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Penn State Football: Injuries, Tempo, Return Jobs And More From James Franklin's Press Conference

by on September 13, 2016 4:30 PM

James Franklin sat down with the media on Tuesday afternoon for his weekly press conference inside Beaver Stadium. Coming off of a last minute loss to Pitt and heading into another cross state game against Temple this weekend there was plenty to talk about. From injuries to tempo, Franklin touched on a whole host of topics during his half hour or so question and answer period. 

Here are a few things to know from Tuesday's availability.

The kickoff return man job is still in flux.

Even though Nick Scott has taken the majority of the returns and has statistically had the most success doing it, Franklin isn't ready to nail down that job to one guy just yet. Miles Sanders, Koa Farmer and Saquon Barkley are all still in the mix and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future.

"Yeah. You know, the kickoff return, we're basically not having as much success there as we want to have. We have a couple guys that we feel have the chance to do it, and we're waiting for someone really to take the job. We need to block better for him with the other ten guys on the field, but we're waiting for somebody to step up and make some plays, break some tackles, make some people miss, you know, create some big plays and be able to do it consistent, and then kind of go with one guy. That's why you're seeing a rotation with those guys back there to figure out who that will be."

"I think Saquon will have a role in it, but we'd love for somebody else to be the main kick-off returner and let Saquon take some throughout the year. And Miles, as a running back, very similar to Saquon last year, early in the season, Saquon didn't have a big role and that role improved as the season went on. Miles' situation is a little bit different with having Saquon as kind of the established starting tail back, makes those opportunities, you know, a little bit smaller. But, again, all of those things were discussed before the season started. You know, we felt like before the year was out, we were going to need him and obviously Miles, this is something he wanted to do as well. So, it's a combination of those things."

"In a perfect world, would you love for him to get a few more opportunities as well as the other backs? Yeah. But when we left camp, I think you guys saw the depth chart, and that's kind of where it sits right now."

Trace McSorley is still working on ball security.

With two fumbles in two weeks Penn State's newest starting quarterback has been the victim of bad blocking as much as poor awareness in the pocket. While neither fumble was entirely his fault, it's something Franklin wants to see improved if Penn State's mobile quarterback is going to take hits on the field. 

"Typically, when you're talking about ball security, you're talking about decisionmaking at the quarterback position when it comes to interceptions. Not ball security. We do the same ball security drills with the quarterbacks that we do with everybody else on the offense every single day. We take a period every single day, every practice since I've been here, and do ball security."

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"Obviously, standing in the pocket is a different thing. The quarterbacks do not get the banging in practice and the stripping and things like that that other positions do. You just can't afford to have those guys getting hit like other positions. So that's something that we just need to continue to emphasize: ball security, two hands in the pocket, and being physical and durable enough to make sure, okay, you're going to getting tackled, but you got to come down with the ball. So, I think there's a difference between fumbles, and when you get hit in the -- while you're delivering the football, in your motion. You take one hand off the ball and actually throw and you get hit from the blind side. I think that's a little bit different than the other ones. We need to protect the quarterback better in those situations. The other hits where he's getting hit while he has the two hands on the ball or the ball is tucked away, that's something that we need to get fixed."

Missing starters didn't help the cause against Pitt.

As you might imagine a handful of starters missing Saturday's game didn't help the cause on defense. Grant Haley, Jason Cabinda and and Kevin Givens all missed due to injuries and Saeed Blacknall didn't see the field on the offensive side of the ball. The result is even more youth and inexperience playing. Not an excuse for everything, but a reality Penn State faced on Saturday.

"Yeah. I think whenever you're missing starters and missing guys that have played significant reps for you, and again you're a young football team as it is, and you get the combination of those two things, youth and guys being out, it -- there's no doubt, it creates challenges. You got less experienced guys on the field that have to step up in more prominent roles. There's no doubt about it. Kevin Givens is already a redshirt freshman and is starting and playing a big role, and then you lose him. Obviously, Jason Cabinda played a lot of football here and playing at a high level and not having him is significant, and throughout the game, Brandon Bell and Nyeem had some times where they were banged up. So, yeah, all of those things kind of factor into it. There's no doubt about it. You want to be as healthy as you possibly can. You want to have as much experience on the field as you possibly can, but that's part of the game as well. We understand that."

"Cam Brown, I think you'll see his role continue to grow. Again, as a true freshman playing linebacker in the Big Ten, you'd like to have a little bit more time to develop those guys, but he's showing enough signs that we need to get him on the field, and on top of that, we're thin at those positions. So Cooper and Manny, and Cam Brown, I think you're going to see bigger and bigger roles for those guys."

Franklin doesn't want to talk about Paterno honoring.

With a lot of attention turned towards the honoring of Joe Paterno's first game as head coach this weekend it wouldn't have been a press conference without someone asking Franklin how he felt about it. But predictably, Franklin did a good job dodging the question as well as dodging whether or not he'll be in attendance this Friday for a reunion of 500 Penn State letterman.

"I think, you know, I've stated this before. You know, all of the wonderful things that have happened here academically, all of the wonderful things that have happened here athletically, and in the community as well, those things have been significant, and I think I've stated that before. But my focus and our focus is on Temple and the game this week. And all of those other decisions like I've stated before, you know, they're for the administration. Our focus is on Temple."

On letterman reunion: "I think it's great. That's one of the things that obviously makes us special is when we're able to get this type of support and guys come back and feel a real strong connection to the University and the football program. That's something, obviously, with myself and Terry and Wally Richardson and all of those guys, we're continuing to build and work on those relationships. That's something that's very, very important. I'm glad all of those guys are going to be back in town and going to be at the game this weekend. That's the type of support that's made this place so special for so long."

DaeSean Hamilton is still a big play target.

Despite the late drop in the fourth quarter against Pitt, James Franklin isn't shy about giving DaeSean Hamilton plenty of praise and kind words for the veteran receiver. Hamilton had eight catches against the Panthers on Saturday.

"You love DaeSean Hamilton, a guy who's had a lot of success in his career already, works extremely hard I believe in DaeSean Anderson, always have, always will, will continue to go to him in those situations, and I know he'll have opportunities to make big plays for us the rest of his career and moving on after that."

Tempo comes with practice, and with the right situation.

Penn State spent most of the summer talking up a speedy offense that would run defenses into the ground with a high paced attack. So far there have been flashes of that tempo, but the offense hasn't moved along with lightning quick speed just yet. That's something Franklin says will come with time, but also come with the right situations in the game.

"Tempo, again, is based on what we're anticipating from the defense, what we've seen on film, that we can get up and run our tempo where we just get up and snap the ball. We have the check-with-me plays. So a lot of it has to deal with, based on our game plan and what we've seen on film, do we feel like we have plays that we can call and get up and run in a quick tempo."

"The next -- the next step is getting in a situation, maybe on third down, where you want to make sure that you have an idea of where the blitz is coming, where the pressure's coming, to find out what coverage they're in and check those situations, and you have other situations where they are coming out and showing different looks than what they've shown on film, and you don't feel great about your original call and need to get out of it. So, again, we're going to have some weeks where we go really, really fast. We're going to have other weeks where we're going to have to slow it down. It's all based on what Joe needs to get us in the best play possible, you know, for our quarterbacks. That's going to vary. That's going to vary week to week based on who we play."



Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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