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December 20, 2019

James Franklin

University Park, Pennsylvania

COACH FRANKLIN: Kind of getting into the bowl game, and obviously our opponent, Memphis. From what I understand, it's our first time in the history of Penn State football playing the University of Memphis, which is pretty cool.

Want to congratulate Coach Silverfield on his appointment as the head coach at Memphis. Obviously a great opportunity for him and a program that's done some wonderful things over the last five, six years.

He's got a lot of background, obviously, both in college as an offensive line coach, as well as the NFL. Tremendous opportunity. It's great when you see people that get promoted from within.

You look at Memphis and what they've done this year with a win over ranked Navy team with a ranked Cincinnati team, two times, which is very difficult to do to beat someone in the regular season and then beat them again in a conference championship. And it's magnified when you do it in back-to-back weeks.

Obviously the biggest bowl game in the university's history. I think a lot of these bowl games, one of the big factors in these games is mentality. And obviously for them playing in the biggest bowl game in the history of the university sets a mentality.

I think the other thing that's interesting is obviously one of the aspects of college football at this time of year is some of the coaching changes and coaching turnovers just become the reality of college football. One of the things that's interesting, though, is I don't really think -- and I don't mean this the wrong way, I don't want this to come off as a slight to Coach Norvell because I've got tremendous respect for him, but this program is used to turnover. Coach Lorig, our special teams coordinator, came from there.

If you look, they averaged seven staff changes a year I think over the last four years, I think they've had at least seven and as many as nine changes on the staff every single year at Memphis.

So what I mean is their players are used to this. They're used to coaching changes at this time of year in the program and they've been able to be very successful, obviously, with it.

Offensive coordinator for the game, Kevin Johns. Kevin has been a long-time offensive coordinator, been doing it all over the country. Obviously stepping into this role for this game. You look he's been a coordinator in the Big Ten. He's very familiar with us. We're very familiar with him, but obviously we don't expect a whole lot to change, just like with us, what we see on film is what we expect.

There may be a little game plan specific wrinkle for us and for them but not a whole lot different. They're an 11 personnel team. They'll mix in some 12 and 10 personnel as well but predominantly a 11 personnel team. We've been impressed with the quarterback, Brady White, the running back Kenneth Gainwell's had a fantastic year, redshirt freshman, and two wide receivers, Antonio Gibson and Damonte Coxie, both had great years. Quarterbacks put up big numbers as well as the running back.

And on defense, Adam Fuller, a guy again who has been a defensive coordinator for most of his year, coach as well, has been on the staff and is sliding into this role, 21 years of coaching experience. Obviously having again Coach Lorig here gives us a little bit of familiarity with their personnel and some of their staff as well.

They're a base 4-3 defense. They play cover 4. They play cover three. And then they play their fire zones like everybody else does.

They are a high-pressure team. We expect to see a lot of pressures in this game. We're impressed with their defensive end No. 55, Bryce Huff; linebacker No. 25, Austin Hall; and corner No. 17, Chris Claybrooks, guys that played a lot of football for them.

Special teams, a guy I know very well, Pete Lembo, was head coach at Lehigh here in the state, head coach at Elon, head coach at Ball State, and most recently at Maryland and Rice, now at Memphis as special teams coordinator.

No. 7, Chris Claybrooks shows up on special teams a lot for them. No. 14, Antonio Gibson, again, shows up making a bunch of big plays for them, and then their placekicker, No. 36, Riley Patterson, has had a really good year.

So, we're impressed with them on tape. We had a really good practice yesterday. We'll have practice again today and then obviously we get ready to head to the bowl game and have been jumping through all the different organizational things that we've got to make sure everybody's on the same page from a staff and from a player perspective. But looking forward to getting down there. We've heard nothing but great things about the Cotton Bowl and how it's run, the pride and tradition that they have as well as obviously getting to also experience some of the Dallas Cowboys and the impact that they have on the game as well.

So looking forward to experiencing it all and open up to questions.

Q. How have you handled the OC responsibilities since Ricky decided to go, who will be calling the plays in the bowl and to extent you can, can you tell us where the search is at this point?
COACH FRANKLIN: So without giving you too many details but giving you enough that you guys can do your jobs, for the game, Tyler is stepping into that responsibility, very similar to how Ricky Rahne did in the past. Tyler's done a great job. He's been with me for a long time since he was a player and excited about this opportunity for him.

We've promoted Kirk Campbell for the game on an interim basis to be the quarterbacks coach and he'll do a great job. Both those guys have very bright futures and the rest of the staff, everybody's jumping in, Ja'Juan Seider does a fantastic job for us, Jared Parker does a fantastic job. Everybody's jumping in helping. We've also promoted Carpenter.

Carpenter has been promoted to offensive graduate assistant. That's where I do think these analyst -- I don't know if you know Jeff Carpenter -- but Jeff Carpenter had been an off-the-field analyst for us. That's where I think these analyst positions are important because they help at this time of the year guys can transition and waiting in the wings type of deal. But Jeff Carpenter has been with us as a student assistant and then left and is back with us. He'll slide into that graduate assistant position that Mark DuPuis was in.

That's how that's going. And then the search, obviously been talking to a lot of different people and then been doing a lot of different studies from a data perspective guys that have called the game and watched a bunch of tape because the reality is this hire obviously is an important hire, but on top of that, we need someone that's going to be able to come in and blend.

We don't really want someone to come in and start all over again. You look at that across the country. Look at that even in our conference where maybe it took the first four, five games to people to get used to a new system. And we're looking for somebody that has the experience as well as the humility to come in and blend, to say, okay, what are the things that I have conviction about for me to run my offense that I can't really change. I need these things to be comfortable to call the offense and what things can we keep the same from a verbiage standpoint so that the players aren't having to learn a completely new system.

So what things can change and what things can stay the same? So that's what we're looking for, someone that can come in and do that. So between conversations and flights and trying to balance the game and finish up recruiting and then also the hiring process, it's a lot this time of year. So there's nothing like getting back at 4.00 a.m. in the morning and having a 7.00 a.m. staff meeting after talking to someone.

So that's just kind of how it is this time of year and hopefully we can make some decisions sooner rather than later.

Q. Will Tyler receive consideration for the coordinator's position? And secondly, what do you expect from Sean Clifford as far as his health goes? Is he fully participating in practice now?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, we expect Sean to be 100 percent. He's not full right now. He's taking most of the reps but he's not 100 percent right now, but we anticipate him being 100 percent. He's better right now than he was at the end of the year, if that makes sense.

And Tyler and the rest of our staff have all received consideration for the job and continue to -- I kind of look at it in some ways like maybe when John Donovan left and Ricky Rahne filled in in that role, when we hired Joe Moorhead. It's probably more similar to that right now at this stage.

Q. I remember last year, if I remember correctly, you said that you guys would have a 60/40 or 70/30 balance with the task at hand and enjoying or land for the Citrus Bowl. Do you expect something similar for this year in Dallas?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, I'd have to go back and check the records of what the percentages I said, but it's probably not that, to be honest with you, it's kind of like when we went to Ireland, everybody was like what a wonderful cultural experience this is going to be for the team and coaches, and we were pretty much in the hotel or on the practice field the whole time. I think the guys rode around on one double decker bus was about all they got.

I think the bowl games are similar. I think they're great for the fans. I think they're great for the families, our wives and kids and a lot of the staff, too, administration. But for the coaches, you know, we try to get as much work as we can done ahead of time so it's not a total grind, but it's a grind.

We have meetings and we have practice and then there's a lot of mandatory events that the bowl does, but I think the players will -- they'll get the experience of Dallas, not so much that it takes away and becomes a distraction for the game, because most importantly we've got to find a way to win this game against a really good talented opponent that thrives in these types of games in my mind.

One of the things we've gone back and shown, if you look back over the last four, five years, all of the Power five teams like Ole' Miss from this year and people like that that this team has beaten, I think UCLA falls into that category of things like that. So just again we want to go enjoy the bowl experience, which I think we will. I think we've gotten better at that and I've had good conversations with our players as well about that.

There's an understanding of expectation and standard of how we do things. But at the end of the day the most important thing is, after that game, we're putting bowl champions on our rings, bringing that trophy back to the facility and sending these seniors out the right way and also providing some momentum going into the offseason.

Q. Memphis is known for having an explosive passing attack, what did you see in their passing game and could you describe how you feel your secondary played in the last month of the season starting Minnesota through Rutgers?
COACH FRANKLIN: So I think if you look at them, and most teams like this, they typically match up well when it comes to skill positions. That's been the case as long as I could remember. And they've got some guys at the skill positions that would play anywhere in the country. So it's going to be a challenge. The quarterbacks put up good numbers. The system has produced a bunch of good numbers for a long time.

And then when it comes to our secondary, again, I don't ever look at it that way. It's all pass rush, it's pressuring the quarterback. It's secondary. It's all those things. So we had some blown assignments late in the year that I don't think we necessarily should have had. I think our players and staff feel the same way.

But I know we're looking forward to this opportunity, clean some things up, play well in this bowl game, get pressure on the quarterback, sack the quarterback, make some plays on the balls as well. But, yeah, I think we've got a very high standard here of how we want to play and what we want to do.

I also would make the argument to you sometimes the statistics can be skewed, and I know you're also basing this off kind of watching the game, but also when you're so good at defending the run like we have been, that people are going to throw the ball a lot more which is going to make you susceptible to giving up a few more of those plays.

But it's a little bit of all those things. It's a little bit of all those things.

Q. When it comes to the freshmen, this is the time of year when you find out who really broke through that wall who was able to finish their season. Anyone particularly standing out through the bowl preparation that really shows you an indication that they're in a good spot?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, there's some guys that probably similar to a Rasheed Walker, where at this point at the end of the year is really doing some good things and you could make the argument, you could have played him.

A lot of those guys start out real strong and kind of go into the freshman funk and then they kind of fight through it and they're really doing some nice things at this point.

I think Caeden Wallace is a guy that is really playing well right now with a lot of confidence, doing a lot of different good things for us. Joey Porter is a guy that jumps out in my mind and Lance Dixon is a guy. Tyler Rudolph, are guys that probably jump out in my mind right now. Brenton Strange is probably a guy early on that did some really good things. So there's a bunch. I hate to do this because I'm going to miss somebody and someone's parent is going to be mad at me or some kid's going to be mad at me.

But those are the guys that probably jump out to me as well. Another guy that we've been talking about a lot that we took late in the process is Hardy. And Hardy's -- just like we saw in high school film, scoring five touchdowns in the state championship game, just a natural football player. The game comes easy to him in some ways in terms of finding the ball in the area and things like that.

So obviously other guys you've seen enough of like Marquis and Ellies and those types of guys. But there's some guys that are probably jumping out in my mind right away. But I've missed someone. But they're probably the guys.

Q. Penn State has a short history in the Cotton Bowl but at least two of those games are pretty significant from 1970 and socially 1948. Any plans to talk to your team or have you talked to your team about kind of Penn State's history and significance?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yes. So we plan on doing more of that as the week progresses. But, yes, we've talked about doing some things to maybe honor those teams as well and honor some of those players. Like Wally Triplett, obviously. So, yeah, that's been something that's been discussed. We're very aware of it, as an athletic department, specifically as a football program, the Cotton Bowl as well.

As the week goes on, we'll spend a little bit more time talking about that and thinking about that.

Q. Speaking of Wallace Triplett and Dennis Hoggard, just the significance of their contributions to this program. I understand that you had Mr. Triplett here a few years ago before he passed away. But to be able to go back down there and play in this bowl with that type of history what does that mean to you personally and to some of the players on this team?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think the history, I think, is significant. And I think you can make the argument it's not just those two guys; it's how the whole team and how the whole community kind of rallied behind those guys.

I know there's a lot of different discussions and theories and thoughts on where we are, came from, but that's the one, I think, that most of us identify with. So for me and for the team, it's interesting because these guys -- sometimes we talk to them and we talk about things that we think they know and the history that we think they know and they have no clue.

I mean they think like the '90s were a long time ago, which is scary to me on a whole other level. But I think that's where it's important that we take some time talking about these things and having some of the discussions, especially with some of the discussions that we had kind of throughout the year as well.

So maybe connecting some of those storylines and talking about it. Again, a lot of the players, when Wally came and spoke to the team, Mr. Triplett came and spoke to the team, a lot of those guys aren't here anymore.

So we're going to spend some time kind of talking about the history, the significance. I think we can make some great connections with some of the conversations that we had this year. And then obviously for me, that's something that I don't spend a whole lot of time talking about, but I think the people that know me closely and people within our program, they understand how important that is to me.

In 2019, 2020, when you can say you're the first, there's not a whole lot of opportunities to say that anymore. So hopefully we get to the point where those things are not conversations anymore, but I do think it's going to be important for us to take some time and kind of talk about that and the significance of that. And I know the Cotton Bowl is aware too.

Q. At the end of the dinner banquet for the team Nick Eury was offered a scholarship. The reaction was kind of special from the family. And from the program. It must be a perk of the job to offer something like that at the end of the year. How did you reach the conclusion that his efforts matched the scholarship?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, so he earned it. We didn't offer him or give him anything. He earned that. A lot of times you kind of get in those situations, and there's a lot of moving parts from an NCAA perspective and what you're allowed to do from a scholarship numbers perspective in terms of managing your roster. So there's sometimes you'd like to do some things, but it just doesn't work at that time.

But Eury has been kind of on that path, really, since he got here in terms of how he's gone about his business, the type of teammate he's been, but then there also needs to be the right time.

So for us, once we asked enough questions to compliance and kind of went through some things as a staff, it made sense. And this was the time to do it. So what was cool was when we were sitting there and the banquet was getting started, I knew we were going to do this, and a few people on our staff knew we were going to do this. But then Eury shows up and his mom is with him. His dad's with him. His grandmom is with him. I'm like this is perfect. So just a kid that's done everything the right way.

We've got a bunch of guys in our program that I could make that argument and it doesn't always end, the story book ending doesn't always play out that way but when it can you'd like it to.

I do think it reinforces for our team and for our community that if you work hard and you put others first, that you will be rewarded for that. Maybe not always in a time that you think you should be rewarded for it, but it's noticed.

Sometimes the reward is not maybe a scholarship in your hand, but it's the respect that you earn from the teammates and how you're remembered. Kind of an interesting story that goes along with that as I'm sitting with Bowers, which is probably more impactful than the scholarship, to be honest with you, but I'm sitting with Bowers and his family. We do a little bit like a little reception for the seniors beforehand with the parents and those guys and the coaches, taking pictures all that kind of stuff before they come in.

And Bowers' sister is there, and we've got a bunch of players now, where their younger sisters now or younger brothers have come to Penn State, too. So I'm sitting there talking about it, talking about the family and the mom brings up, you know, well, about whether she has a boyfriend or not.

And as a dad having two daughters, it's not a conversation that I enjoy having a whole lot. And mom said, yeah, Nick, is there anybody on the team that you'd be comfortable with dating your sister. And he's like, no, except for maybe Eury.

And I think that kind of speaks to the type of respect that that guy has earned. The scholarship says one thing. That says another. So he's just a neat kid. He's a neat kid. And I remember all the way back, after signing Connor McGovern and the connection with that family and the school and the community. So just as important as it is going out and signing that high-profile recruit that everybody's excited about, thinks they're going to change the program, these guys are just as important, the guys that are going to be in the locker room, the guys that are culture drivers, the guys that maybe aren't showing up in the stat sheet or in the newspaper but are critical for you to have the type of program that we want to have.

And Eury's done it the right way from the time he stepped on campus. I could not be more proud of him and what he represents.

Q. Wanted to go back to offensive coordinator for a moment. I was wondering if you could shed any light on the timeline, by that I mean is this an announcement that could come before the bowl game, or is this something that you anticipate might not come until after the coach's convention?
COACH FRANKLIN: I don't know. I know you've got to ask. But I've told you guys what I can tell you. When I have the decision made, you guys will know. Giving any more detail about it not only is inappropriate but also can impact the search. I'm not going and hiring some guy that's sitting down at Champs making all the calls after the play was run. Most of the guys we're talking to -- yeah. Johnnie Hindsight right here. But most of the people we're talking to obviously are sitting coordinators, whether that's in the NFL or whether that's in college. And you've got a few that aren't, that are part of the conversation as well.

But the reason that we don't talk a whole lot about it is because it's not in Penn State's best interests. When information starts to leak out, when people are trying to track planes and planes, trains and automobiles of where we're going and all those types of things, I get the interest, and I get the curiosity, but it really doesn't help. It hurts. Because if names get out before they should, it's going to make it more challenging for us to hire the right person for Penn State.

Q. Late in the season you had several teams coming off byes that you faced that had a different way of attacking your pass rush. Given that you're going into a game with a long layoff, and your team is facing a team that has a quality offense and passing game as you mentioned do you expect to see something similar in those situations where it's the longer layoff, there might be something you hadn't seen yet on film and how do you think you handle those curveballs throughout the season?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, there's going to be a plan, there's no doubt about it. There always is. I think the most important thing that we can have is a bunch of fresh defensive linemen on the field, and that's how we handle these bowl practices are important, that they get enough work, that we're sharp. But also that we're rested and fresh and fast, and that's where the sports science all plays into it as well.

I think there's a plan always for defensive ends. It's hard to have a plan with the inside guys. So for us, the development of really all four guys on the field, you can't take them all away. So if they are going to have a plan for Yetur or they're going to have a plan for Shaka, whatever that plan is and who they're double teaming, whether they're sliding, chipping, using a tight end, using a back, whether they're moving the pocket or whatever it may be, that plan that puts an emphasis on taking someone away creates opportunities for others.

And that's where that needs to happen. When, if the plan is specifically to impact Yetur's impact in the game, then that needs to create opportunities for others. That's kind of how we look at it. No different than a great running back is great for the passing game. Having Saquon Barkley in the backfield, having Myles in the backfield and the running backs we have in the backfield create good opportunities for our passing game and vice versa. They're all complementary pieces. And the reality is although we'd love to take everything that they do away offensively, when you try to take one thing away you're creating opportunities in other places. And that's with their offense, that's with their defense. That's with our offense and defense and special teams as well.

That's the chess match. I think for the most part to your question, I think for the most part, I think we did a pretty good job of that all year long. Obviously there's times where you look back and you say we could be better in this area and we need to be better in this area, there's no doubt about it, but again the narrative and the story and looking back from a positive, from a perspective on hindsight there's definitely things we need to get better at but there's also the other end of the spectrum where you look, we've had a fantastic season.

There's probably 95 percent of the universities and colleges and football programs in the country that love to be playing in a New Year's Six bowl game right now and be in a position to get their 11th win.

So overall good. But we understand there's very high standards and expectations around here.

Q. When you were talking about earlier about the freshman and the freshman wall and that kind of thing. A lot of these guys it's a year they're going through stuff they haven't gone through before. And with Noah Cain how do you think he's responding since the Michigan State game and how important has this layoff been since the Rutgers game to get him back to where you want him to be?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think a lot of times these guys are facing adversity for the first time. Athletic adversity I guess is what I should say. A lot of these guys obviously have all different stories personally but I'm talking about athletic adversity.

So for him, he's such a competitor. Football's very important to him. We want to make sure -- I think that's one of the things that's probably not discussed enough is you better recruit guys that love football. You can't like football at this level. You've got to love it to do what you have to do to be successful at the highest level. I think there's some guys that love the recruiting process and like football and being able to identify who these guys are, is really important.

Noah is a guy that loves football. So part of the issue with him is you guys asked me each week and I really wasn't trying to be illusive with my answers, he wanted to play every single week, even the first week.

And if we didn't have the depth that we had, we probably would have. But he just wasn't right. And each week we were kind of the next week, well, he'll be ready the next week. And it just kind of lingered for him.

So the combination of that and the depth that we had at the position, it just didn't make sense. But he looked really good yesterday. He looked normal. Where, like before, you'd catch him limping at times and things like that.

I think he's good to go now. If he's not starting, you guys will rip my butt about that after the game. But the great thing is you see Journey's stepped up and Ricky and Devyn and we're in a good situation there. But I think it was just one of those things, he needed time off of it and as aggressively as he approached getting back, it just wasn't enough for him to be 100 percent. I also think the way he approached it is going to allow him to be 100 percent in a bowl game now, which I don't know if it would have been if he didn't attack it the way he did.

Q. I don't think folks have had a chance to ask this question: There's a report, maybe two, that you met with Florida State officials or representatives. Is that true?
COACH FRANKLIN: I did not meet with Florida State's officials. There's a lot of reports out there. But I did not meet with Florida State's officials.

Q. You had a flood of guys come out immediately after last year's bowl game and make their announcements, many of which were departures. And yet some that were ahead of that this year in terms of announcing that they were staying. Wonder if you could address that, and is there a positive carry-over of getting some of those announcements out of the way before the bowl game and rolling into beyond?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think we'll have both. So what we do is right when the regular season ends, I set up meetings with all of those guys and their parents and we put an extensive amount of work in of projections of where we think they are based on conversations with GMs and scouts and all those types of things. So we put all that together for them.

Some guys are ready to make the decision, and that meeting kind of either pushes them in one direction or the other. We also have the ability with the NFL to be able to turn five names in to get evaluations from the NFL, actual evaluations from the NFL. We only get to do five, which can also be problematic, because there's probably more guys that want it than just five. And there's all different factors into it.

Typically it's pretty cut and dry. It's first round. You really should plan on making that decision and moving on. You've got the second round, which is pretty much a personal decision but probably leaning more towards leaving. And then you've got the third round or lower that all the data says that you should go back to school. But then obviously there's a lot of family dynamics and things like that that go into it.

Pat was interesting. It was very similar to Mike Gesicki's meeting and met with Pat and went through it with his family and his parents were like we love it. We're enjoying it. We're not ready for him to leave. We love the RV lots. We're having a great time here. All this stuff that we just went through, if this happens for him, awesome. If it doesn't, he's getting a great education. Pat was like, you know, I appreciate it, but I'm not ready to leave. I can't imagine myself going and living in a city by myself right now. He's kind of enjoying this and feels like he needs another year of development.

So the conversations are very different based on a thousand different dynamics. For us, we do not recruit them. I know some programs do that. I don't recruit them. My belief is we give them all the information that them and their family can make educated decisions.

We kind of talk about it from both perspectives. The thing I think that's interesting that a lot of times I think the players they're uncomfortable having the conversation with you because they think you're just going to tell them to come back. And the reality is you want it to be a win-win. So if they leave early, it's in their best interests and our best interests that they get drafted as high as possible because that allows us to show our current players and the next recruits that, look, if you come here you can get drafted high.

And if they come back to school, it's in our best interests to make sure that whatever they were projected at the year before, that the following year they're higher.

So, for me I just want to make sure that them and their family make an educated decision that they have all the information and then once they do, we're going to love them and support the heck out of them to help them reach their dreams.

So we'll have some more guys announce after the game because that's when they want to do it. And we've had a bunch of guys that have already announced that they're coming back, which is great.

The challenge you guys heard me say before I think there's going to be some rule changes in my mind from an NCAA perspective because it's always been a challenge to make projections and guesstimates on where you're going to be from a scholarship number who is leaving early, who do you have to sign, all these types of things to get as close to the 85 with the transfer portal it makes it even harder to project that. Especially with the hard cap rules that you have. So I do think there's going to be some rule changes from that perspective to create a little bit more flexibility.

So we'll be finding out. Some probably around the same time you guys will but there's a good number that we already know what they're going to do and just waiting because they want to be respectful to announce after the game so the focus is on the game and not them.

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