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Penn State Football: What To Know From James Franklin Weekly Press Conference

by on November 22, 2016 3:10 PM

No. 8 ranked Penn State is just a few days from its regular season finale against Michigan State. While the Spartans have struggled all season the fellow land-grant school has surged in recent weeks turning Saturday's meeting into anything but a formality. Here are a few things to know from James Franklin's weekly press conference as he and the Nittany Lions prepare for Saturday.

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

They've been unbelievable, they really have. These guys I'll kind of remember forever. I think Penn State will remember those guys forever. Their five years, they ought to get together and write a book because they've seen a lot in a short period of time and have overcome adversity and stuck together.

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

You look at it, I think we have 12 seniors, four of which are starting for us, or five, excuse me, if you count special teams. Five of them are starting for us. Whether you count these guys as starters or not, their impact has been significant. They all either have already graduated or on schedule to graduate. They've been really, really good leaders.

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

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

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

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

I think they're very predictable. What you do is you look at trends, no different than any other industry. In the last two games they've played really well. They played the Michigan State style of football we've all seen over the last number of years. Obviously how they were playing in the beginning of the season compared to how they're playing now is different. There's no doubt about it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ham or turkey?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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