Penn State Coach James Franklin's Pre-Illinois Press Conference

See everything the Nittany Lion coach had to say during his weekly press conference at Beaver Stadium.

Penn State coach James Franklin held his weekly press conference at Beaver Stadium Tuesday. See what he had to say above.

Here is the transcript:

HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Like always, really appreciate everybody being here. Reviewed the last games, after watching 3 & 1 in Conference. We are conference bowl eligible, which is cool. The fact that's kind of out of the way and no longer a discussion or questions we'll get about that. Improvement from last year, ten games to get to this point, and we were able to do it in 8 games this year. So progress. That was a real gutsy, gutsy victory. 7 lead changes on the road in the Big 10 against a really unpredictable opponent. They had a bye week the week before us. We saw basically a completely different defense than we had seen on film all year long from them.

So I loved how when our defense needed our offense to respond the offense responded. I loved how when our offense needed our defense to respond, they responded. Same thing with special teams.

So really, really pleased with that. Defensively we were very disruptive, 11 tackles, 5 sacks. Five takeaways. The winning football, 9 of 13 on third down. 2 of 2 on fourth down. 4 sudden change situations were 4-4 in those sudden change situations, if you include the roughing the kicker situation, which was big.

And then a real dramatic stat, our last five series ended in three and outs, two four and outs. Three three and outs, two four and outs. That was real big. Played our best with the game on the line. Areas to improve, we've got to tackle better, too many missed tackles. We've got to eliminate the big plays. It's something we did a good job early in the season, hurt us here recently.

And then coaches and players must continue to improve against the tempo teams with running quarterbacks. There was too many times the ball was snapped we weren't set. We were looking to the sideline to get the call. Some things we can get cleaned up.

No. 1 in the nation in sacks. Second in the nation in sacks per game. Second in the nation tackles for loss. You guys know most of those stats, I won't go through all those things.

Offensively, I think the big part of the game was explosion plays. Our goal was 8, we had 10. Whenever you have that many big plays in a game, you have a good chance to win. Touchdowns of 37 yards, 20 yards and 27 yards. Completions of 40 yards, 38 and 31 yards. We had a five play drive. A two play for a 75 yard guard touchdown drive after their field goal. And 8 play, 38 yard drive before halftime. And then two touchdowns in the second half that answered their touchdowns.

So some really, really good things there, converted two second -- excuse me, converted two third and 13's. And then we made them pay for playing one-on-one. They basically said they were going to load the box up and pressed us on the outside. Weren't going to allow Saquon Barkley to beat them. Loved the fact that we had a bunch of different wide receivers to step up and make plays. Proud of Gino Lewis. He hasn't had a lot of opportunities. We go to him at a critical time and makes the play. A lot of times you can't control the amount of opportunities that you get. You've got to maximize the ones you get. And those guys did that. I thought that was really cool.

Five different line ups on our offensive line, in 8 games. That continues to be a challenge for us. We continue to protect the football. 10th in the nation turn over margin. I probably should say we're still doing a good job of turn over margin. We didn't do a great job of protecting the ball Saturday.

And then special teams, my last comment about the last game was we neutralized No. 4. It wasn't with big, booming punts that had a lot of hang time that we could cover. It was kind of a combination of things, low rugby kicks, punts that had some hang time. The one time we were backed up, Daniel banged it and had a punt of over 50 yards and no return. That was dramatic, as well. Good things there.

Players of the week, offense, we went with the wide receiver unit as a whole. Defensively we went with defensive back unit as a whole, three interceptions, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery. On special teams, Jordan Lucas, did a great job, great effort on field goal block.

Illinois, 4 and 3, 1 and 2 in the Big 10. Head Coach Bill Cubit. Bill is from Pennsylvania, from here. He's been calling plays for a long time, probably over 30 years. Very experienced guy. Was at Western Michigan with Josh Gaddis, they have some history together. Kim Banks I know really, really well. We worked together at a previous institution. They're doing a really, really good job on defense. And then they don't have a special teams coordinator, they share it.

A veteran team. They have 21 junior or senior starters on their team. That will be a challenge for us. They're big and physical. One defensive end is 6 foot 6, 290 pounds. They're big and strong.

Pretty cool we're 5-0 at home. Four on our team from Illinois. And then Fan Day and All U Day. Our fans have been a huge part of our home success that we've had this year. We're going to need it on Saturday. I also think it's cool being the flagship institution, and be able to have an All U Day like this, all the Branch campuses coming together, putting the blue and white on, and rocking the stadium.

A good friend of mine, and coaching mentor will be at the game this weekend, Johnny Majors, coming into town. Saw him in the off season and wanted to come to a game. This is the game he's coming to.

Q. I know the defense made some big plays in the fourth quarter last week, but it's allowed 68 points and almost 900 yards the last two games. How concerned are you?

HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: You know, I think it's a number of things. I think obviously the low ball quarterbacks have created some challenges for us, the tempo offenses have created some challenges for us, there's no doubt about it. And we haven't tackled as clean.

We're at a point right now where we're a little bit banged up, we'll modify practice this week fairly dramatically, to be honest with you from what we've done in the past, that's kinds of where we're at. We still have some depth issues, so we have to be smart and get our legs back. We've got to be fresh and we've got to be physical. There's definitely some areas we can improve. We played such good defense around here for the last year and a half we've got to get back to that.

So obviously it's an area that we're focused on and want to get back to playing the way we're capable of playing.

Q. You mentioned the offensive line and the combination. How did you think make Gino did with the move to guard and how did that look to you? And also I wanted to ask you about Trevor's interception in the 4th quarter on a 4th down play. I was wondering if you thought there was a teaching moment there that maybe we could have knocked that down and got in field position, or was it the heat of the moment and he reacted the way he did?

HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Yes, two good questions. I think with Wendy and Mang, I think it's interesting, I would say they're both centers. They're both guys that can take control, make the calls, get everybody on the same page. I think their size and body types and things like that, probably are more suited to be centers. But I also think they're two kind of veteran guys that have some savvy to them and know how to play and know how to play with their strengths.

We just think it's the right thing for us to do for our team and have some of that leadership and have some of that veteran presence in there. They did good. First time kind of doing it. They'll continue to get better. But I think we'll probably be playing with two centers in there, one at center, one at guard. But I do think the leadership has been important.

Yeah, I don't think there's any doubt on the 4th down play. After the fact, that you'd love to knock that ball down and not give up that yardage. There's no doubt about it. They're the things that we talk about, obviously when we're talking about situational football and explaining those things, we spend a lot of time talking about those things. I think in the heat of the moment you're trying to make a play and just react. So, yeah, I think it would have been a situation where we could have talked that through a little bit more. But I think in the heat of the moment they just wanted to make a play.

Q. How do you feel Saquon Barkley is progressing away from the ball? Obviously there's some trust there, already in pass protection, he faced a lot of blitzes Saturday. How tricky is that for a true freshman to pick up the nuances?

HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: I think he did really good, especially considering Saturday was all blitz coverage, almost every down. All cover zero, all cover one, overload blitzes, a lot of different looks we haven't seen on tape that we previously hadn't seen from them. I think in those areas really well.

Another thing I'm excited about, I think he's going to be closer this week than he's probably been in the last couple of weeks to a hundred percent. I think that would be helpful as well.

Saturday he didn't break the tackle, he probably had two or three opportunities that in previous weeks he's broken those tackles and created some big plays. And I think on Saturday looking at that tape he had an opportunity to rush for a hundred yards again by breaking one tackle, which typically is done. Modifying practice this week, him being further away from when he was out. Expect him to be a hundred percent or as close as possible.

Q. Regarding the practice modification, how do you do that corresponding to the fact that you're also going to play ten consecutive games. Not too many teams will do that. So how does that answer how you're going to modify things?

HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, that's a big part of it. It's the consecutive games. It's where we're still at from the depth and scholarship perspective. Going over the training report every single morning at 7 a.m. and there's got to be a point where you say, okay, we've made slight modifications and we need to do more.

So it's all those things. It's 20 years of experience, myself, and 30 years of expense in Tim Bream, and 30 years experience with Dwight Galt, and the rest of the coaches, as well. That was something I actually told them in the locker room right after the game that we were going to modify some things this week. So I just think it's the right thing to do.

It's hard because the old school coaching just wants to say we're going to go out and grind it out. We still need work. We need more physical up front, pad work and all that kind of stuff. But the other thing is you've got to get to the game as healthy as you possibly can. It's a game that people get worn down physically and mentally, so there's a time and a place.

Q. I know you talked about is the team being banged up and needing some rest. Aside from that, the open field tackling issues, have they been somewhat surprising, disappointing, is there anything more you think that's gone into their struggles?

HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: I think it's a combination of all the things we talked about. It's an epidemic right now in college football. I think a lot of it is, like we talked about, you don't tackle as much, and then you get banged up. And you get bumps and bruises, and you're modifying practice and it starts to show up. You've got to be so disciplined in everything you're doing, that's tag off tempo or up tempo or whatever it is, that you don't fall into bad habits of not wrapping up or that you don't close the distance down between you and the offensive player to make sure that you're not lunging and things like that.

So it's something that we preach every single day, and that we practice every single day. But I think, again, I think the combination of us continued to emphasized in practice and modify in practice this week will help.

Q. From everything that I know about Illinois, which is probably a hundred times less than you know about them, it seems that their offense is much more sort of profile passing game than the last two weeks. Is this a much different challenge for your defense than the last couple weeks have been?

HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think this quarterback and this coach, they know how to throw the ball. And they want sling it all over the field. The offensive has been calling plays, this quarterback we know well, we recruited him to come to the 7 on 7 camp. He's not a runner, but extends plays and buying time and throwing the ball away and doing things like that. He's got a real good feel for it. It will be a real challenge. They are big and physical, D line and O line.

And I think one of the real challenges of this game is their pass protection, which is one of the better in the conference. A combination of them protecting him and him getting rid of the ball. And our defense and our defensive line in getting pressure on the quarterback. It's our strength versus their strength. So it will be an interesting challenge.

Q. Jordan Lucas is a guy who he stepped up throughout his career, and I think most people would consider the bigger wins the program had since 2013. Of course last week being one of them. Is that all about opportunities you mentioned earlier, if not, what does he need to be that type of player more consistently?

HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: I think it's the point you just made, it's consistency. He does some things that are really, really special. We can all think back a couple of catches he had against Central Florida. You think about some of the plays he had at the bowl game. You think about obviously the game on Saturday. But it's consistency in practice and it's consistency in games. He's got a lot of ability, he really does. Big strong guy with great catch radius, tremendous leaping ability, but it's consistency. So we love Gino, we're excited about him. But there are some areas that he needs to continue to work on, just like a lot of our guys.

Q. You said a lot of nice things about Wendy before the season, what do you -- what did you see then and what do you liken more about him now?

HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: I think what I've seen, he's just so much more competitive. He's so much more confident. He's changed his body in terms of his body fat and his muscle mass. And I think just year two. He's just more confident with his responsibilities. And at that position experience really counts, because you're typically the quarterback of the offensive line, telling everybody what to do and identifying the front and the combination block and those things, which is essential for playing O line. I think it's maturity, and I think it was kind of his approach in the off season. But he's been much more just competitive.

Q. Curious if you could share your history in connection with Johnny Majors, the background, how you got to know him and the Minter thing you were talking about earlier?

HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, Johnny at my previous institution, Johnny had a bunch of friends that went to school there. He obviously was at the University of Tennessee for a long time and unbelievably successful there. So he understood that conference that we were in in the past and the history of the school that we were at.

Had a couple different interactions with him and he was impressed with what our staff was able to do there, kind of built a relationship with that.

And then obviously kind of our series with the University of Tennessee. He was in Nashville a lot, so we got a chance to spend some time there. And then we were also on a Nike trip, myself, Sue Paterno, Johnny Majors, a bunch of coaches. And we got to spend a lot of time together there. Him and his wife, my wife and I have become good friends.

I saw him this summer, I think it was a coaching clinic in Northern Virginia, Washington, D.C. area, and he said, Jimmy, I'm coming to your game next year at Penn State. I said, yes, sir. And I always see him on -- they have a banquet every year, in honor of Coach Majors, and they give awards out. And I see him at that.

So he's a guy that I love. He's got great energy. He's got obviously tremendous experience. He's a very unique personality, which I love and when he says he's coming to a game, you say yes. And then you find out afterwards he's bringing like 12 people with him and you just kind of make it work. We just kind of have -- our paths have crossed a bunch of times.

Q. Realizing your background isn't probably in landscaping, I'm wondering what --

HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: My neighbor had a landscaping company, so I spent summers taking down trees and mowing lawns and splitting wood and doing all that kind of stuff. I probably did that for probably five summers. So, no, shoot it.

Q. You know what hard work is all about?

HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: I have a huge landscaping background.

Q. Are there concerns with the quick turnaround about it being ready to go on Saturday?

HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Well, considering I have special significant and strong landscaping background, I was a big part of that. Not only the decision, but also laying the sod down. Yeah, that was no decision whatsoever. Our turf management people are the best in the country. They take a lot of pride in it, just as much pride as we all take in our jobs, and felt like it needed to be replaced. Felt like it had been soft this year on the games, as well as our practice field, for a number of reasons. And they felt like it needed to be done, and obviously they felt like the turnaround amount of time was enough. So I got all the faith in the world that this field will be in great shape come Saturday.

Q. Are you aware, your name came up in connection with the opening of Miami. Can you address that speculation?

HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: I'm surprised it took this long. Corey is not here, so it makes sense. First of all, let me say this, okay? I don't like it. I don't like it. I think it calls into a distraction for our team. I think it's a distraction for Penn State. And I have no idea where it's coming from, whatsoever. My family has sacrificed. I've worked my ass off to get to Penn State, to get here. And this is where I want to be. This is where I want to be. Got a lot of work to do on the field, a lot of work to do off the field in every aspect. But this is where I want to be. Stuff like that I guess some people could look at it as a compliment. I don't. My focus is a hundred percent on Penn State. Like I said, I've worked like crazy to get here.

So not going to address it anymore, not going to talk about it anymore. This is where I want to be. This is where my family wants to be. This is where our staff wants to be. We've got a lot of work to do. That's really kind of the end of the discussion.

Q. You talked about the matchup between the offense and defensive lines. Can you elaborate a little bit more. Secondly, matchups on third down, your offense struggled on third downs, facing a very good defense on third downs.

HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think you look at them on film, they are big and they are strong and they've got a defensive line that is 6-6, 295 from Philadelphia. Where did this guy come from? He was a junior college guy that they got.

But they are impressive. I think they're as impressive on the defensive line as we've seen this year. That's going to be a real challenge for us. I think linebackers tackle, safety tackles really well. It's going to be a real challenge for us. We need to be great on first and second down to get to third down and manageable situations. And we need to find a way to convert them. I thought we did a few of those things on short yardage on Saturday, and we were good on the long yardage stuff for whatever reason.

But all the stuff in between we've got to improve. I think that's going to be a major factor in this game is third down, staying on the field and competing.

So we're going to spend a lot of time on it this week in skellies, expect to see similar stuff that we saw on Saturday. Similar stuff that we saw from our games against temple and Ohio State. I think we had an issue on Saturday, we've got two man and no one, one. Although our receivers did really well on Saturday, that is basically a challenge. When you're going to get man coverage, someone's got to win. And that's going to be things that we work on all week long.

Q. Mentioned the epidemic of bad tackling throughout college football. Where did you see the de-evolution begin? Back in the day obviously practiced hard every day with pads and everything else. What has caused this change and what can you do?

HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: I think it's a combination of things. Like you said, the way people practice. Scholarship numbers were reduced. Last year sizes were reduced. A lot of those things kind of factor into it. I think athletes are bigger, stronger and faster than they've ever been. I think the style of offense has changed. It used to be everybody kind of lining up within ten yards of each other and three yards in a cloud of dust. People are trying to lineup now as wide as they possibly can from sideline to sideline to create space.

So it's a combination of all of those things, it's tempo, it's space, it's the type of athletes that you're seeing. It's lack of getting those actual reps in practice because of the reduction in scholarships and numbers and roster sizes, it's all those things.

I remember hearing stories about certain programs, and even programs in this conference, that really had three practices going at once. You'd have one field going and another field going and another field going. You look at some of the military academies, that's one of the real advantages they have, some of those schools will have 250 to 300 athletes, and you're maybe willing to do some live tackling and blocking situations, because it's just the number of athletes you have.

So I think it's a combination of all those things over the last probably 15 years.

Q. What numbers did you guys use to chart them?

HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: We do runs of 12 yards or more, and passes 16 yards or more on offensive. Defense I think it's 15 and 25. 15 yards run and 25 yard passes. I think Bob ups that number a little so he meets his goal each week. Yeah, a little bit.

But that's kind of how we break those things down. And then I think you've seen and talked about a lot of things we do. A lot of those plays came from us moving the pocket and max protecting. Not necessarily full roll outs, but partial roll outs, we have guards pulling and the quarterback would pull up with the tight ends and the running back also protecting, that's been helpful the last couple of weeks.

Q. Does that number fluctuate?

HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: We kind of base numbers, so 8 explosive plays. We have a third down kind of numbers that we're trying to reach, goals, metrics, however you want to look at it. The red zone, what we should be in red zone, on third down, and each third down situation -- basically the offensive and the defense have these things that we're looking for and the -- in the games to measure success more than just the wins and losses and the score. We go through those every single week to see if we're reaching them.

Q. How do you guys approach the kicking situation this week, you stick with Joe or let other guys get another shot?

HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, you know, Joe's our guy. But like every week, Tyler is going to get an opportunity. I could see at some point this year even maybe this weekend where one of them handle just the kickoff duties and the other one handle just the field goal duties, just because we've got two guys that we think can do it. And especially considering Joe's still a red shirt freshman. That's one less thing that we can worry about.

And now each guy can focus on really maximizing their impact in that area and really working on their craft because right now we are a little inconsistent. The one he kicked out-of-bounds is an issue. I don't think it was as dramatic an issue on Saturday, because he was getting it out almost that far on the kickoff returns. But consistency. The location, whether it's kicked to the middle of the field or whether it's kicked out-of-bounds. Some of those things can cause stress on the other ten guys, as well as the coaches on the sideline.

Q. I know you third and long as have been troublesome in getting yourself of the situation. But you did get yourself out of a couple on Saturday. Can you take us through physically the types -- whether they're drills or things you do in practice to help assist in those specific situations?

HEAD COACH JAMES FRANKLIN: I think it's planning and having a plan of what you're going to get and what to expect and how to attack it. Obviously protection factors enter that, too, because you've got to make decisions. Are you going to hold the ball and throw the ball past the sticks. Or do what the fans and media hate and criticize when you throw the ball short of the sticks, and they tackle you and everybody is unhappy.

But we did that on Saturday with Godwin, and Godwin, I think, got another ten yards after the catch. And I think to be honest with you, it needs to be a blend of both. You need to be able to throw the ball, throw it accurately, that the guy has a chance to advance it and make a play. And then there's times where you've got to protect and throw the ball further down the field. I don't think you can do -- I don't think you can do just one of either. You've got to do both.

Yeah, it's planning on what to expect. It's having enough of both of those two different things. And you also have to be able to be willing to run the ball. If they know you're only going to throw the ball, they get in that sprinter stance, like they're running in the Olympics, and come firing off the ball with no concern, expect to sack the quarterback. Mixing in some runs, which doesn't go over too well with the fans and media too well. But you need to do that kind of stuff from time to time.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports


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