News and Notes from James Franklin’s Press Conference
A battle of unbeatens looms this week as #5 Penn State travels to #13 Minnesota. Here are some of the highlights from James Franklin’s press conference previewing the match-up.
Michigan State Players of the Week
Pat Freiermuth won Offensive Player of the Week after scoring three touchdowns. Lamont Wade was the Defensive Player of the Week. Three special teams players, Blake Gillikin, Dan Chisena, and Drew Hartlaub won Special Teams Player of the Week honors.
Minnesota, Minnesota, Minnesota
James Franklin believes that this weekend his defense will face the best offensive line group and best wide receivers group they have seen all season. Both groups feature big, physical players that will be a challenge for the Penn State defense.
Quarterback Tanner Morgan leads the charge, throwing 18 touchdowns this season to just 4 interceptions. Franklin also really notices running back Rodney Smith, who has a team-best 889 rushing yards, 7 touchdowns, and is a factor in the return game, as well. Minnesota’s receivers are led by Tyler Johnson and Rashod Bateman, who both have over 600 yards receiving and 7 touchdowns and 6 touchdowns, respectively.
Defensively, Franklin has “a huge crush” on Minnesota DB Antoine Winfield Jr. He is the son of former NFL star Antoine Winfield and is second on the team in tackles with 43 to go with his 5 interceptions in 2019.
As a team, Minnesota is a group that found ways to win early and the season and has only gotten better since. They play a style of football that is not too common anymore. They like to win the time of possession battle and use their physical offensive line to slow the game down if they get an early lead. It will be Penn State’s job to get out to an early lead, like they have most of the season, and make sure Minnesota does not play to their strengths.
Bye Week Agenda
After a difficult three game stretch leading into the bye week, James Franklin said his team spent the bye week focused on rest and recovery. As a team, they were able to focus more on individual drills, as well. Players who typically travel were off on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday last week, while players who do not usually travel had a scrimmage on Thursday. The last time Penn State had a bye week, they came out on the road and won 59-0. Let’s see if their preparation will produce those results, yet again.
Both John Reid and Noah Cain left the game early against Michigan State. As for the Minnesota game, Franklin is confident both players will be available this Saturday.
Strength of the Locker Room
One of the most noticeable elements of this 2019 team is the leadership of it. Franklin noted that it has been strong despite having a small senior class. He added that the leadership council and the captains are culture drivers and there is a strong alignment between the players and coaches this year.
Some of that alignment has to do with not only saying the core values coming from the coaching staff, but also living by those core values. One example is the “1-0” motto. This was something Franklin said he started in the 2016 Big Ten Championship season. But, for 2019, this team has taken a great deal of pride in the mantra each week.
With Antonio Shelton suspended for this Saturday’s game, James Franklin and Brent Pry will have to adjust their defensive game plan. One way they will do that is by expecting both Robert Windsor and P.J. Mustipher to play 15-20 more snaps than they typically play.
As expected, James Franklin debunked any coaching rumors surrounding him. He noted how he and his staff work very hard at the task at hand, which this week is Minnesota.
But, he knows Minnesota Head Coach P.J. Fleck is also hearing his name in the rumor mill. So, if you want to ask him questions about coaching else where, distracting him from game planning for Penn State, Franklin is all for it!