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December 31, 2016

James Franklin

Pasadena, California

THE MODERATOR: Good morning, everyone. Thank you for joining us for our head coach press conference with Penn State head coach James Franklin. We're going to start with an opening comment, and then we'll open up the floor for questions. When we do call on you, please state your name and media outlet when asking a question. The first question for Coach Franklin, is just tell us a little about the week and how's everything been going?

JAMES FRANKLIN: The first thing I'd like to say is I want to thank the Rose Bowl. We've had a tremendous experience so far. Everything's been really organized. Our players have gotten a chance to have some really unique experiences, same thing with our coaches. So the Rose Bowl, as we all know, is first class and has been from the beginning.

So we're excited about being here, it's been a great opportunity.

I would like to say, and I've sent this message out already, I don't know if you've gotten it, I would really appreciate one of these Rose Bowl helmets for my man cave. We're already sent out a request for that.


JAMES FRANKLIN: But, yeah, it's been great. I think practices have been good. We've gotten a lot of work done in State College, and we were able to get out here, the Stub Hub Center has been excellent for our practice purposes, and we've gotten some really good work. So today, we got our normal, I think, Thursday practice, then we'll go do our normal Friday walkthrough and get ready for the game.

THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Coach. We'll open the floor for questions.

Q. Coach, I want to talk about the moment in the tunnel, we talked with Nick Scott and Marcus Allen about how they come towards you and you push them back, and they come towards you and you push them back. That moment for you with the Rose Bowl and just with those guys in general, how special do you think that's going to be, and how much more amped up will that moment be for you in the tunnel?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, you know, Nick Scott is a guy probably we haven't talked about enough. He's been a tremendous leader for us on special teams and really with defense. We do a thing that we call ultimate teammate, which, typically in team meetings, we start with either our core values or ultimate teammate and have somebody kind of say that. And ultimate teammate is basically who is the guy in the program that everybody respects for how they handle their business both on and off the field.

Nick's a guy that a lot of people mention. He's always got a positive attitude. He brings great energy to practice and meetings. He's very appreciative of the opportunity that he has at Penn State. He's very appreciative of the teammates and the type of culture that we have. So he's been great. He really has. He's one of the guys that understands that we talk about this a lot, that it's a special trait to figure out in life that you're going to work hard the rest of your life in whatever venue, whatever job, or journey you're on. So you might as well have fun while you're doing it, and he has the ability to do that and also effect others.

I think going out for games, he's just one of those guys that wants to get out on the field and have fun. Him and Marcus Allen, they want to get out on the field and trying to hold them back, there is usually somebody there kind of counting down when we're allowed to run out on the field. But I usually have a little bit bigger impact on holding them back than the countdown person does. I think it's just another thing that they want to have fun and they want to show how badly they want to get out on the field and compete.

Q. James, what's the bigger concern for you going into the game, not having Saeed or not having Manny?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Well, to be honest with you, we've had situations like this throughout the year where we've had guys that weren't available for one reason or another. I think one of the things that we've done a pretty good job of this year and really over the last three years is playing a lot of guys and creating depth. So obviously you never want to be down starters or talented players, but we feel pretty confident. Koa Farmer's a guy that's played a lot of football for us already. This game, obviously, means a lot to him, considering he grew up ten minutes from the stadium. So he's a guy that his rep total will go up a little bit more. Cam Brown's a guy that played a big role early in the year that will factor in for us as well, and the wide receivers, at wide receiver we've played a lot of guys, and Saeed missed some games early in the year for another reason. DeAndre Thompkins stepped up and played really well.

So, you never want to be down players, but on the same hand, I think we've done a good job of developing talent and also developing confidence and depth. And guys need to step up. So we'll do that.

Like I mentioned before, we love those guys, those are great kids, and they're going to have great careers and go on to do wonderful things. So, it is what it is.

Q. Good morning, James. When you were at your previous institution, you started recruiting Trace McSorley, and there were some recruiters that didn't think he had the measurables to play quarterback. What did you see in his physical and mental make-up that convinced you that he could play quarterback at a major college level?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yep. I think what happens is with coaches we spend so much time and make mistakes one way or the other based on the eyeball test. So when the guy first walks in the room, that first impression, how big, how strong he looks, the body type he has, and we've all seen there's guys playing in the NFL at certain positions with unusual body types. What you'd consider a bad body type.

Really the only thing that Trace is lacking is height, and I think that's probably changed a little bit more. I think probably the NFL and major college football has probably been a little bit more open to different height requirements for that position when you see guys like Russell Wilson in the NFL and things like that. That's changed. It used to be really, really structured in terms of you had to be 6'3", 6'4", 6'5" to play the position.

So I think that's the biggest thing with Trace. He's going to walk in the room and he's 6-foot, 6'1". For us, we kind of list out a number of characteristics and traits by position, and what you're trying to do is you're trying to put check marks in as many of those boxes as you possibly can, and Trace is going to have checks in a lot of those boxes, except for the height category. Winner, he's a winner. Four straight State Championships games that he appeared in in high school. Accuracy, he's got that. Mobility, he's got that. Competitive demeanor, he's got that. Ability to affect people around him, I think that's one of the more important traits is does he make the people around him better? He does that. Do the guys want to play for him? He does that. He's just got a lot of traits. Is he smart in the classroom? Not have to worry about a guy that's going to handle his business academically? Yeah, he's done a great job there. The type of family he comes from, football background. His dad played at Richmond. Just all these different characteristics that you look for at the position, he has it. He does not pass the eyeball test.

So I think you have to be really careful with things. I think as coaches you can get intoxicated by certain things and the most important thing is that you focus on the key ingredients that are going to allow guys to be successful or not. Obviously, we're happy that we got him. You've heard us talk about him a lot before he played, and there was a lot of belief and excitement. But I would also say Tommy Stevens, it was a battle between him and Tommy Stevens, and there's excitement about him in our program as well.

I'm glad he's on our sideline. I'm glad he's playing for us.

Q. James, do you think you've been able to strike a balance this week between this being a business trip and a pleasure trip? And can you discuss the challenges of having more than 100 guys on the road on the same trip following their P's and Q's?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, you know, I think you guys know, especially the local reporters, and I want to thank the local reporters that have come out and followed us and have been great all year long, but I think you guys know I'm pretty much a routine guy. So our routine has not changed this week compared to how it's been all year long. Our PowerPoint presentations and our team meetings and all the things that we've done. We've talked about how to handle ourselves at hotels all year long. There's an expectation of how we do things. There is an expectation of how we balance the academics as well as the football part. There is an expectation about community service and making an impact on others.

So I think if you wait to get to the bowl site and start talking about how to do these things, then, yeah, it's going to be difficult.

But we talk about our standards of excellence in everything we do all the time. It's not like this is our first bowl game. We've been to three bowl games, so a lot of our guys have been through this process before. Obviously, this one is a little bit different stage. But so far, so good. Our first two days were a little bit different. There was football in there, but there was a lot more events on their plate, and I wanted to enjoy it. One of the things we talk about is being present. So when they're at Disney, enjoy Disney, be present, enjoy it. When we go to meetings, be present in meetings. Don't be distracted by other things. When we're at practice, be focused on practice, and that's kind of what bowl games are about.

They have to balance throughout the school year the academic responsibility. That's off their plate right now. So to be honest with you, this is similar than how we normally do things. It's just in different surroundings. But I'm very proud of our guys, how they've handled it. We've had no issues. We had a staff meeting this morning at 7:00 a.m. like we always do. Coach Galt and the strength staff, they do bed check every night, and we haven't had any issues with that. Koa Farmer, I think, has been really good in helping the guys just about what to expect in the community and places to go and places not to go. So, so far, so good, knock on wood.

But I'm proud of our guys, not just how they've been this week, but really how they've been all year long.

Q. Morning, James, how you doing?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Good morning.

Q. Wondering how in general you view this game as far as to this season? Or do you think bowl games are more of a springboard toward next year? Is there a balance you have to strike there?
JAMES FRANKLIN: What was the first part you said, I'm sorry?

Q. Yeah, if this game is more of a springboard to next year or cap to the season?
JAMES FRANKLIN: I don't know. I don't know if coaches necessarily look at it that way. I think maybe fans and media do a little bit. I think coaches look at it as the next game and, again, keeping our approach as consistent as possible. I think obviously when you step away from your routine, obviously this has the ability to give a lot of momentum going into the next season, and I think it also -- obviously, the extra practices that you're able to get in some ways you look at it a little bit like extra spring practices.

Then, obviously, it's the last time that our football family, the one that we have this year will be together. This team will be different next year. It will be seniors that will leave. There may be some guys that leave early for the NFL. This team will not be the same next year. We're going to have to recreate it and start all over from the beginning.

So I think there's a little bit of both. This is the next game and we're going to approach it like that. This is the last game that this family's going to be together, but also there is an awareness that this does give us some momentum going into the spring and also into next season, and the excitement that the foundation that these men have laid for our program for the future.

Q. What is your favorite L.A. experience so far? And, also, has there been another experience that stands out as being particularly California?
JAMES FRANKLIN: You know, to be honest with you, these trips are more for the wives and everybody else, the families and everybody else. I literally, besides practice, left my hotel for the first time yesterday. I went for a walk with Coach Galt, three blocks down, three blocks over, and three blocks back. That was the first time, honestly, I'd left the hotel besides an event, practice or a media event. Obviously, we did Disney, which was an event, which was wonderful and our guys had a great experience. The Cars ride was traumatic for me.

But to be honest with you, the coaches, we're pretty locked in. We had a staff meeting at 7:00 a.m. Last night we got back from practice, we had to watch the tape. Everybody else was at the hospitality suite and things like that, and by the end of the day I'm pretty exhausted. I'm still getting adjusted to the time change, so still trying to get my sleep pattern right.

I know this area. This was my recruiting area when I was at Idaho State, I recruited L.A. So I'm pretty familiar, but hopefully we'll have some time off in the off-season or in the next couple years where I can bring my family out and spend some time as a family.

But for us, as coaches, it's pretty much about the game, to be honest with you. The players get a little more free time and they probably take advantage of it a little bit more, maybe some of the single coaches do that as well. They have a little bit different experience. We don't have many of those guys. But for us, it's really more about the game. You know, about USC and our opponent, and Clay has done a great job.

Q. Your leadership has been instrumental in rebuilding Penn State's program. Can you speak to your core values, and the process of instilling those values into your team?
JAMES FRANKLIN: To be honest with you, I think it starts with our players, and we've been fortunate, especially this year. Guys that have been a part of the program for the last three years and kind of seen the evolution and have seen things that have worked and things that haven't. I think a lot of the people that have been covering our program for a while understand this, but maybe for some of the people in the room that haven't, I think, if I remember the statistic right, I was like the fifth head coach in like 27 months at Penn State, if you count interim head coaches. So that's a lot of change in a short period of time and really completely philosophies. You've got really three different coaches that approached it completely different.

So lot of changes for the community, lot of changes for the university, and a lot of changes for our players. So we had a process that we really believed in and really thought worked. You talked about our core values. That's something that I believe in and our players have, and really players that have been with us for a number of years. Number one is to have a positive attitude. I think that's something that's going to be important for you the rest of your life. Isn't really football specific. But people that can approach their job, their work, their school, their opportunity with a positive attitude. I think that's the type of people that people want to be around and are drawn to and are attracted to.

Number two is to have great work ethic. You can't always control how big you are, how strong you are, and maybe how smart you are. But what you can do is you can control how hard you're going to work and you outwork people and outprepare people.

Number three is compete. I think that's probably the biggest challenge nowadays because our society has shifted a little bit with that where everybody gets a trophy, everybody gets a smiley face now, which is something that I completely cannot stand and detest. A lot of curves in class.

To me, you compete in everything you do, and we instill that in our guys. It is a football-specific trait, but obviously it's something that carries over to everything they're going to do in life, the rest of their life.

And the last core value that we think is really important, that's probably the most important one and most difficult thing to do is sacrifice. Everybody says that they want success, but very few people are willing to sacrifice things to have the success that they want. Are you able to give up small things now for big things later in life? We talk about those things all the time, it's plastered all over our building, because in my short time on this earth, that's something that I believed has been really important, not just in football, but in general. If you can do those four things consistently, you've got a chance to be successful in any endeavor that you go on. So I think it's been important for us.

I know at my previous institution I still have players and guys that are coming to this game, guys that came to the Big Ten Championship game, I have seven former players, I've got five former players have Idaho State that are coming to the game that played for myself and Larry Lewis, who is with us. So they're relationships that are going to go on for a long time. And I think sometimes maybe when you're doing it, the players don't really understand it and appreciate it. But a year or two after or five years after or ten years after, those messages really kind of start to hit home and they kind of have more of a big-picture perspective on what you were trying to accomplish and why. At the time it's just kind of all going so fast.

So I think it starts with our leadership in our locker room. I'm fortunate to coach these guys, and I've got a great staff that reinforces our messages in smaller groups.

Q. You were talking about your schedule before. I'm just curious, are there even five minutes to watch football games today? What is your interest level? Is it zero or somewhat above that on those games?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Actually, last night was the first night that we really didn't have any responsibilities, which was nice. My wife was like, do you want to do this, do you want to do that? We have people in town too. So one of our best friends that's in town, our kids' Godmother is in town, my brother-in-law's in town already, and we've got a bunch of people coming in tonight. So she's like, do you want to go out to dinner? Do you want to do this? And I said no, I prefer to sit in the room and relax. You guys can go do it. But I want to sit and relax.

I watched some of the games last night. I watched the Florida State-Michigan game. Just kind of sat on the couch and veged and we ordered room service, which was awesome. But when I have downtime, I love to watch other college games. I'm constantly kind of sending messages to the staff. So one of my biggest pet peeves is players that reach the ball out on third down for first downs or reach the ball out on the goal line. So there was a fumble the other day in one of the games, and I sent that out to our video guy because now I'll use that the next day in our team meeting. You end up should having the ball on the 1-yard line, and you end up giving the ball back on a touchback.

So I'm constantly looking for things that I see in games that I think are lessons that our players can learn from. Have our video guy cut those things out, and we show it in our team meetings the next day.

So there is an aspect where I just want to enjoy the game and watch it, but there's also the aspect where I'm looking for things that hopefully our guys can learn from and pull out and use for messages with our coaches, with our staff and with our players.

So, yeah, any downtime that we have, I love just kind of sitting on the couch, watching games or playing with my daughters. That's really about it.

Q. So what do you think of the job Clay Helton's done with his program, and do you feel like you can kind of relate to him with everything going on with your two programs?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, you know, I don't know Clay really well on a personal level. I followed his career from afar. I've heard nothing but great things about him. He's worked with two of the guys on our staff, Brent Pry has been telling me about Clay for years. He was the coordinator at Memphis when they were there together, and thought he did a really good job. And then Tim Banks was another guy that was at Memphis for a couple of years with Clay. And same thing, speaks very highly of him and his wife. Then my interactions have been really good, and then just other coaches that I know in the industry speak very highly of him. Then my interactions with him the other day at Disney just a real good guy, regular guy. We got a chance to have a nice conversation. I'm always kind of interested and kind of watching how coaches, teams, how the players kind of carry themselves, because I think that's a reflection of the coach a lot of times. Their guys were first class in everything that I saw. So he's done a great job.

I'm happy for him. This is obviously one of the more storied and historic programs in college football, very similar to a Penn State, just on a different coast. They've always had tremendous talent. And I think obviously the change that they made at the quarterback position really kind of changed their season. It's never been for lack of talent at USC as we all know, and right now they're playing with a lot of confidence and having fun. You could make an argument that their program and our program may be two of the hotter teams in college football at the end of the season, and both had similar stories. So I don't know if you could have written a better script for the Rose Bowl with USC and Penn State coming together, how our seasons went, how we kind of both took off at the end of the season and our fan bases and all those types of things. So it should be pretty exciting.

Q. James, your players talked yesterday a lot about what it means to play in a Rose Bowl for them. What will it mean for you to coach in a game of this stature?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, one of the things I talk to the staff about, I've been fortunate to be on staffs or coaching or playing on a number of ten-win seasons. I think they're special seasons. I've been a part of 11-win seasons. I've never been a part of a 12-win season. To me, that's a different threshold. You have 12-win seasons, and there's only a handful of teams in the country that are going to do that. That's special.

So I asked the entire organization in a team meeting, anybody that's been a part of a 12-win season in college before, stand up, and there was only three or four people that stood up. So that's something that's significant.

Obviously, playing in a Rose Bowl. I've been a part of BCS bowl games before, had not been a part of a Rose Bowl. I think I mentioned this the other day. The closest I've ever gotten to a Rose Bowl is I took a GA job at Washington State and drove my 1988 Honda Accord with 160,000 miles on it, 37 hours by myself from Philadelphia to Pullman, Washington, and I showed up a month after the Rose Bowl when Ryan Leaf was working out for all the NFL scouts. That's as close as I had gotten to the Rose Bowl before this.

So this is a game that everybody you talk to talks about how special it is and how unique it is. The year that I took the Penn State job I did the National Championship. I did a lot of the media obligations before the game for the Florida State, I think it was the Auburn National Championship Game, so I was in the stadium and on the sideline for that. I thought it was a really special event, special evening. So I think if you have a bucket list as a coach, this is one of the things that you want to do during your career. Obviously, we're blessed to be here.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.

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