James Franklin Rutgers Week Press Conference

See what the Nittany Lion coach has to say as his 8-2 team prepares for its road trip to Rutgers. He gives updates on the offensive line, QB Trace McSorley and much more.

During his weekly press conference at Beaver Stadium Tuesday, Penn State coach James Franklin gave the lowdown on his banged-up offensive line as the No. 10 Nittany Lions prepare to face Rutgers on the road Saturday night. http://www.scout.com/college/penn-state/story/1728378-is-psu-s-fries-bei...

You can see his entire press conference — where he also addresses the health of QB Trace McSorley, the play of TE Mike Gesicki and much more — in the video above.

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TRANSCRIPT

JAMES FRANKLIN: Appreciate everybody being out. Was just outside, obviously. The weather this year has been tremendous. I want to thank the fans for the support we've been getting all year long. It's been unbelievable. I want to thank the support of the media coming out and covering all the great stories we have on our team each week.

Obviously, great team win for us. Ball security was critical in the game. We talk all the time about that's one statistic that's never going away, ball security, turnover ratio. We had zero fumbles, which was something we had some issues with earlier in the season. We had two interceptions, IU had five fumbles. So 2 to 5, that was probably the biggest difference in the game.

Offensively we started back. We've add had a touchdown in the last three games' opening drive. Four out of our last five. Only one we didn't score on was a blocked field goal, which was easily in range. So we have improved in that area. That was an area earlier in the season we were all discussing and talking about emphasizing and how we could change that and improve in that area, and we have. So I'm proud of that.

Explosive plays, we rank fourth in FBS in explosive plays of 20 yards or more. The way we do explosive plays, we had 12, three runs and nine passes in the game, so that was great. Really proud of the offensive line. Next-man-up mentality. We've now lost three starters, all at offensive tackle. We had lost Mahon, Nelson, Palmer, and a back-up in Sorrell. If you count him, that's four offensive tackles. So I'm really proud. Bates hadn't taken a rep at tackle since he's been here, and we moved him out last week, and he really did a nice job for us. So I'm proud of the mentality we had at linebacker earlier in the year when we faced some adversity and challenges, and same thing on the offensive line right now. So really proud of Coach Limegrover and that entire unit.

Defensively, again, started and finished the game well. The first quarter we had a shutout. Fourth quarter, only allowed one score, and had two separate, two-minute stops, which was big in the game. We're doing a much better job right now of stopping the run. Purdue, we held them to 1.8 yards per carry; Iowa, 1.2 yards per carry; and Indiana at 2.7 yards per carry, which is all under our goal we have each week.

Special teams, our coverage units are playing really well. Kickoff coverage, punt coverage. That's been a real positive for us. Still think we can be more consistent with our punt location and our kick location and the consistency of those balls. But I'm really pleased with how those units are playing right now.

You look at drive, start average, and field position, it's something that we've been really, really good at, and all year long I think it's had a major factor in our success and a real improvement from the previous year.

Just some other notes. We won six consecutive Big Ten games in the same season for the first time since 1994. To put that in perspective, I know we've got a lot of older people in this room, including myself, but our players were born between 1993 and 1997, so put that in perspective. So they have not seen this.

First time in program history we've scored 40 points or more in three straight Big Ten Conference games. Just some real positive things with those types of things. Then obviously first time in school history with three double-digit comebacks in school history. So a lot of positive things there.

We do have a little bit of an injury situation going on now, kind of throughout the whole year. We've lost Brendan Mahon, as you guys know, he hasn't been playing last couple weeks. We'll see how that goes. We lost Paris Palmer for the season, Andrew Nelson for the season. Chance Sorrell's career has ended. Jan Johnson out for the season, Nyeem Wartman-White out for the season. Jason Vranic out for the season, Jake Cooper out for the season. Brandon Polk out for the season, and Nick Bowers is out for the season. So guys have handled the adversity really well. Supported those guys and handled the adversity.

Coaching staff Players of the Week, junior Chris Godwin on offense, Garrett Sickels on defense, and special teams Billy Fessler coming in and doing a great job for us as a whole. That field goal at the end of the game was a big discussions point for us as a coaching staff. What do you do there? 4th and 8. It's hard to say you're going to go for it on fourth down. You'd like to eat up more of the clock. But if you don't get the first down when you get a change of possession, very little time is going to run off the clock. Do you go for the field goal there? Well, you do and it gets blocked, they return it for a touchdown. So a lot of different discussions. Then we follow up with the analytics people after the game to see if they agreed with the decision. Obviously, it worked out well for us.

Rutgers, excited about this game and this opportunity. You look back, the series is 24-2 from 1988. Penn State was ranked No. 15 in the country and lost to Rutgers. So obviously we want to make sure we study our history so we don't repeat it. Recent history, I think you guys know the last couple games we've had some success. We had a really tough game down at their place, an emotional game in a tough environment, but found a way to get a win.

So open it up to questions. But appreciate everybody coming out.

Q. Because he's on the depth chart, do you expect Connor McGovern to play Saturday? Have you decided to lift the red shirt for Will Fries or Michal Menet, and if so, what went into those decisions?

JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, Connor, it's too early in the week to make that decision. We have all week long to figure that out. Obviously, it also helps with it being an 8:00 night game on the front end. Not real excited about coming back, not getting back here until late at night. But on the front end, it does give us a little bit more time to get some guys healthy and ready to go. So it's too early to say on that.

I did bring Michal Menet and Will Fries into my office. That conversation went really well. Both those young men and their families are perfectly comfortable with us doing whatever we have to do to win and put the team first, so that conversation went really well.

On a side note, it also was great just to see those two guys sitting in my office, was because they look beautiful. They've gotten big and strong, and matured. Sometimes I think when you see them with the rest of the guys like I do, it's just a bunch of big human beings. You don't realize. You're kind of up close to them, and they're two good-looking young players that we're excited about their future.

So we are not, at this point, doing anything. Will Fries would be the guy that's a little closer to Michal Menet, not from a readiness standpoint, but just our real need is at offensive tackle. Michal Menet could play tackle, but he's probably more suited inside and Will outside. So we'll see how it plays out. You'd love to keep those guys as red shirts if you possibly can. But the way this thing is playing out, you never know. We want to be prepared for it. So those guys will be up with varsity and get a bunch of reps.

Q. I wanted to ask you about Saquon Barkley. Your thoughts on how he came out of the Indiana game, 33 carries? And your thoughts on his workload. I think he has 200 carries for the season. Do you try to manage that the rest of the way a little bit? Or are 200 carries through ten games, is that a good number for you? Are you concerned physically how he came out of the game and his workload?

JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, it's more about how we see him. What the doctors, what the trainers feel, how he feels. How we watch him at practice, how we watch him in the games. We do have depth at that position. Obviously, it's also hard to take a guy off the field that has a chance to break a play at any minute. He had one play down sideline where he stumbled, and I think if he didn't stumble, he scores. He's had almost one of those runs a game where he's gotten the one big run that really jumps his production up.

So, yeah, we monitor it. He typically hasn't had those types of numbers. I do like the fact that we didn't abort the run game and kept working it in there. He had a big run late in the game for a first down. That was impressive that we talked about after the game. But, yeah, it's something we monitor at every one of these positions. Running back is included in that.

He's nowhere near, I don't think -- I don't have the numbers in front of me, but he's nowhere near the guy on the team with the most reps. I think that's John Reid, clear and above pretty much anybody else.

Q. How big of a role has Brian Gaia played in anchoring your line with everything that's happened, whether it's communication on the field, before plays or even helping guys out during the week and growing as a captain?

JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, he's playing well, but I would say where his value has come all off-season and during the season has been his leadership. Obviously we all know he's the one guy that we have that's started all season long. He did a great job in the off-season in terms of preparation. I mean, he's like 295 pounds, but I think he's got 12 or 13% body fat, which is unreal for a guy that size. He's smart. Football's very, very important to him. It's something we talk about all the time in the recruiting process. There's a way to figure that out. There is a big difference between guys that like football and guys that love football. And Brian Gaia is a guy that loves the game, loves the preparation, loves the camaraderie with his teammates and coaches. I've known Brian and his family for a long time. He's done a great job for us. Leadership of the younger players, mentality, organizing film sessions and all those things. He's been really good. With us, having a true freshman and red-shirt freshman starting on either side of him, I don't think you can do that without Brian Gaia at center as a senior and played as much football as he has. I think you'd have a hard time having a true freshman or red-shirt freshman at both guards without that type of leadership on the inside.

Q. After the game on Saturday, you placed Trace McSorley's toughness to the way he kind of waved you off and wouldn't come out of the game. How is he feeling post that game, and how many practice reps do you think he really requires to be prepared for Rutgers?

JAMES FRANKLIN: We flew Mr. Miyagi in and he put his hands on him. He's in grade shape. He drank a lot of milk and orange juice and multi-vitamins. Living in the new hot and cold tubs. But, seriously, just before walking over here he was walking through the locker room. I saw him, and he looks great. He's still a young player, so he needs every rep he possibly can get. In practice, we need his leadership. We need him setting the tempo, and he needs to continue to develop.

So all these guys, this point of the season, all these guys are banged up and bruised on Sundays. They get a little better on Monday with the day off, Tuesday they're heading in the right direction, then the most important thing is we need to be peaking at the right time emotionally, physically, mentally come Saturday. And we've done a good job of that with all the things that we do, the hot and cold tubs. The nutrition bar has been huge for that. The new hot and cold tubs that we have have been huge for that.

All the different soft tissue stuff that we do with massages and those types of things, it's helped. So Tim Bream and his staff have done an excellent job. Dwight Galt and his staff have done an excellent job. A lot of the stuff that we're doing in terms of studying sports science and things that we can do, modifying, practice, using the experience of the coaches, all these things.

He's in good shape and he'll be ready Saturday.

Q. As far as Will Fries and Michal Menet, how special is it that you would even have two true freshmen that you would feel comfortable playing on the offensive line? How unusual is that for you? Could you talk just a little bit about what might make those guys a little bit ahead of the curve or even ready to do something like this if needed?

JAMES FRANKLIN: I think we probably started this last year with Bates, a lot of conversation with Bates on whether we should burn his red shirt or not. Was close. He started that trend. Then obviously these two guys this year are continuing on that trend. You really want that at every position. You want guys, we went through that with McPhearson on whether we should burn his shirt or not. And if you're recruiting the right guys, that's going to happen.

Then obviously you have guys that are going to take a little longer to develop that still have a chance to have significant roles. But those guys really spent a lot of time preparing before they got here. A guy that we don't talk about a whole lot that's maybe improved as much as anybody on our team, and definitely of all the freshmen, is Gellerstedt. He was a little further behind coming in than those guys were. But he graduated early and he's made up significant ground. There is a lot of excitement and buzz about him right now. That's turned out to be a really good class between McGovern, Bates, Menet, and Gellerstedt. We're excited about those guys and their future. That's kind of the model. You either want to be playing true freshmen or you want to be red-shirting true freshmen that year, kind of going back and forth on how much they can help you as true freshmen and what's the cost-benefit ratio in playing them, is it burning their shirt or holding them for the following year and will they be available as fifth-year guys, and those type of things they're trying to figure out.

Q. When you look at Rutgers, what concerns you about Rutgers? What can they do that can cause problems for you?

JAMES FRANKLIN: I think they're a talented team that's with a new coaching staff and all the changes that come with that, which I can relate to. There is an adjustment period that goes on. And there's going to come a point where it clicks for them. Obviously they've got really, really good coaches. One of their coaches, Jafar Williams, played for me as a wide receiver for me at the University of Maryland. They've got a really good staff, they've got really good people, and they've got talent. So at some point it's going to click for them offensively. They're really multiple. Whether it's empty, whether it's unbalanced or whether it's what we call FSL, formation of the sideline, a lot of things they try to do to cause conflict, and they do it from similar personnel groups.

Defensively, they're one of the better teams in the country in defending the pass. On special teams, obviously they lost one of the better return men in the country, kick return, punt return. And that's had an effect on them. So I think this is a team that is waiting for kind of the light to go on for them and have their moment. They got all the pieces of the puzzle to be successful. As we know, the environment there was really tough for us to play in last year -- two years ago, excuse me. Then obviously there is a lot of familiarity between the programs. There are a lot of kids in their program that know our players and vice versa. We've got a lot of players on our team from the state of New Jersey. It's been a great state to Penn State for a long time. It will continue to be that. That factors into it as well.

Q. You had to replace the holder last week, and that's never as easy a job as people think it is. How much do you worry about having to do that? And how much work does a guy like Fessler have to put in to do that?

JAMES FRANKLIN: First of all, Billy's been doing it all year long, so that helps. But you're exactly right. The relationship between a snapper, a holder, and a kicker, that chemistry and that relationship is really, really important. People look at it as three separate things, but it really is the whole unit. Wherever there is a bad punt or whenever there is a bad kick, the kicker gets all of the blame. When he makes it, he gets too much of the fame. The snapper has a big part of it. The holder has a big part of it. And the kicker has a big part of it. So you want to keep that as consistent as possible.

But making a change there and not ideal. But Billy's so respected in our program. As a vet, my relationship with Billy is really good. I really, really have grown to love and respect the guy. He's one of the guys that has a role on our team and really embraced the role. I'm just really, really pleased and happy with him. He did a great job stepping in.

I will tell you my conversation with them right before that final kick of the game probably was not in coaching 101 handbook, because right before he goes out there, I bring over Yaz and Tyler and Billy. I said, look, if this is a bad snap or bad hold, don't kick it. Just fall on the ball. Because the last thing you want to do in that situation, get a low kick and it gets blocked. That's not the conversation you want to have with a new holder that inspires confidence right before they're going on the field.

But I did think it was an important message that they needed to know. So I struggled back and forth with whether to do it or not. Did it, and Yaz looked at me, kind of rolled his eyes and kind of waved me off and ran out there, delivered a great snap. Billy put it down, and Tyler does what he does, which is knock it through the up rights.

So it's great that you're at a point right now where I can have conversations that I think our guys need to hear, and it doesn't affect their confidence. It's stuff that they need to be aware of, but it doesn't affect their confidence in them doing their job. So that's really good. I'm really proud. If you can't tell how I'm talking, I'm really proud of Billy Fessler and a guy that's taken a role and run with it, how he is on the scout team, how he is at practice, how he is as a holder and back-up quarterback. He has been awesome. He's been awesome.

So I'm really proud of him. And those roles probably go -- they don't get a whole lot of attention, but we talk about all the time on our team, how all these different roles are critical to our success. We have different roles, but they're all critical to us going where we need to go. So he's a great example of that.

Q. I'm hoping this isn't the question that lets you say "Rutgers" 15 straight times, but I'm not sure. Saturday was a wild day in college football. What does it say to you about the appeal of college football just in general that you can have a wild day like that, all kinds of different games, all kinds of crazy upsets, and this late in the year a lot of people are talking about the scores the way they are?

JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, so you've got two choices here. You've got silence, uncomfortable silence, or you have "Rutgers." Which one would you prefer?

Q. Hey, you can answer it any way you want. I thought it was a pretty general question. I'm just asking you about the appeal.

JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, it's a great question. I understand you've got to answer it. But these big-picture things about what's going on in college football, what's going on around the country. How crazy it is, politics, you know. We're going to focus on the things that we can control. That's not one of them. So our focus in our locker room is make good corrections from Saturday, and then we're moving on to Rutgers.

So uncomfortable silence. Rutgers. Uncomfortable silences. Rutgers.

Q. To go along with Cory's question, we all saw your tweet after the game. Can you take me back? Had you guys just landed when that happened? Watching the end of the Iowa game, where were you at? Were you home yet?

JAMES FRANKLIN: To be honest with you, I'm not sure. If I had to remember, it was probably on the plane. We sat on the runway for a little while. The plane went to take off, and right before taking off, it slowed back down real fast. There was a light on that's not supposed to be on, so we sat on the runway for a while. Then they got the light off and we took off. So it was either at that point or when we landed. I'm not really sure when it went out.

Q. Was it in Indiana or sitting in University Park?

JAMES FRANKLIN: Indiana. It was with taking off.

Q. I just wanted to clarify, you said that Palmer was out for the season. Is it still possible we see Mahon later in the season? With all the injuries on the offensive line, how are you guys able to maintain that level of success? I know you mentioned it's the mentality, but does the scheme and everything also factor in? What was the driving force there?

JAMES FRANKLIN: I think it's all those things. I talked in the off-season. One of the reasons we made the change we made was to take pressure off the offensive line, the mobility at the quarterback position helps with that as well. Paris is out for the season. I did not answer the Mahon question. We'll see how that goes. Typically with you guys, in the past I didn't answer it at all. What I've started to try to do to help you guys out, if a guy does have a season-ending injury, I'll give you that. But then once I've given you that, you guys still want more, and I get that, but that's as far as we'll go, we're going. We'll see what happens with Mahon.

Q. You kind of said this, and coaches say this all the time, control what you can control. Other than putting your team in position to win the game on Saturday, what does Penn State control right now?

JAMES FRANKLIN: Getting better at practice today, which is Tuesday. Having great film session, having a great team meeting. Going out and practicing well and being focused. Getting treatment two times a day. Getting in the weight room. Doing a great job in school. Making sure our guys go to school. Making sure our guys are prepared when they're in there. Making sure you get the best grades you possibly can. That's the stuff that we can control. Focus on us. Academically, athletically, socially, spiritually, those things. That's what we can control. Giving ourselves the best chance to be successful on Saturday, athletically; giving ourselves the best chance to be successful, academically, Monday through Friday. Then also talk to our guys about making great choices inned community and socially as well.

We always talk about that Saturday night after the game, making great choices individually and collectively. So those are the things that we can control. Being nice to people, treating people the way you want to be treated. The golden rule. Those are the things that we can control. All the rest of the stuff is nice for people to discuss externally.

When I go into Dunkin' Donuts with my daughter Sunday morning, get them doughnuts, get doughnuts for the offices, come back home, come to the offices, people usually say either good or bad things to me Sunday depending on how Saturday went, and then we move on. That's really about it. Those are the things that we can control.

Q. Talk about your tight ends, Gesicki and Pancoast is behind him. Pancoast got a little time this season. Talk about those guys, what they bring to the team individually on the field and off the field as individuals?

JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, Pancoast is probably a guy we haven't talked about enough this year. As you know, we lost Bowers early in the year, a guy that we're really excited about his future as a young player, and Pancoast kind of got thrust into a situation of being our back-up tight end, competing with Jon Holland for that role.

He's really done a nice job. He's kind of Mr. Dependable. You know, he was in my office yesterday. This is time of year for formals, and our guys don't do those things during the week. Our guys are focused on school and football. So if they handle themselves the right way, they can come in and ask: Can I take my girl to her formal Wednesday night? And he did. He did it the right way. So he's going to the formal on Wednesday night, and I hope he has a great time. He's just kind of Mr. Dependable. He goes to class, gets really good grades. He maximizes his potential on the field. He does all of the things that he needs to do to be successful and give us the best chance to be successful and for him to have a more significant role on the team. I'm really, really proud of him. He's done a great job.

Mike Gesicki, I kind of went into the season telling you guys I thought he had a chance to have a breakout year and make a bunch more big plays for us, and he's done that. He's getting better every single week at being more physical in the run game. As you guys know, since he got here, that was a change, because he had never done it in high school. Had never blocked. Never had his hands in the three-point stance, none of those things, and he's really worked hard at it.

So I'm proud of him there. But those two guys have been integral to the success we've had on offense. Mike's made a bunch of big plays down the field. Even the pass interference call on Saturday was a huge play in the game.

I'm proud of those guys. Even Jon Holland hasn't played a lot, but he's on special teams and he's played a few plays on offense. He's a young, talented guy that we're excited about. I think both Mike and Pancoast have been really good leaders for him as well.

Q. I'm wondering if the success you've had this year and the winning streak had any impact with respect to recruiting? Has it opened any more doors? Are there more kids showing interest? Is it helping you at all in that area that you can tell?

JAMES FRANKLIN: I think we're so far along in the process for this year, and we just don't have a lot of scholarships for this year. That is having an effect, I think, with visits and things like that and guys calling us and showing more interest and things like that. But I think where it will have its biggest impact is in '18. Because the '17 class is pretty much done. We've got a few spots left. The way the recruiting process has changed, just like us, having this type of year, it's kind of like the senior who has a great senior year, 75% of the recruiting process is done based off a junior or sophomore years. So it will have an effect. How significant the effect is, I don't know. I think it will show up more in years to come, especially in the '18 class.

Q. You've mentioned many times about how bringing offensive linemen in at a young age is one of the harder things to do, and you can play farther away from the ball. Bringing offensive linemen, young offensive linemen in the fold in the starting lineup this late in the season, what are the challenges with that specifically? What can you do to help them along in game situations?

JAMES FRANKLIN: I think it's a couple different things. It's different if you're playing a guy that's been in the two-deep all year long. So if you've got a freshman who has been a back-up, and up with the varsity all year long and taking reps and preparing each week, kind of like Trace McSorley, who was a back-up quarterback for two years, that's a different scenario than a guy that was on scout team that you didn't think was going to factor in this year. Now you have a couple injuries, and it goes from never running our offense to now being up with the varsity. That's a completely different scenario.

I think one of the things that's helped us a little bit is these last two classes and especially the last class, Menet's already over 300 pounds, Fries is already over 300 pounds, Gellerstedt's already over 300 pounds, compared to Noah Bey, for example, who was 239 pounds when he showed up on campus. So the fact that we're getting guys that are a little bit closer in terms of size and strength, more prepared to play earlier, I think that helps.

But there's still just a transition just because, as you guys have heard me say before, that's a man's game in there. They're grown men, O-line, D-line, that you're battling against. As we all know, to think that the difference between an 18-year-old guy and a 21- or 22-year-old guy and a guy that's been part of a college strength and conditioning program for three or four years, compared to a guy that's been part of a strength and conditioning program for six months, it's different.

So I think all those variables factor into it. But maturity is part of it at all the positions. How are they able to process the information, learn the information, because that affects how fast and aggressive they're going to play, how physically prepared are they in terms of strength, size, flexibility, things like that.

And then just overall maturity. Are they going to be able to handle their academics and football and social all with their first semester on campus? That's a lot. You think about all you guys while you were in college, your first semester on campus, it was a huge adjustment. And you weren't also trying to be a Division I football player or another sport. That's a huge adjustment. That's where football's different from basketball and other sports. They get to come in, adjust academically, adjust socially first, then take on the responsibility of their sport in the spring. Where football, all those things are being piled on your plate all at once.

Q. You talk each week about starting fast. You've got a team, I'm sure somewhere you've probably been on both ends of this, where you are now and where they are. How important is it for you guys? Is there a renewed significance in starting fast this week? When you've got a 2 and 18, to try to keep them interested, so to speak? That's probably a bad way of wording it. But to try to take the will out of them early, so to speak?

JAMES FRANKLIN: I will tell you, you look at the Purdue game, we went into that saying we want to start fast because we want to start fast. But that game didn't necessarily play out that way. This is going to be an emotional game. Again, there are a lot of ties on both sides. They're going to come out being aggressive in how they call the game, the decisions they make and how their players play. We want to start fast each week, because we want to start fast each week, and that's going to give us the best chance to be successful consistently. No other things factor into it. It's the best thing to do to give us the best chance to be successful. Like I said, you're winning in the first quarter or you're winning in the first half, I think the record is like 80% or higher here at Penn State if we're winning at the half. So that's the main issue.

Q. With the O-line situation, there might be more of an emphasis to put Saquon or another running back in to block. How much has Saquon improved in blocking?

JAMES FRANKLIN: That's an area I think he can be even better. He's shown it in flashes. I think he can really improve there. He's smart, he's strong, he's physical. I think he can be one of the better blocking running backs in the country, and he's got to make his mind up that's what he wants to do. Right now he's good. But I want Saquon to have the mentality that he's going to be the best blocking running back in the country. He's going to be the best receiving running back in the country. He's going to be the best running running back in the country. Short yardage, explosive, going to make people miss. He's going to have the highest GPA of all running backs in the country. He's going to graduate. All those things.

He has a chance to be a complete running back, which are hard to find. It's our job as coaches to make sure that he doesn't underachieve in any of those areas, when you have a guy as talented as he is.

Q. Sanders has been a guy that's provided a spark on special teams. We saw Irv back there on Saturday. When did Irv start working in there? What is the plan? Are you going to try to use him here and there? Is?

JAMES FRANKLIN: Irv has been back there pretty much all year long. I think you're going to see over the next couple years Irvin Charles has got a very, very bright future. He is talented, talented, talented, maybe the most talented wide receiver I've ever been around. We all saw the catch that he had and what he was able to do with it once he got the ball in his hands. But there's a lot more that goes into it than that. So we're looking for other ways to get the ball in his hands and give him a chance to make the play. Miles is our guy back there.

But we want to continue creating opportunities for other guys and developing other guys. Obviously that one didn't go as planned. But he is a big, strong, talented guy. I think it was two years ago or a year and a half ago that we did a race of what were considered the fastest guys on the team at that time. We had the Chisena kid, who is running track now, and all those guys raced, and everybody thought it was going to be Saquon or Chisena. And at 6'4", Irv was just like (making noise), and the whole team was just shocked, just looking big, strong, athletic guy like that. Polk was in that. They're all going to be mad and be all over me in the team meeting saying that they won, because even after that race, they all thought they won.

But Irv is a very, very talented guy, and I'm proud of him because he's matured in so many ways since he's been here. Mom and dad are awesome. Really involved, really active. But he's got a bright future. We keep maturing him and keep preparing him every day because we're excited about him.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports


Fight On State Top Stories

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During his weekly press conference at Beaver Stadium Tuesday, Penn State coach James Franklin gave the lowdown on his banged-up offensive line as the No. 10 Nittany Lions prepare to face Rutgers on the road Saturday night. http://www.scout.com/college/penn-state/story/1728378-is-psu-s-fries-bei...

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You can see his entire press conference — where he also addresses the health of QB Trace McSorley, the play of TE Mike Gesicki and much more — in the video above.

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TRANSCRIPT

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JAMES FRANKLIN: Appreciate everybody being out. Was just outside, obviously. The weather this year has been tremendous. I want to thank the fans for the support we've been getting all year long. It's been unbelievable. I want to thank the support of the media coming out and covering all the great stories we have on our team each week.

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Obviously, great team win for us. Ball security was critical in the game. We talk all the time about that's one statistic that's never going away, ball security, turnover ratio. We had zero fumbles, which was something we had some issues with earlier in the season. We had two interceptions, IU had five fumbles. So 2 to 5, that was probably the biggest difference in the game.

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Offensively we started back. We've add had a touchdown in the last three games' opening drive. Four out of our last five. Only one we didn't score on was a blocked field goal, which was easily in range. So we have improved in that area. That was an area earlier in the season we were all discussing and talking about emphasizing and how we could change that and improve in that area, and we have. So I'm proud of that.

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Explosive plays, we rank fourth in FBS in explosive plays of 20 yards or more. The way we do explosive plays, we had 12, three runs and nine passes in the game, so that was great. Really proud of the offensive line. Next-man-up mentality. We've now lost three starters, all at offensive tackle. We had lost Mahon, Nelson, Palmer, and a back-up in Sorrell. If you count him, that's four offensive tackles. So I'm really proud. Bates hadn't taken a rep at tackle since he's been here, and we moved him out last week, and he really did a nice job for us. So I'm proud of the mentality we had at linebacker earlier in the year when we faced some adversity and challenges, and same thing on the offensive line right now. So really proud of Coach Limegrover and that entire unit.

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Defensively, again, started and finished the game well. The first quarter we had a shutout. Fourth quarter, only allowed one score, and had two separate, two-minute stops, which was big in the game. We're doing a much better job right now of stopping the run. Purdue, we held them to 1.8 yards per carry; Iowa, 1.2 yards per carry; and Indiana at 2.7 yards per carry, which is all under our goal we have each week.

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Special teams, our coverage units are playing really well. Kickoff coverage, punt coverage. That's been a real positive for us. Still think we can be more consistent with our punt location and our kick location and the consistency of those balls. But I'm really pleased with how those units are playing right now.

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You look at drive, start average, and field position, it's something that we've been really, really good at, and all year long I think it's had a major factor in our success and a real improvement from the previous year.

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Just some other notes. We won six consecutive Big Ten games in the same season for the first time since 1994. To put that in perspective, I know we've got a lot of older people in this room, including myself, but our players were born between 1993 and 1997, so put that in perspective. So they have not seen this.

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First time in program history we've scored 40 points or more in three straight Big Ten Conference games. Just some real positive things with those types of things. Then obviously first time in school history with three double-digit comebacks in school history. So a lot of positive things there.

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We do have a little bit of an injury situation going on now, kind of throughout the whole year. We've lost Brendan Mahon, as you guys know, he hasn't been playing last couple weeks. We'll see how that goes. We lost Paris Palmer for the season, Andrew Nelson for the season. Chance Sorrell's career has ended. Jan Johnson out for the season, Nyeem Wartman-White out for the season. Jason Vranic out for the season, Jake Cooper out for the season. Brandon Polk out for the season, and Nick Bowers is out for the season. So guys have handled the adversity really well. Supported those guys and handled the adversity.

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Coaching staff Players of the Week, junior Chris Godwin on offense, Garrett Sickels on defense, and special teams Billy Fessler coming in and doing a great job for us as a whole. That field goal at the end of the game was a big discussions point for us as a coaching staff. What do you do there? 4th and 8. It's hard to say you're going to go for it on fourth down. You'd like to eat up more of the clock. But if you don't get the first down when you get a change of possession, very little time is going to run off the clock. Do you go for the field goal there? Well, you do and it gets blocked, they return it for a touchdown. So a lot of different discussions. Then we follow up with the analytics people after the game to see if they agreed with the decision. Obviously, it worked out well for us.

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Rutgers, excited about this game and this opportunity. You look back, the series is 24-2 from 1988. Penn State was ranked No. 15 in the country and lost to Rutgers. So obviously we want to make sure we study our history so we don't repeat it. Recent history, I think you guys know the last couple games we've had some success. We had a really tough game down at their place, an emotional game in a tough environment, but found a way to get a win.

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So open it up to questions. But appreciate everybody coming out.

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Q. Because he's on the depth chart, do you expect Connor McGovern to play Saturday? Have you decided to lift the red shirt for Will Fries or Michal Menet, and if so, what went into those decisions?

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JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, Connor, it's too early in the week to make that decision. We have all week long to figure that out. Obviously, it also helps with it being an 8:00 night game on the front end. Not real excited about coming back, not getting back here until late at night. But on the front end, it does give us a little bit more time to get some guys healthy and ready to go. So it's too early to say on that.

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I did bring Michal Menet and Will Fries into my office. That conversation went really well. Both those young men and their families are perfectly comfortable with us doing whatever we have to do to win and put the team first, so that conversation went really well.

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On a side note, it also was great just to see those two guys sitting in my office, was because they look beautiful. They've gotten big and strong, and matured. Sometimes I think when you see them with the rest of the guys like I do, it's just a bunch of big human beings. You don't realize. You're kind of up close to them, and they're two good-looking young players that we're excited about their future.

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So we are not, at this point, doing anything. Will Fries would be the guy that's a little closer to Michal Menet, not from a readiness standpoint, but just our real need is at offensive tackle. Michal Menet could play tackle, but he's probably more suited inside and Will outside. So we'll see how it plays out. You'd love to keep those guys as red shirts if you possibly can. But the way this thing is playing out, you never know. We want to be prepared for it. So those guys will be up with varsity and get a bunch of reps.

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Q. I wanted to ask you about Saquon Barkley. Your thoughts on how he came out of the Indiana game, 33 carries? And your thoughts on his workload. I think he has 200 carries for the season. Do you try to manage that the rest of the way a little bit? Or are 200 carries through ten games, is that a good number for you? Are you concerned physically how he came out of the game and his workload?

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JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, it's more about how we see him. What the doctors, what the trainers feel, how he feels. How we watch him at practice, how we watch him in the games. We do have depth at that position. Obviously, it's also hard to take a guy off the field that has a chance to break a play at any minute. He had one play down sideline where he stumbled, and I think if he didn't stumble, he scores. He's had almost one of those runs a game where he's gotten the one big run that really jumps his production up.

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So, yeah, we monitor it. He typically hasn't had those types of numbers. I do like the fact that we didn't abort the run game and kept working it in there. He had a big run late in the game for a first down. That was impressive that we talked about after the game. But, yeah, it's something we monitor at every one of these positions. Running back is included in that.

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He's nowhere near, I don't think -- I don't have the numbers in front of me, but he's nowhere near the guy on the team with the most reps. I think that's John Reid, clear and above pretty much anybody else.

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Q. How big of a role has Brian Gaia played in anchoring your line with everything that's happened, whether it's communication on the field, before plays or even helping guys out during the week and growing as a captain?

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JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, he's playing well, but I would say where his value has come all off-season and during the season has been his leadership. Obviously we all know he's the one guy that we have that's started all season long. He did a great job in the off-season in terms of preparation. I mean, he's like 295 pounds, but I think he's got 12 or 13% body fat, which is unreal for a guy that size. He's smart. Football's very, very important to him. It's something we talk about all the time in the recruiting process. There's a way to figure that out. There is a big difference between guys that like football and guys that love football. And Brian Gaia is a guy that loves the game, loves the preparation, loves the camaraderie with his teammates and coaches. I've known Brian and his family for a long time. He's done a great job for us. Leadership of the younger players, mentality, organizing film sessions and all those things. He's been really good. With us, having a true freshman and red-shirt freshman starting on either side of him, I don't think you can do that without Brian Gaia at center as a senior and played as much football as he has. I think you'd have a hard time having a true freshman or red-shirt freshman at both guards without that type of leadership on the inside.

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Q. After the game on Saturday, you placed Trace McSorley's toughness to the way he kind of waved you off and wouldn't come out of the game. How is he feeling post that game, and how many practice reps do you think he really requires to be prepared for Rutgers?

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JAMES FRANKLIN: We flew Mr. Miyagi in and he put his hands on him. He's in grade shape. He drank a lot of milk and orange juice and multi-vitamins. Living in the new hot and cold tubs. But, seriously, just before walking over here he was walking through the locker room. I saw him, and he looks great. He's still a young player, so he needs every rep he possibly can get. In practice, we need his leadership. We need him setting the tempo, and he needs to continue to develop.

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So all these guys, this point of the season, all these guys are banged up and bruised on Sundays. They get a little better on Monday with the day off, Tuesday they're heading in the right direction, then the most important thing is we need to be peaking at the right time emotionally, physically, mentally come Saturday. And we've done a good job of that with all the things that we do, the hot and cold tubs. The nutrition bar has been huge for that. The new hot and cold tubs that we have have been huge for that.

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All the different soft tissue stuff that we do with massages and those types of things, it's helped. So Tim Bream and his staff have done an excellent job. Dwight Galt and his staff have done an excellent job. A lot of the stuff that we're doing in terms of studying sports science and things that we can do, modifying, practice, using the experience of the coaches, all these things.

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He's in good shape and he'll be ready Saturday.

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Q. As far as Will Fries and Michal Menet, how special is it that you would even have two true freshmen that you would feel comfortable playing on the offensive line? How unusual is that for you? Could you talk just a little bit about what might make those guys a little bit ahead of the curve or even ready to do something like this if needed?

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JAMES FRANKLIN: I think we probably started this last year with Bates, a lot of conversation with Bates on whether we should burn his red shirt or not. Was close. He started that trend. Then obviously these two guys this year are continuing on that trend. You really want that at every position. You want guys, we went through that with McPhearson on whether we should burn his shirt or not. And if you're recruiting the right guys, that's going to happen.

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Then obviously you have guys that are going to take a little longer to develop that still have a chance to have significant roles. But those guys really spent a lot of time preparing before they got here. A guy that we don't talk about a whole lot that's maybe improved as much as anybody on our team, and definitely of all the freshmen, is Gellerstedt. He was a little further behind coming in than those guys were. But he graduated early and he's made up significant ground. There is a lot of excitement and buzz about him right now. That's turned out to be a really good class between McGovern, Bates, Menet, and Gellerstedt. We're excited about those guys and their future. That's kind of the model. You either want to be playing true freshmen or you want to be red-shirting true freshmen that year, kind of going back and forth on how much they can help you as true freshmen and what's the cost-benefit ratio in playing them, is it burning their shirt or holding them for the following year and will they be available as fifth-year guys, and those type of things they're trying to figure out.

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Q. When you look at Rutgers, what concerns you about Rutgers? What can they do that can cause problems for you?

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JAMES FRANKLIN: I think they're a talented team that's with a new coaching staff and all the changes that come with that, which I can relate to. There is an adjustment period that goes on. And there's going to come a point where it clicks for them. Obviously they've got really, really good coaches. One of their coaches, Jafar Williams, played for me as a wide receiver for me at the University of Maryland. They've got a really good staff, they've got really good people, and they've got talent. So at some point it's going to click for them offensively. They're really multiple. Whether it's empty, whether it's unbalanced or whether it's what we call FSL, formation of the sideline, a lot of things they try to do to cause conflict, and they do it from similar personnel groups.

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Defensively, they're one of the better teams in the country in defending the pass. On special teams, obviously they lost one of the better return men in the country, kick return, punt return. And that's had an effect on them. So I think this is a team that is waiting for kind of the light to go on for them and have their moment. They got all the pieces of the puzzle to be successful. As we know, the environment there was really tough for us to play in last year -- two years ago, excuse me. Then obviously there is a lot of familiarity between the programs. There are a lot of kids in their program that know our players and vice versa. We've got a lot of players on our team from the state of New Jersey. It's been a great state to Penn State for a long time. It will continue to be that. That factors into it as well.

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Q. You had to replace the holder last week, and that's never as easy a job as people think it is. How much do you worry about having to do that? And how much work does a guy like Fessler have to put in to do that?

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JAMES FRANKLIN: First of all, Billy's been doing it all year long, so that helps. But you're exactly right. The relationship between a snapper, a holder, and a kicker, that chemistry and that relationship is really, really important. People look at it as three separate things, but it really is the whole unit. Wherever there is a bad punt or whenever there is a bad kick, the kicker gets all of the blame. When he makes it, he gets too much of the fame. The snapper has a big part of it. The holder has a big part of it. And the kicker has a big part of it. So you want to keep that as consistent as possible.

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But making a change there and not ideal. But Billy's so respected in our program. As a vet, my relationship with Billy is really good. I really, really have grown to love and respect the guy. He's one of the guys that has a role on our team and really embraced the role. I'm just really, really pleased and happy with him. He did a great job stepping in.

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I will tell you my conversation with them right before that final kick of the game probably was not in coaching 101 handbook, because right before he goes out there, I bring over Yaz and Tyler and Billy. I said, look, if this is a bad snap or bad hold, don't kick it. Just fall on the ball. Because the last thing you want to do in that situation, get a low kick and it gets blocked. That's not the conversation you want to have with a new holder that inspires confidence right before they're going on the field.

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But I did think it was an important message that they needed to know. So I struggled back and forth with whether to do it or not. Did it, and Yaz looked at me, kind of rolled his eyes and kind of waved me off and ran out there, delivered a great snap. Billy put it down, and Tyler does what he does, which is knock it through the up rights.

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So it's great that you're at a point right now where I can have conversations that I think our guys need to hear, and it doesn't affect their confidence. It's stuff that they need to be aware of, but it doesn't affect their confidence in them doing their job. So that's really good. I'm really proud. If you can't tell how I'm talking, I'm really proud of Billy Fessler and a guy that's taken a role and run with it, how he is on the scout team, how he is at practice, how he is as a holder and back-up quarterback. He has been awesome. He's been awesome.

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So I'm really proud of him. And those roles probably go -- they don't get a whole lot of attention, but we talk about all the time on our team, how all these different roles are critical to our success. We have different roles, but they're all critical to us going where we need to go. So he's a great example of that.

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Q. I'm hoping this isn't the question that lets you say \"Rutgers\" 15 straight times, but I'm not sure. Saturday was a wild day in college football. What does it say to you about the appeal of college football just in general that you can have a wild day like that, all kinds of different games, all kinds of crazy upsets, and this late in the year a lot of people are talking about the scores the way they are?

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JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, so you've got two choices here. You've got silence, uncomfortable silence, or you have \"Rutgers.\" Which one would you prefer?

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Q. Hey, you can answer it any way you want. I thought it was a pretty general question. I'm just asking you about the appeal.

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JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, it's a great question. I understand you've got to answer it. But these big-picture things about what's going on in college football, what's going on around the country. How crazy it is, politics, you know. We're going to focus on the things that we can control. That's not one of them. So our focus in our locker room is make good corrections from Saturday, and then we're moving on to Rutgers.

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So uncomfortable silence. Rutgers. Uncomfortable silences. Rutgers.

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Q. To go along with Cory's question, we all saw your tweet after the game. Can you take me back? Had you guys just landed when that happened? Watching the end of the Iowa game, where were you at? Were you home yet?

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JAMES FRANKLIN: To be honest with you, I'm not sure. If I had to remember, it was probably on the plane. We sat on the runway for a little while. The plane went to take off, and right before taking off, it slowed back down real fast. There was a light on that's not supposed to be on, so we sat on the runway for a while. Then they got the light off and we took off. So it was either at that point or when we landed. I'm not really sure when it went out.

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Q. Was it in Indiana or sitting in University Park?

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JAMES FRANKLIN: Indiana. It was with taking off.

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Q. I just wanted to clarify, you said that Palmer was out for the season. Is it still possible we see Mahon later in the season? With all the injuries on the offensive line, how are you guys able to maintain that level of success? I know you mentioned it's the mentality, but does the scheme and everything also factor in? What was the driving force there?

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JAMES FRANKLIN: I think it's all those things. I talked in the off-season. One of the reasons we made the change we made was to take pressure off the offensive line, the mobility at the quarterback position helps with that as well. Paris is out for the season. I did not answer the Mahon question. We'll see how that goes. Typically with you guys, in the past I didn't answer it at all. What I've started to try to do to help you guys out, if a guy does have a season-ending injury, I'll give you that. But then once I've given you that, you guys still want more, and I get that, but that's as far as we'll go, we're going. We'll see what happens with Mahon.

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Q. You kind of said this, and coaches say this all the time, control what you can control. Other than putting your team in position to win the game on Saturday, what does Penn State control right now?

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JAMES FRANKLIN: Getting better at practice today, which is Tuesday. Having great film session, having a great team meeting. Going out and practicing well and being focused. Getting treatment two times a day. Getting in the weight room. Doing a great job in school. Making sure our guys go to school. Making sure our guys are prepared when they're in there. Making sure you get the best grades you possibly can. That's the stuff that we can control. Focus on us. Academically, athletically, socially, spiritually, those things. That's what we can control. Giving ourselves the best chance to be successful on Saturday, athletically; giving ourselves the best chance to be successful, academically, Monday through Friday. Then also talk to our guys about making great choices inned community and socially as well.

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We always talk about that Saturday night after the game, making great choices individually and collectively. So those are the things that we can control. Being nice to people, treating people the way you want to be treated. The golden rule. Those are the things that we can control. All the rest of the stuff is nice for people to discuss externally.

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When I go into Dunkin' Donuts with my daughter Sunday morning, get them doughnuts, get doughnuts for the offices, come back home, come to the offices, people usually say either good or bad things to me Sunday depending on how Saturday went, and then we move on. That's really about it. Those are the things that we can control.

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Q. Talk about your tight ends, Gesicki and Pancoast is behind him. Pancoast got a little time this season. Talk about those guys, what they bring to the team individually on the field and off the field as individuals?

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JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, Pancoast is probably a guy we haven't talked about enough this year. As you know, we lost Bowers early in the year, a guy that we're really excited about his future as a young player, and Pancoast kind of got thrust into a situation of being our back-up tight end, competing with Jon Holland for that role.

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He's really done a nice job. He's kind of Mr. Dependable. You know, he was in my office yesterday. This is time of year for formals, and our guys don't do those things during the week. Our guys are focused on school and football. So if they handle themselves the right way, they can come in and ask: Can I take my girl to her formal Wednesday night? And he did. He did it the right way. So he's going to the formal on Wednesday night, and I hope he has a great time. He's just kind of Mr. Dependable. He goes to class, gets really good grades. He maximizes his potential on the field. He does all of the things that he needs to do to be successful and give us the best chance to be successful and for him to have a more significant role on the team. I'm really, really proud of him. He's done a great job.

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Mike Gesicki, I kind of went into the season telling you guys I thought he had a chance to have a breakout year and make a bunch more big plays for us, and he's done that. He's getting better every single week at being more physical in the run game. As you guys know, since he got here, that was a change, because he had never done it in high school. Had never blocked. Never had his hands in the three-point stance, none of those things, and he's really worked hard at it.

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So I'm proud of him there. But those two guys have been integral to the success we've had on offense. Mike's made a bunch of big plays down the field. Even the pass interference call on Saturday was a huge play in the game.

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I'm proud of those guys. Even Jon Holland hasn't played a lot, but he's on special teams and he's played a few plays on offense. He's a young, talented guy that we're excited about. I think both Mike and Pancoast have been really good leaders for him as well.

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Q. I'm wondering if the success you've had this year and the winning streak had any impact with respect to recruiting? Has it opened any more doors? Are there more kids showing interest? Is it helping you at all in that area that you can tell?

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JAMES FRANKLIN: I think we're so far along in the process for this year, and we just don't have a lot of scholarships for this year. That is having an effect, I think, with visits and things like that and guys calling us and showing more interest and things like that. But I think where it will have its biggest impact is in '18. Because the '17 class is pretty much done. We've got a few spots left. The way the recruiting process has changed, just like us, having this type of year, it's kind of like the senior who has a great senior year, 75% of the recruiting process is done based off a junior or sophomore years. So it will have an effect. How significant the effect is, I don't know. I think it will show up more in years to come, especially in the '18 class.

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Q. You've mentioned many times about how bringing offensive linemen in at a young age is one of the harder things to do, and you can play farther away from the ball. Bringing offensive linemen, young offensive linemen in the fold in the starting lineup this late in the season, what are the challenges with that specifically? What can you do to help them along in game situations?

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JAMES FRANKLIN: I think it's a couple different things. It's different if you're playing a guy that's been in the two-deep all year long. So if you've got a freshman who has been a back-up, and up with the varsity all year long and taking reps and preparing each week, kind of like Trace McSorley, who was a back-up quarterback for two years, that's a different scenario than a guy that was on scout team that you didn't think was going to factor in this year. Now you have a couple injuries, and it goes from never running our offense to now being up with the varsity. That's a completely different scenario.

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I think one of the things that's helped us a little bit is these last two classes and especially the last class, Menet's already over 300 pounds, Fries is already over 300 pounds, Gellerstedt's already over 300 pounds, compared to Noah Bey, for example, who was 239 pounds when he showed up on campus. So the fact that we're getting guys that are a little bit closer in terms of size and strength, more prepared to play earlier, I think that helps.

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But there's still just a transition just because, as you guys have heard me say before, that's a man's game in there. They're grown men, O-line, D-line, that you're battling against. As we all know, to think that the difference between an 18-year-old guy and a 21- or 22-year-old guy and a guy that's been part of a college strength and conditioning program for three or four years, compared to a guy that's been part of a strength and conditioning program for six months, it's different.

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So I think all those variables factor into it. But maturity is part of it at all the positions. How are they able to process the information, learn the information, because that affects how fast and aggressive they're going to play, how physically prepared are they in terms of strength, size, flexibility, things like that.

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And then just overall maturity. Are they going to be able to handle their academics and football and social all with their first semester on campus? That's a lot. You think about all you guys while you were in college, your first semester on campus, it was a huge adjustment. And you weren't also trying to be a Division I football player or another sport. That's a huge adjustment. That's where football's different from basketball and other sports. They get to come in, adjust academically, adjust socially first, then take on the responsibility of their sport in the spring. Where football, all those things are being piled on your plate all at once.

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Q. You talk each week about starting fast. You've got a team, I'm sure somewhere you've probably been on both ends of this, where you are now and where they are. How important is it for you guys? Is there a renewed significance in starting fast this week? When you've got a 2 and 18, to try to keep them interested, so to speak? That's probably a bad way of wording it. But to try to take the will out of them early, so to speak?

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JAMES FRANKLIN: I will tell you, you look at the Purdue game, we went into that saying we want to start fast because we want to start fast. But that game didn't necessarily play out that way. This is going to be an emotional game. Again, there are a lot of ties on both sides. They're going to come out being aggressive in how they call the game, the decisions they make and how their players play. We want to start fast each week, because we want to start fast each week, and that's going to give us the best chance to be successful consistently. No other things factor into it. It's the best thing to do to give us the best chance to be successful. Like I said, you're winning in the first quarter or you're winning in the first half, I think the record is like 80% or higher here at Penn State if we're winning at the half. So that's the main issue.

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Q. With the O-line situation, there might be more of an emphasis to put Saquon or another running back in to block. How much has Saquon improved in blocking?

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JAMES FRANKLIN: That's an area I think he can be even better. He's shown it in flashes. I think he can really improve there. He's smart, he's strong, he's physical. I think he can be one of the better blocking running backs in the country, and he's got to make his mind up that's what he wants to do. Right now he's good. But I want Saquon to have the mentality that he's going to be the best blocking running back in the country. He's going to be the best receiving running back in the country. He's going to be the best running running back in the country. Short yardage, explosive, going to make people miss. He's going to have the highest GPA of all running backs in the country. He's going to graduate. All those things.

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He has a chance to be a complete running back, which are hard to find. It's our job as coaches to make sure that he doesn't underachieve in any of those areas, when you have a guy as talented as he is.

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Q. Sanders has been a guy that's provided a spark on special teams. We saw Irv back there on Saturday. When did Irv start working in there? What is the plan? Are you going to try to use him here and there? Is?

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JAMES FRANKLIN: Irv has been back there pretty much all year long. I think you're going to see over the next couple years Irvin Charles has got a very, very bright future. He is talented, talented, talented, maybe the most talented wide receiver I've ever been around. We all saw the catch that he had and what he was able to do with it once he got the ball in his hands. But there's a lot more that goes into it than that. So we're looking for other ways to get the ball in his hands and give him a chance to make the play. Miles is our guy back there.

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But we want to continue creating opportunities for other guys and developing other guys. Obviously that one didn't go as planned. But he is a big, strong, talented guy. I think it was two years ago or a year and a half ago that we did a race of what were considered the fastest guys on the team at that time. We had the Chisena kid, who is running track now, and all those guys raced, and everybody thought it was going to be Saquon or Chisena. And at 6'4\", Irv was just like (making noise), and the whole team was just shocked, just looking big, strong, athletic guy like that. Polk was in that. They're all going to be mad and be all over me in the team meeting saying that they won, because even after that race, they all thought they won.

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But Irv is a very, very talented guy, and I'm proud of him because he's matured in so many ways since he's been here. Mom and dad are awesome. Really involved, really active. But he's got a bright future. We keep maturing him and keep preparing him every day because we're excited about him.

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FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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During his weekly press conference at Beaver Stadium Tuesday, Penn State coach James Franklin gave the lowdown on his banged-up offensive line as the No. 10 Nittany Lions prepare to face Rutgers on the road Saturday night. http://www.scout.com/college/penn-state/story/1728378-is-psu-s-fries-bei...

You can see his entire press conference — where he also addresses the health of QB Trace McSorley, the play of TE Mike Gesicki and much more — in the video above.

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TRANSCRIPT

JAMES FRANKLIN: Appreciate everybody being out. Was just outside, obviously. The weather this year has been tremendous. I want to thank the fans for the support we've been getting all year long. It's been unbelievable. I want to thank the support of the media coming out and covering all the great stories we have on our team each week.

Obviously, great team win for us. Ball security was critical in the game. We talk all the time about that's one statistic that's never going away, ball security, turnover ratio. We had zero fumbles, which was something we had some issues with earlier in the season. We had two interceptions, IU had five fumbles. So 2 to 5, that was probably the biggest difference in the game.

Offensively we started back. We've add had a touchdown in the last three games' opening drive. Four out of our last five. Only one we didn't score on was a blocked field goal, which was easily in range. So we have improved in that area. That was an area earlier in the season we were all discussing and talking about emphasizing and how we could change that and improve in that area, and we have. So I'm proud of that.

Explosive plays, we rank fourth in FBS in explosive plays of 20 yards or more. The way we do explosive plays, we had 12, three runs and nine passes in the game, so that was great. Really proud of the offensive line. Next-man-up mentality. We've now lost three starters, all at offensive tackle. We had lost Mahon, Nelson, Palmer, and a back-up in Sorrell. If you count him, that's four offensive tackles. So I'm really proud. Bates hadn't taken a rep at tackle since he's been here, and we moved him out last week, and he really did a nice job for us. So I'm proud of the mentality we had at linebacker earlier in the year when we faced some adversity and challenges, and same thing on the offensive line right now. So really proud of Coach Limegrover and that entire unit.

Defensively, again, started and finished the game well. The first quarter we had a shutout. Fourth quarter, only allowed one score, and had two separate, two-minute stops, which was big in the game. We're doing a much better job right now of stopping the run. Purdue, we held them to 1.8 yards per carry; Iowa, 1.2 yards per carry; and Indiana at 2.7 yards per carry, which is all under our goal we have each week.

Special teams, our coverage units are playing really well. Kickoff coverage, punt coverage. That's been a real positive for us. Still think we can be more consistent with our punt location and our kick location and the consistency of those balls. But I'm really pleased with how those units are playing right now.

You look at drive, start average, and field position, it's something that we've been really, really good at, and all year long I think it's had a major factor in our success and a real improvement from the previous year.

Just some other notes. We won six consecutive Big Ten games in the same season for the first time since 1994. To put that in perspective, I know we've got a lot of older people in this room, including myself, but our players were born between 1993 and 1997, so put that in perspective. So they have not seen this.

First time in program history we've scored 40 points or more in three straight Big Ten Conference games. Just some real positive things with those types of things. Then obviously first time in school history with three double-digit comebacks in school history. So a lot of positive things there.

We do have a little bit of an injury situation going on now, kind of throughout the whole year. We've lost Brendan Mahon, as you guys know, he hasn't been playing last couple weeks. We'll see how that goes. We lost Paris Palmer for the season, Andrew Nelson for the season. Chance Sorrell's career has ended. Jan Johnson out for the season, Nyeem Wartman-White out for the season. Jason Vranic out for the season, Jake Cooper out for the season. Brandon Polk out for the season, and Nick Bowers is out for the season. So guys have handled the adversity really well. Supported those guys and handled the adversity.

Coaching staff Players of the Week, junior Chris Godwin on offense, Garrett Sickels on defense, and special teams Billy Fessler coming in and doing a great job for us as a whole. That field goal at the end of the game was a big discussions point for us as a coaching staff. What do you do there? 4th and 8. It's hard to say you're going to go for it on fourth down. You'd like to eat up more of the clock. But if you don't get the first down when you get a change of possession, very little time is going to run off the clock. Do you go for the field goal there? Well, you do and it gets blocked, they return it for a touchdown. So a lot of different discussions. Then we follow up with the analytics people after the game to see if they agreed with the decision. Obviously, it worked out well for us.

Rutgers, excited about this game and this opportunity. You look back, the series is 24-2 from 1988. Penn State was ranked No. 15 in the country and lost to Rutgers. So obviously we want to make sure we study our history so we don't repeat it. Recent history, I think you guys know the last couple games we've had some success. We had a really tough game down at their place, an emotional game in a tough environment, but found a way to get a win.

So open it up to questions. But appreciate everybody coming out.

Q. Because he's on the depth chart, do you expect Connor McGovern to play Saturday? Have you decided to lift the red shirt for Will Fries or Michal Menet, and if so, what went into those decisions?

JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, Connor, it's too early in the week to make that decision. We have all week long to figure that out. Obviously, it also helps with it being an 8:00 night game on the front end. Not real excited about coming back, not getting back here until late at night. But on the front end, it does give us a little bit more time to get some guys healthy and ready to go. So it's too early to say on that.

I did bring Michal Menet and Will Fries into my office. That conversation went really well. Both those young men and their families are perfectly comfortable with us doing whatever we have to do to win and put the team first, so that conversation went really well.

On a side note, it also was great just to see those two guys sitting in my office, was because they look beautiful. They've gotten big and strong, and matured. Sometimes I think when you see them with the rest of the guys like I do, it's just a bunch of big human beings. You don't realize. You're kind of up close to them, and they're two good-looking young players that we're excited about their future.

So we are not, at this point, doing anything. Will Fries would be the guy that's a little closer to Michal Menet, not from a readiness standpoint, but just our real need is at offensive tackle. Michal Menet could play tackle, but he's probably more suited inside and Will outside. So we'll see how it plays out. You'd love to keep those guys as red shirts if you possibly can. But the way this thing is playing out, you never know. We want to be prepared for it. So those guys will be up with varsity and get a bunch of reps.

Q. I wanted to ask you about Saquon Barkley. Your thoughts on how he came out of the Indiana game, 33 carries? And your thoughts on his workload. I think he has 200 carries for the season. Do you try to manage that the rest of the way a little bit? Or are 200 carries through ten games, is that a good number for you? Are you concerned physically how he came out of the game and his workload?

JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, it's more about how we see him. What the doctors, what the trainers feel, how he feels. How we watch him at practice, how we watch him in the games. We do have depth at that position. Obviously, it's also hard to take a guy off the field that has a chance to break a play at any minute. He had one play down sideline where he stumbled, and I think if he didn't stumble, he scores. He's had almost one of those runs a game where he's gotten the one big run that really jumps his production up.

So, yeah, we monitor it. He typically hasn't had those types of numbers. I do like the fact that we didn't abort the run game and kept working it in there. He had a big run late in the game for a first down. That was impressive that we talked about after the game. But, yeah, it's something we monitor at every one of these positions. Running back is included in that.

He's nowhere near, I don't think -- I don't have the numbers in front of me, but he's nowhere near the guy on the team with the most reps. I think that's John Reid, clear and above pretty much anybody else.

Q. How big of a role has Brian Gaia played in anchoring your line with everything that's happened, whether it's communication on the field, before plays or even helping guys out during the week and growing as a captain?

JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, he's playing well, but I would say where his value has come all off-season and during the season has been his leadership. Obviously we all know he's the one guy that we have that's started all season long. He did a great job in the off-season in terms of preparation. I mean, he's like 295 pounds, but I think he's got 12 or 13% body fat, which is unreal for a guy that size. He's smart. Football's very, very important to him. It's something we talk about all the time in the recruiting process. There's a way to figure that out. There is a big difference between guys that like football and guys that love football. And Brian Gaia is a guy that loves the game, loves the preparation, loves the camaraderie with his teammates and coaches. I've known Brian and his family for a long time. He's done a great job for us. Leadership of the younger players, mentality, organizing film sessions and all those things. He's been really good. With us, having a true freshman and red-shirt freshman starting on either side of him, I don't think you can do that without Brian Gaia at center as a senior and played as much football as he has. I think you'd have a hard time having a true freshman or red-shirt freshman at both guards without that type of leadership on the inside.

Q. After the game on Saturday, you placed Trace McSorley's toughness to the way he kind of waved you off and wouldn't come out of the game. How is he feeling post that game, and how many practice reps do you think he really requires to be prepared for Rutgers?

JAMES FRANKLIN: We flew Mr. Miyagi in and he put his hands on him. He's in grade shape. He drank a lot of milk and orange juice and multi-vitamins. Living in the new hot and cold tubs. But, seriously, just before walking over here he was walking through the locker room. I saw him, and he looks great. He's still a young player, so he needs every rep he possibly can get. In practice, we need his leadership. We need him setting the tempo, and he needs to continue to develop.

So all these guys, this point of the season, all these guys are banged up and bruised on Sundays. They get a little better on Monday with the day off, Tuesday they're heading in the right direction, then the most important thing is we need to be peaking at the right time emotionally, physically, mentally come Saturday. And we've done a good job of that with all the things that we do, the hot and cold tubs. The nutrition bar has been huge for that. The new hot and cold tubs that we have have been huge for that.

All the different soft tissue stuff that we do with massages and those types of things, it's helped. So Tim Bream and his staff have done an excellent job. Dwight Galt and his staff have done an excellent job. A lot of the stuff that we're doing in terms of studying sports science and things that we can do, modifying, practice, using the experience of the coaches, all these things.

He's in good shape and he'll be ready Saturday.

Q. As far as Will Fries and Michal Menet, how special is it that you would even have two true freshmen that you would feel comfortable playing on the offensive line? How unusual is that for you? Could you talk just a little bit about what might make those guys a little bit ahead of the curve or even ready to do something like this if needed?

JAMES FRANKLIN: I think we probably started this last year with Bates, a lot of conversation with Bates on whether we should burn his red shirt or not. Was close. He started that trend. Then obviously these two guys this year are continuing on that trend. You really want that at every position. You want guys, we went through that with McPhearson on whether we should burn his shirt or not. And if you're recruiting the right guys, that's going to happen.

Then obviously you have guys that are going to take a little longer to develop that still have a chance to have significant roles. But those guys really spent a lot of time preparing before they got here. A guy that we don't talk about a whole lot that's maybe improved as much as anybody on our team, and definitely of all the freshmen, is Gellerstedt. He was a little further behind coming in than those guys were. But he graduated early and he's made up significant ground. There is a lot of excitement and buzz about him right now. That's turned out to be a really good class between McGovern, Bates, Menet, and Gellerstedt. We're excited about those guys and their future. That's kind of the model. You either want to be playing true freshmen or you want to be red-shirting true freshmen that year, kind of going back and forth on how much they can help you as true freshmen and what's the cost-benefit ratio in playing them, is it burning their shirt or holding them for the following year and will they be available as fifth-year guys, and those type of things they're trying to figure out.

Q. When you look at Rutgers, what concerns you about Rutgers? What can they do that can cause problems for you?

JAMES FRANKLIN: I think they're a talented team that's with a new coaching staff and all the changes that come with that, which I can relate to. There is an adjustment period that goes on. And there's going to come a point where it clicks for them. Obviously they've got really, really good coaches. One of their coaches, Jafar Williams, played for me as a wide receiver for me at the University of Maryland. They've got a really good staff, they've got really good people, and they've got talent. So at some point it's going to click for them offensively. They're really multiple. Whether it's empty, whether it's unbalanced or whether it's what we call FSL, formation of the sideline, a lot of things they try to do to cause conflict, and they do it from similar personnel groups.

Defensively, they're one of the better teams in the country in defending the pass. On special teams, obviously they lost one of the better return men in the country, kick return, punt return. And that's had an effect on them. So I think this is a team that is waiting for kind of the light to go on for them and have their moment. They got all the pieces of the puzzle to be successful. As we know, the environment there was really tough for us to play in last year -- two years ago, excuse me. Then obviously there is a lot of familiarity between the programs. There are a lot of kids in their program that know our players and vice versa. We've got a lot of players on our team from the state of New Jersey. It's been a great state to Penn State for a long time. It will continue to be that. That factors into it as well.

Q. You had to replace the holder last week, and that's never as easy a job as people think it is. How much do you worry about having to do that? And how much work does a guy like Fessler have to put in to do that?

JAMES FRANKLIN: First of all, Billy's been doing it all year long, so that helps. But you're exactly right. The relationship between a snapper, a holder, and a kicker, that chemistry and that relationship is really, really important. People look at it as three separate things, but it really is the whole unit. Wherever there is a bad punt or whenever there is a bad kick, the kicker gets all of the blame. When he makes it, he gets too much of the fame. The snapper has a big part of it. The holder has a big part of it. And the kicker has a big part of it. So you want to keep that as consistent as possible.

But making a change there and not ideal. But Billy's so respected in our program. As a vet, my relationship with Billy is really good. I really, really have grown to love and respect the guy. He's one of the guys that has a role on our team and really embraced the role. I'm just really, really pleased and happy with him. He did a great job stepping in.

I will tell you my conversation with them right before that final kick of the game probably was not in coaching 101 handbook, because right before he goes out there, I bring over Yaz and Tyler and Billy. I said, look, if this is a bad snap or bad hold, don't kick it. Just fall on the ball. Because the last thing you want to do in that situation, get a low kick and it gets blocked. That's not the conversation you want to have with a new holder that inspires confidence right before they're going on the field.

But I did think it was an important message that they needed to know. So I struggled back and forth with whether to do it or not. Did it, and Yaz looked at me, kind of rolled his eyes and kind of waved me off and ran out there, delivered a great snap. Billy put it down, and Tyler does what he does, which is knock it through the up rights.

So it's great that you're at a point right now where I can have conversations that I think our guys need to hear, and it doesn't affect their confidence. It's stuff that they need to be aware of, but it doesn't affect their confidence in them doing their job. So that's really good. I'm really proud. If you can't tell how I'm talking, I'm really proud of Billy Fessler and a guy that's taken a role and run with it, how he is on the scout team, how he is at practice, how he is as a holder and back-up quarterback. He has been awesome. He's been awesome.

So I'm really proud of him. And those roles probably go -- they don't get a whole lot of attention, but we talk about all the time on our team, how all these different roles are critical to our success. We have different roles, but they're all critical to us going where we need to go. So he's a great example of that.

Q. I'm hoping this isn't the question that lets you say \"Rutgers\" 15 straight times, but I'm not sure. Saturday was a wild day in college football. What does it say to you about the appeal of college football just in general that you can have a wild day like that, all kinds of different games, all kinds of crazy upsets, and this late in the year a lot of people are talking about the scores the way they are?

JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, so you've got two choices here. You've got silence, uncomfortable silence, or you have \"Rutgers.\" Which one would you prefer?

Q. Hey, you can answer it any way you want. I thought it was a pretty general question. I'm just asking you about the appeal.

JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, it's a great question. I understand you've got to answer it. But these big-picture things about what's going on in college football, what's going on around the country. How crazy it is, politics, you know. We're going to focus on the things that we can control. That's not one of them. So our focus in our locker room is make good corrections from Saturday, and then we're moving on to Rutgers.

So uncomfortable silence. Rutgers. Uncomfortable silences. Rutgers.

Q. To go along with Cory's question, we all saw your tweet after the game. Can you take me back? Had you guys just landed when that happened? Watching the end of the Iowa game, where were you at? Were you home yet?

JAMES FRANKLIN: To be honest with you, I'm not sure. If I had to remember, it was probably on the plane. We sat on the runway for a little while. The plane went to take off, and right before taking off, it slowed back down real fast. There was a light on that's not supposed to be on, so we sat on the runway for a while. Then they got the light off and we took off. So it was either at that point or when we landed. I'm not really sure when it went out.

Q. Was it in Indiana or sitting in University Park?

JAMES FRANKLIN: Indiana. It was with taking off.

Q. I just wanted to clarify, you said that Palmer was out for the season. Is it still possible we see Mahon later in the season? With all the injuries on the offensive line, how are you guys able to maintain that level of success? I know you mentioned it's the mentality, but does the scheme and everything also factor in? What was the driving force there?

JAMES FRANKLIN: I think it's all those things. I talked in the off-season. One of the reasons we made the change we made was to take pressure off the offensive line, the mobility at the quarterback position helps with that as well. Paris is out for the season. I did not answer the Mahon question. We'll see how that goes. Typically with you guys, in the past I didn't answer it at all. What I've started to try to do to help you guys out, if a guy does have a season-ending injury, I'll give you that. But then once I've given you that, you guys still want more, and I get that, but that's as far as we'll go, we're going. We'll see what happens with Mahon.

Q. You kind of said this, and coaches say this all the time, control what you can control. Other than putting your team in position to win the game on Saturday, what does Penn State control right now?

JAMES FRANKLIN: Getting better at practice today, which is Tuesday. Having great film session, having a great team meeting. Going out and practicing well and being focused. Getting treatment two times a day. Getting in the weight room. Doing a great job in school. Making sure our guys go to school. Making sure our guys are prepared when they're in there. Making sure you get the best grades you possibly can. That's the stuff that we can control. Focus on us. Academically, athletically, socially, spiritually, those things. That's what we can control. Giving ourselves the best chance to be successful on Saturday, athletically; giving ourselves the best chance to be successful, academically, Monday through Friday. Then also talk to our guys about making great choices inned community and socially as well.

We always talk about that Saturday night after the game, making great choices individually and collectively. So those are the things that we can control. Being nice to people, treating people the way you want to be treated. The golden rule. Those are the things that we can control. All the rest of the stuff is nice for people to discuss externally.

When I go into Dunkin' Donuts with my daughter Sunday morning, get them doughnuts, get doughnuts for the offices, come back home, come to the offices, people usually say either good or bad things to me Sunday depending on how Saturday went, and then we move on. That's really about it. Those are the things that we can control.

Q. Talk about your tight ends, Gesicki and Pancoast is behind him. Pancoast got a little time this season. Talk about those guys, what they bring to the team individually on the field and off the field as individuals?

JAMES FRANKLIN: Yeah, Pancoast is probably a guy we haven't talked about enough this year. As you know, we lost Bowers early in the year, a guy that we're really excited about his future as a young player, and Pancoast kind of got thrust into a situation of being our back-up tight end, competing with Jon Holland for that role.

He's really done a nice job. He's kind of Mr. Dependable. You know, he was in my office yesterday. This is time of year for formals, and our guys don't do those things during the week. Our guys are focused on school and football. So if they handle themselves the right way, they can come in and ask: Can I take my girl to her formal Wednesday night? And he did. He did it the right way. So he's going to the formal on Wednesday night, and I hope he has a great time. He's just kind of Mr. Dependable. He goes to class, gets really good grades. He maximizes his potential on the field. He does all of the things that he needs to do to be successful and give us the best chance to be successful and for him to have a more significant role on the team. I'm really, really proud of him. He's done a great job.

Mike Gesicki, I kind of went into the season telling you guys I thought he had a chance to have a breakout year and make a bunch more big plays for us, and he's done that. He's getting better every single week at being more physical in the run game. As you guys know, since he got here, that was a change, because he had never done it in high school. Had never blocked. Never had his hands in the three-point stance, none of those things, and he's really worked hard at it.

So I'm proud of him there. But those two guys have been integral to the success we've had on offense. Mike's made a bunch of big plays down the field. Even the pass interference call on Saturday was a huge play in the game.

I'm proud of those guys. Even Jon Holland hasn't played a lot, but he's on special teams and he's played a few plays on offense. He's a young, talented guy that we're excited about. I think both Mike and Pancoast have been really good leaders for him as well.

Q. I'm wondering if the success you've had this year and the winning streak had any impact with respect to recruiting? Has it opened any more doors? Are there more kids showing interest? Is it helping you at all in that area that you can tell?

JAMES FRANKLIN: I think we're so far along in the process for this year, and we just don't have a lot of scholarships for this year. That is having an effect, I think, with visits and things like that and guys calling us and showing more interest and things like that. But I think where it will have its biggest impact is in '18. Because the '17 class is pretty much done. We've got a few spots left. The way the recruiting process has changed, just like us, having this type of year, it's kind of like the senior who has a great senior year, 75% of the recruiting process is done based off a junior or sophomore years. So it will have an effect. How significant the effect is, I don't know. I think it will show up more in years to come, especially in the '18 class.

Q. You've mentioned many times about how bringing offensive linemen in at a young age is one of the harder things to do, and you can play farther away from the ball. Bringing offensive linemen, young offensive linemen in the fold in the starting lineup this late in the season, what are the challenges with that specifically? What can you do to help them along in game situations?

JAMES FRANKLIN: I think it's a couple different things. It's different if you're playing a guy that's been in the two-deep all year long. So if you've got a freshman who has been a back-up, and up with the varsity all year long and taking reps and preparing each week, kind of like Trace McSorley, who was a back-up quarterback for two years, that's a different scenario than a guy that was on scout team that you didn't think was going to factor in this year. Now you have a couple injuries, and it goes from never running our offense to now being up with the varsity. That's a completely different scenario.

I think one of the things that's helped us a little bit is these last two classes and especially the last class, Menet's already over 300 pounds, Fries is already over 300 pounds, Gellerstedt's already over 300 pounds, compared to Noah Bey, for example, who was 239 pounds when he showed up on campus. So the fact that we're getting guys that are a little bit closer in terms of size and strength, more prepared to play earlier, I think that helps.

But there's still just a transition just because, as you guys have heard me say before, that's a man's game in there. They're grown men, O-line, D-line, that you're battling against. As we all know, to think that the difference between an 18-year-old guy and a 21- or 22-year-old guy and a guy that's been part of a college strength and conditioning program for three or four years, compared to a guy that's been part of a strength and conditioning program for six months, it's different.

So I think all those variables factor into it. But maturity is part of it at all the positions. How are they able to process the information, learn the information, because that affects how fast and aggressive they're going to play, how physically prepared are they in terms of strength, size, flexibility, things like that.

And then just overall maturity. Are they going to be able to handle their academics and football and social all with their first semester on campus? That's a lot. You think about all you guys while you were in college, your first semester on campus, it was a huge adjustment. And you weren't also trying to be a Division I football player or another sport. That's a huge adjustment. That's where football's different from basketball and other sports. They get to come in, adjust academically, adjust socially first, then take on the responsibility of their sport in the spring. Where football, all those things are being piled on your plate all at once.

Q. You talk each week about starting fast. You've got a team, I'm sure somewhere you've probably been on both ends of this, where you are now and where they are. How important is it for you guys? Is there a renewed significance in starting fast this week? When you've got a 2 and 18, to try to keep them interested, so to speak? That's probably a bad way of wording it. But to try to take the will out of them early, so to speak?

JAMES FRANKLIN: I will tell you, you look at the Purdue game, we went into that saying we want to start fast because we want to start fast. But that game didn't necessarily play out that way. This is going to be an emotional game. Again, there are a lot of ties on both sides. They're going to come out being aggressive in how they call the game, the decisions they make and how their players play. We want to start fast each week, because we want to start fast each week, and that's going to give us the best chance to be successful consistently. No other things factor into it. It's the best thing to do to give us the best chance to be successful. Like I said, you're winning in the first quarter or you're winning in the first half, I think the record is like 80% or higher here at Penn State if we're winning at the half. So that's the main issue.

Q. With the O-line situation, there might be more of an emphasis to put Saquon or another running back in to block. How much has Saquon improved in blocking?

JAMES FRANKLIN: That's an area I think he can be even better. He's shown it in flashes. I think he can really improve there. He's smart, he's strong, he's physical. I think he can be one of the better blocking running backs in the country, and he's got to make his mind up that's what he wants to do. Right now he's good. But I want Saquon to have the mentality that he's going to be the best blocking running back in the country. He's going to be the best receiving running back in the country. He's going to be the best running running back in the country. Short yardage, explosive, going to make people miss. He's going to have the highest GPA of all running backs in the country. He's going to graduate. All those things.

He has a chance to be a complete running back, which are hard to find. It's our job as coaches to make sure that he doesn't underachieve in any of those areas, when you have a guy as talented as he is.

Q. Sanders has been a guy that's provided a spark on special teams. We saw Irv back there on Saturday. When did Irv start working in there? What is the plan? Are you going to try to use him here and there? Is?

JAMES FRANKLIN: Irv has been back there pretty much all year long. I think you're going to see over the next couple years Irvin Charles has got a very, very bright future. He is talented, talented, talented, maybe the most talented wide receiver I've ever been around. We all saw the catch that he had and what he was able to do with it once he got the ball in his hands. But there's a lot more that goes into it than that. So we're looking for other ways to get the ball in his hands and give him a chance to make the play. Miles is our guy back there.

But we want to continue creating opportunities for other guys and developing other guys. Obviously that one didn't go as planned. But he is a big, strong, talented guy. I think it was two years ago or a year and a half ago that we did a race of what were considered the fastest guys on the team at that time. We had the Chisena kid, who is running track now, and all those guys raced, and everybody thought it was going to be Saquon or Chisena. And at 6'4\", Irv was just like (making noise), and the whole team was just shocked, just looking big, strong, athletic guy like that. Polk was in that. They're all going to be mad and be all over me in the team meeting saying that they won, because even after that race, they all thought they won.

But Irv is a very, very talented guy, and I'm proud of him because he's matured in so many ways since he's been here. Mom and dad are awesome. Really involved, really active. But he's got a bright future. We keep maturing him and keep preparing him every day because we're excited about him.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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