James Franklin Tackles Topics Galore At Pre-Spring PC

The Nittany Lion coach met the media for nearly an hour Tuesday. Penn State's spring practice kicks off Wednesday.

Penn State coach James Franklin has a lot on his mind as the Nittany Lions head into spring practice Wednesday.

How much? Well, Franklin held a press conference at Beaver Stadium Tuesday to preview spring ball. And he talked for nearly an hour.

He gave the lowdown on … take a deep breath … off-season strength and conditioning, players leaving the team, position changes, his vision for Penn State football in the future, the center position, his backup QB, the wide receivers, last season, self-scouting, guys who redshirted in 2016, RBs Saquan Barkley and Miles Sanders, eating at a local German restaurant with a former player, the linebacker situation, TE Nick Bowers and much more.

Part 1 of the press conference can be seen above (opening statement and questions from the phone. Part 2 (questions from the room) can be see below.

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Check out the entire PC transcript below. We will also be doing multiple breakout pieces from the PC coming up.

OUR PREMIUM LIVE NOTES FROM THE PRESS CONFERENCE

TRANSCRIPT

COACH FRANKLIN: How's everybody doing? Appreciate everybody being here. The weather is beautiful today. Looks like it's breaking, the perfect time for spring ball.

I think we've had a very kind of productive winter training period since the season ended. I think you guys know, in the weight room, I think we have the best strength staff in America, led by Dwight Galt. I've been with the guy for a long time, and our development of our guys is as good as any place I've ever been.

You know, I think it's a partnership between recruiting and development, but either way, the results are really impressive. You know, we have a BOD POD machine, so we are really able to tell right in-house, we're really able to tell what guys percentage of body fat is, what their lean mass is, how much bone they have, and then how they are changing their bodies.

It's amazing. And usually you get to a point where guys that have made a lot of results, there's not a whole lot left for them to go in terms of dropping their body fat even lower in terms of increasing lean mass. And then obviously how those things result and impact vertical jump or pro agility or 40 times.

So I know Coach Galt went through a lot of this stuff with you guys the other day in the weight room, but it's been impressive. I think we're one of the bigger, stronger, faster teams right now that I've ever been around, not just at Penn State but in my 23 years doing this.

So I'm excited about that and I'm proud of the guys. I'm proud of the guys and how hard they have worked. I'm proud of the leadership Coach Galt and his staff.

I thought we had a good morning workout. It's been a number of years now that we've been doing it, so they know what to expect. We got the mid-semester guys that are still kind of figuring it out. It's a shock to them, but as you guys know, I've stated before: It's really all about building physical and mental toughness. It's about pushing guys outside of their comfort zone and kind of really trying to speed up the maturation process. Instead of waiting for a guy to grow up, you're kind of forcing it to happen, you know, quickly.

So rather than maybe a guy that maybe would have took two and a half years to impact the roster, through the morning workouts and teaching guys how to compete, maybe you can speed that process up. And I think that's probably more important now than ever when it comes to college athletics, when it comes to high school athletics. I mean, these kids didn't grow up outside like we did playing kick the ball, playing basketball, playing kill the man with the ball, playing whatever ball you want to play.

And having to learn to compete. A lot of these kids were playing video games and when the video games started to beat them, they hit the reset button. So teaching guys how to compete, I think is a big part of what we do, and that's what the morning workouts are all about. I'm proud of that. I think we got a lot of really good work done.

But as you guys know, we are still kind of doing all the other things, as well, when it comes to academics and community service. But Coach Galt does a strength index, which is an overall number; if you take all the different weights and based on body weight, basically you're talking about the pound-for-pound strongest guys on the team, so all those numbers are up. The power clean number is up, the squat numbers are up, bench press numbers are up, the 40-yard dash, the vertical jump, the broad jump. So I'm pleased with all those things.

Want to go over a few things, just to make sure we're clear on them and make sure they have been covered. We do have some positional changes. I think most of these you may have but I just want to make sure. Johnathan Thomas is going from linebacker back to running back. Jarvis Miller, from safety to linebacker.

And then Josh McPhearson from wide receiver to running back, and I would probably add a note on that. Josh, we're really looking at him being a return specialist for us, and that's one of the reasons of moving him to running back, of the ball security and things like that. We are really hoping Josh can factor in and compete as a kick returner, as a punt returner. He's a dynamic guy when he gets the ball in his hands so we're going to give him an opportunity there.

Some guys that are leaving the program: Noah Bey will be leaving the program. Adam De Boef will be retiring from the program; will still be here at Penn State. Brendan Brosnan is retiring. And then Antoine White, I think most of you guys already know, is no longer with us, as well. So I just want to kind of cover that so there's not a bunch of questions after the first practice where guys are at.

So a lot of good things going on. All those guys that are leaving us, are leaving or left under good circumstances. They really have. There's different reasons for all of them. But they have all left and we are very, very appreciative of what they did with their time while they were here.

You know, spring objectives overall, spring objectives overall for me, it kind of goes back to the basics, like it always will: 100 percent effort on every play, every person in the program, everybody is held accountable to that standard. Most competitive environment in all of college football in everything we do. Offensive ball security and defensive ball disruption, that's an area that we must improve.

And then discipline. Discipline overall in our program: Going to class, on time, prepared; showing up to treatment, on time, prepared; being at practice, doing all the little things right; making great choices in the community. Just discipline. Just overall discipline. I believe if we can do a better job in that area, and have ten percent less, what I would describe as drama: You know, having to get on a guy about missing a class and calling his parents and spending time doing that, and resources as coaches and players; that we can spend our time developing them as students and developing them as players and developing them as men and not baby-sitting, it's going to make all of us more efficient with our time.

A lot of good things going on. We obviously got to talk this weekend. It goes hand in hand with our opening practices, on Friday and Saturday. And then we have our Blue White game which we are excited about that, Saturday, April 22, 3:00PM. We're expecting the place to be rocking.

A lot of people say, well, why is spring game attendance a big deal? I would make the argument: No. 1, it's an opportunity to get together with your buddies. I kind of look at it like a homecoming during the spring. It's an opportunity for everybody to come back together, eat a hot dog, eat a hamburger, have a beverage; obviously Gatorade or Aquafina is what I'm talking about, with your friends and family and kind of enjoy yourself on a great day. And then go into that stadium and I think it does make a statement nationally that football is important at Penn State.

I think it shows our players that we're all in this thing together. Them practicing and working hard and sacrificing and sweating on the fields, and the fans coming out and supporting us and sacrificing their time, I think it makes a statement. It makes a statement to our recruits, it makes a statement to our team, and it makes a statement I think to the country that football is very, very important part of Penn State. No more important than anything else, but an important part of what Penn State is all about. I'll stop talking and open it up to questions.

Q. Even though you had a very successful season last year, you said the program has a long way to go and a lot of work to do. Where do you want Penn State football to go in the next five years and what do you want it to be?

COACH FRANKLIN: Well, I think it probably goes back to the players make fun of me sometimes, because when I take the picture, I throw the No. 1 up, and what I'm talking about, I think when we do that, everybody thinks we're talking about, you know, wins and losses, and that's part of it.

We're talking about building the No. 1 organization in all of college football, and that's everything. That's development of our staff. That is development of our players as people, as students, as athletes, socially, socially conscious young people. And then preparing them to go out and be successful for the next 40, 50 years of their life. It's making sure we are making a positive impact on the community; it's facilities; it's wins; it's GPA; it's graduation rates. It's the whole package.

So that's what keeps me up at night and that's what makes me up early in the morning and studying best practice about what's going on all over the country and stealing ideas that make sense for us at Penn State and then coming up with creative ideas on our own that can allow us to keep pushing this program forward, and being able to represent the university as a whole the right way and represent our fans in this community the right way by challenging ourselves every single day to get better. That's where ultimately we want to go and where ultimately we want to be. We have made progress but we've still got a long ways to go in every area.

Q. There may be a couple of guys you're look at center this spring. For that position specifically, what do you look for when you're trying to find a new starter?

COACH FRANKLIN: You know, that's kind of been a big discussion. We have changed it kind of, probably three or four times as a staff, and basically, what we've ended with, is that you know, we want to get as many returning starters on the field as possible.

So the best way to do that is by moving a guy like Connor McGovern in there to center. Bates is a guy that could do that, as well. But you know, kind of the way I think we're looking at this right now, for the start of spring ball, is having McGovern at center, having Simpson at center. They are both guys that have done it before in practice and we feel like we can go out and practice well right from day one with those guys. And then also we've got Menet in there rotating, and Miranda, being able to rotate in there, as well.

So those guys will be playing guard and center, but what we didn't want is, we didn't want to have some guys at center the first couple days of practice that haven't really done it in practice before, and now our practice has become sloppy and messy.

So you know, let's just have those guys compete, those interior linemen. We kind of think about those guys, they have to be interchangable anyway. The centers and guards have to be interchangeable. Tackles are typically kind of on their own but we've even had that. You look at Brendan Mahon has been able to play tackle and guard successfully. You look at Bates has been able to play tackle and guard successfully, as well.

But typically your centers and guards need to be interchangeable and your tackles usually are just a different body type, you know, different type of athlete. I think Coach Limegrover has done a really good job. We have been forced in our past to be interchangeable just based on numbers, where now we're doing it just to make sure that we can kind of get the best five on the field or the best two-deep, best ten in the two-deep situation.

So that's how we're going to start spring ball, but I'm not sure necessarily finish that way. We'll just kind of see.

Q. Regarding Tommy Stevens, what do you want to see him take advantage of this spring to position himself in the fall for the future?

COACH FRANKLIN: Well, I think it's a different situation right now. And Tommy has got to keep his eye on the prize, and he's been excellent.

I thought last year, you know, when we made the decision, named the starting quarterback, that's hard at first. I thought Tommy handled it really well. And then throughout the season, I thought he prepared to be the starter and he was ready to go, and I think we all saw when he got opportunities, he showed that he's got an exciting future here at Penn State.

And what he can't do is he can't change that. He can't lose that. He's got to have that approach every single day that he's going to prepare as if he's the starter. He's going to take the next step in every area. His footwork, his release, his arm strength, his accuracy, his understanding and grasp of the entire offense, his leadership on offense, his leadership with the whole team; it's the whole deal.

We really look at it as if we have two starting quarterbacks that we feel like week win with. I think Tommy realizes that, as well, and he needs to approach it that way for the long term, because what I found in my 23 years is the minute you let your guard down, that's when the opportunity comes.

So you have to, you know, keep preparing and make sure that when your time comes and opportunity knocks that you're ready to open the door and be ready to maximize that opportunity.

Q. I wanted to ask you about your wide receivers, particularly Juwan Johnson, Irv Charles, Saeed. We've seen flashes of those guys. I wonder if you can talk about the maturity of them, their development, what you want to see from them moving forward through the spring to take the next step?

COACH FRANKLIN: Well, I think the wide receivers, probably last year, was kind of the ideal, is you know, you feel like you have a first team that you're really excited about, that you feel like you've got a second team that can come in and contribute, and keep the production at the level you need it to be to win.

And then you have a third team of young, exciting guys that you're really kind of looking forward to see what they are going to do in their future. You look down the depth chart and you say, you know what, I'm really excited about these young players, and you want that at every position. You want a starter, you want a back up that you feel like can get some reps and keep guys fresh, and also make sure that when he does play, that the production stays at a similar level.

And then you want a young, exciting player that's coming up behind him and developing and working on some of their weaknesses, whether it's physical, things that they need to work on, emotional things, mental things, whatever it may be.

Juwan is a very mature kid, very businesslike with his approach. Got a lot of ability. Got a huge frame. You know, comes from a football family. His brother plays in the NFL, so I think those guys like that, they have learned a lot of football by just being around it.

Saeed was a guy going into last season, we thought he was going to have a breakout year and then had some injuries that you guys were not privy to but had some injuries that kind of slowed him down in the beginning of the season. I expect the same thing. I expect him to have a huge spring and a huge off-season and go and have a monster year this year to stay healthy.

And then Irv is a guy that has got a lot of ability, as much ability probably as any guy that I've been around in college. Him and Juwan are very similar in that way, and he showed some real strong flashes, and I think what you're looking for in all young players is consistency.

There's a lot of really talented players that can do it once out of every four times. But you know, can you get to two out of every four; can you get to three out of every four. And that's when you have a chance to really start kind of making a move.

I've got to say, Irv has probably matured as much as anybody in our program from the time that he's got here. I had my end-of-year meetings and I meet with every player on the team and my meeting with him was really good. I mean, really good. We had a great conversation. He was very open. He was very honest. You know, that showed trust; that showed a relationship, and with that, you're able to, you know, kind of really help him, help him grow as a player and as a student and as a person. I know that's what he wants.

Ayron Monroe is another guy, that my meeting with him last night, I texted Coach Banks that I was kind of just blown away by some of the things that were coming out of Ayron Monroe's mouth: Perspective and growth and maturity and really taking an honest look at himself and strengths and weaknesses and where he needs to improve. It's really cool. That's kind of what I love about college football. You kind of go into these guys' homes and you kind of recruit them, and they come here and they get humbled and they have to work their way up and you see them growing in all these different areas and kind of got a good feel of what their strengths and weaknesses are before they show up.

But it's really pretty cool to watch these guys grow up in all these different areas and I think those two guys are a really good example of it.

Q. Obviously last year, your guys started spring ball thinking they could achieve something big during the season and they ended up winning the Big Ten championship and going to the Rose Bowl. How has that changed the attitude and enthusiasm this year going into spring, and do you expect to see you guys flying around a little more during this spring ball?

COACH FRANKLIN: Well, I think that's been my message and Coach Pry's message and Coach Huff's message and Coach Moorhead's message and Coach Galt, and then all the position coaches, as well, is: We've got to take those experiences that we had last year, the Big 10 Championship game, the Ohio State game, the Bowl game. We have to take all those experiences and learn from them and grow from them but make sure that we're still the same humble, hungry, hard working team that focuses on preparation and not lose that; not lose our identity what made us special; how hard we played last year, every rep.

Now you take all those things and you combine them with the experience that we gained, I think you've got a chance to do something special. That's kind of what we've talked about.

I remember going into that Big 10 Championship game last year, and that was a concern of mine is that Wisconsin had played in that game basically every year, and they had a bunch of players on their roster that had played on that stage and in that setting and in that type of game. And we had nobody.

So now that we've had those experiences, be able to use them, but also realize that none of the points from last year are going to carry over. None of the sacks are going to carry over. None of the wins are going to carry over. We have to recreate this team and there are some lessons we learned and there's a foundation, but we've got to recreate this team, you know, from the ground up. We've lost some leadership and we've lost some players and some playmakers, and some really just special people, and guys have got to step up into those roles.

Q. You talk a lot about self-scouting, looking at what other people are doing and looking at what we're doing and constantly tweaking. Can you give an example or more than one if you have it, of something that you're going to do differently in your approach to spring practice this year because of that sort of self-scouting stuff?

COACH FRANKLIN: What was the first word you used? You said, talk a lot about --

Q. Self-scouting. Looking at what you're doing and constantly tweaking.

COACH FRANKLIN: I wouldn't say constantly tweaking. I think the important thing is that you don't change your core, your core beliefs, your core fundamentals. Those things really shouldn't change.

But yeah, the other thing you is need to be constantly growing and you need to be constantly evolving. So it starts by going back and watching every play of every game over and over and over again. And watching them as games, watching them in cut-ups, all the third-and-ones together, all the red zones together, all the sacks that we gave up together, watch all the sacks that we created together. What happens is it starts to form a picture in your mind.

So you have all the data that you're looking at and what the tendencies say and what the percentages say but then you also kind of watch it and all those kind of things start to form a picture in your mind, and you say, okay, here is strengths and here is weaknesses. I think sometimes people talk a lot about avoiding tendencies.

And I get that, but you know, if you're a good football team, you have tendencies. You just need to be aware of what those are and make sure that you have compliments to counter some of those things. So you know, for us, it's not that we're going to change a whole lot. We're going to go back to reinforcing the things that we reinforce all the time.

I think one of the big things, obviously if you look back at last season, the games that we won the turnover battle, we were 8-0 I think. In the games that we didn't win the turnover battle, you can go all the way back to the beginning of time; you're going to have a hard time being successful. We were very explosive. You know, the two things that probably had the biggest impact on winning is turnovers and explosive plays, creating them and stopping them. And we were really good from an explosive play perspective.

We need to do better with turnovers. We need to do a better job of creating turnovers on defense, and we need to do a better job of protecting the football on offense. And then the same thing on special teams, protecting the ball on special teams and creating and being disruptive to the ball on the defensive types of special teams, the coverage units.

So that's probably the thing that jumps out, the big -- probably the biggest thing that we're going to focus on. And then third down, you know, probably the other one, is an area that we feel like we can really improve that will help us.

But again, they are not anything that you guys haven't heard me say before. You came to practices the last three years, you're not going to see a whole lot of differences. We're going to go back to the fundamentals. We're going to go back to the ground up. The game of football is played from the ground up. So making sure our footwork is good and making sure our decision-making is good and make sure our fundamentals and techniques are good when it comes to blocking, tackling. It's those things. It's those things.

It's development in the off-season, and then during the season, it's about fundamentals and techniques and execution. It's not going to look a whole lot different than the way it's looked the last three years. We've got a pretty good model that we feel like has shown that works over time and we are going to stick to that model for the most part.

Q. Not just this spring, but every spring, how much do you look forward to seeing the guys you red-shirted the previous season, not just in a practice situation, but in a competitive situation with the spring game, and who are some of the guys you are most excited to see that you kind of watched last year kind of develop on the practice field?

COACH FRANKLIN: You know, I think you're right. That's probably the thing. You have two different groups of people. You have got a group of guys that have played a lot of football for us and we kind of know who we are.

And then we've got a group that we're trying to kind of figure out, you know, how big of a role are they going to have next year, and are they ready. And if they are ready, how much are they ready for? Are they ready for situational football or are they a package guy? Are they a starter? Are they a two-deep guy? Are they a special teams guy that's going to grow into a bigger role on offense and defense? That's what we're trying to figure out, and a lot of those guys are the red-shirt guys.

You know, kind of an interesting guy right now, through testing, and even last year, is Shaka Toney. Shaka's nervous system is unbelievable. I mean, his speed, his quickness, his jumping ability, is really good. I mean, really impressive. And he's a guy that really showed flashes but was undersized, and he's getting bigger and he's still got a ways to go from that standpoint. But he's shown some real flashes.

I think the last couple offensive line recruiting classes have really gotten our staff excited and I think has gotten our team excited, and they will all be available now. You look at some of the other positions, some of the other guys that we've had an opportunity to kind of evaluate.

One other guy that's probably during the recruiting process was talked about a lot, but we haven't talked about really much all year long is Ellison Jordan. We haven't really seen him do anything since he's been on campus, because he came in with an issue. So being able to see what Ellison is going to do this spring and whether he's going to have an opportunity to factor in, he's a guy.

There's a number of guys. Sometimes I hate to kind of point individuals out because I'm going to miss somebody and I can't cover them all, but there are some exciting guys out there that was on scout teams and there was conversations like there is every year: Are you going to bring them up, do they factor in, do you stick with the red-shirt, do you play them.

Everything in this program is getting more challenging and more competitive, and I think you're seeing it in every position across the board.

Q. Do you plan to practice Barkley as much this spring, and also, do you have a reaction to the master plan relative to football that was announced last week?

COACH FRANKLIN: I think Barkley, I think our plan will be very similar to what it was last spring, and probably during training camp, as well. I think there's probably a number of guys like that. I think Saquon Barkley, I think Mike Gesicki, I think Jason Cabinda, I think Marcus Allen, those type of guys, we kind of know what we got with those guys.

Now don't get me wrong, they still need to get better, as well. But you know, they will probably -- their practice model will be a little bit different maybe than other guys that are still kind of trying to earn jobs and fight for a more significant role on the team. But there's a number of guys. There's a number of guys like that.

The master plan, you know, I think it's exciting overall for the entire athletic department to kind of look at it and instead of kind of taking one project at a time. You know, kind of saying, let's look at this from 5,000 feet, come up with a plan for the long term that maybe isn't specific right now, but come up with a long-term plan and kind of what our priorities are moving forward, and kind of go from there.

But I think for the most part, this has been something the administration and outside consultants and those types of things and from everything I've seen, it looks good. It looks good, the specifics when it comes to football. I'm more concerned about getting our team better this spring and those types of things.

Q. I wanted to ask about Miles Sanders. Talking about the running backs, what are your expectations for him this spring after what you saw from him as a true freshman last year? I see that he's up to 220. Was that always the plan, for him to kind of get bigger, or did you want him to get bigger based on what you saw last year? I see he's listed bigger than Andre. It looks pretty significant.

COACH FRANKLIN: I think he's actually bigger now. I think he's at 224 now. I text his mom last night or two nights ago that her baby looks like a man right now. I mean, he was standing next to Saquon and they are two impressive-looking guys. Now, he doesn't have Saquon's legs; few people do. But he is put together right now, and Mom agreed that she's amazed kind of how he looked.

To be honest with you, we have plans when it comes to strength and conditioning program or by position coach. But really, it's genetics and Mother Nature. It's funny, because sometimes we'll recruit guys and they'll say, well, what am I going to play? Am I going to be a D-end or a D-tackle? You know, Mother Nature and genetics is going to tell you that.

You get here and you're 245 pounds, and then all of a sudden two years from now -- like Kevin Givens. I mean, Kevin Givens, what am I going to play? I don't know, you're a big, strong athlete and you look like you're angry on tape. And we're going to get you here and figure it out. He played outside linebacker in high school and now he's playing three-technique.

So I think a lot of it is just kind of genetics. And I think you kind of had an idea based on kind of the longer you've been in the game. You guys have heard me talk about features: Guys with big heads and broad shoulders and long arms and big hands, and they usually grow into that. But some guys, you know, they may be long but they just, their bodies just don't react the same way.

So we kind of have some ideas, but it really just kind of depends. I think Miles is the same way. I probably would not have thought that he'd be 224 pounds with like eight percent body fat or whatever he is right now. I don't know if you would have expected that but his body has just kind of reacted.

I think what happens a lot with these guys is in high school, they are the biggest, strongest, fastest guy, and they work hard, but it comes pretty easy to them. And then they get to college, and it's a humbling experience. It's welcome to college football, and you're Miles Sanders, the No. 1 running back in the country and you show up, and Saquon Barkley is warming up with your maxes, you know, and the competitive juices get going and it has an effect.

Competition on our team and in this country in general is a positive thing. It brings the best out in everybody. Now we are kind of at a different point where like Miles Dieffenbach said a couple years ago, guys were showing up and they were in the two-deep. Now when Miles showed up, he was 15, and we're getting back to the point where guys are not showing up right away in the two-deep. They are having to work to get there.

I mean, I went out to dinner last night with Goon, and me and Goon were talking about, I think their scout team had 11 NFL players on the scout team. That's what I'm talking about. That's awesome. You talk about iron sharpens iron; you talk about get better at practice every single day, because you'd better come and work and you'd better compete.

So I think we're getting more of that. I think Miles is just an example of that. I think the competition and the depth that we had at your position; you'd better come to work every single day, or other guys are going to pass you by and take your opportunities.

So like I said, we want to create the most competitive environment we possibly can in every area, and I think Miles is a really good example of that, and I'm expecting him to have a big spring and a big fall. Kind of no different than we were talking about our team, learning about the experiences we had last year; I think Miles is going to learn from the positive experiences and the things that he did well, and things that he's learned from.

Usually I would say they are the guys that you're going to see the biggest spike, the biggest improvement in, is the guys that played a little bit and got a taste but now are able to use that experience and grow, where a red-shirt freshman that has not played at all, he's going to improve but he still needs to go through it.

I remember talking to Buchholz and Buch telling me in my end-of-the-year meeting with him, he was still thinking to himself out on the field: Don't screw up, don't screw up, don't screw up and do something that's going to hurt the team.

And you know, you want to get them to the point where they are not even thinking anything like that. They are just playing fast and aggressive and they know the responsibility cold; that they can go play to their ability level, and that comes with experience.

And I think that's -- I think some of the things that I think we saw last year in the beginning of the season, we had a lot of guys like that that were in their head thinking about, you know, not making mistakes rather than going out and playing, and as the year went on, they gained experience and they gained confidence and it kind of went from there.

Q. (Franklin is asked off mic if Goon picked up the tab).

COACH FRANKLIN: To be honest with you, I was fortunate because Goon had dinner before he came, and he had a large glass of water with lemon, but Goon and his German background convinced ed the African American football coach to have schnitzel, which I've never had before at Old New Yorker. It was schnitzel with red cabbage and some type of barbeque sauce that he told me derives from Germany but he said, "Don't tell people in the south that." I learned a lot as well as ate well. But no, I didn't have to pay for his tab. He had water.

Q. I can't believe he drank water.

COACH FRANKLIN: He did. I didn't think he did either of those things, go out for dinner and not eat and drink water. You guys are going to get me in trouble, which is the last person I want to get in trouble with.

Q. The linebacker situation, losing a guy like Bell, how much is that, is, how do you get over that, because you seem like a different defense when he was on the field last year and can you talk about the linebacker situation in general?

COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, there's no doubt, I think your point is correct, is Brandon was a playmaker. He always kind of found a way to defeat the block, to get his hands on a ball and to make an interception. He was a natural playmaker. That's why he was so successful for so many years here. And that production, you know, that production, that play making is always difficult to replace.

Fortunately we do feel like we've got a pretty good two-deep, and within some areas even a three-deep on defense and with some exciting players coming in. So you know, I think Koa Farmer at the field backer and Jarvis at the field backer, and as well as Bralon; that's an exciting kind of three-deep. Different than Brandon but exciting.

You look at middle linebacker with Jason Cabinda and the experience that he brings. And then Brandon Smith is a guy that we think can play Mike linebacker or the will, the two box linebackers. Kind of excited about those guys. And then at the other linebacker, having Cam Brown and Manny Bowen. Manny is a guy who has played a lot of football and been successful. He's a guy that's played to the field, as well as in the box. And Cam as a true freshman kind of really did some nice things.

I think when you have got a guy like Manny who has played a lot of football, a guy like Jason Cabinda who has played a lot of football; and then Koa for the second half of the year played a lot of football for us the second half of the year and did well.

We have a starting point but there's no doubt we're replacing a lot of experience, Nyeem and Brandon Bell, you know. I've also made the argument to you guys before that sometimes injuries are a blessing in disguise because it forces you to create more depth. Nyeem had the injury bug the last two years and even Brandon had some injuries. So the fact that we were able to get some other guys some rep, some legitimate reps and legitimate games, I think helps, I think helps with that.

Q. (Franklin is asked for an update on Jake Cooper off mic).

COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, he's in the mix. He'll probably be more in the mix in camp than he will -- than he will in the spring. But yeah, he'll definitely be in the mix. He's a young guy that we're kind of excited about. But yeah, we'll talk about him probably a lot more during the fall camp than we will this spring.

Q. Cam Brown, where is he physically in his development? We talked about a couple guys that needed to get bigger to realize their potential. Where is he in that? And turnovers, how do you go about creating those? Is it a player thing or scheme thing or natural instinct thing? How do you ramp that up, I guess, on defense?

COACH FRANKLIN: I think the first thing about Cam, Cam, you guys are going to see Cam out at practice and he is as impressive-looking guy there is. He's legitimately 6-5. He's legitimately 225 pounds now and you're going to see him and he still looks skinny but he has muscles that I don't even know existed.

You can see with his shirt off, he has 12 sets of abs that start all the way up here and go down, which I didn't even know that was physically possible to have 12 sets of abs. His 40 time has gone down. His muscle mass has gone up.

I'm interested to see the step he takes this spring. He's an example, one of the guys I talked about that played enough; that that experience is going to be valuable to him, and I think you'll see a significant jump in his play on special teams and his play on defense this year.

The turnovers on defense, I think it's a lot of things. I think No. 1, there's some guys that just, they have an ability to make plays on the ball. I've been around some guys in my past, that the ball just likes them. You know, they just -- it seems like the quarterback makes a bad throw and makes a bad throw to their side of the field and it goes right to them.

There's guys that they have always been like that their whole career. That's part of it. Guys that just had -- they just have an ability to make plays on the ball and obviously it starts with ball skills, a lot of confidence.

You like to recruit guys that played wide receiver in high school and were successful at it. The old thing that people used to say back in the day, you know, defensive backs are reject wide receivers; that is not the case. Those guys are skilled guys and we should be recruiting guys that can be successful in either side of the ball.

So that's part of it. I do think there's an aspect of the type of coverage you play. If you're playing zone coverage, and you're able to keep eyes on the quarterback, you have a much better chance of making plays on the ball than if you're in man coverage and you're responsible for the man, because that's always the hard part and that comes with experience.

When you're playing man coverage, when do you look and locate and find the ball, which is a really, really difficult skill to learn and to teach. Because you have two different choices: You stay connected and then when that guy goes to catch the ball, you just calmly strip it out. Or, you try to turn and find the ball, but if you don't turn at the exact right time, you won't find the ball and the guy will catch it while you're turning to look. If you're just off by a split second, now you give up a huge play. Obviously, by turning to find the ball, you have the ability to make a big play, as well.

It's understanding body language. It's understanding keys. You know, what does that receiver do when he looks back for the ball when he's legitimately getting the ball. Studying film, what are his tendencies and what does he do? A lot of times you can tell from a wide receiver just based on his stance; is it a run or a pass based on his stance. Based on when he thinks he's going to get the ball or not. The hard receivers are the receivers that go hard every single play and don't give any clues, because they wear the corners down that way.

So it's a lot of different factors. It's consistent pressure by the defensive line. I mean, if you're a corner on our team and we're recruiting one of the top defensive ends in the country and you're not trying to get that guy, you're crazy, because the defensive line is going to be the best friend of a coverage guy. It's getting hands on balls. It's making the quarterback uncomfortable in the pocket. It's being willing to be aggressive in how you call the defense, and then it's also being smart enough and not being hard headed that if you're not getting to the quarterback by pressuring, then don't pressure.

Drop eight, and now you're only rushing three but now he's got nowhere to go with the ball and now he's holding on to the ball and so now you get a sack and everybody and the fans are upset, you have a sack and you only rush three people. Well, you did it because the quarterback has nowhere to go with the ball and he had to hold onto it. There's so many factors that go into it, and it's also making sure you're working on it every single day. It needs to be emphasized.

These are all the things that we kind of discussed in the off-season and talk about every single year. And then on offense, if we can be more stingy with the ball, you know, what we say all the time our guys is the ball is the program. The ball is the program. You're carrying the ball; you're carrying the hopes and the dreams of everybody in our program and that supports our program.

Same thing on defense. When the other team has the ball, the ball is our program and you should be -- you should be unhappy that somebody else has our ball and you should be doing everything you possibly can to get it back.

So we talk about those things all the time with our guys and then drilling those things and emphasizing those things.

Q. Wanted to ask you about Nick Bowers, red-shirt and then hurt. How important is spring for him and what do you want to see from Nick?

COACH FRANKLIN: Really important. He's a guy that probably we've been as excited as anybody in terms of his ability to block, his ability to run, his ability to catch. Those guys are hard to find, 260-pound plus guys that can make plays in the pass game and block, and he's productive in both areas. He's a guy that we would love to get back and love to have a bigger role. We're excited about him and what his possible role could be in our future.

Q. When you look across college football, you see a lot of teams that are able to have the success that you had last year, but it's hard to do it again. What is the biggest challenge about not -- having one successful season but being able to do that back-to-back?

COACH FRANKLIN: I think it's a lot of the things that we talked about, is making sure that your coaches and your players and everybody associated with your program doesn't get caught up in things that don't matter, and don't try to put the cart ahead of the horse. Let's focus on development. Let's focus on fundamentals and let's focus on culture and let's focus on trust. Let's focus on all the things.

It's no different than the playbook. We're going to go through the playbook again. All of our quarterbacks are back. So does that mean that we don't go over how we call the play, how we signal, how we tempo; do we take all those things for granted? Or do we force ourselves to go back from the beginning and teach it like it's never been taught before. And make sure our guys are approaching things the same way and that we don't take anything for granted; that we understand that 2016 was nice, and that it was a great experience, but 2017 is a completely different animal and we have to build it in a very, very similar way than what we built it last year, while still using the lessons and the experience that we learned. And that's the challenge.

I think we've all seen, that is a difficult thing to do is there's people that have shown success in small instances of time and brief moments of time but the best teams and the best programs are able to sustain it and that is easier said than done. Especially when maybe you play in the most difficult conference in all of college football, especially when you talk about our side of the conference. There's big expectations at some other schools in this side of the conference, as well.

I remember in my history, being in different conferences and there's some conferences where you've got one team that dominated a conference for ten years, and really the next team, it was a significant drop-off, and that's not the case. I think you can make the argument right now that Big Ten is as good as maybe it's ever been. It's exciting.

I think it's exciting but we've got to make sure -- I've got to make sure that I'm focused on the right things. I've got to make sure the staff is focused on the right things. I've got to make sure our players are focused on the right things, and you know, it starts with the morning workouts. And let's be honest, it's not like we can act like what happened last year never happened. We've got to recognize it. Okay, let's recognize it.

And one of the things that we talked about with the offense yesterday, which I thought is a really good point was, okay, let's recognize it. What we're really talking about is complacency. Well, the fact that we are talking about complacency is a good thing because it means you've established some level of success.

So that is a good thing but let's make sure we're focused on the things that really matter and get rid of all the other things, and kind of really kind of boil this thing down to the main ingredients, which is really kind of who we are, anyway. It's no different than you guys wanting me to talk about Game 3 than Game 1. It's no different than you guys wanting to talk about this game not being as important because it's a non-conference game -- you understand what I'm saying. I'm saying you guys; but fans, media, asking me questions that I'm not going to answer because I'm going to stick to my routine to the point where it drives you and my wife nuts.

One other thing, I had circled that I did want to share with you, I thought was some interesting stuff -- sorry, Kris. Offensive stats kinds of returning: 99.2 percent of rushing yards returned. 72.8 percentage of receiving yards returned. 87.4 percent of scoring returns on offense.

Defensively, 72.1 percent of tackles returned. 52.5 percent of sacks returned. 64.2 percent of tackles for loss returned. 71.4 percent of defensive turnovers returned. You know, so there's a lot of returning production. You mentioned losing Brandon Bell and I don't disagree with you, losing a guy like Chris Godwin, but we're also returning a lot of production.

On special teams, obviously almost 100 percent of everything: Punt returns, 100 percent, kickoff, kicking points return 100 percent, kickoff returns, 100 percent, and then 83.5 percent of our punt returns yardage returned. So that goes back to what I was saying, which is how many guys graduated and how many guys that we got returning.

We want to build on that with you there's some areas. Obviously Chris Godwin and Brandon Bell, we've got to find a way to replace their production, and not only replace it, but how are we going to take it to the next level.

Thanks, guys.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports


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Penn State coach James Franklin has a lot on his mind as the Nittany Lions head into spring practice Wednesday.

How much? Well, Franklin held a press conference at Beaver Stadium Tuesday to preview spring ball. And he talked for nearly an hour.

He gave the lowdown on … take a deep breath … off-season strength and conditioning, players leaving the team, position changes, his vision for Penn State football in the future, the center position, his backup QB, the wide receivers, last season, self-scouting, guys who redshirted in 2016, RBs Saquan Barkley and Miles Sanders, eating at a local German restaurant with a former player, the linebacker situation, TE Nick Bowers and much more.

Part 1 of the press conference can be seen above (opening statement and questions from the phone. Part 2 (questions from the room) can be see below.

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Check out the entire PC transcript below. We will also be doing multiple breakout pieces from the PC coming up.

OUR PREMIUM LIVE NOTES FROM THE PRESS CONFERENCE

TRANSCRIPT

COACH FRANKLIN: How's everybody doing? Appreciate everybody being here. The weather is beautiful today. Looks like it's breaking, the perfect time for spring ball.

I think we've had a very kind of productive winter training period since the season ended. I think you guys know, in the weight room, I think we have the best strength staff in America, led by Dwight Galt. I've been with the guy for a long time, and our development of our guys is as good as any place I've ever been.

You know, I think it's a partnership between recruiting and development, but either way, the results are really impressive. You know, we have a BOD POD machine, so we are really able to tell right in-house, we're really able to tell what guys percentage of body fat is, what their lean mass is, how much bone they have, and then how they are changing their bodies.

It's amazing. And usually you get to a point where guys that have made a lot of results, there's not a whole lot left for them to go in terms of dropping their body fat even lower in terms of increasing lean mass. And then obviously how those things result and impact vertical jump or pro agility or 40 times.

So I know Coach Galt went through a lot of this stuff with you guys the other day in the weight room, but it's been impressive. I think we're one of the bigger, stronger, faster teams right now that I've ever been around, not just at Penn State but in my 23 years doing this.

So I'm excited about that and I'm proud of the guys. I'm proud of the guys and how hard they have worked. I'm proud of the leadership Coach Galt and his staff.

I thought we had a good morning workout. It's been a number of years now that we've been doing it, so they know what to expect. We got the mid-semester guys that are still kind of figuring it out. It's a shock to them, but as you guys know, I've stated before: It's really all about building physical and mental toughness. It's about pushing guys outside of their comfort zone and kind of really trying to speed up the maturation process. Instead of waiting for a guy to grow up, you're kind of forcing it to happen, you know, quickly.

So rather than maybe a guy that maybe would have took two and a half years to impact the roster, through the morning workouts and teaching guys how to compete, maybe you can speed that process up. And I think that's probably more important now than ever when it comes to college athletics, when it comes to high school athletics. I mean, these kids didn't grow up outside like we did playing kick the ball, playing basketball, playing kill the man with the ball, playing whatever ball you want to play.

And having to learn to compete. A lot of these kids were playing video games and when the video games started to beat them, they hit the reset button. So teaching guys how to compete, I think is a big part of what we do, and that's what the morning workouts are all about. I'm proud of that. I think we got a lot of really good work done.

But as you guys know, we are still kind of doing all the other things, as well, when it comes to academics and community service. But Coach Galt does a strength index, which is an overall number; if you take all the different weights and based on body weight, basically you're talking about the pound-for-pound strongest guys on the team, so all those numbers are up. The power clean number is up, the squat numbers are up, bench press numbers are up, the 40-yard dash, the vertical jump, the broad jump. So I'm pleased with all those things.

Want to go over a few things, just to make sure we're clear on them and make sure they have been covered. We do have some positional changes. I think most of these you may have but I just want to make sure. Johnathan Thomas is going from linebacker back to running back. Jarvis Miller, from safety to linebacker.

And then Josh McPhearson from wide receiver to running back, and I would probably add a note on that. Josh, we're really looking at him being a return specialist for us, and that's one of the reasons of moving him to running back, of the ball security and things like that. We are really hoping Josh can factor in and compete as a kick returner, as a punt returner. He's a dynamic guy when he gets the ball in his hands so we're going to give him an opportunity there.

Some guys that are leaving the program: Noah Bey will be leaving the program. Adam De Boef will be retiring from the program; will still be here at Penn State. Brendan Brosnan is retiring. And then Antoine White, I think most of you guys already know, is no longer with us, as well. So I just want to kind of cover that so there's not a bunch of questions after the first practice where guys are at.

So a lot of good things going on. All those guys that are leaving us, are leaving or left under good circumstances. They really have. There's different reasons for all of them. But they have all left and we are very, very appreciative of what they did with their time while they were here.

You know, spring objectives overall, spring objectives overall for me, it kind of goes back to the basics, like it always will: 100 percent effort on every play, every person in the program, everybody is held accountable to that standard. Most competitive environment in all of college football in everything we do. Offensive ball security and defensive ball disruption, that's an area that we must improve.

And then discipline. Discipline overall in our program: Going to class, on time, prepared; showing up to treatment, on time, prepared; being at practice, doing all the little things right; making great choices in the community. Just discipline. Just overall discipline. I believe if we can do a better job in that area, and have ten percent less, what I would describe as drama: You know, having to get on a guy about missing a class and calling his parents and spending time doing that, and resources as coaches and players; that we can spend our time developing them as students and developing them as players and developing them as men and not baby-sitting, it's going to make all of us more efficient with our time.

A lot of good things going on. We obviously got to talk this weekend. It goes hand in hand with our opening practices, on Friday and Saturday. And then we have our Blue White game which we are excited about that, Saturday, April 22, 3:00PM. We're expecting the place to be rocking.

A lot of people say, well, why is spring game attendance a big deal? I would make the argument: No. 1, it's an opportunity to get together with your buddies. I kind of look at it like a homecoming during the spring. It's an opportunity for everybody to come back together, eat a hot dog, eat a hamburger, have a beverage; obviously Gatorade or Aquafina is what I'm talking about, with your friends and family and kind of enjoy yourself on a great day. And then go into that stadium and I think it does make a statement nationally that football is important at Penn State.

I think it shows our players that we're all in this thing together. Them practicing and working hard and sacrificing and sweating on the fields, and the fans coming out and supporting us and sacrificing their time, I think it makes a statement. It makes a statement to our recruits, it makes a statement to our team, and it makes a statement I think to the country that football is very, very important part of Penn State. No more important than anything else, but an important part of what Penn State is all about. I'll stop talking and open it up to questions.

Q. Even though you had a very successful season last year, you said the program has a long way to go and a lot of work to do. Where do you want Penn State football to go in the next five years and what do you want it to be?

COACH FRANKLIN: Well, I think it probably goes back to the players make fun of me sometimes, because when I take the picture, I throw the No. 1 up, and what I'm talking about, I think when we do that, everybody thinks we're talking about, you know, wins and losses, and that's part of it.

We're talking about building the No. 1 organization in all of college football, and that's everything. That's development of our staff. That is development of our players as people, as students, as athletes, socially, socially conscious young people. And then preparing them to go out and be successful for the next 40, 50 years of their life. It's making sure we are making a positive impact on the community; it's facilities; it's wins; it's GPA; it's graduation rates. It's the whole package.

So that's what keeps me up at night and that's what makes me up early in the morning and studying best practice about what's going on all over the country and stealing ideas that make sense for us at Penn State and then coming up with creative ideas on our own that can allow us to keep pushing this program forward, and being able to represent the university as a whole the right way and represent our fans in this community the right way by challenging ourselves every single day to get better. That's where ultimately we want to go and where ultimately we want to be. We have made progress but we've still got a long ways to go in every area.

Q. There may be a couple of guys you're look at center this spring. For that position specifically, what do you look for when you're trying to find a new starter?

COACH FRANKLIN: You know, that's kind of been a big discussion. We have changed it kind of, probably three or four times as a staff, and basically, what we've ended with, is that you know, we want to get as many returning starters on the field as possible.

So the best way to do that is by moving a guy like Connor McGovern in there to center. Bates is a guy that could do that, as well. But you know, kind of the way I think we're looking at this right now, for the start of spring ball, is having McGovern at center, having Simpson at center. They are both guys that have done it before in practice and we feel like we can go out and practice well right from day one with those guys. And then also we've got Menet in there rotating, and Miranda, being able to rotate in there, as well.

So those guys will be playing guard and center, but what we didn't want is, we didn't want to have some guys at center the first couple days of practice that haven't really done it in practice before, and now our practice has become sloppy and messy.

So you know, let's just have those guys compete, those interior linemen. We kind of think about those guys, they have to be interchangable anyway. The centers and guards have to be interchangeable. Tackles are typically kind of on their own but we've even had that. You look at Brendan Mahon has been able to play tackle and guard successfully. You look at Bates has been able to play tackle and guard successfully, as well.

But typically your centers and guards need to be interchangeable and your tackles usually are just a different body type, you know, different type of athlete. I think Coach Limegrover has done a really good job. We have been forced in our past to be interchangeable just based on numbers, where now we're doing it just to make sure that we can kind of get the best five on the field or the best two-deep, best ten in the two-deep situation.

So that's how we're going to start spring ball, but I'm not sure necessarily finish that way. We'll just kind of see.

Q. Regarding Tommy Stevens, what do you want to see him take advantage of this spring to position himself in the fall for the future?

COACH FRANKLIN: Well, I think it's a different situation right now. And Tommy has got to keep his eye on the prize, and he's been excellent.

I thought last year, you know, when we made the decision, named the starting quarterback, that's hard at first. I thought Tommy handled it really well. And then throughout the season, I thought he prepared to be the starter and he was ready to go, and I think we all saw when he got opportunities, he showed that he's got an exciting future here at Penn State.

And what he can't do is he can't change that. He can't lose that. He's got to have that approach every single day that he's going to prepare as if he's the starter. He's going to take the next step in every area. His footwork, his release, his arm strength, his accuracy, his understanding and grasp of the entire offense, his leadership on offense, his leadership with the whole team; it's the whole deal.

We really look at it as if we have two starting quarterbacks that we feel like week win with. I think Tommy realizes that, as well, and he needs to approach it that way for the long term, because what I found in my 23 years is the minute you let your guard down, that's when the opportunity comes.

So you have to, you know, keep preparing and make sure that when your time comes and opportunity knocks that you're ready to open the door and be ready to maximize that opportunity.

Q. I wanted to ask you about your wide receivers, particularly Juwan Johnson, Irv Charles, Saeed. We've seen flashes of those guys. I wonder if you can talk about the maturity of them, their development, what you want to see from them moving forward through the spring to take the next step?

COACH FRANKLIN: Well, I think the wide receivers, probably last year, was kind of the ideal, is you know, you feel like you have a first team that you're really excited about, that you feel like you've got a second team that can come in and contribute, and keep the production at the level you need it to be to win.

And then you have a third team of young, exciting guys that you're really kind of looking forward to see what they are going to do in their future. You look down the depth chart and you say, you know what, I'm really excited about these young players, and you want that at every position. You want a starter, you want a back up that you feel like can get some reps and keep guys fresh, and also make sure that when he does play, that the production stays at a similar level.

And then you want a young, exciting player that's coming up behind him and developing and working on some of their weaknesses, whether it's physical, things that they need to work on, emotional things, mental things, whatever it may be.

Juwan is a very mature kid, very businesslike with his approach. Got a lot of ability. Got a huge frame. You know, comes from a football family. His brother plays in the NFL, so I think those guys like that, they have learned a lot of football by just being around it.

Saeed was a guy going into last season, we thought he was going to have a breakout year and then had some injuries that you guys were not privy to but had some injuries that kind of slowed him down in the beginning of the season. I expect the same thing. I expect him to have a huge spring and a huge off-season and go and have a monster year this year to stay healthy.

And then Irv is a guy that has got a lot of ability, as much ability probably as any guy that I've been around in college. Him and Juwan are very similar in that way, and he showed some real strong flashes, and I think what you're looking for in all young players is consistency.

There's a lot of really talented players that can do it once out of every four times. But you know, can you get to two out of every four; can you get to three out of every four. And that's when you have a chance to really start kind of making a move.

I've got to say, Irv has probably matured as much as anybody in our program from the time that he's got here. I had my end-of-year meetings and I meet with every player on the team and my meeting with him was really good. I mean, really good. We had a great conversation. He was very open. He was very honest. You know, that showed trust; that showed a relationship, and with that, you're able to, you know, kind of really help him, help him grow as a player and as a student and as a person. I know that's what he wants.

Ayron Monroe is another guy, that my meeting with him last night, I texted Coach Banks that I was kind of just blown away by some of the things that were coming out of Ayron Monroe's mouth: Perspective and growth and maturity and really taking an honest look at himself and strengths and weaknesses and where he needs to improve. It's really cool. That's kind of what I love about college football. You kind of go into these guys' homes and you kind of recruit them, and they come here and they get humbled and they have to work their way up and you see them growing in all these different areas and kind of got a good feel of what their strengths and weaknesses are before they show up.

But it's really pretty cool to watch these guys grow up in all these different areas and I think those two guys are a really good example of it.

Q. Obviously last year, your guys started spring ball thinking they could achieve something big during the season and they ended up winning the Big Ten championship and going to the Rose Bowl. How has that changed the attitude and enthusiasm this year going into spring, and do you expect to see you guys flying around a little more during this spring ball?

COACH FRANKLIN: Well, I think that's been my message and Coach Pry's message and Coach Huff's message and Coach Moorhead's message and Coach Galt, and then all the position coaches, as well, is: We've got to take those experiences that we had last year, the Big 10 Championship game, the Ohio State game, the Bowl game. We have to take all those experiences and learn from them and grow from them but make sure that we're still the same humble, hungry, hard working team that focuses on preparation and not lose that; not lose our identity what made us special; how hard we played last year, every rep.

Now you take all those things and you combine them with the experience that we gained, I think you've got a chance to do something special. That's kind of what we've talked about.

I remember going into that Big 10 Championship game last year, and that was a concern of mine is that Wisconsin had played in that game basically every year, and they had a bunch of players on their roster that had played on that stage and in that setting and in that type of game. And we had nobody.

So now that we've had those experiences, be able to use them, but also realize that none of the points from last year are going to carry over. None of the sacks are going to carry over. None of the wins are going to carry over. We have to recreate this team and there are some lessons we learned and there's a foundation, but we've got to recreate this team, you know, from the ground up. We've lost some leadership and we've lost some players and some playmakers, and some really just special people, and guys have got to step up into those roles.

Q. You talk a lot about self-scouting, looking at what other people are doing and looking at what we're doing and constantly tweaking. Can you give an example or more than one if you have it, of something that you're going to do differently in your approach to spring practice this year because of that sort of self-scouting stuff?

COACH FRANKLIN: What was the first word you used? You said, talk a lot about --

Q. Self-scouting. Looking at what you're doing and constantly tweaking.

COACH FRANKLIN: I wouldn't say constantly tweaking. I think the important thing is that you don't change your core, your core beliefs, your core fundamentals. Those things really shouldn't change.

But yeah, the other thing you is need to be constantly growing and you need to be constantly evolving. So it starts by going back and watching every play of every game over and over and over again. And watching them as games, watching them in cut-ups, all the third-and-ones together, all the red zones together, all the sacks that we gave up together, watch all the sacks that we created together. What happens is it starts to form a picture in your mind.

So you have all the data that you're looking at and what the tendencies say and what the percentages say but then you also kind of watch it and all those kind of things start to form a picture in your mind, and you say, okay, here is strengths and here is weaknesses. I think sometimes people talk a lot about avoiding tendencies.

And I get that, but you know, if you're a good football team, you have tendencies. You just need to be aware of what those are and make sure that you have compliments to counter some of those things. So you know, for us, it's not that we're going to change a whole lot. We're going to go back to reinforcing the things that we reinforce all the time.

I think one of the big things, obviously if you look back at last season, the games that we won the turnover battle, we were 8-0 I think. In the games that we didn't win the turnover battle, you can go all the way back to the beginning of time; you're going to have a hard time being successful. We were very explosive. You know, the two things that probably had the biggest impact on winning is turnovers and explosive plays, creating them and stopping them. And we were really good from an explosive play perspective.

We need to do better with turnovers. We need to do a better job of creating turnovers on defense, and we need to do a better job of protecting the football on offense. And then the same thing on special teams, protecting the ball on special teams and creating and being disruptive to the ball on the defensive types of special teams, the coverage units.

So that's probably the thing that jumps out, the big -- probably the biggest thing that we're going to focus on. And then third down, you know, probably the other one, is an area that we feel like we can really improve that will help us.

But again, they are not anything that you guys haven't heard me say before. You came to practices the last three years, you're not going to see a whole lot of differences. We're going to go back to the fundamentals. We're going to go back to the ground up. The game of football is played from the ground up. So making sure our footwork is good and making sure our decision-making is good and make sure our fundamentals and techniques are good when it comes to blocking, tackling. It's those things. It's those things.

It's development in the off-season, and then during the season, it's about fundamentals and techniques and execution. It's not going to look a whole lot different than the way it's looked the last three years. We've got a pretty good model that we feel like has shown that works over time and we are going to stick to that model for the most part.

Q. Not just this spring, but every spring, how much do you look forward to seeing the guys you red-shirted the previous season, not just in a practice situation, but in a competitive situation with the spring game, and who are some of the guys you are most excited to see that you kind of watched last year kind of develop on the practice field?

COACH FRANKLIN: You know, I think you're right. That's probably the thing. You have two different groups of people. You have got a group of guys that have played a lot of football for us and we kind of know who we are.

And then we've got a group that we're trying to kind of figure out, you know, how big of a role are they going to have next year, and are they ready. And if they are ready, how much are they ready for? Are they ready for situational football or are they a package guy? Are they a starter? Are they a two-deep guy? Are they a special teams guy that's going to grow into a bigger role on offense and defense? That's what we're trying to figure out, and a lot of those guys are the red-shirt guys.

You know, kind of an interesting guy right now, through testing, and even last year, is Shaka Toney. Shaka's nervous system is unbelievable. I mean, his speed, his quickness, his jumping ability, is really good. I mean, really impressive. And he's a guy that really showed flashes but was undersized, and he's getting bigger and he's still got a ways to go from that standpoint. But he's shown some real flashes.

I think the last couple offensive line recruiting classes have really gotten our staff excited and I think has gotten our team excited, and they will all be available now. You look at some of the other positions, some of the other guys that we've had an opportunity to kind of evaluate.

One other guy that's probably during the recruiting process was talked about a lot, but we haven't talked about really much all year long is Ellison Jordan. We haven't really seen him do anything since he's been on campus, because he came in with an issue. So being able to see what Ellison is going to do this spring and whether he's going to have an opportunity to factor in, he's a guy.

There's a number of guys. Sometimes I hate to kind of point individuals out because I'm going to miss somebody and I can't cover them all, but there are some exciting guys out there that was on scout teams and there was conversations like there is every year: Are you going to bring them up, do they factor in, do you stick with the red-shirt, do you play them.

Everything in this program is getting more challenging and more competitive, and I think you're seeing it in every position across the board.

Q. Do you plan to practice Barkley as much this spring, and also, do you have a reaction to the master plan relative to football that was announced last week?

COACH FRANKLIN: I think Barkley, I think our plan will be very similar to what it was last spring, and probably during training camp, as well. I think there's probably a number of guys like that. I think Saquon Barkley, I think Mike Gesicki, I think Jason Cabinda, I think Marcus Allen, those type of guys, we kind of know what we got with those guys.

Now don't get me wrong, they still need to get better, as well. But you know, they will probably -- their practice model will be a little bit different maybe than other guys that are still kind of trying to earn jobs and fight for a more significant role on the team. But there's a number of guys. There's a number of guys like that.

The master plan, you know, I think it's exciting overall for the entire athletic department to kind of look at it and instead of kind of taking one project at a time. You know, kind of saying, let's look at this from 5,000 feet, come up with a plan for the long term that maybe isn't specific right now, but come up with a long-term plan and kind of what our priorities are moving forward, and kind of go from there.

But I think for the most part, this has been something the administration and outside consultants and those types of things and from everything I've seen, it looks good. It looks good, the specifics when it comes to football. I'm more concerned about getting our team better this spring and those types of things.

Q. I wanted to ask about Miles Sanders. Talking about the running backs, what are your expectations for him this spring after what you saw from him as a true freshman last year? I see that he's up to 220. Was that always the plan, for him to kind of get bigger, or did you want him to get bigger based on what you saw last year? I see he's listed bigger than Andre. It looks pretty significant.

COACH FRANKLIN: I think he's actually bigger now. I think he's at 224 now. I text his mom last night or two nights ago that her baby looks like a man right now. I mean, he was standing next to Saquon and they are two impressive-looking guys. Now, he doesn't have Saquon's legs; few people do. But he is put together right now, and Mom agreed that she's amazed kind of how he looked.

To be honest with you, we have plans when it comes to strength and conditioning program or by position coach. But really, it's genetics and Mother Nature. It's funny, because sometimes we'll recruit guys and they'll say, well, what am I going to play? Am I going to be a D-end or a D-tackle? You know, Mother Nature and genetics is going to tell you that.

You get here and you're 245 pounds, and then all of a sudden two years from now -- like Kevin Givens. I mean, Kevin Givens, what am I going to play? I don't know, you're a big, strong athlete and you look like you're angry on tape. And we're going to get you here and figure it out. He played outside linebacker in high school and now he's playing three-technique.

So I think a lot of it is just kind of genetics. And I think you kind of had an idea based on kind of the longer you've been in the game. You guys have heard me talk about features: Guys with big heads and broad shoulders and long arms and big hands, and they usually grow into that. But some guys, you know, they may be long but they just, their bodies just don't react the same way.

So we kind of have some ideas, but it really just kind of depends. I think Miles is the same way. I probably would not have thought that he'd be 224 pounds with like eight percent body fat or whatever he is right now. I don't know if you would have expected that but his body has just kind of reacted.

I think what happens a lot with these guys is in high school, they are the biggest, strongest, fastest guy, and they work hard, but it comes pretty easy to them. And then they get to college, and it's a humbling experience. It's welcome to college football, and you're Miles Sanders, the No. 1 running back in the country and you show up, and Saquon Barkley is warming up with your maxes, you know, and the competitive juices get going and it has an effect.

Competition on our team and in this country in general is a positive thing. It brings the best out in everybody. Now we are kind of at a different point where like Miles Dieffenbach said a couple years ago, guys were showing up and they were in the two-deep. Now when Miles showed up, he was 15, and we're getting back to the point where guys are not showing up right away in the two-deep. They are having to work to get there.

I mean, I went out to dinner last night with Goon, and me and Goon were talking about, I think their scout team had 11 NFL players on the scout team. That's what I'm talking about. That's awesome. You talk about iron sharpens iron; you talk about get better at practice every single day, because you'd better come and work and you'd better compete.

So I think we're getting more of that. I think Miles is just an example of that. I think the competition and the depth that we had at your position; you'd better come to work every single day, or other guys are going to pass you by and take your opportunities.

So like I said, we want to create the most competitive environment we possibly can in every area, and I think Miles is a really good example of that, and I'm expecting him to have a big spring and a big fall. Kind of no different than we were talking about our team, learning about the experiences we had last year; I think Miles is going to learn from the positive experiences and the things that he did well, and things that he's learned from.

Usually I would say they are the guys that you're going to see the biggest spike, the biggest improvement in, is the guys that played a little bit and got a taste but now are able to use that experience and grow, where a red-shirt freshman that has not played at all, he's going to improve but he still needs to go through it.

I remember talking to Buchholz and Buch telling me in my end-of-the-year meeting with him, he was still thinking to himself out on the field: Don't screw up, don't screw up, don't screw up and do something that's going to hurt the team.

And you know, you want to get them to the point where they are not even thinking anything like that. They are just playing fast and aggressive and they know the responsibility cold; that they can go play to their ability level, and that comes with experience.

And I think that's -- I think some of the things that I think we saw last year in the beginning of the season, we had a lot of guys like that that were in their head thinking about, you know, not making mistakes rather than going out and playing, and as the year went on, they gained experience and they gained confidence and it kind of went from there.

Q. (Franklin is asked off mic if Goon picked up the tab).

COACH FRANKLIN: To be honest with you, I was fortunate because Goon had dinner before he came, and he had a large glass of water with lemon, but Goon and his German background convinced ed the African American football coach to have schnitzel, which I've never had before at Old New Yorker. It was schnitzel with red cabbage and some type of barbeque sauce that he told me derives from Germany but he said, \"Don't tell people in the south that.\" I learned a lot as well as ate well. But no, I didn't have to pay for his tab. He had water.

Q. I can't believe he drank water.

COACH FRANKLIN: He did. I didn't think he did either of those things, go out for dinner and not eat and drink water. You guys are going to get me in trouble, which is the last person I want to get in trouble with.

Q. The linebacker situation, losing a guy like Bell, how much is that, is, how do you get over that, because you seem like a different defense when he was on the field last year and can you talk about the linebacker situation in general?

COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, there's no doubt, I think your point is correct, is Brandon was a playmaker. He always kind of found a way to defeat the block, to get his hands on a ball and to make an interception. He was a natural playmaker. That's why he was so successful for so many years here. And that production, you know, that production, that play making is always difficult to replace.

Fortunately we do feel like we've got a pretty good two-deep, and within some areas even a three-deep on defense and with some exciting players coming in. So you know, I think Koa Farmer at the field backer and Jarvis at the field backer, and as well as Bralon; that's an exciting kind of three-deep. Different than Brandon but exciting.

You look at middle linebacker with Jason Cabinda and the experience that he brings. And then Brandon Smith is a guy that we think can play Mike linebacker or the will, the two box linebackers. Kind of excited about those guys. And then at the other linebacker, having Cam Brown and Manny Bowen. Manny is a guy who has played a lot of football and been successful. He's a guy that's played to the field, as well as in the box. And Cam as a true freshman kind of really did some nice things.

I think when you have got a guy like Manny who has played a lot of football, a guy like Jason Cabinda who has played a lot of football; and then Koa for the second half of the year played a lot of football for us the second half of the year and did well.

We have a starting point but there's no doubt we're replacing a lot of experience, Nyeem and Brandon Bell, you know. I've also made the argument to you guys before that sometimes injuries are a blessing in disguise because it forces you to create more depth. Nyeem had the injury bug the last two years and even Brandon had some injuries. So the fact that we were able to get some other guys some rep, some legitimate reps and legitimate games, I think helps, I think helps with that.

Q. (Franklin is asked for an update on Jake Cooper off mic).

COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, he's in the mix. He'll probably be more in the mix in camp than he will -- than he will in the spring. But yeah, he'll definitely be in the mix. He's a young guy that we're kind of excited about. But yeah, we'll talk about him probably a lot more during the fall camp than we will this spring.

Q. Cam Brown, where is he physically in his development? We talked about a couple guys that needed to get bigger to realize their potential. Where is he in that? And turnovers, how do you go about creating those? Is it a player thing or scheme thing or natural instinct thing? How do you ramp that up, I guess, on defense?

COACH FRANKLIN: I think the first thing about Cam, Cam, you guys are going to see Cam out at practice and he is as impressive-looking guy there is. He's legitimately 6-5. He's legitimately 225 pounds now and you're going to see him and he still looks skinny but he has muscles that I don't even know existed.

You can see with his shirt off, he has 12 sets of abs that start all the way up here and go down, which I didn't even know that was physically possible to have 12 sets of abs. His 40 time has gone down. His muscle mass has gone up.

I'm interested to see the step he takes this spring. He's an example, one of the guys I talked about that played enough; that that experience is going to be valuable to him, and I think you'll see a significant jump in his play on special teams and his play on defense this year.

The turnovers on defense, I think it's a lot of things. I think No. 1, there's some guys that just, they have an ability to make plays on the ball. I've been around some guys in my past, that the ball just likes them. You know, they just -- it seems like the quarterback makes a bad throw and makes a bad throw to their side of the field and it goes right to them.

There's guys that they have always been like that their whole career. That's part of it. Guys that just had -- they just have an ability to make plays on the ball and obviously it starts with ball skills, a lot of confidence.

You like to recruit guys that played wide receiver in high school and were successful at it. The old thing that people used to say back in the day, you know, defensive backs are reject wide receivers; that is not the case. Those guys are skilled guys and we should be recruiting guys that can be successful in either side of the ball.

So that's part of it. I do think there's an aspect of the type of coverage you play. If you're playing zone coverage, and you're able to keep eyes on the quarterback, you have a much better chance of making plays on the ball than if you're in man coverage and you're responsible for the man, because that's always the hard part and that comes with experience.

When you're playing man coverage, when do you look and locate and find the ball, which is a really, really difficult skill to learn and to teach. Because you have two different choices: You stay connected and then when that guy goes to catch the ball, you just calmly strip it out. Or, you try to turn and find the ball, but if you don't turn at the exact right time, you won't find the ball and the guy will catch it while you're turning to look. If you're just off by a split second, now you give up a huge play. Obviously, by turning to find the ball, you have the ability to make a big play, as well.

It's understanding body language. It's understanding keys. You know, what does that receiver do when he looks back for the ball when he's legitimately getting the ball. Studying film, what are his tendencies and what does he do? A lot of times you can tell from a wide receiver just based on his stance; is it a run or a pass based on his stance. Based on when he thinks he's going to get the ball or not. The hard receivers are the receivers that go hard every single play and don't give any clues, because they wear the corners down that way.

So it's a lot of different factors. It's consistent pressure by the defensive line. I mean, if you're a corner on our team and we're recruiting one of the top defensive ends in the country and you're not trying to get that guy, you're crazy, because the defensive line is going to be the best friend of a coverage guy. It's getting hands on balls. It's making the quarterback uncomfortable in the pocket. It's being willing to be aggressive in how you call the defense, and then it's also being smart enough and not being hard headed that if you're not getting to the quarterback by pressuring, then don't pressure.

Drop eight, and now you're only rushing three but now he's got nowhere to go with the ball and now he's holding on to the ball and so now you get a sack and everybody and the fans are upset, you have a sack and you only rush three people. Well, you did it because the quarterback has nowhere to go with the ball and he had to hold onto it. There's so many factors that go into it, and it's also making sure you're working on it every single day. It needs to be emphasized.

These are all the things that we kind of discussed in the off-season and talk about every single year. And then on offense, if we can be more stingy with the ball, you know, what we say all the time our guys is the ball is the program. The ball is the program. You're carrying the ball; you're carrying the hopes and the dreams of everybody in our program and that supports our program.

Same thing on defense. When the other team has the ball, the ball is our program and you should be -- you should be unhappy that somebody else has our ball and you should be doing everything you possibly can to get it back.

So we talk about those things all the time with our guys and then drilling those things and emphasizing those things.

Q. Wanted to ask you about Nick Bowers, red-shirt and then hurt. How important is spring for him and what do you want to see from Nick?

COACH FRANKLIN: Really important. He's a guy that probably we've been as excited as anybody in terms of his ability to block, his ability to run, his ability to catch. Those guys are hard to find, 260-pound plus guys that can make plays in the pass game and block, and he's productive in both areas. He's a guy that we would love to get back and love to have a bigger role. We're excited about him and what his possible role could be in our future.

Q. When you look across college football, you see a lot of teams that are able to have the success that you had last year, but it's hard to do it again. What is the biggest challenge about not -- having one successful season but being able to do that back-to-back?

COACH FRANKLIN: I think it's a lot of the things that we talked about, is making sure that your coaches and your players and everybody associated with your program doesn't get caught up in things that don't matter, and don't try to put the cart ahead of the horse. Let's focus on development. Let's focus on fundamentals and let's focus on culture and let's focus on trust. Let's focus on all the things.

It's no different than the playbook. We're going to go through the playbook again. All of our quarterbacks are back. So does that mean that we don't go over how we call the play, how we signal, how we tempo; do we take all those things for granted? Or do we force ourselves to go back from the beginning and teach it like it's never been taught before. And make sure our guys are approaching things the same way and that we don't take anything for granted; that we understand that 2016 was nice, and that it was a great experience, but 2017 is a completely different animal and we have to build it in a very, very similar way than what we built it last year, while still using the lessons and the experience that we learned. And that's the challenge.

I think we've all seen, that is a difficult thing to do is there's people that have shown success in small instances of time and brief moments of time but the best teams and the best programs are able to sustain it and that is easier said than done. Especially when maybe you play in the most difficult conference in all of college football, especially when you talk about our side of the conference. There's big expectations at some other schools in this side of the conference, as well.

I remember in my history, being in different conferences and there's some conferences where you've got one team that dominated a conference for ten years, and really the next team, it was a significant drop-off, and that's not the case. I think you can make the argument right now that Big Ten is as good as maybe it's ever been. It's exciting.

I think it's exciting but we've got to make sure -- I've got to make sure that I'm focused on the right things. I've got to make sure the staff is focused on the right things. I've got to make sure our players are focused on the right things, and you know, it starts with the morning workouts. And let's be honest, it's not like we can act like what happened last year never happened. We've got to recognize it. Okay, let's recognize it.

And one of the things that we talked about with the offense yesterday, which I thought is a really good point was, okay, let's recognize it. What we're really talking about is complacency. Well, the fact that we are talking about complacency is a good thing because it means you've established some level of success.

So that is a good thing but let's make sure we're focused on the things that really matter and get rid of all the other things, and kind of really kind of boil this thing down to the main ingredients, which is really kind of who we are, anyway. It's no different than you guys wanting me to talk about Game 3 than Game 1. It's no different than you guys wanting to talk about this game not being as important because it's a non-conference game -- you understand what I'm saying. I'm saying you guys; but fans, media, asking me questions that I'm not going to answer because I'm going to stick to my routine to the point where it drives you and my wife nuts.

One other thing, I had circled that I did want to share with you, I thought was some interesting stuff -- sorry, Kris. Offensive stats kinds of returning: 99.2 percent of rushing yards returned. 72.8 percentage of receiving yards returned. 87.4 percent of scoring returns on offense.

Defensively, 72.1 percent of tackles returned. 52.5 percent of sacks returned. 64.2 percent of tackles for loss returned. 71.4 percent of defensive turnovers returned. You know, so there's a lot of returning production. You mentioned losing Brandon Bell and I don't disagree with you, losing a guy like Chris Godwin, but we're also returning a lot of production.

On special teams, obviously almost 100 percent of everything: Punt returns, 100 percent, kickoff, kicking points return 100 percent, kickoff returns, 100 percent, and then 83.5 percent of our punt returns yardage returned. So that goes back to what I was saying, which is how many guys graduated and how many guys that we got returning.

We want to build on that with you there's some areas. Obviously Chris Godwin and Brandon Bell, we've got to find a way to replace their production, and not only replace it, but how are we going to take it to the next level.

Thanks, guys.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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