News and Notes from James Franklin’s Press Conference
It is finally here, the biggest week of the year, the highly anticipated Penn State-Ohio State matchup is coming up this Saturday. Here are some of the highlights from James Franklin’s press conference ahead of this game.
Indiana Players of the Week
The entire offensive line won Offensive Player of the Week honors this week. Micah Parsons won the award on the defensive side of the ball. Jake Pinegar won Special Teams Player of the Week.
Ohio State, Ohio State, Ohio State
Obviously, Penn State is very familiar with the Buckeyes as the Big Ten East foes play each other every year. The last three games have been especially close, with the scoring differential being 5 points over those three games.
First year Ohio State Head Coach, Ryan Day, calls the plays for a very explosive Ohio State offense. They line up about 75 percent of the time with 3 wide receivers, 1 running back, and 1 tight end on the field. Like the Penn State offense, the Buckeyes thrive on explosive plays in both the running and passing game.
Former Penn State commit Justin Fields leads the charge at quarterback. He has 31 passing touchdowns, 10 rushing touchdowns, and just one interception in 2019. He forms a dynamic duo in the backfield with running back J.K. Dobbins. Dobbins has 1,289 rushing yards on the season, his third 1,000 yard season in three years as a Buckeye. Fields’ favorite target is wide receiver Chris Olave, who leads the team with 593 receiving yards and 9 touchdown catches.
Defensively, yes, the Buckeyes will have Heisman hopeful and potential #1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft Chase Young back on the field. Despite missing the last two games, Young still has 13.5 sacks this season, second most in the country by just half a sack. Schematically, look for the Buckeyes to always keep one safety in the middle of the field on defense. Other playmakers on the Ohio State defense are DB Jeff Okudah and LB Malik Harrison.
Early news of the day on Tuesday indicated that Sean Clifford received death threats after the Minnesota loss two weeks ago.
The very first question James Franklin was asked related to this situation. Franklin said his star QB did notify him of these threats. But, on the whole, Franklin described this situation and how society acts in ways like these as “concerning”.
One of the biggest question marks from Saturday’s victory over Indiana was the health of star wide receiver KJ Hamler. Hamler left the game after returning a kickoff and landing awkwardly on his neck. He did not return to the game.
But, when asked about his status for this Saturday, Franklin said “we’re hopeful”.
In addition, when asked about Noah Cain, who missed each of the last two games, Franklin replied with the same answer, “we’re hopeful”. He also noted that Cain probably could play if absolutely necessary, but the depth at running back is allowing Penn State to hold off on using him until he is 100 percent.
In providing that answer, he gave some insight on how he handles injured players at Penn State. For a true freshman like Cain who may be limited in practice, it makes it more difficult on Franklin to play him without getting the reps needed in practice. But, for an experienced player like Hamler coming off injury, it is easier for Franklin to play him because he does not need as many practice reps as an inexperienced player like Cain.
Hopefully both players are back on Saturday, but the amount of time each player practices this week will be something to watch going forward.
Penn State has certainly had its issues in the secondary the last two weeks and are now going against one of the best quarterbacks in the country in Justin Fields. Franklin said his defense is having blown coverages and their opponents are not letting them get away with it. He added it seems to be a trickle down effect where one player out of position is leading to multiple players being out of position.
But, coaches, players, and especially fans should not overreact to a big time play from an opponent. If an opponent makes an over the shoulder catch with one hand and a defender draped on him, Franklin can live with that. However, he cannot continue to live with the blown coverages or not using the right fundamental techniques.
The E Word
After losing to Ohio State by 1 point last season, Franklin tossed the word “elite” around in the post game press conference when describing where he needs his program to be. More than a year later, Franklin is still very comfortable with what he said because he believes Penn State has very high standards. He believes “it’s a great thing”.
“A Heavyweight Fight”
When playing in such a highly anticipated game like this one with such great talent on both sides, James Franklin looks at strengths and weaknesses when preparing his game plan.
But, heading into Saturday, he has a prepared message for his team. He knows the Buckeyes are going to make big plays on both sides of the ball and he does not want his players to be shocked when it happens. Instead, he wants them to stay level-headed and have the ability to match them. This could mean breaking a tackle, when in the first 10 games of the season, that defender has made that tackle. Or, it could mean picking up a block that springs a big play.
Franklin is expecting some big plays to happen on Saturday for both teams, just as they have in the last three games between these top ten programs. But, overall, Franklin seems very excited for the challenge, as he said, “it’s going to be a heavyweight fight”.