Penn State coach James Franklin held his weekly press conference at Beaver Stadium Tuesday. In the video above, you can see what he had to say coming off of the Michigan loss and heading into this week's home game vs. Minnesota.
He addressed the struggles of the Nittany Lions' running game (at length), true freshmen who may be starting vs. the Gophers this week, depth at linebacker and much more.
Franklin also spent time discussing the expectations for the Nittany Lion program.
Press Conference Transcript
JAMES FRANKLIN: Appreciate everybody being here. To talk a little bit about the last game, offensively we did not perform up to our standard. I thought we did not handle their front and their pressure and their attacking style defense early on. Anticipated those things, but their front is big, strong and physical, and we did not handle that real well.
We've got to improve in our approach, attention to detail and consistency in all facets of our offensive execution. Got to give them credit, though; that is a good football team, and that is a good defense.
A lot of times you play certain opponents and you're not sure how good they are. I think that's a good football team.
Defensively I think we're playing hard; however, we've got to be more physical, again, up front. We've got to play the run better, more consistently. We've got to get off the field on 3rd down. That's something on offense and defense we've got to be better on 3rd down.
Special teams, we've got to carry fundamentals from the practice field to the game, and we've got to eliminate the penalties. We've got to eliminate the penalties. We've got to eliminate the big plays. That's really what our issue has been on special teams. We've had a couple penalties, and for the amount of reps that you get on special teams, when you're averaging I think two and a half a game, it doesn't sound like much, but when you're only playing about 14 or 15 special teams plays a game, that's a high amount. We've got to get that number down.
And then we have to eliminate the big plays, the big punt return, the big kick return we've had. We've got to stop those.
Minnesota, again, me learning about our history a little bit, it's interesting we've played 13 times. I would have thought it would have been a little bit more than that, but we've played 13 times. Penn State leads 8-5. Again, I was kind of surprised by that.
This is a trophy game and a Governor's Victory Bell, which they have right now because in our last game, Minnesota won 10-24, so they currently have the trophy. So we'll talk about that this week a little bit with our players and our coaches to make sure they understand that.
Offensively, Jay Johnson, their offensive coordinator, efficient, balanced offense, uses multiple looks, formations, personnel groups, mainly two personnel groups, 11 personnel, one back, one tight end, three wide receivers, and 12 personnel, one back, two tight ends and two wide receivers. Big, physical line.
Obviously Coach Limegrover knows these guys pretty well. They've got a big line. They've recruited some junior college players. They've got one offensive tackle who's 6'9". They have a tight end who's 6'10". They've got two running backs that we think are really good running backs, and then they've got a big, strong quarterback who is the all-time rushing touchdown leader in their school's history. He's got 25 rushing touchdowns. So big, strong, 6'4", 225-plus guy who's played a lot of football for them.
Quick, explosive, talented at running back.
Defensively, Jay Sawvel, multiple looks, athletic, well-coached, physical, physical team. Same thing, got good size across the defensive front and at linebacker, and in the secondary, got a number of players that have been playing together for a number of years. Their head coach as well as their defensive coordinator, this is kind of their scheme and who they've been. Feel good about that, and it's going to be a challenge for our guys.
On special teams, Dan O'Brien and Pat Poore, the co-special teams coordinators. The thing that really jumps out is how physical they are. They have four or five special teams predominant players, kind of like our Von Walker, and they are physical, physical guys that make a bunch of plays for them and are disruptive. Their running backs return kicks and punts for them, and they do a great job there.
It'll be a great challenge. We're excited about being back at home. I think there is a distinct advantage obviously all over the country in being at home compared to being on the road. We're excited about being back in Beaver Stadium in front of our fans and friends and family, and a great opportunity to go out and play a good football team and have an opportunity to be 1-0 this week, which is our goal and our focus.
Similar team in terms of youth and experience. They have returning starters, but they're a young football team, as well. We're still a little bit younger, but they're a young football team, as well. When you kind of study matchups, offense versus offense and defense versus defense and special teams and field position and turnover margin and all those things, that's another thing that we look at, too, is youth and experience and things like that.
Excited for the opportunity Saturday.
Q. After such a loss like last weekend, how difficult is it to strike a balance between correcting mistakes and not overreacting?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Well, we're not going to overreact. We're going to correct the mistakes. It's never a personal thing. It's correcting the mistakes. Our guys want to play well. The coaches want to play well, as well, and be successful.
So yeah, it will never be that. We'll make the corrections. We'll watch the tape. We did those things on Saturday. We've moved on to our next opponent now. Did that on Monday, and then Tuesday is our first day to get out on the field and practice. That's what it's about. It's about correcting the issues that showed up in the game on Saturday. Some of those things are quick fixes, when it comes to funneled mens and techniques and assignments, and some of them are long-term things that we're going to be working on for the next 25 years. You're constantly going to be working on growing and developing the players while they're in the program and in the future.
That's what it is. It's correcting, it's learning from it, it's growing, it's magnified like I mentioned before with young players, and the more experiences they have, positive experiences they learn from, negative experiences that we all learn from and grow and improve.
Q. James, on your depth chart this week, you list two of your true freshmen in McGovern and Cam Brown first at right guard and the Will. Are you planning to start both of them Saturday, or how much responsibility will they see moving forward?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, you know, obviously these depth charts, I was looking at Minnesota's depth chart, they put at the top of it, "subject to change," and I was going to mention to Kris that's probably something that we should do, put "subject to change" on there.
Connor McGovern has played a lot of football for us. He'll continue to play. We're evaluating this week. That's kind of where we're starting right now, but we'll evaluate all week long based on this week's performance in practice of who gives us the best opportunity to start in that position on Saturday, and then obviously Cam Brown is a little bit different scenario. Cam went in and played as a true freshman and got people excited, had 10 tackles in the game, really in his first significant time, and right now, yeah, he's at the top of the depth chart.
We'll have Brandon Smith back. We'll have Manny Bowen. So feel really good about those guys as well as Jay Cooper and Koa Farmer and Von Walker, so those guys will get a bunch of reps this week and get those guys ready to play. But yeah, Cam showed a lot to work with and showed a lot of promise. He naturally has the ability to find the ball and make plays, and we want to build on that, and I think you'll see him continue to get better each week.
Q. How would you assess the youth and effectiveness so far of the read option in your run game, and also, do you have any latitude in adjusting the way you get the ball to Saquon Barkley?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, you know, the read option, it's interesting you say that because there's a lot of different discussions with that this week, and really the last couple weeks. Typically you're reading a defender, and if that defender turns his shoulder and collapses down to tackle the running back, you pull it and get on the edge. If he stays square and is trying to kind of play both, you hand it off, and that's pretty much what we've gotten week in and week out. We've gotten people that have stayed square shouldered with the quarterback's read and haven't gotten the quarterback on the edge a whole lot, so that has been something that we've discussed about how people are playing us. You kind of see that week in and week out.
You have visual reads and indicators that you have during the game, and then sometimes there's also -- what coaches sometimes call genetic reads where that guy maybe is square shouldered but you feel like you're a better athlete and you can beat him to the edge and deep the defense on us and maybe loosen him up a little bit. We've had some discussions about that, there's no doubt about it, and then, yeah, I think that's been something I've bought up the last couple weeks, and Joe is obviously very aware of, how many different ways can we get 26 the ball, whether it's traditional running game between the tackles, whether it's getting him the ball on the edge or whether it's throwing him the ball in the flats like we did last week which got us going offensively. Yeah, we want to look at as many different ways, same discussion that we had obviously using him as a kickoff returner, just the more times we can get the ball in his hands, the better, but we also still need to continue to develop our traditional running game and being more physical up front at the tight end position and offensive line and getting more movement.
So we've improved there, but we still need to be more physical.
Q. I wanted to ask you about your 3rd down offense and the problems you're having. Are there one or two things that jump out to you as far as why it's been so poor this year? And also, Coach Limegrover, how big of an advantage do you think it is having him this week if at all given his knowledge of the Minnesota program over the years?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I wouldn't necessarily say it's a significant advantage, but it does help you when you've got Matt who knows their personnel and their coaches really well and he can tell you what the strengths and weaknesses are of each player or what their size is. Same thing with their coaches, what their philosophy is and how they approach things normally, so yeah, you gain an advantage there, but I wouldn't necessarily say it's significant.
3rd down offense, I think it starts with running the ball. We have not picked up some 3rd-and-short situations where we've tried to run the ball and haven't been as physical as we need to be. On the 4th down call we called a naked because we didn't feel comfortable running the ball in that situation, got the ball on the perimeter and picked up the 1st down.
I think it starts with running the ball and being balanced in our approach and making people defend both. I think that's important.
And then I think the other thing is protecting the quarterback in obvious passing situations, so 3rd and short being able to run the ball and mix some of the pass in there, but being able to be physical enough to get those yards, and then when you're in longer yardage situations, being able to protect consistently when the defense knows you're probably throwing, and giving the quarterback and receivers enough time to get open.
So I think that's as simply as I can state it. That's really been our issue.
Q. The run game, you have one of the most talented tailbacks around, but your run game is not producing, one of the worst ranked in the country. How do you fix that at this point?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Well, I think, again, we need to be better, there's no doubt. I think the stats are a little bit skewed after last week. It's no different than if you play Navy or you play Army, you're probably going to be one of the top-ranked pass defense teams the following week because it skews your stats up a little bit. We played a very, very physical defense. You look at Pitt, Pitt is not allowing anybody to run the ball on them this year. You look at Michigan, Michigan is one of the better defenses in the country. So there's no doubt that we need to be better. It goes back to kind of what I was already talking about, that I think we are improved on the offensive line. We need to be better in our pass protection on obvious passing downs, and we need to be more physical. We're getting a hat on a hat, but we're not creating movement, so we need to do that. We need to create more movement. We need to create more space because we've all seen that Saquon can be effective when he's given a little bit of room.
And then I think the other thing where Saquon I think could be a little bit better is Saquon I think all year long has really been trying to make every run an 80-yard touchdown. You've got to be willing to lower your shoulder down and just run people over or get in a gap and push the pile for four or five years where I think he's been a little bit trying to make the extra cut every single run, and there's a time and a place for that.
Q. When you got the guys back on Sunday, what were the spirits like of the guys? Did they do a good job of forgetting about what happened, and I wanted to know what your reaction was to Trace McSorley apologizing to the fans for their performance?
JAMES FRANKLIN: I think the guys a spirits are about what you'd expect. There's disappointment and there's frustration. There's also kind of an awareness of what we need to do to get these things fixed and move forward. I was really pleased and impressed. Brian Gaia and Trace McSorley met with a number of the offensive players yesterday on Monday on their day off and watched film on their own, which I think we need to do more of. The most successful programs I've been around, the players do that. It's changed a little bit in the last five to ten years because guys do that on their own with the iPads, but I think there's a difference between watching your film on your own with your iPad than coming into the facility and sitting down with your teammates and watching it together and having discussion. The technology has helped in some ways, and I think in other ways it's hurt. I think it's important for guys to get together, watch film together, have discussion, learn from each other. I think there's still a lot of value in that, in the ultimate team sport.
Yeah, I think those guys, they handled it about what you'd expect.
And then Trace, Trace is a very prideful guy, and I think as the quarterback you always take a lot of responsibility. He knows that we can play better as well as the coaches, myself, and everybody included. Trace is a guy that really takes that leadership role to heart. It's very, very important to him, and as you know, the head coach and the quarterback are typically going to get too much credit when things go well and face the music when things don't go well. That's the nature of that position and the head coach's position. I think he understands that clearly as well as our other quarterbacks, and I know I understand it very clearly.
Q. With the offensive line, you've been through this a little bit already today, but assess their performance in general, when you say they're not creating movement. Are you concerned about them losing confidence at all? Are you concerned that last week was maybe a step backwards when they've been making some steps forward?
JAMES FRANKLIN: No. You know, again, I don't want to be repetitive, but I think we have made progress there, not as much as any of us want or they want. I think we played one of the better defenses in the country and one of the better teams in the country. We want to be making strides against those types of opponents, there's no doubt about it, but that is a big, strong, physical team, one of the more veteran teams in the country, one of the more talented teams in the country. We talked about that last week going into the game.
So yeah, I think that's been covered. They have improved. There's no doubt about it. But we need to take the next step. We need to take the next step, there's no doubt about it.
Q. After the game, you mentioned maybe needing to move some players to fill out the depth at linebacker. Did you actually end up having to do that, and when you talk about needing to move some players to one position to another, specifically linebacker in this game, what are some characteristics you're looking for from particular candidates?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Well, obviously you're looking for a guy that's going to understand the defense well enough to get guys lined up and understand their responsibilities and make calls and make adjustments because that's what the linebackers do, specifically the Mike linebacker. You also need body types, certain body types that are going to be able to handle the pounding and be able to take on an offensive line when the guard works the double team and then works up to the next level and either be able to slip that block like Mike Hull did so well. Mike wasn't a guy that we were going to ask to take on an offensive lineman. He was going to slip the block. So there's a lot of different ways you can do it and there's a lot of different ways that we can be successful.
We didn't move a whole lot of guys. Obviously Von Walker is a guy who's played that position and had some success in the past, so he can factor in a little bit more. Koa is a guy that we have moved, and then we're just trying to create flexibility with some of those other guys, you know, with Manny, continuing to train him at multiple spots, Jay Cooper, continuing to train him at multiple spots, Brandon Smith, continuing to train him at multiple spots, and then hopefully we get some of these other guys back here sooner rather than later in Jason Cabinda and Brandon Bell.
Q. I was just wondering if you could -- what do you think about Mitch Widener, Minnesota's quarterback, and what he does?
JAMES FRANKLIN: He's a talented guy. When you kind of list out all the things you're looking for at the quarterback position, he's got the body type, 6'4", 225 plus, has played a lot of football for them. He's experienced, and experience at that position is important and matters. You have the fact that not only has he been an efficient thrower, you look, the thing he probably does the best according to Matt and his team there was throw the deep ball. He throws the deep ball very, very well, which kind of goes hand in hand with their run game and their play action pass, but I think the thing that differentiates him a little bit is 25 rushing touchdowns, school record for rushing touchdowns for a quarterback. He's a guy in the red zone, he's going to pull the ball and run it, even I think sometimes when his read and indicator says he should hand the ball off. He's going to pull the ball down there.
He's done a nice job with that. He's been successful. Obviously the records indicate that. But that's something I think that makes him a little bit more difficult. He's a big, strong quarterback who's willing to run, and that keeps you honest. It adds another dimension to your offense and makes him difficult to defend.
Q. I know you've been asked about the running game. I'll maybe simplify it and say, why don't you just turn around and give the ball right to Saquon Barkley? Why the need to have a delay? It seems like watching it, all that does is give the defensive line a little bit more time to get closer to the ball. Why not just turn around and just give the ball directly to him?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Well, what we considered doing is putting in the single wing and just snap it to him. That's a possibility, as well. There's a lot of different ways. The style of offense that Joe runs and Joe believes in, and that he's had a lot of success with, is the inside zone, the outside zone, the tackle pull lead plays. Been very, very successful.
That's how we do it. We're also factoring in the fact that most of our plays are run-pass options. Whenever you just hand the ball off in a one-back offense, they can outnumber you in the box, so just handing the ball off in a one-back offense typically -- I haven't seen that be very, very successful.
When you're in a two-back offense and you can run the ball and you can run into different numbers and you don't have those answers or options, then yeah, it's going to be difficult. Again, I go back, you look at Pitt, you look at Pitt's statistics and what they've done defensively, stopping the run and stopping the pass. You look at Michigan, all these things factor into it.
Joe has a lot of belief in what he does offensively. I have belief in what he's doing offensively, as well. That's why he's here. We've got to continue to develop and we've got to continue to grow. But when you run a read inside zone or outside zone system, that's what's going to happen. You can't just turn around and hand it off, and to be honest with you, I don't know too many people that run a one-back style offense that just hand it off. You can't because if you do, you're going to end up running a bunch of dead plays.
I know you said you're going to simplify it; I don't think it's that simple.
Q. In terms of the 50/50 balls that the receivers weren't able to get early in that Michigan game, how important is that to loosening things up for the running game?
JAMES FRANKLIN: I think you're exactly right. I think that was the biggest difference in that game. We have done a good job of winning and making those types of plays. When you're going to play people that are going to play pressman, overload the box, all the way back to I remember when I was at Maryland playing Florida State when they were really rolling, that's what they did. They overloaded the box, played pressman on the outside. We took shots, and we took shots down the field. I think we took at least five, and we didn't make any of those. I think we got three pass interference plays, so if you look at that, we probably should have took a little bit more, especially early in the game.
But I think that was the biggest difference in the game. We didn't make any of those plays that we've made in the past to loosen people up and have them have some second thought about playing such a high-risk, high-reward defense. That's what you have to do. You have to loosen people up. With Don and his style of defense and where a lot of people are playing now, it's probably not going to take one big play to get him out of it. It's going to take multiple to loosen them up a little bit. So I think that -- I think that is a great question and a great point. I think that was probably the bigger factor in the game than anything else.
The best thing we can do to help our offensive line is to get one of those defenders out of the box, so covering people up, that's going to create space by itself.
Q. When you got here and you inherited the roster, you had nine linebackers on the rosters, four of them were walk-ons, one was injured. You've since then signed six, one transferred, and unique injury situation currently aside, I'm wondering when you first got here, what kind of emphasis was put on the linebacker recruiting process alongside Brent Pry, and what was your experience with that and how is your experience with that now?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, we've missed on a couple guys. There's no doubt about it. You could really say that at every position. It's magnified now. I think right now if we had Nyeem Wartman playing, Jason Cabinda playing, Brandon Bell playing, and if they were backed up by Manny and Cooper and Cam Brown and Koa and some of the other guys, Von Walker and some of the other guys that we have right now. Jonathan Thomas is another guy that we didn't mention that will also have little bit bigger role this week, or could, based on how the week goes, then yeah, I think it wouldn't be magnified like it is right now, and to be honest with you, that's easy to say, but everybody has injured. Okay, well, if we lost one of those guys, you're typically going to have injuries, you're going to lose one of those guys. Then I think we still could have handled that pretty well, even two of those guys, but when you lose three veteran senior guys and you have young guys behind them that they're developing and you feel good about that, I think it's a little bit different situation.
Again, in my 22 years of doing this, I've never been a part of a team that's lost all three of our starting linebackers. Don't get me wrong, I've been around teams that have lost this guy for a game or lost this guy for two games or lost this guy maybe for a season, but to lose all of them for a significant amount of time at the same time, I've never been a part of that. That's like if you lost all five offensive linemen. I remember a few years ago I think Maryland last four quarterbacks in one season or three quarterbacks. They were on their fourth quarterback, whatever it is. Whenever you lose that many guys at one position, you know, recruiting and development and that depth is important, but I don't know if you can ever handle three to four to five injuries at one position, and then obviously we're not even factors Jan Johnson into that conversation, as well. I think it's a unique situation.
I like our plan moving forward. I like how those kids came in and played, and I'm excited the step that they're going to take, like the step that Cam Brown is going to take from last week to this week I think is going to be considerable, and I think as the year goes on that will happen. I think Manny has done some really nice things. That first play of the game, that play he made, that shows what he has the ability to do.
And then I think B-Smith has been successful, has been successful and done some nice things in the games that he's played. Having him back is going to help. He has a calming effect on our guys in the middle. And then Cooper is going to have a factor, as well, and continue to develop. I think it's a little bit of an extreme situation.
Q. Does it change your approach moving forward?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, again, I don't think in life you plan for the extremes. You don't plan for the extreme in one direction or the other because if that's the case, then you're going to over-sign at linebacker, and then you're going to be short somewhere else, and then you're going to over-sign at another position and you're going to be short somewhere else. I just think you're going to have to understand that you're going to have injuries every year. Probably a position like linebacker you're probably going to have more than others, so you have to plan for that, but I don't think you ever can play for the extreme because then that's going to have effects in other areas.
Q. On Saturday you expressed some concern about being able to maybe field a competitive practice throughout this week based on the injury situations on defense, specifically at linebacker. Is that still a concern for you and do you have to do anything creative to overcome that?
JAMES FRANKLIN: I think it's both. I think on the offensive line we've got some things that you guys aren't always aware of. At a lot of positions you have things that come up during the game or come up during the week of practice that you have to modify. We're about that point of the year where you start modifying some things. That's things that I will recommend as the head coach and decisions I'll make as the head coach, but I'll also talk to Brent Pry and say, hey, what tempo are we going to go in practice today, what's your opinion on this, I have my opinion, and same thing with Coach Moorhead, and then Tim Bream and our medical staff have a factor in that. Some of the days we may want to go full speed where we may have to go jog through or walk through because if we don't, then say player X won't get any reps in practice that day, and what you have to decide is having player X be able to go through practice and jog through when he's probably going to play on Saturday, is that more valuable than holding player X out and practicing full speed with everybody else.
When you have two or three of those guys on your starting unit on offense or defense, all those things factor into what you're going to do, and that's the decision you have to make; is it holding them out of practice completely and going full speed with everybody else, or is it modifying practice to allow him to get some quality work in practice, as well, when you're pretty confident that that guy is going to be able to play on Saturday.
Q. Saturday aside, wide receivers have made some big plays in the passing game, and at least looking on paper, it looks like that would be a matchup that would favor you. Can you assess that matchup with their secondary?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think it is. We feel good each week about our wide receivers and their ability to make plays. They've shown that in practice. They've shown that over time. The last two years those guys have made plays and continue to make more. So yeah, that's something that we need to continue to build, continue to game plan around, the advantages and the matchups that they give us.
But again, we've got to make plays. We're going to face good competition the rest of the season. We're going to face good competition on Saturday, and that's going to continue, and we need to be able to make plays. We need to be able to separate. That's something I don't know if we've necessarily done a great job is separating, but we have done a pretty good job of making plays on the 50/50 ball, and we need to do that more consistently, so that'll be a big part of what we're doing on Saturday.
Coaches are copycats, so we're going to see people copycat the game plan that we faced on Saturday, but again, what allows Michigan to play that style of defense is their personnel. We're going to see I think some of these things, but I don't think people can truly copycat what Michigan did without their personnel.
Q. When you look at these injuries as a whole, you guys have had some in the past, obviously will in the future. I know you evaluate every aspect of the program, but is this something you think maybe there's a trend there or is it just simply a stretch of bad luck?
JAMES FRANKLIN: To be honest with you, I've had that discussion with our medical staff and the coaches and the administration, as well. I'm not sure. I mean, there's a lot of factors that could go into it. It could go into our set of circumstances over the last three to four years having reduced roster and guys taking a lot more reps than they would in a traditional situation. Does that factor into it? Is it nutrition? Is it sleep? Is it sport science? A lot of factors. Is it just a streak of bad luck?
I think it's probably a little bit of all those factors like most things in life. But yeah, it's hard to say right now. I think we'll probably look back at it. The only thing I can do is take my 22 years' experience and say what is different now compared to other places I've been, and there's really only a few criteria that are different here than other places.
Q. As an individual, where have you seen Connor McGovern develop more, in his physical run protection, or just picking up blitzes and schematically pass protecting?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I don't think it's one specific thing with Connor. I think it's everything. I think it's his pass protection, which to be honest with you, he did not do any of in high school. I think they threw like four passes his entire high school career. They just ran behind him. Didn't throw the ball much, so that was a big adjustment for him in the spring. But it's everything. It's footwork, it's technique, it's fundamentals. I think offensive line is one of the more technical positions on the field, and a lot of things that you could get away with in high school because you're just bigger and stronger than everybody, you're not going to get away with at this level, especially against the Big Ten opponents that we're going to play week in and week out.
He's improved dramatically in every area, in mentally understanding the scheme and his responsibilities and his footwork and fundamentals when it comes to pass protection in the run game, but there's still times where he looks like a true freshman playing out there.
I wouldn't say there's one specific area except just the fact coming from high school that he had never really had to pass protect a lot. He was a center in a run-dominated offense. Literally I think they threw the ball three or four times a game. I went and watched him play in person one game, and maybe they threw the ball two times in that game, in the entirety of the game.
Q. I know you usually don't like to discuss injuries, but like you had mentioned, you usually aren't missing all three linebackers. You've used words like "significant" to describe their injuries. Is there a possibility that we don't see these guys return until November?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, I guess there's a possibility. Possibility is a pretty broad term, so again, I can't state that. We knew when they first got injured that it would not be a week to week deal, and we'll just kind of see how that goes.
Again, hopefully sooner rather than later. The bye week is coming up here, so I think that's going to help, as well. But we'll see.
Again, I don't have a whole lot of control over that. It's the doctors and it's how their bodies heal and what all the different test results show. You know, again, I'll be open and transparent when they're season-ending injuries with you guys, and besides that, significant is about as far as I'll go, or possibility is about as detailed as I'll get.
Q. Knowing that you coached Aaron Rodgers, are you at this time thinking r-e-l-a-x as far as the way your different constituencies are thinking about Penn State football?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, but I won't say that, and I can't say that. Aaron Rodgers is in a position where he can say a lot of different things. Yeah, I think I have stated before that there's a process to this. There's a process from the time we arrived to where we're going. I think I see strides in people that come to practice every single day, see strides in the people that are around our program, in every aspect, the professors that come as the guest coach programs with us, the administration that's around us, at practice, in meetings, academically, athletically, socially, spiritually, the whole package, there's progress being made.
Is there times where we all want the progress to happen a lot faster? No doubt about it. But I think that's also what makes Penn State special is there's very high expectations here. There's a tremendous amount of pride. I get email after email after email that talks about people's pride in this place and how much they care and how much passion and how supportive they are.
The good thing is I only get the positive emails because my administrative assistant, she screens them. So that's good.
But you know, to be honest with you, I think those things go hand in hand. People feel so strongly about Penn State because they love their experience here. They love what this place is all about from a cultural perspective and the difference it's made in their life. I feel the same way. I love this place and everything that it's about just as much as our fans and our alumni. It's a part of me and always will be a part of me and my family.
So I get it. That pride goes hand in hand with the expectations and the standards and who and what we want to be. So I get that. I get all that.
But I also know in my heart, every single morning when I wake up and every single night that I go to bed the direction that we're headed, and I think what happens a lot of times is people compare and contrast. Well, it's hard to compare and contrast because of the situation we were in. Who are you going to compare that to? So I get it, but I think it's coming from a good place. It's coming from a place of pride and love of Penn State and wanting to get back to those memories and those experiences that they look back so fondly on.
So I get it. I embrace it. I take it for what it is, and I think our players do, as well. So yeah, I want everybody to take a deep breath. We're going to continue loving these kids. We're going to continue supporting these kids. We're going to continue developing these kids, and I believe in my 22 years of experience that we're heading in the right direction and good things are going to happen if people let the process play out.
Q. You're getting to the point where you're running out of linebackers; is there a plan for when another guy gets injured, two guys get injured? How much do you move positions? Do you look around somewhere else for people who are athletic that might be able to play linebacker? What do you do at this point when you're starting to run out of bodies?
JAMES FRANKLIN: Well, I don't know if we're at that point yet. I understand your point. I mean, we have a two-deep right now at pretty much every position that we feel pretty good about. Again, if you look at Will linebacker, you've got Cam Brown. Now the backups to him are two guys that are going to train at multiple positions in Manny Bowen and Jay Cooper. It's a one-deep with some flexibility.
At Mike linebacker we feel good about Brandon Smith and we feel good about Jay Cooper. At Sam linebacker we feel good about Manny Bowen, Koa Farmer and Von Walker, and we've talked about Von being able slide over to the Will linebacker, as well, and learn that. And then Jonathan Thomas is another guy that we already made taking reps gaining confidence every single week hasn't played defense in a number of years. So there are some guys that we could move, but now again, kind of like the conversation that me and Jordan just had, you have to be careful because now you start taking away from one position too much, then that position now is in a tough spot.
So again, I think you have to be careful with the extremes.
Back to Josh's point, as well, we're going to get Brandon Bell back. We're going to get Jason Cabinda back. When that is, I'm not sure yet. That's the possibility. They're coming back.
So what we have to do is we have to make sure that we put these guys in position to play well, which means we're probably going to be a little bit more vanilla on defense, allow those guys to go out and play with confidence, allow them to build some experience and some confidence in how they play and playing well and give us a chance to be successful, and now what's going to happen is now you get Jason Cabinda back and you get Brandon Bell back, and now you have depth and you have experience and you've got guys that you feel like you can put on the play and be successful with.
I get your point, but I think if we can put these guys in position to be successful over the next couple weeks, then we'll be getting some guys back hopefully sooner rather than later, and now we won't be in the situation that we are right now, if that makes sense.
And again, I think it really comes down to your point and Jordan's point, we can't overcompensate at linebacker and now put us in a tough spot at other positions, and I think the position that you've already seen us take from is safety, and we just can't keep taking from safety because then they're going to be in a tough spot.
Q. Going back to Michigan for a second, defensively in the first half a lot of missed tackles there, and I am wondering from your perspective is that more symptomatic of the influx of inexperience and youth you've had with all the injuries or is this more a case that you were speaking to their defense, they're pretty darned good, these guys are going to be tough to tackle?
JAMES FRANKLIN: I think it's all the things that we've already discussed. I think it's our youth, their experience. I think they're a very talented team on top of that, and then like you talk about, you talk about missing tackles, well, typically your linebackers are the unit that make the majority of your tackles, and we've lost our three starters and got some young guys. So I think it's a combination of all those factors, and then we need to do a better job as coaches of all those things.
I think being on the road causes stress on your defense from a communication standpoint similar in some ways to what it does on the offense, as well, and then when you've got young players in there and they're having a difficult time communicating, as well, all those things factor into it. So I don't think it's one thing, I think it's a combination of things.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sportsnull