Penn State coach James Franklin watched his starters and top reserves easily dispatch a team comprised of players lower on the depth chart in Saturday's Blue-White Game at Beaver Stadium.
The final was Blue 37, White 0. So you can guess which team was comprised of most of the players you will see this fall.
Afterward, Franklin met the media to talk about the quarterback competition, the backup running backs, the quarterback competition, the crowd of 65,000, the quarterback competition, the defensive line, the quarterback competition and more.
Check it out above.
This transcript was provided by Penn State.
First of all I want to thank the 65,000 fans who showed up on an unbelievable day. We’ve had three years of great weather. That’s part of the planning, we check the Farmer’s Almanac before we set our spring schedule. That was great. We are very appreciative of the fans, we probably had another 60,000 out the parking lot tailgating, probably having just as good of a time. I thought today on the field, we got exactly what we needed to get done. I thought we had 15 really good practices. For the most part, we stayed healthy in the spring game which is important. We had a few guys who left the game, but overall we got a lot of really good work in.
I thought the two quarterbacks did a really good job of running the offense. Tommy Stevens, even though he was working with the white team against the blue defense, he really did some nice things and then late in the game we were able to get him with the blue offense and he really did a nice job. I thought Trace [McSorley] looked poised, looked confident, looked under control. He had one interception down in the red zone – one of the things that I tried to talk to him about was when you get in that fringe area, you have to be careful – those defensive backs are going to sit on routes, because you just run out of real estate. We had a “go” route with corner in front of it. The DB (defensive back) kind of sat in between the two, and in those areas, you have to be aggressive with the ball down the field or he takes the check down when the DB sits in the gray area. But I thought he did some really nice things. Kevin Givens is another guy who really showed up and made a bunch of plays in the back field. As you guys know, we were bragging about him all spring – a young man out of Altoona, Pennsylvania. A high school running back who is playing defensive tackle for us right now and is very, very athletic. We got a lot out of the spring,
I’m very, very proud of the staff – very, very proud of the team. Our culture, our family environment in the locker room is really good right now. Very, very proud of the guys – as hard as they’ve worked in the weight room, as hard as they’ve worked on the football field, they’ve done a great job of working in our locker room for the culture that we want as well. So we are very pleased. Like I told them, they have to take ownership of this team from this point moving forward throughout the summer. They will be as good as they decide to be and I’m very, very pleased. We have a lot of work to do between now and camp, but I’m very, very happy with spring ball and how it opened up.
Q: James, has Trace [McSorley] been that accurate during practice and secondly, how much of the offense still has to be implemented going forward?
A: I don’t know what his completion percentage ended up being. 23-for-27. It was good – 85 percent. That’s a little bit higher than what he had been throughout the spring. Between him and Tommy [Stevens], they have been in the 70s pretty much all spring. But I thought the receivers did a great job of coming back to the ball. I thought they did a great job of taking what the defense was giving. The thing I was probably most impressed with in standing out there on the field is just, he looked very comfortable. He looked poised and in control and I thought Tommy did the same thing. One of the things for Tommy – the next step for him is that he has so much confidence in his athletic ability and his ability to break the pocket and make plays that he needs to be careful in certain situations. When you’re backed up it’s not worth the risk of scrambling. When it’s two minutes, it’s not worth it. There are times and places to use that athletic ability and there’s times when you just have to understand – throw the ball away and lets live to play another down. I’m really pleased with those two guys. I even thought Billy Fessler went in there and ran the offense and dealt the ball. I think the offense has made tremendous strides. The competition with Noah Beh and Paris [Palmer] and Sterling [Jenkins] and all the tackles we have going now, is going to be interesting come summer. I think the competition that we have at center with Gaia [Brian] and Wendy [Laurent].
And then obviously, defensive tackle is the area that we need to get resolved. I thought those guys did some great things today and we’re going to have a number of guys coming in, in this new recruiting class who we are going to have to figure in . At linebacker, think about it, we didn’t even have two of our better linebackers play, in Brandon Bell and Nyeem Wartman-White. I actually think, in some ways, the fact that they were out and Manny Bowen, [Jake] Cooper, and those guys got so many reps – in some ways it’s a blessing in a disguise. Saquon Barkley didn’t play today, but obviously we know what he is able to do as well. I’m excited to see how these guys come back ready for camp.
Q: James, was not playing Saquon [Barkley] something that just came about recently or was that always your plan and what did you see from Mark Allen and Andre Robin today? Is that similar to the linebackers where you got to see more of what they were able to do because he wasn’t’ out there getting carries.
A: Saquon [Barkley] went all spring. We just felt like we know what we have with Saquon and it’s a fine line don’t get me wrong. Saquon still has to get better, he’s got a lot of areas for growth. But to go out and go live in the spring game, I didn’t think it made a whole lot of sense, especially when we have a pretty huge competition going on right now with Mark Allen and Andre [Robinson]. So allowing those guys to compete and play and get a bunch of reps and see how they are going to handle it. They both played with the blue and the white, which was by choice.
As you saw, we had guys running back from one side of the field to another – Torrence Brown. And I was appreciative of those guys and the effort they put forth and how they handled that. I told them at halftime – I said look, we’re evaluating fundamentals and technique and scheme and alignment obviously. But we’re also evaluating mental and physical toughness right now. You’re getting a bunch more reps than you typically would get in a game because we want to see how you’re going to play when you get tired. So it’s going to be a great evaluator for us.
Q: Trace [McSorley] made a lot of plays on the run today, can you talk about his accuracy outside the pocket versus inside of the pocket and can you see a difference there and if there’s anything he needs to work on in either?
A: Trace is probably the opposite of Tommy [Stevens]. He has the ability to make plays with his feet but he is going to move and keep his eyes down field the whole way. Tommy does as well, but Tommy’s still got some growth in terms of the time and place there. His accuracy, because it’s such a big part of the game outside of the pocket, needs to be really, really strong and it has been all spring. He showed that today. He’s got a nice feel for things, even the play down in the red zone, we ran a naked, it was a defender that could have stopped him from running the ball and that defender was also in a position where he didn’t have a clear lane to throw the ball and he just was nifty. He gave a nice little pump fake which allowed him to either break contain and run or get the ball around it now. So just little things like that. Trace and Tommy have a really nice feel for being able to operate within the system of the offense.
Q: Earlier this spring, you said ideally you would like to name a starter so that person could have the whole offseason to prepare with that mindset. Are you any closer to making a decision and if not what else do you need to see from these guys to make that call?
A: I think it stays the same. That last Wednesday press conference I told you that probably would not happen. I just think Trace McSorley was the backup quarterback all last year and was preparing to go in the game. Tommy [Stevens] was redshirting. I think Tommy has a lot of ability and is going to be in this battle until the end. I don’t think it’s fair to our football team or to Tommy right now to name a starter when I think Tommy can really close the gap between now and [camp]. That’s also going to keep a competitive edge in our locker room and keep Trace working because he’s got a lot of areas to improve in as well. Then we’ll go into camp, let those guys compete and see what happens. Right now, I feel like we have two quarterbacks that we can win with.
Q: You guys were down quite a few safeties as well. What did you like about the guys you saw and specifically with Koa Farmer what kind of progress did he make this spring and is he a guy who can help you make some of this stuff happen?
A: We’re very pleased with Koa. He’s an interesting guy, he’s a 220 pound guy who is dieting to be at 220 pounds. He used to be at 227 pounds at one point. He runs 4.4, one of the faster guys on our team. He can play safety right now, really improved. I thought he worked really well with Tim Banks this spring. As well as some of our sub packages and going to the star or allowing us to move Marcus (Allen) to the field backer and some of the sub situations. I thought he did a really great job. Nick Scott, we tried in the corner to see if he could do it but he’s a little bit more natural at safety. I thought Malik [Golden] may be one of the most improved guys on our team right now, not just physically but also from a leadership perspective and mentally as well. I think safety is one of our deeper positions, especially when we get some guys back that had some nicks and bruises.
Q: Do you know any more about the defensive line than you did three or four weeks ago and how do you expect that to shake out? They had such impact last year, are you already adjusting ahead of time?
A: I was actually just coming in here and [Anthony] Zettel was there and he said “You guys look good today” and I said to him “We look good today, you’re still part of the family. I wish you were here another year.” But I think we found out some things. We’re pleased with Curtis Cothran. You take a guy like that and move him inside and you’re not sure it’s going to translate. At 270 pounds he’s a powerful guy. He’s able to hold his own in there and he’ll probably be 285 by the time camp comes. Kevin Gibbons, we thought he could do it but you never know. He actually was probably one of the big surprises and stars of spring. He did it in the weight room but we also have guys that are great in the weight room and it doesn’t always translate to the field. He was able to translate. I thought he did a bunch of plays in the back field. Antoine White has been a guy who’s played. He needs to take that next step. And then obviously we’ve got a number of other guys: Robin Windsor, Parker didn’t go much this spring and then we’ve got some guys coming in as well. I was just talking about the inside guys. The d-end we feel really good about. Obviously Carl Nassib is a big loss for us, but I think the depth and the number of guys that have played a bunch of ball, Evan Schwan, Garrett Sickles and Torrence Brown. We’ve got a number of guys at defensive end that we feel good about. I actually think defensive end and safety are probably the two strongest positions on our team.
Q: The effectiveness of the no huddle and the dynamic, tempo, pace, what are the benefits you see the most out of that?
A: I think it’s a combination of a number of things. We went from having lack of numbers and lack of depth and lack of experience on the offensive line. We went from having nine scholarship players to now having 17 scholarship players on the o-line. We went from being young at wide out to veteran at wide out. I think we have one of the better back fields right now with the combination of guys that we have plus guys that are coming in. Tight ends like Mike Gesicki are really playing with some confidence right now and some of the other guys as well. Also, having two mobile quarterbacks. You bring Joe Moorhead in, he’s got a system that I believe in and I think makes sense for our team right now. It’s a combination of what Joe is doing and also what we’re returning. It’s a beautiful marriage at the right time. I’m very pleased with what we’ve been able to get done. 95% of the offense is in; there’s things we are going to go back and study the tape and make cut ups and say “What is going to be our bread and butter? What is going to be our identity? Who are we going to be moving forward? What areas do we need to improve on?” That’s going to be very important for us. But I thought the tempo was good, just Brandon’s [Polk] going to have to do a great job just making sure, in the walk-throughs, that he is getting to two back power, he is getting two back counter, so that you’re not in the situation where you play one of those teams that you’re not used to someone lining it up, getting in twenty-two personnel, two tight ends, two backs and trying to maul you with a physical offensive line. You’ve got to do both. That’s one of the things when you make the switch to this kind of offense you’ve got to make sure that your defense is prepared to stop that type of offense, moving forward.
Q: Saying that Tommy Stevens had a little more time to close the gap between Trace [McSorley], what do you think are some of the things you need to work on and catch up and did you see that in today’s game especially in those ten minutes he had for the blue team?
A: He’s got a natural feel, almost like a point guard to find open guys. He’s not always necessarily going through the progression the way he should be or reading the side of the field he should be, but that’s just experience and recognition of defenses. That’s where I think he’ll make the biggest improvement. There may be times when he goes to the wrong side of the field as progression, but he still throws completions. How much better is he going to be when mentally, he’s on pace with where he is physically? Those are the areas. Just getting a little more confident and decisive with his decision making.