James Franklin MSU Week Press Conference

See what the coach has to say as the Nittany Lions prepare for their critical regular season finale vs. the Spartans.

No. 8 Penn State heads into its regular season finale vs. Michigan State with some huge storylines unfolding. The Nittany Lions are still in play for the Big Ten championship game, a New Year's Six bowl and possibly a spot in the College Football Playoff. What's more, it is Senior Day at PSU, for a group of Lion veterans who have had the wildest ride in the history of college football. http://www.scout.com/college/penn-state/story/1729983-penn-state-commit-...

PSU coach James Franklin held his weekly press conference at the Beaver Stadium Tuesday, where he gave the lowdown on the team as it heads into the big game with MSU. You can see the entire PC above.

See the full transcript below.

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TRANSCRIPT

COACH FRANKLIN: First of all, I want to say great team win. I think the thing that probably stood out to me the most is they were probably the worst weather conditions that I'd ever coached or played in. It was awesome to see our guys in the fourth quarter having so much fun playing the game of football, our older guys supporting the younger guys. The fans stayed and supported us. It was just unreal. I'm just really proud of our guys. That was a mental toughness game, a physical toughness game. Great team win overall.

Offensively 39 points, 549 yards, 339 yards of rushing, which you're going to need to have that much rushing in those conditions. We played explosive plays, 12 explosive plays on offense. No sacks, no turnovers. They listed a sack, I'm probably not supposed to say this, Chris is winking at me, they listed a sack that was a zone read by Tommy Stevens behind the line of scrimmage. The official stat book will say it's a sack. It is not a sack. 14 fourth-quarter points. That's something we've done a pretty good job of all year long.

Defensively I think probably the most important thing in the game is we started out the game not the way you want fumbling the opening kickoff in the weather. Our defense goes in and not only gets a stop, but negative yardage plays, three-and-out, gives up no point.

87 total yards. 50 total plays. Of the 50 total plays, 11 were minus yardage plays in the game. You look at us, what we've been doing, stopping the run here recently, Purdue 1.8 yards per carry, Iowa 1.2 yards, Indiana 2.7, Rutgers 1.2. When you can make people one-dimensional, that's going to be important this week. That's going to help you.

Special teams, I thought Blake Gillikin as a true freshman punted the ball really well in bad weather conditions with the wind. I think that was a big factor in the game.

Then awesome punt block by Juwan Johnson and recovered by Garrett Taylor. Guys are growing up and making plays on offense and defense. A lot of them are building their confidence and growing on special teams. Really proud of the job that Coach Huff and all those guys are doing. Great win.

The coaching staff players of the week on offense was the entire offensive line, Bates, Gonzalez, Gaia, Dowrey and Wright. Really proud of those guys. Obviously need to give Coach Limegrover a shout out as well.

Defensively kind of went with a weird combination here. Parker Cothren and the entire defensive backs, combination of those guys.

Then on special teams, Juwan Johnson with his one blocked punt and his tackle. That was great for us.

On to Michigan State. Obviously we're playing the defending Big Ten championship team. We're also playing a team the last two weeks that has played really well. They played the No. 2 team in the country and lost by one point. The week before they scored a bunch of points and shut people out.

We're playing a good football team there. They're talented. They're well-coached. Obviously Coach Dantonio has done a great job there. It's going to be a real challenge for us. We're going to need this place rocking on Saturday night.

I know Thanksgiving week sometimes is a little bit of a challenge. Our lettermen are stepping up for us, are unbelievably excited on social media. I know it sounds like a bunch of students are coming back, get into the dorms Friday at 3:00. We're very appreciative of the university, of President Barron, of Sandy, our athletic director, of helping us with that as well. We're appreciative of the people that work in the dorms, clean the dorms, because that's going to be important for us on Saturday.

Obviously we want to find a way to be 1-0 this week and eliminate the distractions, have a great practice today. That's kind of where our focus is.

I'll open it up to questions.

Q. What have these seniors meant to you, your staff, the program? How would you describe their leadership?

COACH FRANKLIN: They've been unbelievable, they really have. These guys I'll kind of remember forever. I think Penn State will remember those guys forever.

Their five years, they ought to get together and write a book because they've seen a lot in a short period of time and have overcome adversity and stuck together.

We came in as a coaching staff, spent a lot of time working and growing together. Right now we're at a point where these guys have been awesome.

You look at it, I think we have 12 seniors, four of which are starting for us, or five, excuse me, if you count special teams. Five of them are starting for us.

Whether you count these guys as starters or not, their impact has been significant. They all either have already graduated or on schedule to graduate. They've been really, really good leaders.

A guy like Derek Dowrey has handled adversity this year. I say 'adversity', goes from a guy that's starting, playing a lot, to a guy that's playing more of a backup role. Big on special teams, big in the locker room, has been great with me personally and professionally.

They're special guys. I think they're going to be remembered as the class that really kind of held this place together and also left out of here by making sure the program was headed in the right direction before they walked out the door.

Very, very proud of those guys. Very, very appreciative, as well.

Q. Could you elaborate on Parker's value to your team and defense. You mentioned him as being honored as one of the players of the week. Do you think there's a chance that Brendan Mahon could return at some point this season?

COACH FRANKLIN: Initially with Parker, we'll talk about him a little bit.

From Parker's perspective, he's the guy that is essential to every team, is essential to every organization, corporation. He's the guy that's going to do 90% of the dirty work that most people don't see. He's in there holding his gap. He's in there taking up double teams. He's going to make some plays, as well, some tackles, tackles for loss, sacks, things like that. Those guys are just so valuable, those defensive tackles, especially the nose who has a tough job. Typically the nose is going to be double-teamed, twice as much as a three technique will be. http://www.scout.com/college/penn-state/story/1719381-follow-your-surgin...

He just has been really, really good. His leadership, as well, with some of the younger guys like Robert Windsor, Chavis isn't a young guy, but a new guy to the program. He's been very mature. Has a great mom, dad, sister. They come to almost every single game from Alabama. He's a special guy.

Obviously I think you guys know we've known him for a long time. We recruited him when we were at Vanderbilt. I remember going and watching him play basketball in high school. He's done a great job for us.

With Mahon, I'm not going to get into a whole lot more than what you guys already know, what's already been addressed.

Q. How have you seen the leadership on your team develop as the season has gone on? What have you noticed since camp or Michigan or Ohio State?

COACH FRANKLIN: I think a couple things. Obviously with us not having a big senior class, one of the younger teams in college football, we rely on those seniors and we rely on the staff. But after that, we're fortunate because we have some young players that are really, really good leaders for us. That's important. That's helpful.

I think John Reid is a guy like that. I think Saquon Barkley is a guy like that. I think Trace is a guy like that. I think Cabinda is a guy like that. I could probably list 10, 12 guys. We have a number of young players that have significant leadership roles on our team, and we need that.

I think I saw one of the teams in the Big Ten is honoring like 44 seniors on Senior Day. We just don't have that. But it's also important, even the years you do have big senior classes like that, that you have strong leadership in your junior, sophomore and freshman class. We've been forced to do that, almost like our situation in terms of creating depth. What we went through at linebacker. In the short-term it wasn't a whole lot of fun, but in the long-term it's helped us because we have pretty good depth at that position. Same thing as what we're going through in the O-line. In the long run it's going to help us.

I would say the same thing in the leadership perspective. We were forced to develop leadership through the younger players on our roster. In the long run, I think that's going to help us. As the season has progressed, that's helped us. As their careers progress, I think that's going to help us.

Q. Michigan State the last couple of weeks done some pretty good things. How do you handle a team that, for lack of a better word, is unpredictable coming into your last home game?

COACH FRANKLIN: I think they're very predictable. What you do is you look at trends, no different than any other industry. In the last two games they've played really well. They played the Michigan State style of football we've all seen over the last number of years.

Obviously how they were playing in the beginning of the season compared to how they're playing now is different. There's no doubt about it.

You watch the last two games, they put up a bunch of points, shut a team out two and a half weeks ago. Last week they took the No. 2 team in the country to the wire and lost by one.

We know what to expect. We're going to have a team coming in here that's going to play with a tremendous amount of pride, passion. They're well-coached, talented. They've recruited well there. They've always been a good staff in developing talent. In the last couple years they've recruited at a very high level. They're talented.

We are going to respect our opponent week in and week out. We're going to focus on Penn State. We're going to prepare like crazy all week long. We're going to need that stadium jumping on Saturday, once again, so we can all support one another and do everything we possibly can to find a way to get a positive result on Saturday.

Q. Evan Schwan, not a lot of publicity, wasn't a starter till this year. What is the biggest thing in his development and his place as a senior leader this year?

COACH FRANKLIN: I think Evan probably is a really good example of our team in general. He comes into this year, he hadn't had a sack up till this year. Had played a decent amount of time as a backup. This was kind of his year. He put a lot into it in the off-season. Really had a great attitude. He's had a great attitude for three years.

His dad is the president of our players association. His mom and dad do a great job with that as well. That's an important piece of our program that we don't talk about enough. That's a real special thing that our parents all get together and support one another, tailgate together.

I think what Coach Spencer did a really good job of with Schwan is kind of identifying, This is kind of who you are. I think up until this past off-season, he'd been kind of looking for his identity as a player, trying different moves, pass-rush moves, different approaches, different styles. Sean really got with him and said, These are the things you do well. You're big, you're physical, you're really explosive, linear athlete, and play like that. That doesn't mean you still don't kind of need to be working on some other things in some other areas, but play to your strengths, these are what your strengths are. http://www.scout.com/college/football/recruiting/story/1730502-east-no-1...

Evan was kind of embraced that and run with that. With that, he's having a lot of success. You look at his numbers this year, statistics, his leadership, the impact he's had on our success has been dramatic.

I'm really happy for him because, we talked about this before, a lot of these guys are highly recruited, they come in here and expect instant success. Doesn't always work like that. If you keep the right attitude, keep working hard, keep approaching things the right way, allow yourself to be coached, embrace hard coaching. Some people look at it as critical, but it's constructive criticism is what coaching is in a lot of ways. Taking all those little bits of information and put them to use. He's done a good job of that.

I'm really proud of him. He's having a great year, playing with a lot of confidence right now. Again, another guy that's handled his business academically. He's just been a really, really good leader for us and is having a significant role this year, so I'm happy.

Q. Speaking of Evan, he was in the interview room earlier and said probably the most emotional person during Senior Day ceremonies will be you. I know you're an emotional guy. How do you plan to scale it back once the game starts, seeing them in the locker room even before the game?

COACH FRANKLIN: It's probably the same way I am with a lot of my emotions. Like my wife does not get angry very easy. But once she does, then she's done with you forever.

Me, I'm one of these guys, I'll get mad, I'll get it off my chest, then the next day I'm fine with it. I've moved on. I'm probably kind of the same way emotionally.

I'm going to have a hard time on Saturday with these guys. I typically try to fight it as much as I possibly can. I'm fine doing that in closed quarters, team meetings, these guys individually. You don't want to be out there blubbering in front of 100,000 people in the stadium. It's not the right tone you want to set for your team that's about to play a tough, physical Big Ten football game.

I'm very passionate about what I do. I'm very passionate about who I do it with. These seniors are going to be remembered and remembered I think for a long time. I think these seniors are going to hold a special place in our history for a long time.

The way this season is going, the way Saturday will unfold, we just have to do a great job. There's a lot of different things going on, a lot of different moving parts on Saturday, whenever you have a Senior Day.

Last year I remember being at Michigan State, they kind of handled it different than I've ever seen it before. They do their Senior Day ceremonies before the stadium opens. They do it with the families, with the guys out there on the field, kind of get that done way ahead of time before the game. I thought that was kind of an interesting way to do it as well because you struggle with all those things. You want to pay respect, but you don't want it to become a distraction to what you're doing on Saturday once the game gets going.

A lot of different things we have to manage and make sure we're approaching the right way, make sure things don't affect, once that whistle blows, that we can go out and execute at a high level so we can find a way to be successful.

Q. On Saturday, you are very consistent on your emphasis of being in the moment, take care of this week's opponent, be in the present. I think it's going to be a unique challenge because the Michigan-Ohio State game will be ending about the same time your game begins. Are you going to talk to your guys about that?

COACH FRANKLIN: I think that's a fair question. I think that's a great point. We've discussed it as a staff. We're going to talk about it with the team. That game is right before ours. How that game plays out, who wins, who loses, how people look at that and how that impacts our future. There's no doubt that's going to be a factor. So we're going to discuss it ahead of time.

Once again, I'm going to go back to my approach. None of that matters if we don't handle on business on Saturday against Michigan State.

That information will be out there the way social media is, the way the fans are, the reaction in the stadium, things like that. They'll be aware of it.

Once again, we just got to go out and play well on Saturday and focus on Michigan State. After the game is over, then we'll find out kind of what you're next step in our journey is. Whatever that step is, we'll embrace and be appreciative of. We'll start preparing for whoever that next opponent is, whatever that next opportunity is.

But we're going to talk about it. Again, it's not like we just put our head in the sand and act like these things aren't going on. We discuss them as a program, we discuss them as a staff, with the players, let people get off their chest what they need to get off their chest, make sure we're approaching things the right way, the way the players want to approach it as well as the coaches. Once again, we'll get our focus back to the task at hand, which is Michigan State. http://www.scout.com/college/football/recruiting/story/1729169-cfb-s-bes...

Q. How much effect does Von Walker have the coverage units? As a leader, have you ever been around someone like him as a leader?

COACH FRANKLIN: Obviously he's had a big role on special teams for us the last three years, been a special teams captain for two years. He's a tremendous leader for us. Yeah, I mean, to say it's not going to have an effect, it is. No different than what we've lost starting offensive linemen. He's been a starter for us. He's what Coach Huff characterizes as a (indiscernible), one of our core special teams guys. He's embraced it, he really has.

I think his first couple years, he was still chasing the linebacker opportunity and things like that. That's great. We wanted him to do that. We also wanted him to approach and realize how much of an impact he could have on the team on special teams.

I think a lot of times with high school guys, the star players don't play special teams in high school. It takes some time to get everybody to buy in to the importance of special teams in college football and the next level, the NFL. Von has really kind of figured that out over the last year and a half. He's done a great job for us.

I mentioned after the game in the locker room, he's the one that kind of spoke to the team after the win last week. I just mentioned to him that not only has Von had a significant role on our team the last two and a half years, but he'll continue to have a significant role moving forward from a leadership perspective and those types of things.

Q. Do you have much of a connection with Mark Dantonio? Have you crossed paths much in your career? How much have you noticed the things he's done from afar?

COACH FRANKLIN: I mean, last couple years obviously being in the conference, going to Big Ten head coaches meetings, things like that. Nike trip together. My wife knows his wife. I know his wife, know him.

I've never worked with him. Hadn't really spent any time socially with him before the Nike trip. But I've gotten to know Mark fairly well.

Q. You'll hear sometimes coaches will make an emphasis and say, We don't want the game on the scoreboard in the stadium. Have you done that or will you consider doing that?

COACH FRANKLIN: It's going to be a discussion. There's no doubt there's going to be a discussion. There's been a lot of things we've been doing to get some of the fans into the stadium a little bit earlier when they're trying to finish up games in the RV lots, thing like that. I get that.

But we just have to have a plan. That's something we've started talking through. Need to talk about it with the administration a little bit, need to talk with the coaching staff. We are going to address it with the team.

Once again, however that game plays out, it is going to have an impact on our future, but it can't impact how we play on Saturday. That's the important thing.

Q. With Trace McSorley, have you seen anything from him different this year as opposed to what you thought you were getting? He said today it's a matter of making sure the moment is never bigger than you think it is.

COACH FRANKLIN: Not really. He's pretty much been who we thought he was going to be. But I will tell you that's typically not the case, I mean, for all of us. In any industry, any relationship, you go in thinking you know somebody pretty well. Very rarely do they play out to be the person that you thought they were.

We all have strengths. We all have weaknesses, shortcomings in certain areas. Trace is pretty much exactly who we thought, and probably more importantly, hoped he was. More times than not you look at the draft in the NFL, they do more research than anybody. Guys typically aren't who you thought they were.

Trace has been really, really consistent with how we graded him on high school film, how we got to know him and his family through the recruiting process. I think probably the one thing I told you that's a little bit different is I thought there would be a point where he really came out of his shell. I think he's come out a little bit, but he's a pretty quiet guy.

His sister goes to school here now, is a true freshman. She's on campus. I saw her the other day. I have a deal where I go to Jamba Juice, I get this green smoothie that's made with kale and things like that. The players make fun of me. I don't think it's open this week. I was over there last week. I saw her, had not seen her since the recruiting process. It was great to see her, she's doing really well.

Trace is kind of who he is. His parents have been really good. I think I told you mom does a gift for the O-line each week, pastries or donuts, usually something that's local, representative of the community that we're in, whether on the road or at home. She's usually got some type of note in there, something funny. That's been pretty cool, as well.

Trace being very appreciative of the offensive line, how they work. As you can imagine, the mom is pretty excited about an offensive line that's going to take care of her baby, as well.

Q. You pretty much are a creature of habit. I think it's fair to say. During a holiday week, there's no students, you have to enjoy Thanksgiving. How much does that change what you do practice-wise with respect to timing and everything else?

COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, I don't love it, to be honest with you. I have my radio show tonight. Tuesday is a big game plan night for us. Typically you can handle Thanksgiving. Typically you have handle a night game the previous week. It's hard to do both.

We didn't get back till 5:15 in the morning by the time everybody got to their houses. I bump everything back. But the problem is you do that during Thanksgiving week, you're cutting into Sunday game planning.

Monday is off. Tuesday, today, because I have the radio show tonight, we have to move practice up earlier. We moved practice up earlier. That cuts out of game planning that we already are cut short on.

There's a lot of kind of gymnastics that go with it. Probably the fact of the night game before already a short week in some ways can make it challenging.

Thursday, we'll practice on Thanksgiving, in the morning. Again, you lose that day of fine tuning some of the things you're doing before practice that afternoon. You lose some of that, as well.

But, yeah, I am a creature of habit. I like routine. I like the consistency, our preparation, how we do things.

We planned on this way ahead of time. It's not like we're scrambling at the last minute. We knew all these things. It's still out of our norm.

The good thing is for the most part, besides the fact that Michigan State I don't think had a night game the previous week, it wasn't on the road, it was home, that's probably the biggest difference. We're both having to deal with Thanksgiving in the middle of a practice week, how that modifies things. The difference we have is the night road game is a challenge.

Q. Michigan State has a really young defensive line. Do you see any comparisons between your defensive line and how the seasons have progressed for your two teams? How important is a guy like Riley Bullough?

COACH FRANKLIN: I think their linebackers are really good. The Bullough guy seems like he's been playing there forever, has great instincts. Watching a telecast the other day, his nickname is Caveman or something like that. I think they call him that because he's an old school, throwback type player.

D-line we know those guys well. We recruited them as well. Most of the guys are guys that are more in their footprint than necessarily ours, but very familiar with them.

They are a young team in terms of kind of what they have out there on the D-line. They're the 46th youngest team in the country. We're still a lot younger than they are.

You're right, they're choosing to play some younger players. Play a bunch of guys both ways. They got O-linemen playing D-line. Freshmen DBs playing wide receiver, going both directions. It's a challenge.

We kind of went into that as well this year with a challenge, a question mark at that position. Very proud of Coach Spencer, the D-linemen, how they've matured and played.

I think we've had some older guys like Evan Schwan that have been helpful. Parker has played a lot of football for us. Sickels has played a lot of football for us. Those things have been helpful in allowing those young guys to grow up as the season went on. The way we rotate guys, we are a little different. Everybody uses a rotation on D-line, but we rotate guys more than most because we have five D tackles and five D ends that we think we feel like we can win with, so that helps.

Q. Trace McSorley you said leads by example. What type of example has he set? What makes him so effective overall as a quarterback?

COACH FRANKLIN: I think his approach, his work habits in the summer, how he was in summer workouts, in spring how he was. You know, his preparation, how he is in meetings. Coach Moorhead does a great job in the Friday night meeting asking questions to everybody in front of the group. He just rattles them out with such confidence that I think everybody on the team believes in him and has a lot of confidence just the way he approaches himself.

He's also very positive. You never see any bad body language from him. You never see him yelling at guys when guys make mistakes, drop balls, give up sacks, whatever it may be. He's really steady and consistent.

I think that's appreciated. I think it's a combination of all those things. More than anything it's his work ethic and his approach, his belief in himself, his belief in his teammates.

Q. Michigan State, their run game, they have over 200 yards in four of their last five games. How do you shut that off?

COACH FRANKLIN: They've always been great up front. I think that's kind of how that program has been built with the D-line, with the O-line. I think the thing that's different right now is the runningback. He was a great player last year. I think they were getting that offensive line to kind of grow and mature early on this season.

Right now he is running, and running hard. They do a lot of stuff in terms of run game, then play-action pass, a lot of misdirection stuff with fake reverses, fake fly sweeps to try to cause some indecision at the linebacker unit.

I think that's the biggest thing, is your D-line is going to have to challenge their O-line at the point of attack. We can't get knocked back, which we got knocked back last year. Then we've got to be able to get the runningback on the ground. He's a big, strong back that can make you miss. Him and Saquon I think in some ways have some similarities. It's going to be a real challenge for us.

Q. Derek Dowrey, what do you remember about his switch from defensive line to offensive line, his willingness to switch positions for you?

COACH FRANKLIN: I think when I first got here, it was evident right away that we had a problem that needed to get solved. I think obviously like most things in life, you have a choice: you can complain about the problem or you can look for solutions.

Right away there were two solutions in my mind, guys that weren't necessarily starting on defense and had a background that we felt like they could make the transition. Brian Gaia was one of them. We had recruited him actually as an offensive line man. A lot of programs recruited him as someone that could be a defensive lineman or offensive lineman. There were some conversations already with both of them of the possibility of moving to offensive line at some point.

When I brought them in, neither one of them were completely surprised about the conversation, and had embraced it. Dowrey's brothers plays O-line at Marshall. His dad has been a successful high school football coach for a long time. Both of them kind of embraced it.

Players in general, a lot of times guys want to stick and play the position that they've always dreamed of playing. But there comes a point where you say, I want to have a role, more of a significant role, have an opportunity to impact the team in a positive way. Typically when their first plan hasn't necessarily worked out, you have the ability to approach a different plan. Guys embrace it because they see it as an opportunity.

I think for them, that's the other thing you'd like, you'd love for it to align for both parties, like it to be the best thing for the team number one, best thing for the kid number two, kind of in that order. I think in both those cases it was. It was the best thing for the team as well as them.

Q. You mentioned right after the game about inviting the lettermen back. Can you address how they've responded? Are you feeling it with the lettermen? Do you feel everybody is beginning to pull the rope? Also about the parent component, do you feel there's a sense of togetherness that maybe this season has brought?

COACH FRANKLIN: I think obviously winning helps. I think all the other things that we've laid in terms of foundation academically and socially, all those things, I think I mentioned to you guys that before. There were so many good things going on away from the field with the program. All that discipline, all that structure I thought would translate on the field. I think it's happening.

The challenges you guys all know. We've talked about it before. When you have the same group of men here as coaches for 30 to 50 years, 40 years, there was a sense of family. Guys could come back forever. Whenever you have that much change in that short period of time, it's difficult.

I think the ones that have come back and got around our staff, got around our team, see how we're doing things, have been great. I think we're slowly getting more and more of those guys back. I think that's been helpful.

There's been a bunch of guys this week. I was talking with Goon earlier today about him getting guys back, talking to Wally about helping get guys back. I think most of you guys probably saw the exchange with LaVar. As we all know, it doesn't take a whole lot to get LaVar going. He's very passionate about this place, very passionate about this community, has been very supportive of me and our staff really from day one. I've known LaVar for a long time, all the way back to my days at Maryland, his time with the Washington Redskins, things like that. We just have a lot of people that we know in common.

Other guys have been great. It's challenged other guys, reaching out to us. Seems like we're going to get a pretty good showing of lettermen back, as well. It's great. In at lot of ways it's unique to this place. A lot of schools, that happens for local players, homecoming, but not the way the lettermen have rallied around this place when this place needed them to. When everything first went down, lettermen flew in from all over the country. That's been really good.

I think we've always had a parents group. Obviously the more time that you're here to build relationships with those people, it's different. When you've actually gone in a young man's school, in a young man's home, have a relationship with the parents from the beginning, that's helpful, compared to like Schwan, for example, his mom and dad are president of the players association, the parents group. They've been awesome. They've been great. We work together with them a lot, as much as we possibly can.

Once again, I've never been in Evan's home. I never broke bread with mom and dad. When you get in a situation where your whole team is made up of people you've been involved with from the beginning, it helps from a relationship standpoint. That's what we've spent the last two years doing, is really trying to build those relationships.

I actually for the first time went to the tailgate, not to get after it and party before the game, but it was one of the night games. We had a lunch in Pegula. I was walking from Lasch to Pegula, walked through it, see all these people, hugs, seeing everybody. That's been great. To me that's what's so special about college football. I've said that to you before, about being part of a community.

NFL, I've been there. It's a job. You are a part of the community, but it's much more businesslike, much more of a job.

Q. Ham or turkey?

COACH FRANKLIN: Turkey if I had to choose. I like both as part of my Thanksgiving meal. But if I had to choose one or the other, turkey. Needs to be gravy, a small portion of gravy on the turkey, a small portion of mashed potatoes, and a small portion of stuffing all in the same bite. Kind of like a cornucopia of flavors.

Q. You made a point of most people not being who their original impression is. This team, are they who you thought they would be at this point of the season?

COACH FRANKLIN: It's hard to say that. But I did believe there was a foundation laid, that we would make significant progress this year. I think I also said, What does that equate to in terms of overall record? I don't know. But I did think we would take a step in the right direction this year, just year three in general. The relationship aspect, the depth part of it, 85 scholarships, all those things.

To say in the beginning of the year that I expected where we are right now, I don't know if that's accurate to say. But I was very confident that we would take a significant step.

You also look at the schedule. You had some teams on the schedule that I thought was probably a more challenging schedule than we had the year before.

What it was all going to equate to, I wasn't sure. But I don't really spend a whole lot of time doing those things, trying to forecast. Just wake up every single morning and try to get our guys, coaches, myself to be the best we possibly can be. I know that sounds simplistic, I know you get sick of hearing it. I feel like if you take that approach not only in football but in life, you can go to sleep at the end of the day feeling really good not saying would have, should have, could have, or what if. Then the same thing come Saturday. Friday night you can sleep well. At the end of the game on Saturday, I can feel comfortable coming in and talking to you guys. I can feel comfortable going to bed Saturday night getting up on Sunday because I know we've done everything in our power to put these young men in a position to be successful and represent this community in a right way.

That's just kind of how we approach things. That's how I approach life. That's how we approach this game. That's what I try to instill in our players.

What we're really trying to do is we're trying to create great habits, not just in football but in life. I think as we all know, if you have bad habits, they're hard to break. So trying to create healthy, positive, winning habits, not only in football but in life, is what we're trying to do every single day with our guys.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, everybody.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports


Fight On State Top Stories

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No. 8 Penn State heads into its regular season finale vs. Michigan State with some huge storylines unfolding. The Nittany Lions are still in play for the Big Ten championship game, a New Year's Six bowl and possibly a spot in the College Football Playoff. What's more, it is Senior Day at PSU, for a group of Lion veterans who have had the wildest ride in the history of college football. http://www.scout.com/college/penn-state/story/1729983-penn-state-commit-...

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PSU coach James Franklin held his weekly press conference at the Beaver Stadium Tuesday, where he gave the lowdown on the team as it heads into the big game with MSU. You can see the entire PC above.

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See the full transcript below.

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TRANSCRIPT

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COACH FRANKLIN: First of all, I want to say great team win. I think the thing that probably stood out to me the most is they were probably the worst weather conditions that I'd ever coached or played in. It was awesome to see our guys in the fourth quarter having so much fun playing the game of football, our older guys supporting the younger guys. The fans stayed and supported us. It was just unreal. I'm just really proud of our guys. That was a mental toughness game, a physical toughness game. Great team win overall.

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Offensively 39 points, 549 yards, 339 yards of rushing, which you're going to need to have that much rushing in those conditions. We played explosive plays, 12 explosive plays on offense. No sacks, no turnovers. They listed a sack, I'm probably not supposed to say this, Chris is winking at me, they listed a sack that was a zone read by Tommy Stevens behind the line of scrimmage. The official stat book will say it's a sack. It is not a sack. 14 fourth-quarter points. That's something we've done a pretty good job of all year long.

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Defensively I think probably the most important thing in the game is we started out the game not the way you want fumbling the opening kickoff in the weather. Our defense goes in and not only gets a stop, but negative yardage plays, three-and-out, gives up no point.

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87 total yards. 50 total plays. Of the 50 total plays, 11 were minus yardage plays in the game. You look at us, what we've been doing, stopping the run here recently, Purdue 1.8 yards per carry, Iowa 1.2 yards, Indiana 2.7, Rutgers 1.2. When you can make people one-dimensional, that's going to be important this week. That's going to help you.

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Special teams, I thought Blake Gillikin as a true freshman punted the ball really well in bad weather conditions with the wind. I think that was a big factor in the game.

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Then awesome punt block by Juwan Johnson and recovered by Garrett Taylor. Guys are growing up and making plays on offense and defense. A lot of them are building their confidence and growing on special teams. Really proud of the job that Coach Huff and all those guys are doing. Great win.

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The coaching staff players of the week on offense was the entire offensive line, Bates, Gonzalez, Gaia, Dowrey and Wright. Really proud of those guys. Obviously need to give Coach Limegrover a shout out as well.

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Defensively kind of went with a weird combination here. Parker Cothren and the entire defensive backs, combination of those guys.

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Then on special teams, Juwan Johnson with his one blocked punt and his tackle. That was great for us.

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On to Michigan State. Obviously we're playing the defending Big Ten championship team. We're also playing a team the last two weeks that has played really well. They played the No. 2 team in the country and lost by one point. The week before they scored a bunch of points and shut people out.

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We're playing a good football team there. They're talented. They're well-coached. Obviously Coach Dantonio has done a great job there. It's going to be a real challenge for us. We're going to need this place rocking on Saturday night.

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I know Thanksgiving week sometimes is a little bit of a challenge. Our lettermen are stepping up for us, are unbelievably excited on social media. I know it sounds like a bunch of students are coming back, get into the dorms Friday at 3:00. We're very appreciative of the university, of President Barron, of Sandy, our athletic director, of helping us with that as well. We're appreciative of the people that work in the dorms, clean the dorms, because that's going to be important for us on Saturday.

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Obviously we want to find a way to be 1-0 this week and eliminate the distractions, have a great practice today. That's kind of where our focus is.

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I'll open it up to questions.

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Q. What have these seniors meant to you, your staff, the program? How would you describe their leadership?

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COACH FRANKLIN: They've been unbelievable, they really have. These guys I'll kind of remember forever. I think Penn State will remember those guys forever.

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Their five years, they ought to get together and write a book because they've seen a lot in a short period of time and have overcome adversity and stuck together.

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We came in as a coaching staff, spent a lot of time working and growing together. Right now we're at a point where these guys have been awesome.

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You look at it, I think we have 12 seniors, four of which are starting for us, or five, excuse me, if you count special teams. Five of them are starting for us.

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Whether you count these guys as starters or not, their impact has been significant. They all either have already graduated or on schedule to graduate. They've been really, really good leaders.

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A guy like Derek Dowrey has handled adversity this year. I say 'adversity', goes from a guy that's starting, playing a lot, to a guy that's playing more of a backup role. Big on special teams, big in the locker room, has been great with me personally and professionally.

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They're special guys. I think they're going to be remembered as the class that really kind of held this place together and also left out of here by making sure the program was headed in the right direction before they walked out the door.

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Very, very proud of those guys. Very, very appreciative, as well.

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Q. Could you elaborate on Parker's value to your team and defense. You mentioned him as being honored as one of the players of the week. Do you think there's a chance that Brendan Mahon could return at some point this season?

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COACH FRANKLIN: Initially with Parker, we'll talk about him a little bit.

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From Parker's perspective, he's the guy that is essential to every team, is essential to every organization, corporation. He's the guy that's going to do 90% of the dirty work that most people don't see. He's in there holding his gap. He's in there taking up double teams. He's going to make some plays, as well, some tackles, tackles for loss, sacks, things like that. Those guys are just so valuable, those defensive tackles, especially the nose who has a tough job. Typically the nose is going to be double-teamed, twice as much as a three technique will be. http://www.scout.com/college/penn-state/story/1719381-follow-your-surgin...

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He just has been really, really good. His leadership, as well, with some of the younger guys like Robert Windsor, Chavis isn't a young guy, but a new guy to the program. He's been very mature. Has a great mom, dad, sister. They come to almost every single game from Alabama. He's a special guy.

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Obviously I think you guys know we've known him for a long time. We recruited him when we were at Vanderbilt. I remember going and watching him play basketball in high school. He's done a great job for us.

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With Mahon, I'm not going to get into a whole lot more than what you guys already know, what's already been addressed.

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Q. How have you seen the leadership on your team develop as the season has gone on? What have you noticed since camp or Michigan or Ohio State?

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COACH FRANKLIN: I think a couple things. Obviously with us not having a big senior class, one of the younger teams in college football, we rely on those seniors and we rely on the staff. But after that, we're fortunate because we have some young players that are really, really good leaders for us. That's important. That's helpful.

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I think John Reid is a guy like that. I think Saquon Barkley is a guy like that. I think Trace is a guy like that. I think Cabinda is a guy like that. I could probably list 10, 12 guys. We have a number of young players that have significant leadership roles on our team, and we need that.

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I think I saw one of the teams in the Big Ten is honoring like 44 seniors on Senior Day. We just don't have that. But it's also important, even the years you do have big senior classes like that, that you have strong leadership in your junior, sophomore and freshman class. We've been forced to do that, almost like our situation in terms of creating depth. What we went through at linebacker. In the short-term it wasn't a whole lot of fun, but in the long-term it's helped us because we have pretty good depth at that position. Same thing as what we're going through in the O-line. In the long run it's going to help us.

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I would say the same thing in the leadership perspective. We were forced to develop leadership through the younger players on our roster. In the long run, I think that's going to help us. As the season has progressed, that's helped us. As their careers progress, I think that's going to help us.

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Q. Michigan State the last couple of weeks done some pretty good things. How do you handle a team that, for lack of a better word, is unpredictable coming into your last home game?

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COACH FRANKLIN: I think they're very predictable. What you do is you look at trends, no different than any other industry. In the last two games they've played really well. They played the Michigan State style of football we've all seen over the last number of years.

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Obviously how they were playing in the beginning of the season compared to how they're playing now is different. There's no doubt about it.

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You watch the last two games, they put up a bunch of points, shut a team out two and a half weeks ago. Last week they took the No. 2 team in the country to the wire and lost by one.

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We know what to expect. We're going to have a team coming in here that's going to play with a tremendous amount of pride, passion. They're well-coached, talented. They've recruited well there. They've always been a good staff in developing talent. In the last couple years they've recruited at a very high level. They're talented.

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We are going to respect our opponent week in and week out. We're going to focus on Penn State. We're going to prepare like crazy all week long. We're going to need that stadium jumping on Saturday, once again, so we can all support one another and do everything we possibly can to find a way to get a positive result on Saturday.

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Q. Evan Schwan, not a lot of publicity, wasn't a starter till this year. What is the biggest thing in his development and his place as a senior leader this year?

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COACH FRANKLIN: I think Evan probably is a really good example of our team in general. He comes into this year, he hadn't had a sack up till this year. Had played a decent amount of time as a backup. This was kind of his year. He put a lot into it in the off-season. Really had a great attitude. He's had a great attitude for three years.

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His dad is the president of our players association. His mom and dad do a great job with that as well. That's an important piece of our program that we don't talk about enough. That's a real special thing that our parents all get together and support one another, tailgate together.

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I think what Coach Spencer did a really good job of with Schwan is kind of identifying, This is kind of who you are. I think up until this past off-season, he'd been kind of looking for his identity as a player, trying different moves, pass-rush moves, different approaches, different styles. Sean really got with him and said, These are the things you do well. You're big, you're physical, you're really explosive, linear athlete, and play like that. That doesn't mean you still don't kind of need to be working on some other things in some other areas, but play to your strengths, these are what your strengths are. http://www.scout.com/college/football/recruiting/story/1730502-east-no-1...

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Evan was kind of embraced that and run with that. With that, he's having a lot of success. You look at his numbers this year, statistics, his leadership, the impact he's had on our success has been dramatic.

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I'm really happy for him because, we talked about this before, a lot of these guys are highly recruited, they come in here and expect instant success. Doesn't always work like that. If you keep the right attitude, keep working hard, keep approaching things the right way, allow yourself to be coached, embrace hard coaching. Some people look at it as critical, but it's constructive criticism is what coaching is in a lot of ways. Taking all those little bits of information and put them to use. He's done a good job of that.

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I'm really proud of him. He's having a great year, playing with a lot of confidence right now. Again, another guy that's handled his business academically. He's just been a really, really good leader for us and is having a significant role this year, so I'm happy.

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Q. Speaking of Evan, he was in the interview room earlier and said probably the most emotional person during Senior Day ceremonies will be you. I know you're an emotional guy. How do you plan to scale it back once the game starts, seeing them in the locker room even before the game?

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COACH FRANKLIN: It's probably the same way I am with a lot of my emotions. Like my wife does not get angry very easy. But once she does, then she's done with you forever.

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Me, I'm one of these guys, I'll get mad, I'll get it off my chest, then the next day I'm fine with it. I've moved on. I'm probably kind of the same way emotionally.

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I'm going to have a hard time on Saturday with these guys. I typically try to fight it as much as I possibly can. I'm fine doing that in closed quarters, team meetings, these guys individually. You don't want to be out there blubbering in front of 100,000 people in the stadium. It's not the right tone you want to set for your team that's about to play a tough, physical Big Ten football game.

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I'm very passionate about what I do. I'm very passionate about who I do it with. These seniors are going to be remembered and remembered I think for a long time. I think these seniors are going to hold a special place in our history for a long time.

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The way this season is going, the way Saturday will unfold, we just have to do a great job. There's a lot of different things going on, a lot of different moving parts on Saturday, whenever you have a Senior Day.

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Last year I remember being at Michigan State, they kind of handled it different than I've ever seen it before. They do their Senior Day ceremonies before the stadium opens. They do it with the families, with the guys out there on the field, kind of get that done way ahead of time before the game. I thought that was kind of an interesting way to do it as well because you struggle with all those things. You want to pay respect, but you don't want it to become a distraction to what you're doing on Saturday once the game gets going.

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A lot of different things we have to manage and make sure we're approaching the right way, make sure things don't affect, once that whistle blows, that we can go out and execute at a high level so we can find a way to be successful.

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Q. On Saturday, you are very consistent on your emphasis of being in the moment, take care of this week's opponent, be in the present. I think it's going to be a unique challenge because the Michigan-Ohio State game will be ending about the same time your game begins. Are you going to talk to your guys about that?

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COACH FRANKLIN: I think that's a fair question. I think that's a great point. We've discussed it as a staff. We're going to talk about it with the team. That game is right before ours. How that game plays out, who wins, who loses, how people look at that and how that impacts our future. There's no doubt that's going to be a factor. So we're going to discuss it ahead of time.

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Once again, I'm going to go back to my approach. None of that matters if we don't handle on business on Saturday against Michigan State.

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That information will be out there the way social media is, the way the fans are, the reaction in the stadium, things like that. They'll be aware of it.

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Once again, we just got to go out and play well on Saturday and focus on Michigan State. After the game is over, then we'll find out kind of what you're next step in our journey is. Whatever that step is, we'll embrace and be appreciative of. We'll start preparing for whoever that next opponent is, whatever that next opportunity is.

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But we're going to talk about it. Again, it's not like we just put our head in the sand and act like these things aren't going on. We discuss them as a program, we discuss them as a staff, with the players, let people get off their chest what they need to get off their chest, make sure we're approaching things the right way, the way the players want to approach it as well as the coaches. Once again, we'll get our focus back to the task at hand, which is Michigan State. http://www.scout.com/college/football/recruiting/story/1729169-cfb-s-bes...

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Q. How much effect does Von Walker have the coverage units? As a leader, have you ever been around someone like him as a leader?

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COACH FRANKLIN: Obviously he's had a big role on special teams for us the last three years, been a special teams captain for two years. He's a tremendous leader for us. Yeah, I mean, to say it's not going to have an effect, it is. No different than what we've lost starting offensive linemen. He's been a starter for us. He's what Coach Huff characterizes as a (indiscernible), one of our core special teams guys. He's embraced it, he really has.

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I think his first couple years, he was still chasing the linebacker opportunity and things like that. That's great. We wanted him to do that. We also wanted him to approach and realize how much of an impact he could have on the team on special teams.

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I think a lot of times with high school guys, the star players don't play special teams in high school. It takes some time to get everybody to buy in to the importance of special teams in college football and the next level, the NFL. Von has really kind of figured that out over the last year and a half. He's done a great job for us.

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I mentioned after the game in the locker room, he's the one that kind of spoke to the team after the win last week. I just mentioned to him that not only has Von had a significant role on our team the last two and a half years, but he'll continue to have a significant role moving forward from a leadership perspective and those types of things.

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Q. Do you have much of a connection with Mark Dantonio? Have you crossed paths much in your career? How much have you noticed the things he's done from afar?

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COACH FRANKLIN: I mean, last couple years obviously being in the conference, going to Big Ten head coaches meetings, things like that. Nike trip together. My wife knows his wife. I know his wife, know him.

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I've never worked with him. Hadn't really spent any time socially with him before the Nike trip. But I've gotten to know Mark fairly well.

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Q. You'll hear sometimes coaches will make an emphasis and say, We don't want the game on the scoreboard in the stadium. Have you done that or will you consider doing that?

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COACH FRANKLIN: It's going to be a discussion. There's no doubt there's going to be a discussion. There's been a lot of things we've been doing to get some of the fans into the stadium a little bit earlier when they're trying to finish up games in the RV lots, thing like that. I get that.

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But we just have to have a plan. That's something we've started talking through. Need to talk about it with the administration a little bit, need to talk with the coaching staff. We are going to address it with the team.

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Once again, however that game plays out, it is going to have an impact on our future, but it can't impact how we play on Saturday. That's the important thing.

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Q. With Trace McSorley, have you seen anything from him different this year as opposed to what you thought you were getting? He said today it's a matter of making sure the moment is never bigger than you think it is.

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COACH FRANKLIN: Not really. He's pretty much been who we thought he was going to be. But I will tell you that's typically not the case, I mean, for all of us. In any industry, any relationship, you go in thinking you know somebody pretty well. Very rarely do they play out to be the person that you thought they were.

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We all have strengths. We all have weaknesses, shortcomings in certain areas. Trace is pretty much exactly who we thought, and probably more importantly, hoped he was. More times than not you look at the draft in the NFL, they do more research than anybody. Guys typically aren't who you thought they were.

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Trace has been really, really consistent with how we graded him on high school film, how we got to know him and his family through the recruiting process. I think probably the one thing I told you that's a little bit different is I thought there would be a point where he really came out of his shell. I think he's come out a little bit, but he's a pretty quiet guy.

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His sister goes to school here now, is a true freshman. She's on campus. I saw her the other day. I have a deal where I go to Jamba Juice, I get this green smoothie that's made with kale and things like that. The players make fun of me. I don't think it's open this week. I was over there last week. I saw her, had not seen her since the recruiting process. It was great to see her, she's doing really well.

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Trace is kind of who he is. His parents have been really good. I think I told you mom does a gift for the O-line each week, pastries or donuts, usually something that's local, representative of the community that we're in, whether on the road or at home. She's usually got some type of note in there, something funny. That's been pretty cool, as well.

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Trace being very appreciative of the offensive line, how they work. As you can imagine, the mom is pretty excited about an offensive line that's going to take care of her baby, as well.

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Q. You pretty much are a creature of habit. I think it's fair to say. During a holiday week, there's no students, you have to enjoy Thanksgiving. How much does that change what you do practice-wise with respect to timing and everything else?

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COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, I don't love it, to be honest with you. I have my radio show tonight. Tuesday is a big game plan night for us. Typically you can handle Thanksgiving. Typically you have handle a night game the previous week. It's hard to do both.

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We didn't get back till 5:15 in the morning by the time everybody got to their houses. I bump everything back. But the problem is you do that during Thanksgiving week, you're cutting into Sunday game planning.

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Monday is off. Tuesday, today, because I have the radio show tonight, we have to move practice up earlier. We moved practice up earlier. That cuts out of game planning that we already are cut short on.

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There's a lot of kind of gymnastics that go with it. Probably the fact of the night game before already a short week in some ways can make it challenging.

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Thursday, we'll practice on Thanksgiving, in the morning. Again, you lose that day of fine tuning some of the things you're doing before practice that afternoon. You lose some of that, as well.

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But, yeah, I am a creature of habit. I like routine. I like the consistency, our preparation, how we do things.

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We planned on this way ahead of time. It's not like we're scrambling at the last minute. We knew all these things. It's still out of our norm.

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The good thing is for the most part, besides the fact that Michigan State I don't think had a night game the previous week, it wasn't on the road, it was home, that's probably the biggest difference. We're both having to deal with Thanksgiving in the middle of a practice week, how that modifies things. The difference we have is the night road game is a challenge.

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Q. Michigan State has a really young defensive line. Do you see any comparisons between your defensive line and how the seasons have progressed for your two teams? How important is a guy like Riley Bullough?

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COACH FRANKLIN: I think their linebackers are really good. The Bullough guy seems like he's been playing there forever, has great instincts. Watching a telecast the other day, his nickname is Caveman or something like that. I think they call him that because he's an old school, throwback type player.

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D-line we know those guys well. We recruited them as well. Most of the guys are guys that are more in their footprint than necessarily ours, but very familiar with them.

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They are a young team in terms of kind of what they have out there on the D-line. They're the 46th youngest team in the country. We're still a lot younger than they are.

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You're right, they're choosing to play some younger players. Play a bunch of guys both ways. They got O-linemen playing D-line. Freshmen DBs playing wide receiver, going both directions. It's a challenge.

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We kind of went into that as well this year with a challenge, a question mark at that position. Very proud of Coach Spencer, the D-linemen, how they've matured and played.

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I think we've had some older guys like Evan Schwan that have been helpful. Parker has played a lot of football for us. Sickels has played a lot of football for us. Those things have been helpful in allowing those young guys to grow up as the season went on. The way we rotate guys, we are a little different. Everybody uses a rotation on D-line, but we rotate guys more than most because we have five D tackles and five D ends that we think we feel like we can win with, so that helps.

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Q. Trace McSorley you said leads by example. What type of example has he set? What makes him so effective overall as a quarterback?

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COACH FRANKLIN: I think his approach, his work habits in the summer, how he was in summer workouts, in spring how he was. You know, his preparation, how he is in meetings. Coach Moorhead does a great job in the Friday night meeting asking questions to everybody in front of the group. He just rattles them out with such confidence that I think everybody on the team believes in him and has a lot of confidence just the way he approaches himself.

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He's also very positive. You never see any bad body language from him. You never see him yelling at guys when guys make mistakes, drop balls, give up sacks, whatever it may be. He's really steady and consistent.

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I think that's appreciated. I think it's a combination of all those things. More than anything it's his work ethic and his approach, his belief in himself, his belief in his teammates.

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Q. Michigan State, their run game, they have over 200 yards in four of their last five games. How do you shut that off?

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COACH FRANKLIN: They've always been great up front. I think that's kind of how that program has been built with the D-line, with the O-line. I think the thing that's different right now is the runningback. He was a great player last year. I think they were getting that offensive line to kind of grow and mature early on this season.

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Right now he is running, and running hard. They do a lot of stuff in terms of run game, then play-action pass, a lot of misdirection stuff with fake reverses, fake fly sweeps to try to cause some indecision at the linebacker unit.

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I think that's the biggest thing, is your D-line is going to have to challenge their O-line at the point of attack. We can't get knocked back, which we got knocked back last year. Then we've got to be able to get the runningback on the ground. He's a big, strong back that can make you miss. Him and Saquon I think in some ways have some similarities. It's going to be a real challenge for us.

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Q. Derek Dowrey, what do you remember about his switch from defensive line to offensive line, his willingness to switch positions for you?

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COACH FRANKLIN: I think when I first got here, it was evident right away that we had a problem that needed to get solved. I think obviously like most things in life, you have a choice: you can complain about the problem or you can look for solutions.

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Right away there were two solutions in my mind, guys that weren't necessarily starting on defense and had a background that we felt like they could make the transition. Brian Gaia was one of them. We had recruited him actually as an offensive line man. A lot of programs recruited him as someone that could be a defensive lineman or offensive lineman. There were some conversations already with both of them of the possibility of moving to offensive line at some point.

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When I brought them in, neither one of them were completely surprised about the conversation, and had embraced it. Dowrey's brothers plays O-line at Marshall. His dad has been a successful high school football coach for a long time. Both of them kind of embraced it.

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Players in general, a lot of times guys want to stick and play the position that they've always dreamed of playing. But there comes a point where you say, I want to have a role, more of a significant role, have an opportunity to impact the team in a positive way. Typically when their first plan hasn't necessarily worked out, you have the ability to approach a different plan. Guys embrace it because they see it as an opportunity.

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I think for them, that's the other thing you'd like, you'd love for it to align for both parties, like it to be the best thing for the team number one, best thing for the kid number two, kind of in that order. I think in both those cases it was. It was the best thing for the team as well as them.

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Q. You mentioned right after the game about inviting the lettermen back. Can you address how they've responded? Are you feeling it with the lettermen? Do you feel everybody is beginning to pull the rope? Also about the parent component, do you feel there's a sense of togetherness that maybe this season has brought?

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COACH FRANKLIN: I think obviously winning helps. I think all the other things that we've laid in terms of foundation academically and socially, all those things, I think I mentioned to you guys that before. There were so many good things going on away from the field with the program. All that discipline, all that structure I thought would translate on the field. I think it's happening.

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The challenges you guys all know. We've talked about it before. When you have the same group of men here as coaches for 30 to 50 years, 40 years, there was a sense of family. Guys could come back forever. Whenever you have that much change in that short period of time, it's difficult.

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I think the ones that have come back and got around our staff, got around our team, see how we're doing things, have been great. I think we're slowly getting more and more of those guys back. I think that's been helpful.

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There's been a bunch of guys this week. I was talking with Goon earlier today about him getting guys back, talking to Wally about helping get guys back. I think most of you guys probably saw the exchange with LaVar. As we all know, it doesn't take a whole lot to get LaVar going. He's very passionate about this place, very passionate about this community, has been very supportive of me and our staff really from day one. I've known LaVar for a long time, all the way back to my days at Maryland, his time with the Washington Redskins, things like that. We just have a lot of people that we know in common.

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Other guys have been great. It's challenged other guys, reaching out to us. Seems like we're going to get a pretty good showing of lettermen back, as well. It's great. In at lot of ways it's unique to this place. A lot of schools, that happens for local players, homecoming, but not the way the lettermen have rallied around this place when this place needed them to. When everything first went down, lettermen flew in from all over the country. That's been really good.

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I think we've always had a parents group. Obviously the more time that you're here to build relationships with those people, it's different. When you've actually gone in a young man's school, in a young man's home, have a relationship with the parents from the beginning, that's helpful, compared to like Schwan, for example, his mom and dad are president of the players association, the parents group. They've been awesome. They've been great. We work together with them a lot, as much as we possibly can.

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Once again, I've never been in Evan's home. I never broke bread with mom and dad. When you get in a situation where your whole team is made up of people you've been involved with from the beginning, it helps from a relationship standpoint. That's what we've spent the last two years doing, is really trying to build those relationships.

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I actually for the first time went to the tailgate, not to get after it and party before the game, but it was one of the night games. We had a lunch in Pegula. I was walking from Lasch to Pegula, walked through it, see all these people, hugs, seeing everybody. That's been great. To me that's what's so special about college football. I've said that to you before, about being part of a community.

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NFL, I've been there. It's a job. You are a part of the community, but it's much more businesslike, much more of a job.

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Q. Ham or turkey?

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COACH FRANKLIN: Turkey if I had to choose. I like both as part of my Thanksgiving meal. But if I had to choose one or the other, turkey. Needs to be gravy, a small portion of gravy on the turkey, a small portion of mashed potatoes, and a small portion of stuffing all in the same bite. Kind of like a cornucopia of flavors.

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Q. You made a point of most people not being who their original impression is. This team, are they who you thought they would be at this point of the season?

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COACH FRANKLIN: It's hard to say that. But I did believe there was a foundation laid, that we would make significant progress this year. I think I also said, What does that equate to in terms of overall record? I don't know. But I did think we would take a step in the right direction this year, just year three in general. The relationship aspect, the depth part of it, 85 scholarships, all those things.

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To say in the beginning of the year that I expected where we are right now, I don't know if that's accurate to say. But I was very confident that we would take a significant step.

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You also look at the schedule. You had some teams on the schedule that I thought was probably a more challenging schedule than we had the year before.

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What it was all going to equate to, I wasn't sure. But I don't really spend a whole lot of time doing those things, trying to forecast. Just wake up every single morning and try to get our guys, coaches, myself to be the best we possibly can be. I know that sounds simplistic, I know you get sick of hearing it. I feel like if you take that approach not only in football but in life, you can go to sleep at the end of the day feeling really good not saying would have, should have, could have, or what if. Then the same thing come Saturday. Friday night you can sleep well. At the end of the game on Saturday, I can feel comfortable coming in and talking to you guys. I can feel comfortable going to bed Saturday night getting up on Sunday because I know we've done everything in our power to put these young men in a position to be successful and represent this community in a right way.

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That's just kind of how we approach things. That's how I approach life. That's how we approach this game. That's what I try to instill in our players.

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What we're really trying to do is we're trying to create great habits, not just in football but in life. I think as we all know, if you have bad habits, they're hard to break. So trying to create healthy, positive, winning habits, not only in football but in life, is what we're trying to do every single day with our guys.

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THE MODERATOR: Thank you, everybody.

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FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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No. 8 Penn State heads into its regular season finale vs. Michigan State with some huge storylines unfolding. The Nittany Lions are still in play for the Big Ten championship game, a New Year's Six bowl and possibly a spot in the College Football Playoff. What's more, it is Senior Day at PSU, for a group of Lion veterans who have had the wildest ride in the history of college football. http://www.scout.com/college/penn-state/story/1729983-penn-state-commit-...

PSU coach James Franklin held his weekly press conference at the Beaver Stadium Tuesday, where he gave the lowdown on the team as it heads into the big game with MSU. You can see the entire PC above.

See the full transcript below.

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TRANSCRIPT

COACH FRANKLIN: First of all, I want to say great team win. I think the thing that probably stood out to me the most is they were probably the worst weather conditions that I'd ever coached or played in. It was awesome to see our guys in the fourth quarter having so much fun playing the game of football, our older guys supporting the younger guys. The fans stayed and supported us. It was just unreal. I'm just really proud of our guys. That was a mental toughness game, a physical toughness game. Great team win overall.

Offensively 39 points, 549 yards, 339 yards of rushing, which you're going to need to have that much rushing in those conditions. We played explosive plays, 12 explosive plays on offense. No sacks, no turnovers. They listed a sack, I'm probably not supposed to say this, Chris is winking at me, they listed a sack that was a zone read by Tommy Stevens behind the line of scrimmage. The official stat book will say it's a sack. It is not a sack. 14 fourth-quarter points. That's something we've done a pretty good job of all year long.

Defensively I think probably the most important thing in the game is we started out the game not the way you want fumbling the opening kickoff in the weather. Our defense goes in and not only gets a stop, but negative yardage plays, three-and-out, gives up no point.

87 total yards. 50 total plays. Of the 50 total plays, 11 were minus yardage plays in the game. You look at us, what we've been doing, stopping the run here recently, Purdue 1.8 yards per carry, Iowa 1.2 yards, Indiana 2.7, Rutgers 1.2. When you can make people one-dimensional, that's going to be important this week. That's going to help you.

Special teams, I thought Blake Gillikin as a true freshman punted the ball really well in bad weather conditions with the wind. I think that was a big factor in the game.

Then awesome punt block by Juwan Johnson and recovered by Garrett Taylor. Guys are growing up and making plays on offense and defense. A lot of them are building their confidence and growing on special teams. Really proud of the job that Coach Huff and all those guys are doing. Great win.

The coaching staff players of the week on offense was the entire offensive line, Bates, Gonzalez, Gaia, Dowrey and Wright. Really proud of those guys. Obviously need to give Coach Limegrover a shout out as well.

Defensively kind of went with a weird combination here. Parker Cothren and the entire defensive backs, combination of those guys.

Then on special teams, Juwan Johnson with his one blocked punt and his tackle. That was great for us.

On to Michigan State. Obviously we're playing the defending Big Ten championship team. We're also playing a team the last two weeks that has played really well. They played the No. 2 team in the country and lost by one point. The week before they scored a bunch of points and shut people out.

We're playing a good football team there. They're talented. They're well-coached. Obviously Coach Dantonio has done a great job there. It's going to be a real challenge for us. We're going to need this place rocking on Saturday night.

I know Thanksgiving week sometimes is a little bit of a challenge. Our lettermen are stepping up for us, are unbelievably excited on social media. I know it sounds like a bunch of students are coming back, get into the dorms Friday at 3:00. We're very appreciative of the university, of President Barron, of Sandy, our athletic director, of helping us with that as well. We're appreciative of the people that work in the dorms, clean the dorms, because that's going to be important for us on Saturday.

Obviously we want to find a way to be 1-0 this week and eliminate the distractions, have a great practice today. That's kind of where our focus is.

I'll open it up to questions.

Q. What have these seniors meant to you, your staff, the program? How would you describe their leadership?

COACH FRANKLIN: They've been unbelievable, they really have. These guys I'll kind of remember forever. I think Penn State will remember those guys forever.

Their five years, they ought to get together and write a book because they've seen a lot in a short period of time and have overcome adversity and stuck together.

We came in as a coaching staff, spent a lot of time working and growing together. Right now we're at a point where these guys have been awesome.

You look at it, I think we have 12 seniors, four of which are starting for us, or five, excuse me, if you count special teams. Five of them are starting for us.

Whether you count these guys as starters or not, their impact has been significant. They all either have already graduated or on schedule to graduate. They've been really, really good leaders.

A guy like Derek Dowrey has handled adversity this year. I say 'adversity', goes from a guy that's starting, playing a lot, to a guy that's playing more of a backup role. Big on special teams, big in the locker room, has been great with me personally and professionally.

They're special guys. I think they're going to be remembered as the class that really kind of held this place together and also left out of here by making sure the program was headed in the right direction before they walked out the door.

Very, very proud of those guys. Very, very appreciative, as well.

Q. Could you elaborate on Parker's value to your team and defense. You mentioned him as being honored as one of the players of the week. Do you think there's a chance that Brendan Mahon could return at some point this season?

COACH FRANKLIN: Initially with Parker, we'll talk about him a little bit.

From Parker's perspective, he's the guy that is essential to every team, is essential to every organization, corporation. He's the guy that's going to do 90% of the dirty work that most people don't see. He's in there holding his gap. He's in there taking up double teams. He's going to make some plays, as well, some tackles, tackles for loss, sacks, things like that. Those guys are just so valuable, those defensive tackles, especially the nose who has a tough job. Typically the nose is going to be double-teamed, twice as much as a three technique will be. http://www.scout.com/college/penn-state/story/1719381-follow-your-surgin...

He just has been really, really good. His leadership, as well, with some of the younger guys like Robert Windsor, Chavis isn't a young guy, but a new guy to the program. He's been very mature. Has a great mom, dad, sister. They come to almost every single game from Alabama. He's a special guy.

Obviously I think you guys know we've known him for a long time. We recruited him when we were at Vanderbilt. I remember going and watching him play basketball in high school. He's done a great job for us.

With Mahon, I'm not going to get into a whole lot more than what you guys already know, what's already been addressed.

Q. How have you seen the leadership on your team develop as the season has gone on? What have you noticed since camp or Michigan or Ohio State?

COACH FRANKLIN: I think a couple things. Obviously with us not having a big senior class, one of the younger teams in college football, we rely on those seniors and we rely on the staff. But after that, we're fortunate because we have some young players that are really, really good leaders for us. That's important. That's helpful.

I think John Reid is a guy like that. I think Saquon Barkley is a guy like that. I think Trace is a guy like that. I think Cabinda is a guy like that. I could probably list 10, 12 guys. We have a number of young players that have significant leadership roles on our team, and we need that.

I think I saw one of the teams in the Big Ten is honoring like 44 seniors on Senior Day. We just don't have that. But it's also important, even the years you do have big senior classes like that, that you have strong leadership in your junior, sophomore and freshman class. We've been forced to do that, almost like our situation in terms of creating depth. What we went through at linebacker. In the short-term it wasn't a whole lot of fun, but in the long-term it's helped us because we have pretty good depth at that position. Same thing as what we're going through in the O-line. In the long run it's going to help us.

I would say the same thing in the leadership perspective. We were forced to develop leadership through the younger players on our roster. In the long run, I think that's going to help us. As the season has progressed, that's helped us. As their careers progress, I think that's going to help us.

Q. Michigan State the last couple of weeks done some pretty good things. How do you handle a team that, for lack of a better word, is unpredictable coming into your last home game?

COACH FRANKLIN: I think they're very predictable. What you do is you look at trends, no different than any other industry. In the last two games they've played really well. They played the Michigan State style of football we've all seen over the last number of years.

Obviously how they were playing in the beginning of the season compared to how they're playing now is different. There's no doubt about it.

You watch the last two games, they put up a bunch of points, shut a team out two and a half weeks ago. Last week they took the No. 2 team in the country to the wire and lost by one.

We know what to expect. We're going to have a team coming in here that's going to play with a tremendous amount of pride, passion. They're well-coached, talented. They've recruited well there. They've always been a good staff in developing talent. In the last couple years they've recruited at a very high level. They're talented.

We are going to respect our opponent week in and week out. We're going to focus on Penn State. We're going to prepare like crazy all week long. We're going to need that stadium jumping on Saturday, once again, so we can all support one another and do everything we possibly can to find a way to get a positive result on Saturday.

Q. Evan Schwan, not a lot of publicity, wasn't a starter till this year. What is the biggest thing in his development and his place as a senior leader this year?

COACH FRANKLIN: I think Evan probably is a really good example of our team in general. He comes into this year, he hadn't had a sack up till this year. Had played a decent amount of time as a backup. This was kind of his year. He put a lot into it in the off-season. Really had a great attitude. He's had a great attitude for three years.

His dad is the president of our players association. His mom and dad do a great job with that as well. That's an important piece of our program that we don't talk about enough. That's a real special thing that our parents all get together and support one another, tailgate together.

I think what Coach Spencer did a really good job of with Schwan is kind of identifying, This is kind of who you are. I think up until this past off-season, he'd been kind of looking for his identity as a player, trying different moves, pass-rush moves, different approaches, different styles. Sean really got with him and said, These are the things you do well. You're big, you're physical, you're really explosive, linear athlete, and play like that. That doesn't mean you still don't kind of need to be working on some other things in some other areas, but play to your strengths, these are what your strengths are. http://www.scout.com/college/football/recruiting/story/1730502-east-no-1...

Evan was kind of embraced that and run with that. With that, he's having a lot of success. You look at his numbers this year, statistics, his leadership, the impact he's had on our success has been dramatic.

I'm really happy for him because, we talked about this before, a lot of these guys are highly recruited, they come in here and expect instant success. Doesn't always work like that. If you keep the right attitude, keep working hard, keep approaching things the right way, allow yourself to be coached, embrace hard coaching. Some people look at it as critical, but it's constructive criticism is what coaching is in a lot of ways. Taking all those little bits of information and put them to use. He's done a good job of that.

I'm really proud of him. He's having a great year, playing with a lot of confidence right now. Again, another guy that's handled his business academically. He's just been a really, really good leader for us and is having a significant role this year, so I'm happy.

Q. Speaking of Evan, he was in the interview room earlier and said probably the most emotional person during Senior Day ceremonies will be you. I know you're an emotional guy. How do you plan to scale it back once the game starts, seeing them in the locker room even before the game?

COACH FRANKLIN: It's probably the same way I am with a lot of my emotions. Like my wife does not get angry very easy. But once she does, then she's done with you forever.

Me, I'm one of these guys, I'll get mad, I'll get it off my chest, then the next day I'm fine with it. I've moved on. I'm probably kind of the same way emotionally.

I'm going to have a hard time on Saturday with these guys. I typically try to fight it as much as I possibly can. I'm fine doing that in closed quarters, team meetings, these guys individually. You don't want to be out there blubbering in front of 100,000 people in the stadium. It's not the right tone you want to set for your team that's about to play a tough, physical Big Ten football game.

I'm very passionate about what I do. I'm very passionate about who I do it with. These seniors are going to be remembered and remembered I think for a long time. I think these seniors are going to hold a special place in our history for a long time.

The way this season is going, the way Saturday will unfold, we just have to do a great job. There's a lot of different things going on, a lot of different moving parts on Saturday, whenever you have a Senior Day.

Last year I remember being at Michigan State, they kind of handled it different than I've ever seen it before. They do their Senior Day ceremonies before the stadium opens. They do it with the families, with the guys out there on the field, kind of get that done way ahead of time before the game. I thought that was kind of an interesting way to do it as well because you struggle with all those things. You want to pay respect, but you don't want it to become a distraction to what you're doing on Saturday once the game gets going.

A lot of different things we have to manage and make sure we're approaching the right way, make sure things don't affect, once that whistle blows, that we can go out and execute at a high level so we can find a way to be successful.

Q. On Saturday, you are very consistent on your emphasis of being in the moment, take care of this week's opponent, be in the present. I think it's going to be a unique challenge because the Michigan-Ohio State game will be ending about the same time your game begins. Are you going to talk to your guys about that?

COACH FRANKLIN: I think that's a fair question. I think that's a great point. We've discussed it as a staff. We're going to talk about it with the team. That game is right before ours. How that game plays out, who wins, who loses, how people look at that and how that impacts our future. There's no doubt that's going to be a factor. So we're going to discuss it ahead of time.

Once again, I'm going to go back to my approach. None of that matters if we don't handle on business on Saturday against Michigan State.

That information will be out there the way social media is, the way the fans are, the reaction in the stadium, things like that. They'll be aware of it.

Once again, we just got to go out and play well on Saturday and focus on Michigan State. After the game is over, then we'll find out kind of what you're next step in our journey is. Whatever that step is, we'll embrace and be appreciative of. We'll start preparing for whoever that next opponent is, whatever that next opportunity is.

But we're going to talk about it. Again, it's not like we just put our head in the sand and act like these things aren't going on. We discuss them as a program, we discuss them as a staff, with the players, let people get off their chest what they need to get off their chest, make sure we're approaching things the right way, the way the players want to approach it as well as the coaches. Once again, we'll get our focus back to the task at hand, which is Michigan State. http://www.scout.com/college/football/recruiting/story/1729169-cfb-s-bes...

Q. How much effect does Von Walker have the coverage units? As a leader, have you ever been around someone like him as a leader?

COACH FRANKLIN: Obviously he's had a big role on special teams for us the last three years, been a special teams captain for two years. He's a tremendous leader for us. Yeah, I mean, to say it's not going to have an effect, it is. No different than what we've lost starting offensive linemen. He's been a starter for us. He's what Coach Huff characterizes as a (indiscernible), one of our core special teams guys. He's embraced it, he really has.

I think his first couple years, he was still chasing the linebacker opportunity and things like that. That's great. We wanted him to do that. We also wanted him to approach and realize how much of an impact he could have on the team on special teams.

I think a lot of times with high school guys, the star players don't play special teams in high school. It takes some time to get everybody to buy in to the importance of special teams in college football and the next level, the NFL. Von has really kind of figured that out over the last year and a half. He's done a great job for us.

I mentioned after the game in the locker room, he's the one that kind of spoke to the team after the win last week. I just mentioned to him that not only has Von had a significant role on our team the last two and a half years, but he'll continue to have a significant role moving forward from a leadership perspective and those types of things.

Q. Do you have much of a connection with Mark Dantonio? Have you crossed paths much in your career? How much have you noticed the things he's done from afar?

COACH FRANKLIN: I mean, last couple years obviously being in the conference, going to Big Ten head coaches meetings, things like that. Nike trip together. My wife knows his wife. I know his wife, know him.

I've never worked with him. Hadn't really spent any time socially with him before the Nike trip. But I've gotten to know Mark fairly well.

Q. You'll hear sometimes coaches will make an emphasis and say, We don't want the game on the scoreboard in the stadium. Have you done that or will you consider doing that?

COACH FRANKLIN: It's going to be a discussion. There's no doubt there's going to be a discussion. There's been a lot of things we've been doing to get some of the fans into the stadium a little bit earlier when they're trying to finish up games in the RV lots, thing like that. I get that.

But we just have to have a plan. That's something we've started talking through. Need to talk about it with the administration a little bit, need to talk with the coaching staff. We are going to address it with the team.

Once again, however that game plays out, it is going to have an impact on our future, but it can't impact how we play on Saturday. That's the important thing.

Q. With Trace McSorley, have you seen anything from him different this year as opposed to what you thought you were getting? He said today it's a matter of making sure the moment is never bigger than you think it is.

COACH FRANKLIN: Not really. He's pretty much been who we thought he was going to be. But I will tell you that's typically not the case, I mean, for all of us. In any industry, any relationship, you go in thinking you know somebody pretty well. Very rarely do they play out to be the person that you thought they were.

We all have strengths. We all have weaknesses, shortcomings in certain areas. Trace is pretty much exactly who we thought, and probably more importantly, hoped he was. More times than not you look at the draft in the NFL, they do more research than anybody. Guys typically aren't who you thought they were.

Trace has been really, really consistent with how we graded him on high school film, how we got to know him and his family through the recruiting process. I think probably the one thing I told you that's a little bit different is I thought there would be a point where he really came out of his shell. I think he's come out a little bit, but he's a pretty quiet guy.

His sister goes to school here now, is a true freshman. She's on campus. I saw her the other day. I have a deal where I go to Jamba Juice, I get this green smoothie that's made with kale and things like that. The players make fun of me. I don't think it's open this week. I was over there last week. I saw her, had not seen her since the recruiting process. It was great to see her, she's doing really well.

Trace is kind of who he is. His parents have been really good. I think I told you mom does a gift for the O-line each week, pastries or donuts, usually something that's local, representative of the community that we're in, whether on the road or at home. She's usually got some type of note in there, something funny. That's been pretty cool, as well.

Trace being very appreciative of the offensive line, how they work. As you can imagine, the mom is pretty excited about an offensive line that's going to take care of her baby, as well.

Q. You pretty much are a creature of habit. I think it's fair to say. During a holiday week, there's no students, you have to enjoy Thanksgiving. How much does that change what you do practice-wise with respect to timing and everything else?

COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, I don't love it, to be honest with you. I have my radio show tonight. Tuesday is a big game plan night for us. Typically you can handle Thanksgiving. Typically you have handle a night game the previous week. It's hard to do both.

We didn't get back till 5:15 in the morning by the time everybody got to their houses. I bump everything back. But the problem is you do that during Thanksgiving week, you're cutting into Sunday game planning.

Monday is off. Tuesday, today, because I have the radio show tonight, we have to move practice up earlier. We moved practice up earlier. That cuts out of game planning that we already are cut short on.

There's a lot of kind of gymnastics that go with it. Probably the fact of the night game before already a short week in some ways can make it challenging.

Thursday, we'll practice on Thanksgiving, in the morning. Again, you lose that day of fine tuning some of the things you're doing before practice that afternoon. You lose some of that, as well.

But, yeah, I am a creature of habit. I like routine. I like the consistency, our preparation, how we do things.

We planned on this way ahead of time. It's not like we're scrambling at the last minute. We knew all these things. It's still out of our norm.

The good thing is for the most part, besides the fact that Michigan State I don't think had a night game the previous week, it wasn't on the road, it was home, that's probably the biggest difference. We're both having to deal with Thanksgiving in the middle of a practice week, how that modifies things. The difference we have is the night road game is a challenge.

Q. Michigan State has a really young defensive line. Do you see any comparisons between your defensive line and how the seasons have progressed for your two teams? How important is a guy like Riley Bullough?

COACH FRANKLIN: I think their linebackers are really good. The Bullough guy seems like he's been playing there forever, has great instincts. Watching a telecast the other day, his nickname is Caveman or something like that. I think they call him that because he's an old school, throwback type player.

D-line we know those guys well. We recruited them as well. Most of the guys are guys that are more in their footprint than necessarily ours, but very familiar with them.

They are a young team in terms of kind of what they have out there on the D-line. They're the 46th youngest team in the country. We're still a lot younger than they are.

You're right, they're choosing to play some younger players. Play a bunch of guys both ways. They got O-linemen playing D-line. Freshmen DBs playing wide receiver, going both directions. It's a challenge.

We kind of went into that as well this year with a challenge, a question mark at that position. Very proud of Coach Spencer, the D-linemen, how they've matured and played.

I think we've had some older guys like Evan Schwan that have been helpful. Parker has played a lot of football for us. Sickels has played a lot of football for us. Those things have been helpful in allowing those young guys to grow up as the season went on. The way we rotate guys, we are a little different. Everybody uses a rotation on D-line, but we rotate guys more than most because we have five D tackles and five D ends that we think we feel like we can win with, so that helps.

Q. Trace McSorley you said leads by example. What type of example has he set? What makes him so effective overall as a quarterback?

COACH FRANKLIN: I think his approach, his work habits in the summer, how he was in summer workouts, in spring how he was. You know, his preparation, how he is in meetings. Coach Moorhead does a great job in the Friday night meeting asking questions to everybody in front of the group. He just rattles them out with such confidence that I think everybody on the team believes in him and has a lot of confidence just the way he approaches himself.

He's also very positive. You never see any bad body language from him. You never see him yelling at guys when guys make mistakes, drop balls, give up sacks, whatever it may be. He's really steady and consistent.

I think that's appreciated. I think it's a combination of all those things. More than anything it's his work ethic and his approach, his belief in himself, his belief in his teammates.

Q. Michigan State, their run game, they have over 200 yards in four of their last five games. How do you shut that off?

COACH FRANKLIN: They've always been great up front. I think that's kind of how that program has been built with the D-line, with the O-line. I think the thing that's different right now is the runningback. He was a great player last year. I think they were getting that offensive line to kind of grow and mature early on this season.

Right now he is running, and running hard. They do a lot of stuff in terms of run game, then play-action pass, a lot of misdirection stuff with fake reverses, fake fly sweeps to try to cause some indecision at the linebacker unit.

I think that's the biggest thing, is your D-line is going to have to challenge their O-line at the point of attack. We can't get knocked back, which we got knocked back last year. Then we've got to be able to get the runningback on the ground. He's a big, strong back that can make you miss. Him and Saquon I think in some ways have some similarities. It's going to be a real challenge for us.

Q. Derek Dowrey, what do you remember about his switch from defensive line to offensive line, his willingness to switch positions for you?

COACH FRANKLIN: I think when I first got here, it was evident right away that we had a problem that needed to get solved. I think obviously like most things in life, you have a choice: you can complain about the problem or you can look for solutions.

Right away there were two solutions in my mind, guys that weren't necessarily starting on defense and had a background that we felt like they could make the transition. Brian Gaia was one of them. We had recruited him actually as an offensive line man. A lot of programs recruited him as someone that could be a defensive lineman or offensive lineman. There were some conversations already with both of them of the possibility of moving to offensive line at some point.

When I brought them in, neither one of them were completely surprised about the conversation, and had embraced it. Dowrey's brothers plays O-line at Marshall. His dad has been a successful high school football coach for a long time. Both of them kind of embraced it.

Players in general, a lot of times guys want to stick and play the position that they've always dreamed of playing. But there comes a point where you say, I want to have a role, more of a significant role, have an opportunity to impact the team in a positive way. Typically when their first plan hasn't necessarily worked out, you have the ability to approach a different plan. Guys embrace it because they see it as an opportunity.

I think for them, that's the other thing you'd like, you'd love for it to align for both parties, like it to be the best thing for the team number one, best thing for the kid number two, kind of in that order. I think in both those cases it was. It was the best thing for the team as well as them.

Q. You mentioned right after the game about inviting the lettermen back. Can you address how they've responded? Are you feeling it with the lettermen? Do you feel everybody is beginning to pull the rope? Also about the parent component, do you feel there's a sense of togetherness that maybe this season has brought?

COACH FRANKLIN: I think obviously winning helps. I think all the other things that we've laid in terms of foundation academically and socially, all those things, I think I mentioned to you guys that before. There were so many good things going on away from the field with the program. All that discipline, all that structure I thought would translate on the field. I think it's happening.

The challenges you guys all know. We've talked about it before. When you have the same group of men here as coaches for 30 to 50 years, 40 years, there was a sense of family. Guys could come back forever. Whenever you have that much change in that short period of time, it's difficult.

I think the ones that have come back and got around our staff, got around our team, see how we're doing things, have been great. I think we're slowly getting more and more of those guys back. I think that's been helpful.

There's been a bunch of guys this week. I was talking with Goon earlier today about him getting guys back, talking to Wally about helping get guys back. I think most of you guys probably saw the exchange with LaVar. As we all know, it doesn't take a whole lot to get LaVar going. He's very passionate about this place, very passionate about this community, has been very supportive of me and our staff really from day one. I've known LaVar for a long time, all the way back to my days at Maryland, his time with the Washington Redskins, things like that. We just have a lot of people that we know in common.

Other guys have been great. It's challenged other guys, reaching out to us. Seems like we're going to get a pretty good showing of lettermen back, as well. It's great. In at lot of ways it's unique to this place. A lot of schools, that happens for local players, homecoming, but not the way the lettermen have rallied around this place when this place needed them to. When everything first went down, lettermen flew in from all over the country. That's been really good.

I think we've always had a parents group. Obviously the more time that you're here to build relationships with those people, it's different. When you've actually gone in a young man's school, in a young man's home, have a relationship with the parents from the beginning, that's helpful, compared to like Schwan, for example, his mom and dad are president of the players association, the parents group. They've been awesome. They've been great. We work together with them a lot, as much as we possibly can.

Once again, I've never been in Evan's home. I never broke bread with mom and dad. When you get in a situation where your whole team is made up of people you've been involved with from the beginning, it helps from a relationship standpoint. That's what we've spent the last two years doing, is really trying to build those relationships.

I actually for the first time went to the tailgate, not to get after it and party before the game, but it was one of the night games. We had a lunch in Pegula. I was walking from Lasch to Pegula, walked through it, see all these people, hugs, seeing everybody. That's been great. To me that's what's so special about college football. I've said that to you before, about being part of a community.

NFL, I've been there. It's a job. You are a part of the community, but it's much more businesslike, much more of a job.

Q. Ham or turkey?

COACH FRANKLIN: Turkey if I had to choose. I like both as part of my Thanksgiving meal. But if I had to choose one or the other, turkey. Needs to be gravy, a small portion of gravy on the turkey, a small portion of mashed potatoes, and a small portion of stuffing all in the same bite. Kind of like a cornucopia of flavors.

Q. You made a point of most people not being who their original impression is. This team, are they who you thought they would be at this point of the season?

COACH FRANKLIN: It's hard to say that. But I did believe there was a foundation laid, that we would make significant progress this year. I think I also said, What does that equate to in terms of overall record? I don't know. But I did think we would take a step in the right direction this year, just year three in general. The relationship aspect, the depth part of it, 85 scholarships, all those things.

To say in the beginning of the year that I expected where we are right now, I don't know if that's accurate to say. But I was very confident that we would take a significant step.

You also look at the schedule. You had some teams on the schedule that I thought was probably a more challenging schedule than we had the year before.

What it was all going to equate to, I wasn't sure. But I don't really spend a whole lot of time doing those things, trying to forecast. Just wake up every single morning and try to get our guys, coaches, myself to be the best we possibly can be. I know that sounds simplistic, I know you get sick of hearing it. I feel like if you take that approach not only in football but in life, you can go to sleep at the end of the day feeling really good not saying would have, should have, could have, or what if. Then the same thing come Saturday. Friday night you can sleep well. At the end of the game on Saturday, I can feel comfortable coming in and talking to you guys. I can feel comfortable going to bed Saturday night getting up on Sunday because I know we've done everything in our power to put these young men in a position to be successful and represent this community in a right way.

That's just kind of how we approach things. That's how I approach life. That's how we approach this game. That's what I try to instill in our players.

What we're really trying to do is we're trying to create great habits, not just in football but in life. I think as we all know, if you have bad habits, they're hard to break. So trying to create healthy, positive, winning habits, not only in football but in life, is what we're trying to do every single day with our guys.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, everybody.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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