we had one guy on our staff was not happy about it. Came into my office and was like, this happened, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, like really angry. I'm like, just so you know, I have like 17 things on my list to be upset about and that's not one of them. If somebody wants to have fun and put a uniform on, and take pictures, more power to them. If mom, dad wants to put the uniform on -- the uniforms now are like Spandex. They are so tight. I'm not putting that on; it's a bad look. But again, this process is supposed to be fun. This is supposed to be a game, and sometimes we take it way too serious, so if a guy wants to come up and put a full uniform on and take pictures with his son or a mom wants to do that or an aunt or a grand mom, go at it. Let's do it.

I'd like to see -- I think that's something we ought to do. When we do that summer, that's -- now we're talking. So when we do that summer picnic, every year, that's what we need to do. We need to eat upstairs and talk and have pleasantries, and then we need to go down to the locker room, do it just like we do for the recruits, let you guys go in, try all the stuff on and then bring you into the team meeting room and have a photo shoot.

You, you, in a 26 jersey, be very similar. Quads.

Q. 22 --
HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: No, can't do -- your quads are very similar to another 26.

Q. You gave a lot of numbers. I saw a number the other day, you made 193 offers. Is that in the neighborhood? And how do you balance that versus you only have X number of spots? How do you do the math?
HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: I don't know what the number is. I'll believe the number you're throwing out there. I think our numbers from everything I've seen are much smaller than a lot of programs that we recruit against.

I think it really just comes down to, say you sign -- say you're going to sign two quarterbacks. You're not going to offer three quarterbacks and get two because the people we're recruiting against are good. They are got really good history, traditions, great fan base, facilities, all those types of things. It's hard.

Our hit rate is pretty good, but you'd better give yourself enough options and that's something that I think we've got to continue to do a good job at, and I think some positions do it better than others where sometimes I don't think our -- our list is deep enough because, okay, you may think you're getting these two guys, and if you don't, now what.

You can't go now offer the next two. It's not like, you can say, are you coming, I'm going to offer the next two. It doesn't work like that. I wish it was that simple. You have to say, who across the country can get good grades and be a good fit for us, and after that, it's first come, first serve and that's how scholarships are written. They understand that. It's first come first serve at that point.

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