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December 30, 2016

James Franklin

Pasadena, California

Q. From a player's perspective, everybody says what a thrill it's been to be a part of the Rose Bowl growing up. From a coach's point of view, what's it like to coach in this iconic arena?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think it's obviously something that I've looked forward to in my career. This is something that I'd imagined. Closest I ever got to the Rose Bowl was I took a GA job at Washington State, drove my 1988 Honda Accord with 160,000 miles from Philadelphia to Pullman, Washington. I showed up a month after the Rose Bowl. So up to this point that was the closest I got.

I got a couple coaches in my staff that have been involved in this game in the past. We're excited about the opportunity. We had dinner at the stadium last night. It's a beautiful setting. Then the year I took the job, I did some media work for the National Championship game. I think it was Florida State and Auburn that was here, and it was on the sideline during that game and did stuff before the game.

So I've been here a few times. But this will be the first time, obviously, playing or coaching in a Rose Bowl.

Q. (Indiscernible) what are the challenges from a PR schedule?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think the biggest thing for us was getting back into a healthy situation in terms of scholarship numbers. You know, my first year we were at 65 scholarships, last year 75 scholarships. This is our first year back at 85 scholarships. That's the biggest difference, is the depth that we have. Then, obviously, for us, focusing in on the things that we can control, which is our locker room and our development and our players, and that's been good. I think our fans and our alumni and our lettermen were very, very hungry for something like this, and it's really been exciting watching our community and our fans and everyone come back together and be excited.

Q. When you're in your hotel room Sunday night, the night before the game, what are you thinking?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Night before the games, I'm usually pretty good. I know a lot of people probably are nervous. I'm a nervous wreck all week long from a preparation standpoint. But we do everything we possibly can to be prepared and ready to go.

So the night before the game, all of our coaches, all of our players should sleep very well, because they know we've done everything we possibly could to get prepared and ready for the game.

If you're a nervous wreck the night before the game, you didn't plan, or you weren't organized to get ready. So by that point, if you're nervous, then that's your problem. So I sleep very well the night before games. Game days I'm pretty relaxed as well. Because, once again, I know we've done everything in our power to be prepared and ready for the game.

Q. (Indiscernible)?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, obviously, I think the Big Ten has always had a reputation of being a very physical conference. I think it still is. I think you look across the country -- and I was a head coach in the SEC as well as the Big Ten now. I think you look all across the country, I coached in the Pac-10 as well, I think the best teams are physical up front. They're able to play well on the O-line and D-line and dominate the line of scrimmage.

We've gone against really good teams. Our conference and our side of the conference with Penn State, Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State, all on the same side of the conference, we understand how important that element is. I think, obviously, USC is a physical team. Their one tackle, we were at Disney with him the other day, he had the Disney ears on, but he's 6'9", 360. Their nose guard who transferred from Utah, Stevie, is a disruptive, powerful player. So it's going to be a challenge for us.

You look at us, the games that we have played well, we've been able to get tackles for loss and sacks. They haven't given up many tackles for loss and sacks. We've done most of that work in the second half. We've got to be better in the first half of games.

Q. You've got the best deep ball passing, more completions, 20 yards or more. Why has the long passing game been so successful?
JAMES FRANKLIN: We love to chuck it deep. It's fun. The fans love to chuck it deep. The players like to chuck it deep. The wide receivers do. We're in a situation now with our offensive line has allowed us to do that. We've been in a situation our first two years where we couldn't take as many shots as we wanted to.

It's funny, because you look at them, they're one of the more efficient offenses in the country, very few tackles for loss, very few sacks, great third down percentage. We're the opposite. We're chucking the ball down the field, flying around, having fun. We've got to improve on third down, we've got to improve in some areas as well. But two different styles from that perspective.

But it's something we want to do. We want to challenge people down the field and be able to make plays. But the offensive line is going to be the unit that allows you to do that.

Q. I know you mentioned the sanctions, but can you just describe how much you had to overcome in order to get to this point?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I'm going to answer your question, but I prefer not to talk about the past a whole lot. I prefer to talk about the nine-game winning streak, I prefer to talk about what we've done this year. But, yeah, I think if anybody really takes the time nationally or here in this market and kind of really thinks about what we had to overcome, I think it's one of the better stories in college football. I mean, you think about all the different things we had on our plate that we had to overcome when we took the job, the situation that we walked into now and where we're at in a fairly short period of time, it's a credit to our players. It's a credit to our coaches. I also think it speaks about what Penn State is, because very few programs could survive what we've been able to work through and be able to be back so quickly.

You're also talking -- I think we're one of only 12 programs -- excuse me, five programs in the country that have had 12 seasons in a row without a losing season. You know? That's through what we went through. I'm really proud, I'm really proud of our players. I'm really proud of our coaches and our community.

Q. With what you've been through, does it make the Rose Bowl sweeter? Do you appreciate these things so much more?
JAMES FRANKLIN: I think in a lot of ways it probably does. I don't think there's ever a scenario where you come to the Rose Bowl and you don't appreciate it and you're not excited. But I think our story probably makes it a little bit different. It makes it a little bit more significant. Teams have a hard time getting here under normal situations, and we've been able to do it under very, very different situations and maybe some of the more challenging situations in the history of college football.

Q. Who on your team needs to have a big game for your team to win?
JAMES FRANKLIN: I think Brian Gaia has a tremendous challenge against Stevie, their nose guard. I think that's going to be a big match-up in the game. He's been very disruptive. That's going to be a challenge for us. Brian's our senior starter, a captain, does a great job getting us lined up. He's not the biggest guy in the world. He's big enough to get the job done, but that's going to be a challenge for him.

I think, obviously, the other thing is being able to get pressure on their quarterback. They do a great job of protecting their quarterback and keeping him comfortable in the pocket. He's also a much better athlete than I think people realize. Does a great job of extending plays and things like that. So I think they'll probably be the two biggest challenges in the game.

Then on special teams, not allowing Adoree' to wreck the game. You look at the Notre Dame game, I think it was Notre Dame where he had a punt return and kick return for a touchdown. It's hard to win a football game when you give up those types of things on special teams.

I think those are probably the things that jump out to me the most.

Q. Do you think they got it right with the four teams that are in the championship?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I'm not going to get into the committee and how that all went. I'm really proud of what we accomplished this year. You know, we won our conference championship in one of the more difficult conferences in college football. We beat the No. 2 team, Ohio State, in a head-to-head battle, and we overcame early setbacks. We're fortunate and blessed to be here in the Rose Bowl and play well. What we need to do is play well in this game and end on a really positive note and go into the off-season feeling good about what we've accomplished and laying a foundation for great things to come and go out and get really big, nasty, obnoxious bowl rings for these guys to wear and be able to look at the rest of their life.

There is a difference between bowl rings and bowl rings that you look down and it says Rose Bowl Champions on it, Big Ten Champions. That's going to be something they're going to be really proud of the rest of their life.

So we've got a challenge. We're playing USC, basically, at home. They don't have the travel to deal with. They don't have the time change to deal with. They don't have the weather to deal with. For them, it's a really easy transition, and for us, there's a lot of factors that we have to get adjusted to as quickly as we possibly can.

Q. (Indiscernible)?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Tyler's done a great job for us. Been very consistent all year long. A lot of it has to do with he's an older guy, which always helps. You've got a guy that's a junior and played a lot of football for us. We put a lot of pressure on those guys in practice. We do it every day. It's part of our routine. Like always, the holder and the snapper never get enough credit, as they should, for part of that process as well.

And I think the other thing, we've done a good job of managing it and not throwing them out there to kick a bunch of 50-yard field goals. They've been manageable kicks as well. So I think all of those things have factored into it.

Q. (Question regarding Saquon Barkley.)
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think Saquon is one of the unique running backs in the country because he just has so many tools. If you listed out all the attributes and traits that you're looking for at that position, he's going to have a checkmark in most of the boxes -- body type, size, strength, power, vision, balance, speed, durability. He's going to have a lot of those characteristics and traits that you're looking for if you had the opportunity to build a running back. They're hard to find. You can find a guy that's undersized. He has great quickness, change in direction and speed, but can't run for power. He can really do both.

Q. What was the immediate challenge (indiscernible)?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think, obviously, there were a lot of challenges. I don't know if I would say what was the first. There was a list of so many things. Obviously the first thing is recruiting, and recruiting there have been some challenges there. I think we took over after the three worst recruiting classes in school history. And that's not a slight to our kids because we've got really good kids here and we've got really good players. But if you study rankings, that's how it came out. That was one of the things we had to get solved as quickly as we possibly could. We had fallen behind, you know, in terms of some technology things in the building and facility things in the building. Obviously, things -- there have been some challenges in terms of perception. We had to overcome some of those things as well. And I think confidence. We had to build our players' confidence.

And you have to remember, I was the fifth head coach in a very short period of time, if you count interim head coaches. So there was a lot of trust issues in our locker room.

Again, you come in under one system, that guy leaves. You get sold on a new system, that guy leaves. You get sold on another system, that guy leaves. At some point as a player, you say, you know what? I'm just going to worry about myself and not buy into somebody else's plan because I keep getting my heart broken.

So getting that trust and that relationship in the locker room and build that love, that was probably our biggest thing to overcome because there was a lack of trust that there was going to be a coach that was going to stay and invest in them and the program. That was probably our biggest challenge, being able to get total buy-in.

We've had that this year. We did not have it the first two years, trying to overcome some of those scars over all the coaching changes and all the challenges we've had off the field.

Q. What did you and your staff do to get the players to buy in?
JAMES FRANKLIN: A lot of things. Like any other relationship in life, it takes time. The best thing that you can do in any relationship, whether it's with a friend, whether it's with a wife, whether it's with a professional relationship like us with the players, it's about a consistency in your behaviors. That's what people are looking for when it comes to any relationship, is can we trust you. And the only way we're going to learn is not by what you say, but what you do. Consistency in your behavior.

Then taking time to have these guys over to your house for dinner, taking them out and breaking bread together, having one-on-one meetings, which is difficult. You've got 125 guys or so on a football team. To be able to take the time to sit down together, to interact, to allow them to talk about things that they have questions or concerns about and build those relationships. So it's taken time.

Q. Was there a moment that you realized that you've gained that trust?
JAMES FRANKLIN: No, I felt like this year we put a lot of work on in the off-season to make some real strides. But I think it's funny. It's like a lot of things in life, it may be there, but whenever you have success, it reinforces that. It's almost like these guys know what they're talking about. One of the challenges was the way I do things is really different than the way Billy O'Brien did things or the way Coach Paterno had done things. And all that we can do is be authentic to who we are. And the challenge for young people and the challenge in any organization, when you come in and you try to do things completely different than the way they were done before, and they've had some success doing it that way in the past, they're going to question some things.

It's not like it was maybe 25 years ago when the coach said jump and the players would jump or run through a wall. Now they want to know why and they want to understand it a little bit more. There is nothing wrong with that, but, again, those relationships and that trust takes some time.

Q. How critical is it to putting together a relationship like that?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Critical. It's what success is about in any organization, corporation, or team is about healthy, positive relationships.

Q. With Sam Darnold at quarterback, is he much different than any of the other quarterbacks you've had to prepare to face in the Big Ten?
JAMES FRANKLIN: I think he is obviously very talented. He's got a lot of skills that people are looking for. He's big, strong. I got a chance to see him up close at Disney. He's a big, strong, good-looking guy. He can extend plays with his feet. He kind of looks like your traditional pro-style quarterback that can drop back and deliver the ball on time. He has a quick release and a strong arm, and great decision-maker.

But the thing I think he has that if you really study not only the NFL but college, he has the ability to extend plays. He's got mobility. He's not one of them old-school, pro-style quarterbacks that just stand in the pocket and can't move. You look at the Aaron Rodgers of the world, who I was at the Green Bay Packers organization when we drafted Aaron. You talk about a guy that really can create and extend plays, and that's what you need in today's day and age of football, in my opinion. Obviously he has the ability to do some of those things as well.

Q. Do you have any relationship with Clay Helton? When they were 1-3, he was not a very popular guy here in L.A. And now it's turned into a storybook season for them. You can appreciate that as a coach? Do you know him at all?
JAMES FRANKLIN: I don't know Clay very well. Brent Pry on my staff, they were together at Memphis, as well as Tim Banks, our co-defensive coordinator and defensive coordinator, they were together at Memphis, so they've known each other for a number of years. I know Clay on the peripheral, and have gotten to know him through other guys that really respect and like him, but, yeah, I don't have a personal relationship with Clay. Getting to know him, obviously spent some time here at the Rose Bowl with him.

Q. When they switched to Sam, did they make any major schematic changes as well?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, we've watched more the last four or five games of the season, so it's not like we went back and studied from the beginning. But I don't think so. From the things that I've seen and the things that we've studied, no. He just has been very accurate. He's been a great decision-maker. He's been able to extend plays, and it's not like either one of those quarterbacks, it's not like he went from a really, really athletic, wildcat scrambling-type quarterback. They both had similar characteristics and traits. So it's not like they had to reinvent the wheel. He's just been more successful in executing what they want to do. But with all of the things I talked about, decision making, arm strength, quick release, and his mobility to extend plays.

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