News & Notes from James Franklin’s 9/24 Press Conference
Following a bye week, Penn State Head Coach James Franklin returned to the podium for his weekly press conference Tuesday afternoon. Franklin gave a preview of this week’s opponent, the Maryland Terrapins while touching on a few other topics along the way.
Penn State Players of the Week
For the Pitt game, Franklin and his staff named six players as players of the week. Journey Brown and Will Fries took home the offensive award. Micah Parsons and Shaka Toney won defensive honors. Lastly, Jordan Stout won special teams honors, mostly for a record-breaking 57-yard field goal, along with Jonathan Sutherland.
What to Expect from Maryland
The Terps are now coached by former Alabama Offensive Coordinator, Mike Locksley. They run a spread offense with many RPOs (run-pass options) and are very committed to the run game. From watching film, Franklin is impressed with offensive linemen, Johnny Jordan and Sean Christie. He also likes their running back group, led by sophomore Anthony McFarland Jr.
Defensively, the Terps feature two transfers from top universities. Shaq Smith, a transfer from Clemson, and Keandre Jons, a transfer from Ohio State lead their defense from the linebacker position along with Antoine Brooks, who leads their team in tackles with 25. The defensive coordinator for Maryland is Jon Hoke, whose brother is former Michigan Head Coach Brady Hoke.
The State of the Running Backs: Week 4
This is the most asked question each week now; what are the Penn State running backs up to? I think fans and media members are still uncomfortable with the running back by committee, especially since either Saquon Barkley or Miles Sanders dominated the position since 2015.
This week’s update comes with news that yes, all four will continue to play until someone separates themselves from the pack. And yes, they are all comfortable with the committee and understand why the coaching staff is using each player the way they are.
There was an interesting note on Penn State LB Cam Brown. Obviously, Brown was suspended for the first half against Idaho because of targeting, dating back to the VRBO Citrus Bowl against Kentucky. But, the initial plan, especially with the way the score was, was to have Brown sit out the whole game. But, being a captain and leader of the team, Brown fought to play in the game, despite the score, and the coaches allowed him to do so.
Game Plan Execution
Now at #12 in the country, James Franklin thinks he is getting every team’s best shot on the field and game plan preparation. But, with his team, he is just seeking more consistency from his team in their game plan execution. Otherwise, he is very proud with the way his team is playing.
The most dynamic playmaker on the Penn State offense, James Franklin is hoping to get KJ Hamler more touches on higher percentage throws. He also wants to get the sophomore receiver in more space to create big plays.
Third Down Execution
First and second down have not been a problem for the Penn State defense this season. But, James Franklin feels his team is letting teams off the hook when they are in third and long. Throughout the bye week, Franklin made it the point of emphasis for practice.
Getting to the QB
James Franklin is very impressed with his defense, so far. But, he would definitely like to get to the quarterback more. Yes, he realizes teams are max protecting and chipping against pass rushers to prevent his wild dogs from getting to quarterback. His job, along with defensive coordinator Brent Pry and defensive line coach Sean Spencer is to continue to try to put teams “behind schedule” while not selling out on rushing the passer.
Four Game Redshirt Rule
With the Maryland game being the fourth game of the season, James Franklin is now in a territory where he has to decide who he wants to redshirt and who he wants to allow to play out the season. Franklin thinks the four game redshirt rule has good intentions, but unforeseen consequences always arise, just like this one from yesterday.
Building Depth on Defense
James Franklin pointed out a few players who stepped up through the first three games and will provide depth for the Nittany Lions on defense the rest of the season. He mentioned Adisa Isaac, Brandon Smith, and Jaquan Brisker as players who will be important to the depth of the Penn State defense for the rest of the 2019 season.
Defining an Established Player
According to Coach Franklin, an established player is a “guy where we know what we are going to get”. Once a player is established, Franklin manages that player’s reps in practice where that player can stay sharp, while allowing more inexperienced players to receive more reps.
He also added that when young players think they deserve to be called an established player, they may focus on “splash plays” such as a sack or a turnover. But Franklin and his staff value consistency, players who do “the dirty work”, and players who make the right play 10/10 times, not the big play 2/10 times.
Prepping for Friday Night Lights
When Penn State plays a Saturday night game, they typically watch college football games throughout the day to stay focused and prepared throughout the day. But, since nobody plays during the day on a Friday, James Franklin said it was extremely important that he and his staff eliminate dead time throughout the day. This may mean having meetings throughout the day on Friday to ensure players are ready to play, and not sleeping all day long.
He also added that during the week, crowd noise has been added to practice, at a level that will be even worse than it will be on Friday. Also, the Maryland fight song is played non-stop.
What Will This Game Be Like?
Franklin made two very interesting comparisons as to what he expects this game will be like on Friday night. The Rutgers game in 2014 where the Nittany Lions scored 13 second half points to defeat the Scarlet Knights, 13-10, comes to mind. Also, the Penn State-Maryland matchup in 2015 where the Nittany Lions won 31-30 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore will have a similar feel, Franklin says. Both games had great environments where the home team was very hungry to beat Penn State. This game will be no different. I mean, Maryland even cancelled classes on Friday afternoon for this game.
For more from For The Glory, here is our weekly PSU in the NFL recap from Week 3.