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James Franklin Discusses State of Penn State Football at Big Ten Media Day

by on July 23, 2018 4:26 PM

Penn State football head coach James Franklin was the third of seven Big Ten coaches to address the media at Monday’s Big Ten Media Day in Chicago.

Franklin began his 15-minute press conference by thanking his players, something he said he doesn’t do often enough. He also made sure to thank the players’ parents, the Penn State community, and his coaching staff, which he called the best in college football.

“Our players have been fantastic,” he said. “We’ve been able to accomplish some really special things in a short period of time, and it really starts and ends with them. The coach probably gets too much credit because the things we’ve been able to accomplish have been as a family.”

Six Nittany Lions were selected in the 2018 NFL Draft, and a total of 15 members of last year’s squad are now members of NFL teams. Franklin is proud of this accomplishment, but knows it created lots of question marks throughout his roster entering the 2018 season.

Franklin said that his offensive line is one of the stronger positions on the team. He feels that the group, which has been a notable weakness on the roster in years past, can help the team’s running backs make up for some of the production lost with the departure of star tailback Saquon Barkley.

“We have an offensive line that we think has a chance to be a strength of our program,” he said. “I do think our offensive line, for the first time since we’ve been here, is a strength. The game of football always will and always has started up front. We feel really good about that group.”

Franklin thinks that the biggest question mark on his team comes on defense, specifically at defensive tackle and linebacker. Franklin is willing to give anyone an opportunity to compete for those vacated spots, whether they're younger players with limited playing time in the past or incoming freshmen.

One point of the defense that the fifth-year head coach is not concerned about is the secondary. Starting safeties Marcus Allen and Troy Apke and cornerback Grant Haley are all NFL players now, leaving plenty of open spots in the secondary.

Despite the turnover, Franklin is excited about the cornerback position because of the amount of rotation seen at the position throughout the last two seasons.

“We have played so many guys in the secondary,” he said. “A guy like Amani Oruwariye obviously last year finished second-team all Big Ten, had four interceptions, is stepping into a starting role for us. John Reid, who was a starter for us the year before, is coming back from an injury. We’re excited about what he’s going to be able to do.”

Franklin praised Trace McSorley’s growth during his two years as the team’s starting quarterback. He said that McSorley is universally respected throughout the program and called him “Steady Eddie” as far as his demeanor and maturity is concerned.

McSorley will have “a lot of latitude in how we do things”, according to Franklin. He said that this will show up much more in practice, but No. 9 will be given the freedom to make plays during games based on his skillset.

He said that the most important parts of growing and taking steps as a program are refining things and addressing and attacking weaknesses during the offseason. He stressed the importance of being a well-rounded program instead of fitting into a scheme and being strong in just one area.

Franklin wrapped up his 15-minute press conference by praising the current four-team college football playoff format. He said that the biggest challenge with it is how the decisions are made subjectively.

In Franklin’s opinion, an even playing field across the country will help control the variables and make the CFP committee’s job easier when it comes to selecting the four teams that qualify for the playoff.

He said that teams throughout the country having the same amount of conference games and out-of-conference games against power five teams would make the committee’s job much easier.

He doesn’t agree with expanding the CFP field because of the amount of games played that expansion would require, but said the new redshirt rule is a “really, really positive change”.


Mikey Mandarino is a staff writer for Onward State.
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