Penn State coach James Franklin held his weekly press conference at Beaver Stadium Tuesday.
He talked about last weekend's overtime win against Minnesota and looked ahead to Saturday's Homecoming game vs. unbeaten Maryland.
Which injured player will be back? Who will not be back? What is his take on QB Trace McSorley's play this year? Is Shane Simmons really moving from DE to LB?
See Franklin's entire press conference above for the answers to these questions and more,
Here is the transcript.
COACH FRANKLIN: Looks like fall is here on our golf cart ride over here; the weather's changed. Appreciate everybody being here.
Just kind of reviewing the last game, first thing that kind of jumps out, I didn't mention after the game and should have but I think Irvin Charles, that was a huge play in the game from a momentum standpoint. You know, not sure if we should throw the ball more to Irvin or not. He could end his career with a pretty good touchdown-to-catch ratio, as well as yardage ratio but obviously he's an exciting young playmaker that we are excited about.
Offensively, did not commit any penalties on offense. I thought that was significant. I thought probably the most significant thing is we did not turn the ball over and we did not allow a sack. It's the second time this season that we did that. I think parted of that is our O-line continues to develop and is make strides and part of that is also Trace's movement in the pocket, stepping up in the pocket and also his ability to run.
I thought the belief of the team in the offense and the mentality and the finish, we won the two situational footballs. We talk situational football all the time with our guy, we won the two-minute and we won the overtime, which was significant. We spent a lot of time in that throughout the year as well as during camp so that paid off for us.
Areas to improve: We've got to start faster. We talked about that after the season. I've done it in the past, a thing that's called a chaos period. We will start practice with that today, as well as probably for the rest of the year where we go out on the field and there's a block of time for it but none of the coaches know what it is.
So I have it scheduled ahead of time, whatever it may be, whether it's third down, ones versus one, whether it's opening drive of the game, whether it's red zone, whatever it may be. And then Brent Pry needs to just call it on the field; Coach Moorhead needs to call it on the field, game-like situation, good verse good.
But the other thing, you're doing it in the beginning of practice. So starting out practice faster, starting out practice more competitive rather than going through -- typically as a coach you go part-part-whole, no different than other teachers. You did individual and you do group setting and then you do team. So we're going to come right out from the beginning and we've done that in the past and it's helped us.
Defensively, great job making them earn it. Pursuit and gang tackling has been much better. Perimeter guys getting involved in run support has been really good for us. Multiple guys made their plays in the defense throughout the game. We forced three field goals and a take away in the red zone. Prior to that, Minnesota had been 14-for-14 on red zone scores with 13 touchdowns. So I thought that was significant in the game. Minnesota had only given up one sack prior to our game and I think we had two. So that was significant in the game, as well.
Areas to improve: Pad level, escaping blocks, challenging more in coverage, and then we had four penalties that were significant on the defensive side of the ball that we got to get cleaned up. The one penalty late in the game when we knocked them out of field goal range, the face mask penalty on Marcus, that was a tough one. That was a tough one.
We had gotten momentum and knocked them out of field goal -- it was significant in the game and then it happens. But I think it's also another testament to the coaches, to the players, to everybody, that it still didn't matter, you know, that is a penalty and a situation that may end it for a lot of people and our guys continue to battle through that.
Special teams. I thought we battled as a team and a family and then we eliminated the negative plays. Didn't have penalties on special teams, so that was good.
Offensive player of the game was Trace McSorley and defense was Marcus Allen and special teams was Tyler Davis, who in my opinion, should have been the Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week. You know, no disrespect to anybody else, but I think he broke the school record. Was three for three on field goals, two-for-two on extra points. Was the Lou Groza Place Kickers Award Stars of the Week. But that's just me. I don't have a vote.
Maryland. Obviously tremendous opportunity back here at home again in Beaver Stadium. Home coming. We're going to need everybody. We're going to need all the fans, alumni, former letter men, our staff and players pulling together because when everybody is pulling together in Beaver Stadium, we are difficult to deal with. These have been tightly-contested games the last two years; the game has come down to one point in either direction. So this is going to be important for us. We've got to do a great job -- two points or less, excuse me.
Talk about that all week long with our guys. This is a game of inches and seconds, and we've got to battle all week long to make sure that we're doing all the little things right.
You look at offensively, Walt Bell is doing a good job with them. Wide-open, offensive attack. Spread-style offense. They are running the ball. They are seventh in the country in rushing. Rotate a bunch of backs in there. Do a nice job of that.
Defensively, Andy Buh, the defensive coordinator, multiple fronts, variety of man and zone coverage, exotic third down defenses. This is the head coaches defense, similar to what we went against at Michigan. We're going to see a similar style of defense, and then special teams, Pete Lembo, special teams coordinator, fundamentally sound, explosive returner. Likely has been an explosive returner his entire career; we're going to have to be ready for him.
That was a little bit longer than I wanted to go, but open up to questions.
Q. When you were recruiting him, did you see Trace's composure under pressure and resilience, and are you at all surprised to see it be displayed so much in a guy making his first five starts?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, you know, I do think -- like I mentioned before, I think it's been helpful that he has been the backup quarterback for two years and didn't approach it like that. Really prepared as if he was the starter. He's a mature kid. He's a disciplined kid. He's a smart young man. Comes from a real good family. Strong parents. And he's prepared for this. He also is a guy that's been successful his entire athletic and academic career. He expects this.
So yeah, obviously you look at the quarterback we played last week, that was an older, veteran guy and he played like that. He looked like that. I think Trace is playing like a guy that probably is a second-year starter. Not necessarily in just all his numbers and stats but just his demeanor. It's really good.
I think I mentioned this the other day; you look at Trace, you look at Saquon Barkley, you look at Garrett Sickels, you look at so many players. What I love about our team right now is whether things are going good or whether we're having challenges or whatever it is, you don't see the demeanor change. There's emotion, which is natural, but guys are handling that. Their body language is good. Their demeanor is good, and that's important.
That's important for the sideline. That's important for belief. That's important to everything. I think he's like that at practice. He's like that in the games. He's like that in his off-season workouts. There's a lot of belief in our team in Trace and there has been for two years; I've been telling you guys that. When we would do twos versus ones in two-minute drill at the end of practice, and Trace was out there with the twos going out against our one defense; you know, he had demanded a lot of respect from a lot of guys for a long time.
Like I mentioned before, I think him and Tommy Stevens are two guys that we are excited about, and yeah, we've seen those things. But you never know, truly, until guys get into the game.
Q. I wanted to ask you about two of your second-year players, Manny Bowen, you talked about you had to play him at middle linebacker late against Minnesota. Is that a spot you think he can hold up at if you need him to play that spot? And Brandon Polk, he showed some big play ability for you but he really has not gotten going at all this year. I don't think he was suited up against Minnesota. What's happened with him?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, Manny we do think has the ability to play Mike linebacker and hold up. The game has changed; so many people are playing spread now. You would love to have that type of athlete at Mike linebacker for you.
I do want to give Manny, as well as our defense, credit, and Brent Pry credit; the adversity that those guys have faced this year is unreal. Seven linebackers we have lost for significant time this year. We were hopeful that we were going to have Jason Cabinda back this week.
So I'm really, really proud. I'm really proud of Brent. I'm really proud of the defense. Manny is doing a nice job. Got great instincts but needs to learn how to play Mike linebacker and command the defense.
You look at Cam Brown, a true freshman, is doing a really nice job for us. Koa making the change to linebacker full-time. Those guys have done a nice job for us. We expect to get B Smith back this week. That will help us.
So we'll see. But yeah, we think Manny can hold up in there but it's just getting him comfortable with playing the position and also the leadership component of taking charge of the defense and making the calls.
Brandon Polk has not been available. He's had some off-the-field issues in terms of injuries that have kept him out -- I probably shouldn't say off-the-field issues, but he's had injuries that have limited him and held him out.
Q. You were able to get a couple timely sacks toward the end on Saturday. How would you evaluate your pass rush so far considering teams are running the ball a lot and the injuries you've had?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think it's been good. I think we can be better there. It was great to see Evan Schwan get his first sack of his career at a very, very important time of the game. So that was great.
But yeah, I think it's been streaky. We get them and then we kind of go on dry spots. I do think there's been people that we've played, as well as us being a little bit more consistent in stopping the run, would help us there.
But some of the style of offenses we have played or just our consistency in stopping the run would help us. I mean, you look at what we are doing offensively, our passing numbers are pretty good, and it's because of the commitment that people are making to stop the run.
So you know, I'd like to see us be a little bit more effective, you know, late in the game, I had made a couple recommendations that we weren't getting there. So let's drop; let's drop eight and rush three. And we were able to get pressure rushing three for whatever reason and then drop eight in coverage which helped us a few times, it really did.
You know, so rushing, whether you're blitzing or rushing four or bringing five or six is great; if you're going to get there and get the quarterback either on the ground or make him uncomfortable in the pocket and affect his throws, that's great. But if you're not, you also have to look at it and take the other approach and say, let's drop eight and rush three.
As an offensive guy, that's difficult; when you drop eight people in the coverage, it's difficult to find open lanes and things like that. On the same hand, you can't allow the guy to just stand back there all day in the pocket, either.
Q. You mentioned Brent Pry earlier. How has he managed defensive personnel this year to counteract the injuries and movement and is there any other potential good news coming from that front on defense?
COACH FRANKLIN: Not right now. Like I mentioned earlier, we were hopeful we were going to have good news this week but we had a setback. But at this point, no, I think Brent and the defensive staff have handled it unbelievably well. There is not a whole lot of moving parts and options out there. I know one of our young players Tweeted something out today and people were buzzing about that, saying is Shane Simmons playing linebacker because he Tweeted out "LBU," and there was a fury of re-Tweets and questions and things like that.
Shane Simmons is a 245-pound defensive end on scout teams doing a great job. So I wouldn't worry about that. But yeah, there's not a whole lot of other moving parts left for us to be honest with you. There's a few little wrinkles that we can do, and you'll see them this week.
But besides that, there's not a whole lot of other options. And again, you just have to be careful. You keep stealing from one position or one area to help another, then you're going to create problems at that position at some point, as well.
But yeah, I'm really proud of our defense and our defensive coaches and our players and their mentality, next man up.
Q. Could you explain a little bit more the development of a few of your young wide receivers? You mentioned Irvin Charles, Juwan Johnson and even Saeed Blacknall, they are all three guys that for whatever reason haven't done a whole lot yet for you on the field this year. Can you talk about how all three of them are coming along?
COACH FRANKLIN: Saeed has been out for an injury. He will be back this week. So we're excited about having him back, based on his size and strength. He may play Mike linebacker -- yeah, good. (Laughter) sometimes I say jokes and you guys don't get it.
But yeah, he'll be back this week, which is significant. Because he's just an older, mature guy. He's also helping us on special teams, because all these linebackers and safeties that we have lost, has a major effect for you on special teams. So getting another big body guy like Saeed back that can run that, will help us in offense in the passing game and also help us in special teams.
Juwan and Irvin are guys that we've been excited about for a couple years now since they arrived on campus and since we recruited them. They are both kind of starting to come on now for their own. This is really kind of how you would like for the development to happen. You would love for young guys that are talented to be behind veterans and getting some reps and getting some experience; so when the time comes, they are ready. And that's what we have been able to do at wide receiver. So I think that's ideal.
And I think you'll see as the year goes on, Juwan and Irv will continue to get more opportunities as they show that they are able to handle it in practice and game situations.
Then the other thing is obviously if we have any injuries or things like that, you have guys that are developing and preparing for their opportunity when the time comes. So excited about those guys, but yeah, Saeed, kind of a little bit different situation. He's an older guy. He's played a lot of football and he just has not been available for injury reasons.
Q. You alluded a week or two ago about the possibility of scripting the first series in order to get a better start. Have you given any more thought to that and what are the pros and cons of doing it versus not doing it?
COACH FRANKLIN: Again, we have conversations, we spent a lot of time last week on the opening drive and we'll continue to do that, in openers and how the game starts, and like I mentioned, some of the adjustments that we are going to make in practice.
You know, again, I make recommendations to our defense. I make recommendations to our offense and special teams. You know, you have to be careful in a leadership position that you don't over-step and tell someone specifically how to do their job. Unless it gets to that point where you feel like you need to. Joe has been very successful. We're doing a better job in a lot of different areas offensively. We need to continue to grow.
One of the areas that we need to be better is opening drives and how we start games. So that's partly my responsibility, partly the assistants' responsibility and the players', as well. I think the emphasis that we are putting on it and the changes that we are using, we are going to go from there. It's a little bit different when you script plays in the old system when you are a pro-style offense, where we are so much, check-with-me; that a lot of the game is being called on the field based on the looks that you're getting, based on initial alignments and things like that.
So you could script the first however many plays, ten to 15 plays, and that's good. There's things that we want to get run early in the game, but again, how the defense aligns is going to affect what we do; whether we stay with the play initially called or whether we check to a different look.
It's just a little bit different system and a little bit different approach.
Q. Joey Julius revealed the other day that the reason he was away from the program for awhile is he's had to deal with his eating disorder. I imagine that's sort of a unique thing for you and I'm just wondering how you and your staff have helped him kind of work through that.
COACH FRANKLIN: Well, you know, again, I'm not going to get into a whole lot of specifics, because this is a personal matter for Joey and his family and the people that are supporting him.
I'm very, very proud of Joey. I really am, in so many ways. You know, I know this is something that probably affects and helps others; to see athletes or someone in Joey's position like this to make himself vulnerable and put himself out there like that. I think a lot of people can relate with that and I think a lot of people can connect with that.
But it goes hand-in-hand kind of with our policy. A lot of times kind everybody kind of wants to know everything that's going on with these kids, and there's a lot of things going on in their lives that they are dealing with. No different than people all over our country. You know, Joey had something going on, was away from us for a period of time, and I think the best thing that happened is Joey was able to do that without a lot of people asking questions and wondering where he was at or us talking about it.
So we're just here to support Joey and his family in every way we possibly can, so he can have a wonderful experience at Penn State academically, athletically, emotionally, every aspect. So I'm very, very proud of him. But the specifics and things like that, you know, I don't think it's appropriate for me to talk about, but we're very proud of him and we're going to continue to support him.
Q. You said after the game how happy you were for Jordan Smith, and a few others among the players said similar things about him. From your perspective, what has he meant from a leadership perspective for the younger defensive backs on the team? And how difficult can it be sometimes for a player, obviously used to playing a lot, being a star in high school, that kind of thing, to kind of have to wait his turn, and how has he handled that compared to other people?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think it's an unbelievable example. He's a guy who has been here for a long time, is a senior. Probably would like a bigger, or more what he would call, significant role. I think he has a really huge role on our team.
One of the things I found out about a year and a half ago is when I have my end of the year meetings with all the players, one of the names that just kept coming up from a leadership and from a mentor perspective was Jordan.
You know, the young DBs, a lot of the players on our team, he's one of the more popular guys on our team. He's not listed as a starter right now but continued to prepare as such so that when the time came, he was able to go in and not only go in and play, but play well.
And what I loved watching that game is he got challenged a couple times early on and had success, and as the game went on, he started to play with more and more confidence, which is great. So when we lost Christian Campbell, he was able to come in and make some big plays and the interception in the red zone was significant in the game.
So it's great. It's great to see guys that keep a really good attitude and continue to affect others in a positive way, when they are going through some adversity. And then you see that opportunity come and they take advantage of it.
It's really cool. I'm really happy for Jordan. He actually did our pregame speech Friday night at the hotel and did a really, really good job kind of sharing his personal background and stories and then what the game meant to him.
So I'm really, really happy for him and I'm really proud of him, and I know he's got tremendous respect from our team, coaches and players.
Q. I was wondering with Marcus Allen, he had such a big game against Minnesota and now he's rolling into this Maryland game where he has a lot of connections to that team and knows a lot of people on the roster. Is he excited for this game or do you think he's going to keep rolling that momentum from Minnesota into the next week?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think he will continue to grow and get better. He's done that his entire career here. I think he learned his lesson two years ago; early in the game he got emotional and got a penalty early in the game. He's grown from that experience and grown since he's been here.
So I know he'll be locked in. He'll be excited. He does know a lot of people in their program and on their team from there obviously, so yeah -- but yeah, I think he's going to continue to build on what he did last week and really what he's done all year long. And I'm very, very proud of Marcus, and how he's handling a lot of different things right now, school, football, 22 tackles in a game is impressive.
You know, again, I haven't been around that before, so I want to continue to build on that. I know he's playing with a lot of confidence right now and belief in himself.
Q. As someone who played college football and then immediately went into coaching, etc., and been around so many programs, how is approach to mental health among athletes, changed developed, over the last 20-some years? How was it when you were a student athlete and what's it like in terms of out reach here at Penn State?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think it's changed dramatically. I don't remember any of those things being available. I don't remember those things being discussed when I was in college a whole lot. The services that campuses and universities provide now, communities provide, it's different. And I think that's good. I think that's good for everybody.
I think like a lot of things in our society now, we think things are more parent now or are happening probably more than they did 20 years ago, and I don't think that's the case. I just think there's more awareness in general, done a really good job of that. We always have someone come in during camp and talk to the guys about all the different services that are available for all of our students here at Penn State and also specifically to our athletes.
So our doctors, our training staff, they pretty much handle all those things and then the coaches, whenever we are aware of anything, we are just a support. We are a support for the doctors and the trainers and we are a support for our student athletes and making sure that they are getting the help that they need.
But I think it's changed. I think it's changed a lot. I think our society when it comes to mental health as changed a lot.
Q. As you talk about doing the chaos period and you were asked about the offense scripting plays and all that, when you're preparing for the game and talking to the kids and all that, are there any intangibles that you're noticing? Do they look ready? Does it look to you like they are going to get off to a good start because I'm sure you guys are trying to pinpoint some things for reasons that they are not, so just what are the things that you're seeing as you try to look back over preparedness for each game?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think you're going to see, as the season continues to go on that we'll get better in this area like we're trying to get better in a lot of different areas. I think it's been brought up before, lack of experience and youth.
The more guys have played, the more experience they get and the more veteran they are; they have been in those situations before, and the initial shock in all of the game or just the initial atmosphere and things like that, or the speed of the game or the competition that we're facing; it's taken us some time to kind of adapt to that.
I think again, the more our guys continue to get experience and mature, all these different areas we'll improve in. Experience counts. I think that's probably the one biggest difference.
Q. When you recruit players, you do so with the thought that they will have potential and they will play effectively at this level but there has to be a period where you're uncertain of that based on how they will adapt and adjust to a d one program when they get in here.
Can you describe what that period was like as it relates to Trace, and when you realized once he got up here and started working with guys at this level that he would be able to live up to the potential that you had for him when you recruited him?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think it's still too early to even say that now. He's still got a lot of football ahead of him and a lot of opportunities. And I know he wants to continue to improve in so many areas and growth.
But yeah, I think that first year he showed up on campus, we had no choice. In a lot of ways, he was thrust into that backup role right away and after that, year two, you started to see that the team and the players and he and the coaches had confidence; that if something did go wrong, he could go in.
But practice is great. We talked about it this off-season. I think the Bowl experience was important for him. He was able to go in against a tough opponent, essentially on the road and play well against a good opponent on the road. So I thought that gave him confidence going into the summer and he continued to build on that.
It's not one major experience. It's not like you recruit a kid and you think he's fast and then you time him in the 40 and he runs 4:2 and you're like, wow. It's just kind of small experiences that you watch him and how he relates with people and how he works and his approach and his test; it's all the little things. He's one of those guys that he does all the little things right, and it's been my experience that guys like that usually find a way to be successful. It's the guy that has one really attractive trait that you get excited about, but is lacking in other areas; those guys are hit or miss. Where the guy that does a lot of things well in life and in football, typically continue to have some form of success.
Q. We haven't seen Michael Menet this year, and perhaps we won't, but how is he doing behind the scenes and how did Chasz right end up at guard and how has he progressed?
COACH FRANKLIN: Chasz, we felt like we need a little bit more of a physical presence at guard. There's been some games where inside, we've gotten overpowered at times matchup-wise. Chasz played guard last year, all last year. We had moved him to tackle in the spring because of our depth and needs there and did a nice job of that. Feel like he is legitimately our third tackle.
But we just felt like a guy right now who is 6-7, 342 pounds or whatever he is, you know, he's still got some things that he's got to learn in terms of the game plan and his assignments. There's still some things he needs to learn in terms of his footwork. But 6-7, 342 is still 6-7, 342 that you have to deal with, and mass moves mass; it always has.
So he's a guy that we wanted to kind of give some opportunities, him and McGovern in there, to see what they can do. We'll season to do that. He'll continue to be a backup for us at offensive tackle and he'll rotate at guard. But you know, he's a guy that we're excited about and we want to give him more opportunities.
Michael Menet and Will Fries, I had mentioned, both those guys are two guys that we're really excited about that are way ahead of schedule. Physically they are both right around 300 pounds right now. They are learning every day. They are getting a bunch of reps in practice, both of them.
Fries is up with the travel squad taking reps at tackle because of our depth there.
Menet is a guy that we just moved down to the scout team, has been playing tight end on the scout team, which has really helped our defensive ends because now you've got a big physical tight end in the blocking game.
Dalton does a nice job, but he's 245 pounds and some of the tight ends we're going against, I think the one last week was 285, so Menet was able to help with that. They are two guys that we think have bright futures. Both of those guys we think could play for us this year if we needed them to, but they are probably very similar to Bates.
Bates is doing some nice things right now. But I think looking back at it, Bates wasn't ready last year. We decided to hold him and that's kind of where Menet and Fries are right now. They are kind of in the same conversation that Bates was last year.
Q. A few weeks ago, Coach Gattis talked about the players committing to schools during the recruiting process for the wrong reasons. Recruitment videos, things like that. Any word on that as far as how the process has done today versus in previous years?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, to be honest with you, I'd prefer to talk about Maryland right now. I'd prefer to talk that, maybe in the bye week or off-season or things like that.
Yeah, I think there's discussions all over the country about the recruiting process from the NCAA level down to the conference level down to the schools.
Yeah, you know, there's some kids that are following the process with their parents and doing it in a very mature way and there's other guys that aren't. But that's been going on for a long time.
Q. The past couple weeks, we had Josiah (ph) a couple weeks ago and then you had Jake this past week. Talk about why you guys are doing that and the effect it has on the children and the outreach to the community and what you guys are doing with that program.
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, we have always done that, inviting guys to practice, inviting guys to games or being part of the walk or coming out on the field or whatever it may be.
Our guys really kind of embrace that and they get it. It's also something that we can do that does not take away from what we're trying to accomplish, academically or athletically.
The young man that we had with us last week, I got an e-mail that I put up in the PowerPoint meeting on Sunday, you know, his parents sent us an e-mail, said it was the best day of his entire life.
And for our guys to hand a kid a set of gloves or high-five them off the bus, or come to practice and break our team down or get up on my shoulders and boss me all the way into the stadium, that's what it's all about. It is obviously about graduating our players. It's obviously about being successful on the field, as well.
But I think the most important thing, the most profound thing and the most significant thing that they are going to do is make a positive impact on others.
What I think is really pretty cool is when you've got 115, 120 guys, whatever the number is, and each one of them does one small act of kindness, that goes a long way on one person. So we try to do that. We get e-mails all the time about people that may be struggling with something or the hospital and we'll try to call the hospital or face time into the hospital, something that I can do, our staff can do.
It's worth it and we can't allow ourselves to get so caught up in the wins and the school and forget about those things. We've got to do all three at a high level.
Q. How do you prepare for what you expect --
COACH FRANKLIN: How's that wet blanket?
Q. It's still wet (Laughter). You're winning.
COACH FRANKLIN: It doesn't feel like it. (Laughter).
Q. I was wondering where you think both teams are emotionally. You guys are coming off an emotional win and also it seems like similar to Pitt, Maryland has history with you guys. What do you expect from both teams emotionally?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think both teams are going to be going into that stadium on Saturday fired up and excited. They are coming in undefeated. We played an undefeated team last week. We are coming off a big emotional win where the guys just kept fighting and persevering.
So yeah, I think all that is wonderful. You'll have the initial emotion of the game when it first starts and then it's going to come down to fundamentals and techniques and discipline and ultimately execution like it does every week. So yeah, I think both teams are coming in in a good place, in a good place.
Q. I want to ask you about your linebackers, however many of them you have left. I noticed that Minnesota did a lot of playaction to bring your linebackers up towards the line of scrimmage. Is that something you faced a lot this year because of the fresh faces and the young guys, and Maryland has about six running backs listed here as potential starters on the depth chart. With their unconventional running game, does that factor into the game with the young guys? And I want to ask you specifically about Manny Bowen. It seems like he has a knack for rushing the passer; had three quarterback hits in the game last week. If he moves inside, does that affect his ability to do that this week?
COACH FRANKLIN: You asked me like five questions (Laughter).
Q. I know. I got super excited.
COACH FRANKLIN: But first of all, Manny, yeah, I think he's a guy who can run and is violent when he gets there. He's got really good instincts. He's quick-twitch. He really, really can get going to full speed in a short period of time.
So yeah, it's a little bit different when you're at Mike linebacker compared to coming off the edge but we still blitz our linebackers. We still do some things, whether it's inside pressures or whether it's contained blitzes or whatever it may be. We still do those things.
Yeah, I think whenever you're playing young linebackers, it's no different than us, when we're game planning, you know, not only are you looking at the overall scheme but you're looking at personnel. You're looking at matchups: Where is our greatest liability when it comes to a matchup and where is our greatest strength when it comes to a matchup, and how can we hide our liability and how can we take advantage of the situation we have in terms of a matchup, and then your game plan is kind of built around that.
So yeah, I think -- I don't know if necessarily last week their game plan was to playaction the linebackers because of our the youth. I think that was a part of it, but I think there's also who they are anyway. They are a pro style, run-the-ball, play-action pass team in general, max protection.
Yeah, I think that's the biggest factor. But yeah, I do think people go in each week and say, okay, they are young and inexperienced at linebacker. What can we do to cause those guys problems, and that's where we have to do some things, being vanilla, and allowing our guys to not be thinking too much and just play.
But then that goes back to matchups. If you're just going to be real vanilla and not do anything scheme to gain an advantage, then you need to be better, you know, than your opponent. So that's a challenge. But you had a third question -- I don't know if I answered your question --
Q. Against the linebackers --
COACH FRANKLIN: So I kind of answered it. Yes, sir.
Q. You've talked a lot about numbers in the box against your run game this year and you've shown the ability to make some plays down the field, and now given, some of them might be busted or stepping up in the pocket. But is your hope -- can you talk about that possibly unlocking your run game by getting numbers out?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think it's going to continue. Until we show that not only can we beat you throwing the ball, but that we are going to win games because of it and it's going to put you at a disadvantage. I think people are going to keep doing it.
I think obviously if we can start faster, then we are going to get people out of it. But if people can have an impact on the game early on and not get in the type of situation where they are feeling like they have to play catch up, then they are going to continue to do it.
I mean, again, you look statistically around the country, you have some people that are leading the country in rush defense but they are also one of the worst in the country in pass defense.
Some of that is just their belief. Some of that is the philosophy. There's a lot of different approaches to it. But we have to show not only -- I think obviously we've shown that we are going to be able to put up good numbers statistically, we have done that. But we have to show that not only can we beat you with the passing game in terms of making plays, but we can win. We can win without the running game and then people are going to say, well, this isn't working, we need to get another guy out of the box to stop because we can't allow Trace McSorley and the receivers to beat us, and the tight ends, Mike Gesicki to beat us throwing the ball and then it's going to create much more opportunities for the run game.
So I think we have to show that we are going to consistently be able to do that first quarter, second quarter, third quarter, fourth quarter, and then also the final score shows that we can win with this aspect of our offense and that aspect as the predominant factor.
Q. You are minus 38 in first half scoring but plus 26 in the second half. What have you been able to do at half-time that has sort of made these adjustments possible; that in every game for the most part you have gone out and scored more points than your opponents in the second half.
COACH FRANKLIN: Again, it goes back to what we were talking about -- and I don't want to keep bringing it up, but when we have time to get with these guys in the locker room and settle them down and show them some of the adjustments that need to be made, where sometimes with older players, they are going to get settled down quicker and they are going to make the adjustments quicker during the game. You can make an adjustment on the sideline quicker and it translates right to the game. Where our guys, sometimes we have to spend time in the locker room and talk it through with more detail and more time; that sometimes you're able to get done in between series.
Again, I think as the season goes on, you're going to see these guys continue to play with more confidence, be able to make adjustments. But we have a lot of guys that are seeing things for the first time, and you know, that's what happens. No different than you guys in your jobs as you've been through something before, you can react or change or adjust quicker than you would have done the first time going through it.
So that's part of it. And then I think there's some things that we can do to help, as well. Our approach has been aggressive in trying to take the ball, trying to go for it on fourth down, trying to do some things, what I've been trying to do as the head coach trying to spark some early success. A lot of times we would defer in the past; we are trying to take the ball more in the first half now, going for it on fourth down as much as everybody loved those decisions, going for two point conversion in the opening game as much as everybody loves. But there are those decisions. When they go well, you're a genius and everybody's patting you on the back and when you don't pick up the fourth and one and you don't get the two-point conversion, it's the wrong decision after the fact. I get that.
But there are some of the things -- I'm saying that, because I'm trying to explain some of the things that I've been trying to do to help spark some early success and get some momentum earlier in games.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sportsnull