It was a breezy day in Happy Valley Tuesday, which may have explained Penn State coach James Franklin's approach to his pre-spring practice press conference at Beaver Stadium.
He was a little bit, well, windy, answering nearly every question at length. In fact, he spoke at length even when there were no questions.
Franklin began the press conference with an opening statement that stretched more than 13 minutes. You can see the whole thing above. In the meantime, here are some quick thoughts on the PC and the transcript.
Franklin was obviously in a talkative mood. Though it was St. Patrick's Day, he was outfitted in a blue pullover and khakis.
As usual, he kept things light for most of the PC, kidding one reporter for double-checking player weights against a roster every time he mentioned one and another for wearing a mint green shirt on St. Paddy's day.
However, there were a couple of instances where he appeared to be much more serious.
Franklin actually admitted to be angry over criticisms of Christian Hackenberg last year. He said the QB did not have great protection, and was rarely able to go through normal progressions.
He spent most of his time solving problems and running from problems, Franklin said. And taking a lot of criticism, which I'm really, really defensive about. And to be honest with you, looking back at it, a little angry that he faced some of the criticism he did. I don't know that it was fair, just or realistic.
Earlier, when talking about opening part of this week's Pro Day for the media, he sounded as if he was not happy with certain members of the press going outside of conventional channels (through the SID) to contact players and assistant coaches.
Continuing to develop relationships with you guys and provide some access for you, because I know you guys need to do your jobs, is something we want to do, he said. We want to help you do your jobs, we want to provide access. The only thing I would ask is by us providing access, is that you guys follow our polices and procedures and don't contact our players or coaches without going through (the SID). I think that's a fair compromise.
After Franklin was hired at Penn State in January of 2014, he said during a press conference that he intended to reach out to the Nittany Nation. That included attending every birthday party he was invited to and even blowing up balloons.
A year and change later, he looks back on the statement and views it as the biggest mistake that I made when I got here. He added, Once I opened my mouth, it was an onslaught.
Most fans understood he could not possibly attend every birthday party. But there was 10 percent of the people that thought I was being literal.
While he does get out and about during the off-season, now that spring practice is here, he has a set schedule.
Each days starts with a staff meeting at Lasch Building, and then Franklin focuses on football and football only until noon. After lunch, it is recruiting -- nothing else until 4 p.m. Anything else has to happen outside of that timeframe.
These weeks, 100 percent of my time is football and recruiting, he said. Football first, recruiting second.
BEHIND THE SCENES
Former PSU football SID Jeff Nelson was on hand, just not running the press conference as he had for so many years. He sat in the back, pecking away on his laptop. Nelson is now part of the athletic department's strategic communications team.
New football SID Kris Petersen handled the PC.
It was a relatively light turnout of media, with roughly 30 reporters and camera folks on hand. Of course, many reporters called into the PC via phone.
Courtesy ASAP sports.
THE MODERATOR: Welcome, everybody. We're ready to get started with coach. We'll start with an opening statement from coach.
JAMES FRANKLIN: First of all, want to welcome and congratulate Chris to her new role. Excited about working with her on a daily basis.
It's amazing to think just year two in general how much different it is in every aspect. I was talking to Mangiro yesterday. This time last year he was going onto the field with never being in the huddle the way we do the huddle, never going into a cadence, snapping a ball.
From last year where they haven't even done that yet to now, going out on the field and having a foundation laid on offense, defense and special teams, expectations, how we do things, morning workouts, Coach Galt's program. We got the majority of our team now that have been through these things. That experience counts and is important.
Some things I'd like to go through with you guys, some bullet points and notes.
We're making an emphasis on our four core values which you have heard over and over again. Last year there was some memorizing the positive attitude, great work ethic, compete in everything you do, willing to sacrifice, but we weren't really living them.
I want to make sure that we're living the core values, not just reciting them, thinking what they mean to you and the program. That's been an emphasis for us.
Proud of the community service we've been able to get done. P.J. Mullen doing an unbelievable job with us, involved with our players on a day-to-day basis, involved in the community, great institutional knowledge, community knowledge. We've done over 2100 hours of community service since last July.
Academically you know we had 51 players last semester with a 3.0 or higher and plan on breaking that record this semester, which is something very important to us, always will be.
Got new staff members. Sam Williams, who will be special teams quality control. Sam was with us at a previous institution.
Tommy Galt, offensive graduate assistant, will be working with the tight ends. We have the whole Galt family here. I think we'll thinking about hiring Jan, which is Dwight's wife. Obviously the fact that Tommy and young Deege played for us at a previous institution and have known the family, have known those two young men for a long time, really helps.
Andrew Jackson is a defensive graduate assistant.
Ryan Smyth, defensive graduate assistant, working with the linebackers, who also played with Coach Shoop.
We've made great strides since the bowl game in terms of changing our body. You look at Bod Pod, Trevor Williams has gained 10 pounds of actual muscle. Again, you put guys in the Bod Pod, everybody talks about percentage of body fat, but it also shows you how much lean muscle you've added.
What you're trying to do is take away 10 pounds of fat and add 10 pounds of muscle. Jason Cabinda gained 12 pounds of muscle. Sterling Jenkins gained 13 pounds of muscle. Been on campus three days. Chance Sorrell lost 10 pounds of fat and gained 10 pounds of muscle. That's exactly what you're looking for right there. Hasn't gained a lot of weight from the day he arrived, but he changed his body.
Professional development, program development, we've completed all our self scouts, gone back and studied everything, watched every rep of practice, every rep of games, done studies on our programs, met with professionals, collegiate and high school staffs, have had a lot of people in.
University of Alabama was in last week meeting with us. Had Villanova in. A lot of different people to sit around, bounce ideas off each other, explore. We'll continue to do that throughout the rest of the spring and the summer. Always looking to grow there.
We consulted with experts, consultant from the NFL, retired special teams coordinator spent a day with us, which was excellent.
Visited with several different types of analytic companies to meet with our staff, which was really good. We attended some conferences, went out to the MIT Sloane Sports Analytic Conference, which was great, not only for the analytics, but with all the sports science and studies we're trying to do with those things as well.
We sent a group of people down to Philadelphia, the Flyers, the Eagles, the '6ers, the Steelers I think were all there talking about sports science, how we're all using it. That was a really good experience for us as well. All of these things looking for ways to get better.
Performance enhancement. Throw out some things for you guys. We had a great winter training period. Across the board we're smarter just in terms of them understanding how we do things again. We're bigger, we're faster and we're stronger.
You look at bench press. This time last year we had six guys bench over 400 pounds. This year we had 11 guys bench over 400 pounds at the very same time.
Power clean, we had 300 guys power clean-- 28 guys power clean 300, guys at this time last year. This year we have 47.
Last year we had seven guys power clean 325 pounds or more. This year we had 23.
Squat, we had six guys squat over 500 pounds. Last year at this time we had over 15.
Vertical jump, five guys in the program that vertical jumped five inches or higher, this year we had 11.
40-yard dash, last year we had one guy run a 4.49 or better. This year we have five.
Last year we had 11 guys run 4.59 or better. This year we had 20.
Broad jump, 10-foot is a really good barometer for you. We had five guys go out and jump 10-foot or more last year. This year we had 23.
I think they're dramatic numbers. I think this is some stuff that is interesting.
Special teams, we just had much more depth across the board. That's in general. Offense, defense and special teams. We have pretty much a legitimate two deep at every position, which we did not have last year.
Second year in the system, we're confident in schemes. Goal is to get more confidence, lead better execution, make special teams a weapon for us, which I didn't feel like it was last year.
Really excited about special teams and what we're going to be able to do there. I think it can become a strength for us.
All our specialists are a year older. If you look from 2013 to 2014, we actually improved in punt return average, kickoff return average, touchbacks on kickoffs, kickoff, touchdowns allowed and punting average. Although we have to get better in that area, there were some improvements made.
We played nine true freshmen and we had 12 true freshmen and first-year players combined play on special teams.
The challenge is we do not have a scholarship player at the specialist positions. If we would have known we were getting those five scholarships back, we would have approached that differently last year. But by the time we knew, all those players were pretty much committed to other places and gone.
It's hard to find a punter, kicker or snapper that late in the process that's still available. That's going to be a challenge for us.
Defensively, much more competitive depth across the board. Excited about that. Our focus this spring is going to be about techniques, not tactics. Really try to get to our fundamentals, things like that. It's our goal to identify play-makers and put them in position to be successful. Same on offense, defense and special teams.
Although you guys know we have base philosophies, we want to find our play-makers and put them in position to be successful, then develop our schemes around that.
Our challenge is replacing Mike Hull. I think that's clearly our challenge on defense, not just because of the football player Mike Hull was, but also his leadership and also the position he played, being the quarterback of the defense, making all those calls.
Offensively, improve on our fundamentals and techniques. Same thing. Back to the basics. Gain a better understanding of concepts, not just the plays themselves, understanding the big picture.
Cultivate depth. Competition with redshirt players I think is really going to help us.
Our challenge, continue to develop the offensive line. You have heard me say this before. You really should not play defensive tackle or offensive line until your redshirt sophomore year. We have way too many redshirt freshmen in our two deep still, but I think we have a chance for great improvement.
Then tight ends, their role in the running game. Tight ends, everybody talks about matchups, everybody talks about tight ends, the flexibility they can create in your offense, creating matchup problems. That is only the case if your tight ends are a threat in the running game as blockers and also threats in the passing game.
Right now we have a bunch of tight ends that were high school wide receivers and weren't asked to block like that, so you lose the advantage. A tight end on the field that's not a threat to cause problems in the running game is basically a slow wide receiver. We might as well put another wide receiver on the field if we're not going to be physical and nasty and aggressive at the tight end position. I think that needs to be a major focus this year.
Position changes. Jordan Lucas is going from corner to safety, which I think you all know about it. Amani Oruwariye is moving from corner to safety. Jack Haffner is moving from runningback to linebacker. I'll add a note on that in a minute. Adam Geiger is moving from runningback to safety.
The reason we're doing that with those two guys, they came in and met with me, I met with every single player on the team in individual meetings, those guys want to be special teams terrors for us this year. They want to have a huge role on special teams. It's hard to do that when you're never tackling.
Those guys will go over to be able to work all the individual parts of practice with the safeties, with the linebackers. We're hoping that's going to allow them to have a bigger role on special teams. They're already big, strong, athletic guys. We're excited about that.
Then the last thing is events. Obviously we have the Pro Day, noon this Thursday in the weight room, it will start. We're talking about granting the media limited access. Chris will follow up with you guys later on that. We're also going to have some discussions about spring ball.
I think continue to develop relationships with you guys and provide some access for you. I know you need to do your jobs. That's something we want to do. We want to help you guys do your jobs. We want to provide access. The only thing I would ask is by us providing access is that you follow our policies and procedures and don't contact our players or our coaches without going through Chris and our communications staff.
It's hard for us to do that and ask you to do your job if we're not providing access. I think that's a fair compromise. We'll be in touch more about that moving forward.
So I will shut up. I've talked enough. I hope I gave you a few nuggets that helped you and open it up to any questions you might have.
Q. You talked about moving Jordan Lucas to safety. How much of it was skill set and how much was numbers?
JAMES FRANKLIN: I think it's a combination of all those things you said. I think long-term what we try to do is we try to do things that are not only best for Penn State and our football program specifically, but also in these guys' long-term potential.
I think Jordan is a guy who could play corner here and at the next level as well. I think he has a chance to maybe be special at safety.
It's also back to the philosophy you have heard me talk about before. I think it's easier to play a freshman at corner and a freshman at wide receiver than it would be to play a freshman at safety, linebacker or defensive line. The closer you are to the ball, the harder it is to get on the field early.
So we feel good about our young talent at corner. We're losing some experience at safety. Usually need to have pretty good depth at safety with the types of things you're asking those guys to do.
It's a combination of all those factors.
Q. (Question regarding Mike Hull's replacement.)
JAMES FRANKLIN: There's a lot of options there. I think Wartman is an option. Big, strong, physical guy who moves very, very well. He's got experience now playing the position. You'd like to have a Mike linebacker with a guy who has played enough football.
I think the fact that these guys actually watched Mike Hull for the last couple years is valuable, as well, just how the guy practiced and prepared. But he's an option for us.
Wooten is an option for us, played the position, done some things. We need the guys to be more verbal, more verbal on the field. But he's done some really nice things.
Kline is a guy we're hoping is going to be a pleasant surprise. You talk to our players. He's unbelievably respected on our team as a leader. You talk about his toughness. Injuries that he's overcome. Right now he is running and moving and lifting and has tested. His testing numbers are really good.
That gives you three older guys.
Jack Haffner is a guy we have at that position, as well. I also think Cabinda and Reeder, there could be some flexibility there, as well. They're the guys I would say are the immediate guys that are going to move in there and take ahold of that job.
Q. You mentioned the tight ends. Adam Breneman is coming back. Will he be able to do anything this spring? How important is it to get him back?
JAMES FRANKLIN: I think for a lot of different reasons, getting Adam back, you're talking about a guy who had a bunch of success early on in his career. He's had some injuries, some setbacks. In some ways you probably would have liked to have redshirted him his first year. Now the fact that we were able to redshirt him last year and still have some success is good. He's got a year to get healthy, get bigger and stronger, get more confident.
He's a guy that I think has the size and the mentality that can be a complete tight end. A guy that can put his hand in the dirt and come off and block at the line of scrimmage. Also has the ability to be a threat in the passing game, has the size and ball skills.
Probably most importantly, even through this whole year, as trying as it was on him, he is one of the most positive, optimistic, completely 100% bought-in leaders that we have. He's been great. He's been great for us as coaches. He's been great with our team and players. He's always got a smile on his face. He's so appreciative of Penn State. He's so appreciative of the opportunities he has here. That alone we're really, really excited about.
So he's got a big opportunity. We're going to have to be smart because whenever you take a guy that hasn't done a whole lot, you can't expect to throw him back in and be full go. He's as close to 100% as he's been in a long time and feels really good. He made the comment to me yesterday in my office, he feels as good as he felt in his junior year in high school. That's the last time he felt that good.
We're really, really excited about having him back for a multitude of reasons.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about your offensive line situation in contrast from a year ago, even going into spring last year, where it was hard to have a practice with the numbers you had.
JAMES FRANKLIN: The fact that we're going to have two deep of scholarship players is exciting. We had a bunch of guys that have had some experience. Last year I think at this point we had two returning starters in the beginning of spring ball. As we all know we lost Dieffenbach. We had one returning player on the offensive line for spring ball. Had a bunch of new faces in there with a new system. It's completely different.
We have five or six guys now that started a game. I remember a high school coach coming up to me last year during spring ball, talking about how he'd been to other regional colleges, watched their practice, then watched ours. He had an interesting expression on his face.
There's nobody that is happier about this group returning and the strides they've made than Mr.andMrs.Hackenberg. I'm excited about them. I know Herb is excited about working with him. I know they're so much more confident mentally and physically, all those things.
As you guys have heard me say before, not only does it affect and help with Hack's continued development, our offense's development, but now your second team quarterback, your second team receivers, second team tight end and runningbacks, it helps with their development. It helps with the defense's development because now the second team defense has a chance to legitimately be threatened.
It stunts everybody's development when you're struggling up front, let alone with a second team and first team as well. We're real pleased. Those guys have been awesome. I could go on and on about a number of these guys, the improvement they've made, how dramatic it has been, almost to a man, to every single guy there that has really made some really good strides in so many different areas.
I'm excited to see them go out and compete. They have a great challenge which again goes back to the fact that iron sharpens iron. The fact that they're going to go up against A.J. Johnson and Nassib every single day at practice, that's only going to make them better because they're going to be challenged.
Having a 327-pound dancing bear like A.J. Johnson inside that you're dealing with, then the quickness and explosion of Zettel, that's going to challenge those guys.
Nassib I think had a sneaky, quiet, really successful year if you go back and really study his tape. He played really well for us, going back and watching the tape on him.
Q. How much are you looking forward to the competition at runningback, some of the younger guys?
JAMES FRANKLIN: I think Akeel, the way the season ended with him, I think he's done some nice things. Excited to see what Scott, Johnson and Allen are going to be able to do. Scott and Allen redshirting, and Johnson is actually our biggest, strongest, fastest guy on our team. Going to see if it's going to translate.
Obviously Thomas is a guy we're excited about as well, but will be somewhat limited during the spring.
All those guys redshirted except for Johnson last year. We're excited to see what they're going to be able to do. They're all different. Thomas is the big, physical guy. Allen is the quick scat back. Scott is kind of a combination of the two. We're going to need those guys to step up.
There's some guys coming in, as well, that are going to be able to create some challenges and competition during camp. We'll wait till camp to discuss these things. We're excited about the guys we have now and what they're going to be able to bring to the table. I know they're hungry. I know they're hungry.
Q. You discussed the analytics part earlier. Are there a couple of metrics that you buy into? How much during your coaching career have you seen the emphasis on the analytics changes?
JAMES FRANKLIN: I think coaches have always studied these things, whether it's turnovers, whether it's explosive plays, whatever it may be. I think what you've seen over the last five years is this really explode and people taking it to a whole 'nother level.
When I worked for the Green Bay Packers, used to be this guy, I didn't know what he did. He would be sitting there in a staff meeting, he would slide a piece of paper to the head coach and walk out. I didn't know at first who the guy was, what his role was.
That's what he was. He was crunching numbers all the time, coming up with different statistics each week and throughout the season that were going to be the biggest determining factors in being successful, winning and losing. It's exploded.
To me it's another piece of information. You've seen it in baseball. It's now going to other sports like basketball and football as well.
I think it's still early in the process. But to me it's another piece of information. For us, there's a lot of different ways to look at it. You look at it as true statistics that have a major factor in success. You look at it in helping a head coach manage a game of when you should be going for things and when you should be aggressive, different field zones, different down and distance situations.
As you're doing your all-season studies, reading books, talking to people, going back and studying all your situations, also looking at what analytics say how you should be handling situations. That's one of the analytics companies that we brought in, a company that talks about decision making.
It's interesting. You talk to different people. Some people are trying to follow it blindly, some people are using it as another piece of information.
We just want to explore all these things we possibly can. You look at the sports science, the GPS monitors, the heart rate monitors, we're looking at those things.
Obviously, like most technologies, there's a hefty price tag that go with these things. We want to make sure we're looking for every advantage possible to maximize our players and our program's opportunity to be successful.
Q. When you look at the left tackle position, how do you address that going into the spring? Do you intend to move somebody? Can you count on a redshirt to make an impact there?
JAMES FRANKLIN: I think we're going to have to. We really don't have any other choice. The guys we're kind of looking at right now are Hall, Palmer, Sorrell and Jenkins. That doesn't mean that Nelson couldn't go do that as well. Right now you're looking at those guys.
Sorrell is a guy that was a little bit limited at morning workouts, missed some time. Excited about him. They're four guys we feel really good about. You guys know how I feel about Hall. Love the guy. When he got the job last year, he was a 238-pound tight end. I think he's about 294 pounds right now.
JAMES FRANKLIN: Sorry, I've been corrected.
The guy has done everything we've asked him to do. He moves well, is athletic. We're excited about the competition there.
It's going to be a young player, inexperienced player, new player to our program to take that job unless one of the other right tackles come on, Brosnan, Beh, Shuman, which allows us to move Nelson over, or one of those left tackles we're starting with moves to right tackle.
Basically we're going to try to find the four best tackles we can and put them in the best positions to help our team.
Q. What does the defensive end position look like? Nassib had a sneaky good season. Why did you see that?
JAMES FRANKLIN: He's Mr. Consistent. He does everything right. He's extremely strong, extremely athletic. Comes from an unbelievably athletic family. He has the work ethic, the mentality, intelligence. I think he's a premed major doing extremely well.
We're excited about him. He's also a guy close to 270 pounds. What's exciting about our defensive ends, as big as they are, they still look skinny, and they're moving better. So all of their agility, all their 40 times went down, and they all put on between 12 and 15 pounds.
You look at Nassib, Cothran, Brown. We're excited about all those guys. Cothran is a guy about 260 pounds, looks beautiful. Brown, guy who played running back in high school, almost 260 pounds now. You have Sickles, you have Schwan, again a guy who is big, strong, athletic, tests extremely well. They're the guys right now. Nassib, Cothran, Brown, Sickels and Schwan, then Eikenberry and Castagna as well. Right now we have five guys over 250 pounds that power cleaned 335 pounds or more. The thing we're lacking there is experience.
I'd also make a comparison with them with another team in this conference. I won't mention specifically who they are. But you look at programs, to me our DNs are exactly what you want our program to be like in a year or two. Yes, they are new starters, but they've played now and they've sat behind players or played a limited role behind players for two years. That's what you want.
When you have a young player playing for a first time, he's redshirted, he's played a limited role behind a guy, and then come in now as a redshirt sophomore or junior, and is now jumping into the fold.
There's a big difference between that being your inexperience compared to your inexperience being redshirt freshmen and true freshmen playing for you, if that makes sense.
I think our defensive ends are a great example of that. Sickles has played and had some success. Schwan has played and had some success. Nassib has been a starter for us in a limited role. Cothran has played on special teams and defense. He's the one guy that needs to have more success and game time.
Brown is a true freshman that we're excited about. But right now he's probably in the third team, which is what you want. You want a guy who is a redshirt freshman who you're excited about his future and potential, but you're not needing him to play a dramatic role. If he ends up beating people out, more power to him, that's great. He's had to beat people out to earn that job.
We're excited about those guys.
Q. You mentioned you may have went a different way with scholarships if you had known earlier. You have five or six walk-on kickers. Where do you feel you stand at that position? Any guys that have stood out to you going into the spring this year?
JAMES FRANKLIN: I am very pleased. We took the approach, knowing the lack of scholarships, that we were going to be in a challenge in that area. But we were very, very aggressive of going out and recruiting guys that wanted to come and be a part of Penn State anyway. We were able to not only get numbers, but we were able to get quality.
I mean, you look at what Gulla was able to do, Pasquariello last year, obviously all of us would like to see them have stronger years, but you're also talking about two young guys that came in, were able to get some experience.
Liebel's had as good of an off-season as anybody. Gulla is not going to punt. He's going to focus on kicking. That's probably another position change I would say to you. He came in as a kicker and moved to punt to try to get an opportunity to get on the field. He feels more comfortable as a kicker.
Pasquariello and Liebel are competing for that job. Liebel's probably the most athletic guy we have in terms of weight room, ran in the 4.6s, did some nice things, is powerful and strong. I think those two guys are going to battle for that spot. I think they're two legitimate guys.
If you're talking about kicking, Julius, as the guys call him, Big Toe. Big Toe is about 5'9", 278 pounds now, can kick it out of the end zone. He punches at the ball, but the ball really jumps off his foot. He ended this season with tremendous confidence. We would do competitions at the end of practice and he was impressive, really impressive.
From what I hear from the guys, Gulla is really hitting the ball well. So I'm excited to see those guys.
Davis is a guy that's come in and is kicking the ball as well. Stivason and Bouhermi as well. There's numbers there and quality. I'm excited to see what those guys are going to be able to do.
One of the things we're talking about doing with the spring game is opening the spring game with a kicking competition before the spring game gets started just so I can make sure that these guys have got enough kicks in front of a crowd. See how they're going to handle that kind of before the game gets started, just to see how they do, make it a competition.
We're thinking about doing the same thing at halftime with the punters. Do a competition with those guys, because you just don't know through the spring game if you're going to get enough live reps and see how they're going to react in that environment. So that's something we're thinking about doing.
But I'm excited about those guys. Then obviously whoever is going to be the kickoff guys.
We'll end practices like you have seen us do in the past. We'll have field goal competitions at the end of practice for the running. The next day we'll have a punting competition for the running. I am glad the snow has melted because we can't do all these things in the indoor facility.
Same thing with kickoff. They'd have to kick the ball into the end zone and things like that and do it for the running and put pressure on those guys to make it a competitive environment. I feel good about it.
I thought long snappers, the thought that nobody really mentioned those guys all year long is a positive, because no one ever talks about the long snapper unless something bad happens.
I thought Yaz had a good year for us, was pleased with what he was able to do. Hoping to get Ladonis back. Vasey is a guy that did some really good things for us in practice. Corcoran is a guy that snaps the ball well, but has got to get bigger and stronger to hold up in there.
Q. How did the extra practice in the bowl win over BC help this team?
JAMES FRANKLIN: I think it was good for all those redshirt guys, or for even guys that were playing but playing a limited role. We, especially in the beginning of bowl preparation, we did a lot of scrimmages, almost every single day, with the redshirt guys to allow them to go out and compete. We taped it and watched it.
It was base offense. It was base defense. Weren't doing anything tricky. Just wanted to evaluate the guys and see them play. I thought that was really valuable.
Once we got to the bowl site, with travel time, things like that, with the schedules we already had, we didn't do a whole lot of that. Once we got to the bowl, it was more getting ready for our opponent. Whenever you get more opportunities to go out and practice, work together, it's a positive, especially when a lot of those guys have been basically scout team players for most of the season. Now you're actually watching them compete again, see the things that you recruited them to do, see the things you watched them do early in camp or in individual.
Q. Looks like Farmer is back to safety.
JAMES FRANKLIN: That's a typo. I apologize. He's a linebacker.
Q. How big of a spring is this for Trace McSorley?
JAMES FRANKLIN: It's probably not as dramatic as you think, because if you think about all of last year, he took all the number two reps last year. It's not like you got a guy that is a redshirt and didn't get the number two reps. We were hoping to be able to save his redshirt. It worked out that way. But he was getting all the number two reps in practice. So that's not really going to change.
The positive goes back to what we talked about before: I think we have a second team offensive line now that's going to allow him to get some really good quality work and get some confidence with the receivers, challenge the defense, all those types of things.
Is it a little bit different this year in terms of he's not redshirting any more? Yes. But depending on how things play out, that could happen as well.
Not as dramatic as you think. But whenever you're trying to get your number two quarterback, or the quarterback that's competing with your starter, however you want to look at it, getting that guy ready to play is very, very important.
I know everybody inside our program, the coaches, the players, the strength staff, have been very pleased with him. He gave our defense fits when we would do two-minute drill, do the two offense against one defense. He has a chance to extend plays, make the throws. He's a winner as you saw with his high school record. He's picked up the offense very well. Very smart player.
Q. You said it takes about three years to really get a total install program. Percentage of where you are towards that and your biggest challenges to all that?
JAMES FRANKLIN: I don't know if it's necessarily just about installation. It's just everything in the program. It's learning Penn State. Just because we had a model at School X, doesn't mean that model is going to perfectly come and work in School Z.
The institutional knowledge, the knowledge of our players, the type of players, areas that we're recruiting, strengths and weaknesses, all those things, that takes time.
Learning the conference and the type of teams and the style of play in this conference takes time. Going to all the different venues, home-and-away, takes time. Installing your offense, defense and special teams, then tweaking it and catering those things to the skill that you have.
Having the depth where you have a legitimate three deep at every position is really, really important. Not depending on a new arrival to campus in a prominent role, those types of things.
So I think we've made great strides. I think from year one to year two is probably where you see the biggest strides. You probably won't see the same type of strides moving forward as you will from year one to year two. You want to keep growing and keep improving in year three and four and onward.
I'm hoping, like somebody tweeted out the other day, might have been you, that Joe was here 62 years and I was here 62 weeks. Got a long way to go.
You want to be improving for 62 years in every aspect. It's putting a staff together. You see some of the new hires in Sam Williams, doing some things that we're getting the support off the field, on the field, in recruiting. It's developing a relationship with our administration. It's developing a relationship with our compliance staff. It's fundraising. It's facilities. It's connecting with the community. Because you guys have heard me say this over and over again, the thing that makes Penn State special is our people, and we cannot do this alone.
For us to get this program back where everybody wants it to be, it's going to take the players, it's going to take the coaches, administration, alumni, former players, community, it's going to take the fans. That's the way to differentiate ourselves. And I believe that.
I think we're closer to that than we've been in a long time. But having an unbelievably supportive fan base, having the administration being unbelievably supportive like they have been, having the high school coaches in the region support us and be excited about what's going on at Penn State, it's every aspect. There's not one aspect that's more important than the other.
We have to wear a lot of hats. If you focus in one area too much, you're going to come short in other areas.
I know this is probably a long answer to your question, but I think we've made great strides, but we still have a lot of work to do. I'm really happy that I think we have people in each area connecting with those different groups that we're going to need to get this program where we want it to be.
Q. So when do you have to coach?
JAMES FRANKLIN: I think that's where you have to be smart. There's off-season where you're slicing the pie up into 35 slices. Once spring ball starts, those other areas, they shift now to the administrative people to handle those things because they still need to be worked and developed every single day.
Once spring ball starts, these weeks, 100% of my time is football and recruiting. Football first, recruiting second. The rest of the season, there's times in May where now 60% of my time is recruiting, 35% is football, then you're dividing your other time into reaching out to alumni, doing research on facilities, analytics.
That's one of the things I think we're doing a better job now of is protecting my time. For example, even since signing day, since we came back, the way my day is scheduled is we staff meet. Then after the staff meeting till 12:00 is football and football only. Nothing can be scheduled during that time. Then from 1:00 to 4:00 is recruiting. Nothing else can be scheduled during that time.
Media requests, interviews, meetings with players, meetings with whoever it may be, that's going to be before 7:00 in the morning or after 7:00 at night to make sure you can get stuff done.
What happens is, you don't do that and you're constantly getting pulled out of offensive meetings, recruiting meetings, whatever it may be, and you're not efficient with your time.
I'm not as helpful as I can be to support our staff with what they need. I think I'm able to give a perspective. Sometimes you get caught up with what you're doing in your room and your area, it's good to see somebody that's looking at it from 50,000 feet.
We're doing a better job at that. As you all know, the biggest mistake I made when I got here is I said I would not turn down a speaking engagement or birthday party, blow up balloons. I think people understood what I was saying, but there were also 10% of the people that thought I was literal, inviting me to birthday parties, weddings, things like that.
We've done a lot of speaking engagements, but my priority needs to be on graduating our players and giving them the skill sets to go on and be successful in life and also have a tremendous experience on the field as well. Our fans deserve that as well and our alumni deserve that.
I'm doing a better job, our staff is doing a better job of balancing those things because it was an onslaught once I opened my mouth. That was a big mistake which I've learned from.
Q. How important was it to keep Bob Shoop on the staff, laying the foundation, not having to start from square one again?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Let me say this. Bob is the guy that it became a big story. But we got a bunch of guys on our staff that got offers and opportunities to move on and turned it down.
Sean Spencer is a guy that I'm so appreciative of and so proud of because he got an offer with a dramatic raise at a school that people would consider an historic school, and turned it down without even telling me, without even telling the administration. I found out from the other coaches.
I think that's a great example of the commitment our guys have to this program, to this university. Also excited about the future, where we're going, our players.
That's Bob. That's Sean. That's a number of our coaches. I could go on and on. So the fact we were able to keep them all here...
The administrative staff, the guys off the field. As you know, we have a bunch of really smart people. Keeping all those people intact is really important.
I also think it speaks volumes that we had a bunch of our graduate assistants go on and get full-time jobs this year. I'm really proud of those guys. Being a GA is not easy. It's a lot of sacrifice, a lot of hours. They don't make a whole lot of money. They're balancing school and everything else.
To see guys go on and get full-time jobs in the NFL, college, things like that, that's awesome. That's what it's all about. I think when you do that, it also attracts more quality guys that want to be here in the future. It just keeps it going.
We want to be able to hire young coaches that we could see ourselves hiring one day, promoting from within, which is something we really believe in.
Keeping the staff together, developing your young guys to move on and get opportunities, to continue to bring fresh blood and talented people into your program is really, really valuable. But that stability and that continuity that we saw here at Penn State for a long time, we want to try to be able to do that as well because we know how valuable it is.
Q. Last year you talked a lot about building a team around Christian, giving him the help he needed. As the guys around him get more experience, what do you want to see from him during the spring?
JAMES FRANKLIN: I want Christian to be able to work on his development and his role in this offense, fundamentals, technique, understanding of the schemes, being demonstrative with other offensive players about how specifically he wants a route run, what we're doing in protection and why, checking out a runs into passes or passes into runs. Not just during spring, but during spring and then being able to do that all off-season.
I think that's probably one of the things that's most valuable, is Christian is going to be able to take this offense and these players, and with the coach's help and support, really get a lot of work done this off-season.
Last year Christian spent most of his time solving problems, running from problems, taking a lot of criticism, which I'm really, really defensive about. To be honest with you, looking back at it, a little angry that he faced some of the criticism he did. I don't know if it was fair, just or realistic.
I think in the long run, the adversity that he went through physically and emotionally in getting through those things is really going to help him. He earned a lot of people's respect inside our program with how he handled things.
You have to remember, a true sophomore, 19 years old. So I'm happy that he can get back to focusing on doing his job and his role within the offense. His role is to get us into the best play and distribute the ball to our play-makers, and every once in a while pull the ball down and take a six-yard sack and turn it into a six-yard gain.
Or you go through your progression, progression one, progression two, hitch up to progression three, he's not there or he's covered. As you hitch up, you use that momentum, he's not there, you go get some positive yardage.
He wasn't able to do that last year. It was progression one, progression two, pressure, he was taking off running, or we were leaving the running back in, who is usually the outlet to help solve problems, he doesn't have that anymore.
I'm excited about Christian being able to focus on his development, doing his job and role within our offense, and having some more support around him, if that makes sense.
But I am really, really proud of Christian. I'm really protective of him because now looking back at everything, how he handled it, I think he handled it unbelievably well.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, coach.
JAMES FRANKLIN: Thank you.