Penn State coach James Franklin said on Tuesday afternoon’s Big Ten conference call that one of the changes in athletic facilities being discussed by the school’s administration is the construction of an additional indoor practice facility — “not just for football but really more for the other sports” — because of the heavy use of Holuba Hall.
“Our indoor facility, once the weather breaks, is packed from 6 in the morning until 12 o’clock at night,” he said, “which creates wear-and-tear issues and also makes it difficult to do the necessary upkeep. … It’s used, basically, 20 hours a day. Those things are some of the things that are in discussion.”
Franklin, amid the Nittany Lions’ bye week, met with athletic director Sandy Barbour about “the master plan with athletics,” as he called it, on Tuesday. He reiterated what he has said previously — that he favors only updates to the team’s current facilities, as opposed to replacing them altogether.
“We’ve got a great facility,” he said. “We’ve got great bones. We’ve got really kind of the infrastructure and the size that we need. It’s the updates. We’ve made some progress there already. We’ve still got some work to do.”
Franklin said his team, 7-3 after last Saturday’s 23-21 loss at Northwestern, held a modified practice Sunday, and will do the same Tuesday and Wednesday. Players with nagging injuries were (or will be) held out and afforded the opportunity to mend, and there was (or will be) more of an accent on teaching the younger guys.
There will be a scrimmage on Thursday involving the redshirts and walk-ons, and on Friday the coaching staff will be on the road, recruiting. Some of them will also be out on Saturday, Franklin said, though mostly that day will be for rest and relaxation.
In addition, the coaches will sit down as offensive and defensive staffs and review recruits’ film. And there were meetings. Lots of meetings.
“Everybody finds out it’s a bye week, so there’s 35 different meetings now that are on our schedule and my schedule, because people see it as a week off,” Franklin said. “You’d think it would a slower week, but in some ways it may be busier.”
He also said the players were involved in multiple community-service projects on Monday, something he and the school continue to emphasize.
“We think it’s part of their educational process,” he said. “It’s about learning to be a man, and making a positive impact in your community. … Had the guys out all over the community yesterday, about five different locations. Whether it was doing manual labor or hanging out with some kids, our guys were doing those things. And our guys really enjoy it.”
The only player-related question Franklin fielded during his nine-minute appearance on the Big Ten call involved the play of quarterback Christian Hackenberg, who is eighth in the conference in passing yards per game and ninth in pass efficiency.
“I think the last six weeks, he’s played really well,” Franklin said of his QB, who has completed 54.2 percent of his passes for 1,992 yards and 13 touchdowns, with three interceptions.
Franklin highlighted Hackenberg’s touchdown-interception ratio, his ability to make plays down the field and the fact that he audibled to a running play in a critical spot against the Wildcats.
“I think he’s improving every single week and getting more comfortable and confident,” the coach said. “I think more than anything, like I’ve talked about since I’ve been here, is the improvement of the guys around him, to allow him to focus on doing his job.”
Asked specifically about Hackenberg’s accuracy and consistency, Franklin said that in his estimation his quarterback has improved in those areas as well.
“I think like all quarterbacks, you want to throw for a higher percentage all the time, and to me that’s part of the consistency,” he said. “The touchdown-to-interception ratio, like I talked about, I think that speaks volumes about the accuracy and consistency, but I think all quarterbacks are looking to be more accurate and more consistent. You’re going to feel that way if you throw 90 percent. I think that’s an area he’s still looking to improve, and we’re still looking to improve, as an offense and as a team.”