Big Ten Conference Football Media Days

Monday July 25, 2016

James Franklin

Penn State

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by the head coach of Penn State, James Franklin.

COACH FRANKLIN: Really appreciate the opportunity to be here representing Penn State and the Big Ten again. Really appreciate everybody coming out to support our programs and to support our student-athletes.

Want to start by starting out by giving my condolences to both Nebraska, Michigan State and the Foltz and Sadler families. Devastating to hear that news. I've been through that in my coaching career as well and I don't think it's something you ever are prepared for or can handle.

But our support and condolences go out to them. Obviously right now at Penn State just finishing up spring ball and summer workouts. Really, really proud of our players and our program for all of their successes off the field. We take a lot of time in recognizing our players that are doing the right things academically, doing the right things in the community and our players have really, really done unbelievably well in those areas. GPA-wise, graduate rates, all those things.

Just so proud. But right now there's an excitement for the season. There's an excitement for the season. All the hard work and preparation that they've put in, there's an anticipation and there's a confidence right now. There's a confidence with our guys I think probably similar feeling all over the country but everything that we've been through and the challenges that we've been through over the last couple of years, I feel great about our locker room right now.

I feel great about our team and the commitment and the work ethic and the leadership we've had. Obviously our first year being back to the '85 scholarships which is significant. I've spent the last couple of months going back and changing all of our practice schedules and everything that we're doing in terms of reps, the amount of time that we're out at practice, increasing the reps that we're having at practice because we had modified all those in the past. Reducing those numbers, getting those numbers back up.

So I think it's really going to be important for the development of our guys, development of our program as a whole.

Competition and depth at every position, which we had not had. Every single position I think right now when we got the job we had nine scholarship offensive linemen we're up to 17 offensive scholarship linemen now.

Our backup quarterback, whoever that ends up being, is not a true freshman who is redshirting, he's able to go into the games and compete.

So across the board I think running back is a perfect example of the competition and depth that we are starting to build. Everybody talks about Saquon Barkley, and everybody should be talking about him, but I think Mark Allen is a guy we have a lot of confidence in. Andre Robinson is a guy we redshirted, a lot of confidence in. And then obviously Miles Sanders coming in.

That's just an example at the running back position of what we've worked really hard to create that type of depth and competition throughout our program. So that's going to be extremely valuable.

Senior leadership is going to be very, very important for us like it is across the country. We're still a little out of whack with our numbers of juniors and seniors in our program. Spent a lot of time in the offseason studying two-deeps of our opponents and we still don't have a large number of seniors in our program.

I think on defense, if you talk about guys that are listed as starters right now, we have four, and then on offense guys that are listed as starters probably two and then one on special teams.

So our numbers are still a little bit out of whack there. But those guys are doing a tremendous, tremendous job for us.

Overall, I think this is an exciting and pivotal time for Penn State football. I think overall this is an exciting and pivotal time in college athletics right now.

Obviously there's a lot of change going on, but I think with change brings opportunity. Opportunity to make a difference in our game that's going to be safer and better for the players in terms of not only on the field preparation and opportunities but also off the field when it comes to educational opportunities internships things like that.

So this is a pivotal and exciting time in our sport, with the NCAA, with the Big Ten and specifically Penn State. So couldn't be more excited to get going for this season. Appreciate everybody coming out and open it up to questions.

Q. James, will Nyeem Wartman-White be limited at all when preseason camp opens, and do you expect him to be playing the Mike again?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, we do. Nyeem obviously got hurt in our first game of the season last year. Having him back is going to be significant for us from a leadership standpoint and from a production standpoint.

Is he going to be limited in camp? Yeah, because it's going to be his first live action obviously since the opening game last year. So we'll work him back into it.

What you have to be careful of is when you have a significant injury like that you've got to make sure that you ease them back into the process, not only physical, not only physically, but also mentally, having the confidence that he's able to play that he wants to play. A big, physical, strong guy for us. Whether he's going to be playing the Mike or what we call the Will linebacker, our two box linebackers, that will be to be determined.

I think Jason Cabinda did some great things for us this year at that position. What's nice is Coach Pry, our defensive coordinator/linebackers coach, he trains those guys to be interchangeable. We'll see how that goes. It will be a battle for that position.

But either one of them can move to the other box linebacker which for us is the Will linebacker. We'll see how that plays out. But his leadership, his experience, his play making is going to be invaluable to us.

Q. Can you talk about your relationship with Coach Moorhead and what you expect the offense to do this year?
COACH FRANKLIN: I got to know Coach Moorhead a couple of years ago, I got a chance to watch him at a Nike football clinic in Pittsburgh and was very, very impressed with him.

From that point I kind of put him on my list which I keep a constant list of coaches at every position that I want to be aware of. Started kind of tracking what he was doing, how he was doing it, the success that he had.

He's also a guy that's from Pennsylvania originally, went to Pittsburgh Central Catholic. So that connection was there as well. And then just looking at the success that he was able to have the last few years as not only a head coach but offensive coordinator as well.

His numbers were impressive. It's one thing to have one year where your numbers are impressive. It's another to do it multiple years in a row.

And then also with our players. I looked at kind of where we were as a program, what we needed to do to take advantage of the skill sets that we had and I thought those things aligned.

So me and Joe started this process, started having some discussions about why it made sense for him and why it made sense for us. And I think the combination of what Joe is going to be able to bring to the table as well as us now having experience and depth on the offensive line, those things are going to marry up well.

What we have at the running back position, we went from being inexperienced at wide receiver to now being experienced. We've got mobile quarterbacks on our roster that complement those things. I think all of it will time up extremely well. I think Joe has got a nice scheme, but we also have the personnel that's going to make it effective as well. Joe has a background like I do in the West Coast offense, so a lot of our passing schemes are similar, really running game as well with inside and outside zones and things like that, so it's not like we're running different plays. Everybody is running the same plays, but it's how he packages them together and the system overall.

So I'm excited. I think it's a good match, and like a lot of things in life it's also about the timing. He's coming to Penn State at the right time getting back to the full 85 scholarships and having the depth and talent that we've already discussed.

Q. You mentioned a pivotal time for Penn State in terms of off-the-field, community, but on the field, seven wins each of the last two years. I think your fans are looking for improvement. What are you thinking about how you can top those numbers this year?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think it's two things. I think there's very high expectations at Penn State, and there should be. I also would say that there's very few programs that would have been able to come through what we've come through with the type of success that we've had, two bowl games in a row. Never had a losing season through the challenges. So there's positives there to build on. There's no doubt about it. But I think progress is going to come in every area. The area that I'm probably as excited about as anywhere is on special teams. Probably an area that I don't think people talk enough about.

We're returning every single one of our snappers, kickers and punters, and we were able to go out and add a few more through recruiting. And I think we're going to have the type of competition at those positions and also all the guys that we redshirted last year are now going to be able to have roles, complimentary roles besides just the specialist.

So I think that's an area that we're going to improve. Offensively, we're in probably the complete opposite situation where we were, where we are on defense right now. Offensively we have a bunch of offensive linemen returning with experience.

We have experience at the wide receiver position. We really have experience at every position on offense, which is what you want to do when you're breaking in a new quarterback, which is where we're at.

On defense, feel really good about linebacker in the secondary. Feel really confident there. But obviously we lost three big-time defensive linemen to the NFL and that's our challenge.

Our challenge is going to be to develop guys at that position to come in and replace those guys left that were very, very productive. When you lead the nation in sacks not only as a defense but also from an individual perspective, that's a lot of production to replace.

So that's where our focus needs to be is getting our defensive line up to speed as quickly as we possibly can so we can take advantage of the depth and talent that we have at linebacker and safety -- linebacker and defensive back, excuse me.

Q. I saw a report over the summer that in which you referred to this year as year one in sort of having that mentality obviously in reference to the full 85. Is that something that's been difficult to communicate with the administration as contracts are discussed and also conveying to the public that is getting impatient with 7-6, 7-6 seasons?
COACH FRANKLIN: No, I think that's more of our understanding kind of internally in the program. I think everybody, the administration, the former coaching staff, as well as our coaching staff, knew that our year one and year two were probably going to be the most challenging years of the sanctions.

So we kind of went into that understanding that. I think my contract represented that as well from the beginning. So that was understood. So that was more us kind of talking about a philosophy. This is going to be a very important year for us, no doubt, to make progress, to show the direction that we're going and our players understand that. Our coaches understand that. Our fans and administration. I think everybody is aligned and understands that. And excited. Excited about what this year is going to bring. And our guys have prepared as such.

So I think that's more just kind of an overall philosophy and something that we had talked about internally.

Q. I know one of the things you mentioned in the past is that every time something comes up Sandusky-related with negative recruiting you then have to go do damage control, so to speak. Can you take me through that process when something happens like that like this summer, when new things surfaced, what you then have to do on the recruiting trip?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think it's no different than anything else. You just have to be prepared. You have to have a plan.

And it's kind of a unique situation, because you're having conversations about things that you, your staff, your players have nothing to do with and happened over 40 years ago.

But you just want to make sure that you have open lines of communication, that you're as transparent as you possibly can be. You get on the phone and reach out to people and answer questions and be open and be honest and be truthful.

And I think like anything in life, people just want to understand. And they want to make sure that they understand what the future holds and the direction. And that's what we have to do.

So whenever information comes out or anything comes up that we have to deal with, it's getting on the phone as quickly as you possibly can with the high school coaches, with the recruits, with their families, and just make sure that they're understanding it.

And also providing resources of where they can get the answers that they're looking for, either from us or from other sources as well. So the Big Ten's been very supportive of that. The NCAA has been very supportive of that. Our administration has been very supportive of that.

But there's been things that have been said and done that cause concern and that you need to be able to answer those questions. But once we've been able to do that we've been really fortunate we've been supported, people have understood.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
Rev #2 by #19 at 2016-07-25 18:30:00 GMT

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