News & Notes from James Franklin’s Press Conference
It is Michigan week, Whiteout week, and College Gameday week. So, let’s dive into some of the news of this huge week from James Franklin’s weekly press conference.
Iowa Players of the Week
C Michal Menet and RB Noah Cain won the Offensive Players of the Week Awards from the coaching staff for their efforts against Iowa. Robert Windsor was the lone winner on the defensive side of the ball. Punter Blake Gillikin not only won Special Teams Player of the Week from the Penn State coaching staff, but also won Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week.
There is a lot of history between Penn State and Michigan, but even more so now with Josh Gattis being in his first year as their offensive coordinator. Gattis was the Penn State wide receivers coach from 2014-2017. Now, he calls plays for the Michigan offense. James Franklin sees many aspects of his offense, as well as Alabama’s offense, as Gattis coached the Crimson Tide wide receivers last season, in the type of offense Michigan runs this year. Franklin cites offensive linemen Ben Bredeson and Jon Runyan and wide receivers Ronnie Bell and Donovan Peoples-Jones as players to watch on the Michigan offense.
Defensively, Coach Franklin pointed out how aggressive Michigan defensive coordinator Dom Brown is in calling his defense. They run a four down linemen defense and bring pressure 45 percent of their plays. On their defense, watch out for defensive lineman Phillip Paea, linebacker Khaleke Hudson, and defensive backs Lavert Hill and Ambry Thomas.
Sorting out the Running Game
Aside from the usual “how are the four running backs doing?” type of questions James Franklin receives every week, he actually got one this week that was a bit refreshing where he was able to talk about how they changed the style of their running game. In years past, his running game was basically just an inside zone running team.
But, after discussing changes in the offseason with offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne, there are some new wrinkles to the running game. Now, they use counter plays, in addition to pulling guards and tight ends on run plays. Franklin believes this makes the running game much more difficult and diverse to defend, especially in scenarios like a four minute offense.
Now, in terms of who fits the Penn State running game, Franklin addressed that, too. The fan base is clamoring for Noah Cain to step in as the true number one back, but Franklin likes him as the four minute offense running back because his body type and running style fits a true I-formation running back prototype. But, Franklin will still rotate the other three running backs, which he describes as all more spread formation running backs.
As our team and essentially the whole nation predicted, Penn State struggled a bit with Iowa. Franklin felt that early dropped passes, antsy feet, and inconsistency plagued the Lions in the first half in Iowa City. The story being, they played like the young team they are on the road.
But, Coach Franklin felt that it was most important that throughout the game Penn State played complementary team football. The offense, while stagnant at times, did not turn the ball over. The defense played great. Lastly, special teams was outstanding, led by Blake Gillikin.
The stat line was ugly, 12/24 for 117 yards and a touchdown, but James Franklin feels that Sean Clifford played extremely well against Iowa. He wants his QB to use this game as a game to learn and grow from, as well.
The Penn State Head Coach also thinks that Clifford does not get enough credit for his athleticism. Clifford is currently second on the team to Noah Cain in rushing yards with 252 yards. But, this week in practice, Clifford will be working a lot on his sliding and his decisive running once he takes off from the pocket.
It is the biggest week of the home football schedule with it being Whiteout week. How important is the Whiteout to the Penn State Football program? James Franklin would go as far as to say it dictates the future of the program. With over 100 recruits scheduled to make the visit to Beaver Stadium on Saturday, there are sure to be a few future Penn State stars attending the game on Saturday night.
Franklin also discussed how this is the third consecutive season where ESPN’s College Gameday visits Happy Valley. They visited for the 2017 Michigan game and the 2018 Ohio State contest. This should be a sign of the type of program and brand Penn State is at under James Franklin.
Stay tuned the rest of the week for more coverage of the Whiteout game against Michigan this week.