Franklin Focused on More Than Eagles

Penn State coach sees bowl practices as an opportunity to keep building the program’s foundation.

The Penn State coaching staff wasted little time diving into its scouting of Pinstripe Bowl opponent Boston College. Just hours after the matchup became official Sunday, head coach James Franklin and his assistants were downloading video cut-ups of the Eagles to their iPads.

The Nittany Lions' video crew and graduate assistants were slicing and dicing the film back at Lasch Building so the coaches on the road recruiting -- including Franklin, who was in Pittsburgh -- could begin to game plan for BC.

For the Penn State players, though, the early focus of bowl practices will be less about the opponent and more about simply improving after a long regular season in which they went 6-6 overall and 2-6 in the Big Ten.

In fact, the first two of the allowable 15 bowl practices were Saturday and Sunday, before the bowl destination and opponent were certainties.

“We don't spend the entire time just working on BC,” Franklin said on a conference call with beat writers Sunday night. “The first half of our bowl practices will be what we call program-development practices, which will be like spring ball.”

That means doing things they usually don't do during the regular season, such as first-team offense vs. first-team defense and getting third-stringers reps with the first team.

“As we get closer to the game, we'll get into our normal game week with a couple of extra bonus practices,” Franklin said.

The game is actually on a Saturday (Dec. 27, at Yankee Stadium in Bronx, N.Y.), which will make syncing up with a normal game week easy.

Until then, Franklin said most practices will be done on weekends, with a couple of mid-week “coordinator practices” thrown in.

“So it will be myself, the offense, the defense and the special teams coordinators, and the rest of the coaches will all be on the road recruiting,” he explained.

Franklin said his staff had itineraries for all of Penn State's possible bowl destinations mapped out “for months,” which seemed a bit odd since the Lions did not learn of their NCAA postseason ban being lifted until after the season started. Though he did not have the schedule with him while on the road recruiting, he estimated 80 percent of the bowl practices will be held on campus and the remainder in New York.

He was asked if the extra practices will allow the staff to introduce new wrinkles. On two different occasions, he explained that they will not give the players too much to think about.

“You have to be careful, because if you have too much time, you try to get too cute, and kind of get away from who you are,” he said. “Time can be a negative.”

It can also be a positive. Being out of the grind of the regular season is allowing players with nagging injuries to get healthy, which is key for a team that ended the season with roughly 40 healthy, active scholarship players. It is also allowing them to gear up for final exams.

None of which is to say the staff is not paying close attention to Steve Addazio's Eagles.

“Obviously we'll be watching film and talking about them. But we want to use this time to develop the young guys, to sharpen up the old guys and continue to build the foundation that we're trying to lay here.”

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