News and Notes from James Franklin’s Press Conference
Can you believe it? The final regular season game of the Penn State Football season is here. The Nittany Lions will look to reach the 10-win plateau for the third time in four years when they face Rutgers on Saturday. Here are the highlights from James Franklin’s press conference ahead of the game.
Rutgers, Rutgers, Rutgers
Rutgers comes into this game with a 2-9 record and looking at a last place finish in the Big Ten East. Offensively, they usually line up with 3 WR, 1 TE, and 1 RB or 2 WR, 2 TE, and 1 RB. Franklin is impressed with OL Kamaal Seymour, RB Isaih Pacheco, and QB Johnny Langan.
On defense, Rutgers allows 37.5 points per game, which is 124th out of 130 teams nationally. But, nonetheless Franklin noted several players on the Scarlet Knights’ defense. DB Damon Hayes, LB Tyshon Fogg, and DL Willington Previlon are players to watch on Saturday for Rutgers.
On the Rutgers special teams, watch for their punter, Adam Korsak. Korsak is a Ray Guy Award Semi-finalist, which is an award for the best college punter. Unfortunately for Rutgers and Korsak, he has 71 punts on the season, but has an impressive average of 43.7 yards per punt.
With the final regular season game taking place on Saturday at Beaver Stadium, the Penn State seniors will be honored before kickoff. 16 seniors in total will be honored prior to their final home game. James Franklin thinks that they deserve the credit for the turnaround of the Penn State Football program. For their efforts, they should all receive a nice ovation on Saturday afternoon.
Sean Clifford’s Status
After sustaining an injury against Ohio State, a game in which he did not return, Sean Clifford will be a game-time decision for Saturday. Franklin could certainly see Will Levis stepping in and replacing Clifford, just as he did in Columbus. But, like former QB Trace McSorley, Franklin describes Clifford as being difficult to pull off the field.
Speaking of the backup QB, James Franklin shared some of the high praise he gave to Will Levis in their personal conversations. Franklin thought that the redshirt freshman’s performance on Saturday was remarkable. What stood out to James Franklin was that not only did Levis play well, but also the team played well around him. Most importantly, the team believed in Will and rallied around him to close a 21-0 deficit to 21-17.
The Most Improved Group
Sticking with the quarterbacks, James Franklin believes that this unit is the most improved group on the entire roster since the beginning of the season. He cites the question marks surrounding the position at the beginning of the year after Trace McSorley graduated. But, both Sean Clifford and most recently Will Levis have both proven to be able to fill McSorley’s shoes admirably.
Penn State punter Blake Gillikin spoke to the media recently and described his head coach as “underappreciated”. James Franklin certainly appreciates the praise from one of his senior captains, but he does not get caught up in the noise from the outside.
He looks at coaching as being tucked in a submarine where he is able to ignore much of the outside noise. He can certainly go and find the noise on social media. But, instead, he is more concerned about the players who deal with students and fans on campus every day.
Yes, Franklin admitted he does care what people think of him and his program. But, as he is getting older, James Franklin is learning to be confident that there is a lot to be proud of at Penn State and that deserves appreciation in itself.
Penn State Thanksgiving Traditions
With so many players being away from their families for Thanksgiving, the Penn State coaching staff brings players to their houses to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal. The most important thing for Franklin and his staff is to make their players feel at home for the holiday. Often times, families of the players will even make an appearance at Thanksgiving dinner at Franklin’s house.
James loves how his players interacts with his daughters and how they feel at home throughout the day. He noted how players don’t stop in for a plate and then go back to their dorms. They typically eat several plates, fall asleep, watch football, and make themselves at home while they are away from home.
Evaluating the Success of the Program
Many Penn State fans are passionate and expect Penn State to win every game on their schedule, which many programs cannot say their fans expect them to win every game. But, Franklin knows he draws criticism sometimes despite the success the program has had since 2016. In the end, Franklin would not trade the success of this program for anything.
As Penn State is nearing their third 10-win season in four years, with the one year they did not being a 9-win season, this is the model of success Franklin wants. He wants to be consistently great and hope things break right for him in a certain year so they can win the Big Ten and enter the College Football Playoff. Franklin prefers that success model as opposed to inconsistent seasons with a random spike of success.
Overall, James Franklin is proud of the success at Penn State, but is not satisfied with it either.
According to Pete Thamel, former 5-star recruit Justin Shorter entered the transfer portal on Tuesday. The news broke during Franklin’s press conference, so as expected, Franklin did not have much to say on the topic. But, it is something to keep an eye on the rest of the week and into the offseason.