Author Archives: Kraigen Rasalla

News and Notes from James Franklin’s Press Conference

Coming off the loss against Minnesota, James Franklin held his weekly press conference on Tuesday. Here are some of the notable statements from the Penn State Head Coach, including a very passionate conclusion to his press conference.

Indiana, Indiana, Indiana

Indiana is a surprise team in the Big Ten, sitting at 7-2 coming into Beaver Stadium off a bye week. Franklin noted how Indiana has a very heavy southeastern presence on their roster, with many players that are from traditional SEC territory.

On offense, the Hoosiers run a spread offense than it is more passing heavy than in recent seasons. Despite losing starting QB Michael Penix Jr. for the season, veteran Peyton Ramsey has stepped in admirably. His completion percentage is sitting at 72 percent, in addition to being the team’s second leading rusher. Franklin is also impressed with junior WR from Tampa, FL Whop Philyor, RB Stevie Scott, and OL Hunter Littlejohn.

Defensively, the Hoosiers run a four down linemen style defense. Franklin added that Indiana also plays a lot of robber coverage, which is something the Nittany Lions do not typically see. He also likes what he sees on tape from DB Marcelino Ball, LB Reakwon Jones, and freshman DB Tiawan Mullen.

Red Zone and Turnover Struggles against Minnesota

James Franklin led off his press conference addressing that the Nittany Lions’ struggles with turnovers and inside the red is what ultimately led to their first loss on the season. He noted that it appeared that they lacked an urgency when they reached the red zone, which is even more significant when playing on the road where things pre-snap can take a few seconds longer.

Franklin also addressed a specific red zone trip where the Lions did not convert early in the fourth quarter down 31-19. The Nittany Lions ran three running plays and a fade route to KJ Hamler and did not come away with any points. But, Franklin said he did not think they could have done anything differently on that trip. But, at the same time, he said even if they did see something else to do to make that trip successful, he would not share that with the media anyway.

The Running Backs

Journey Brown took the bulk of the carries on Saturday as James Franklin did what he said he would do all season, which is ride the hot hand. Brown had a 45 yard touchdown run and another big 35 yard run on Saturday. But, even with his big game, Franklin and his staff will continue to prepare as if all four running backs will play each week.

One interesting note on the running backs is when Franklin discussed freshman RB Noah Cain. Cain suffered an injury against Michigan State, but following the bye week, Franklin seemed fairly confident Cain would play against Minnesota. But, Cain did not see a snap throughout the game with ESPN sideline reporter Holly Rowe declaring Cain only available for emergency situations.

Franklin described Cain as being “90 percent” on Saturday and that he could have played, but Franklin and his staff preferred using three players at 100 percent than Cain at 90 percent. As our podcast addressed on Sunday, it seemed that Cain’s presence in the back field could have been helpful on the red zone trip early in the fourth quarter where the Penn State offense attempted two running plays with Devyn Ford instead of hot hand Journey Brown or the pro style, downfield running style of Cain.

Sean Clifford

Obviously, when a team loses, the media turns their attention to the quarterback to see how he will rebound from the loss. This happens even more when that quarterback threw for three interceptions on Saturday.

But, Franklin is very confident in Clifford’s ability to bounce back this Saturday against Indiana. He loves the way Clifford is wired and feels he will be driven by the loss. He does not feel that Sean will change his process in preparing for this week, but he will certainly put in extra time and effort to make sure he does not feel they way he did after Saturday’s loss against Minnesota.

Franklin’s Conclusion

Typically, James Franklin makes his opening statement, answers questions from media members on conference call, and then answers questions from the media members inside the room before he walks off and a player or two step up to the microphone.

But, this week, Franklin finished his press conference addressing many of the media members and Penn State fans who question his in-game decisions.

The first specific example he addressed was when Penn State went for a two-point conversion after Nick Bowers scored a touchdown to cut the deficit to five points. Franklin said his two point chart called for it, analytics called for it, and his gut instinct called for it. His internal logic was that they were going for it because they were on the road and the team wasn’t playing well. If they pick it up, the odds of winning the game increased. If not, they would still have to overcome to points as if they kicked the extra point.

Since Penn State did not convert, many fans and media members were critical of the decision.

The other example was the decision late in the fourth quarter with Penn State down five to kick the ball deep and force Minnesota to pick up the first down to end the game. They ran a squib kick, which Minnesota bobbled, and forced the Golden Gophers to set up deep in their own territory. Penn State forced the 3 and out and burned their final two timeouts, but got the ball back with the chance to score with over two minutes left.

Since Penn State did execute, nobody questioned the decision.

Franklin’s point is that when there are decisions that have a gray area, everybody is quick to question his decision and declare their opinions of what they thought should have happened as fact. Franklin understands he is the one to receive the heat when a decision does not pan out, that is just part of the job of being a head football coach at a football power like Penn State.

But, if Penn State did get the two point conversion, would fans be up in arms about going for it? Franklin is right, nobody would question the decision.

If Penn State failed to stop Minnesota after kicking the ball deep late in the game, would Penn State fans be clamoring that Franklin should have opted for an onside kick? Franklin is right, they probably would.

Franklin is right. It is easy after seeing the results to say he made a bad decision. As a fan base, it is time to stop doing that any time Penn State does not execute because more often than not, he makes many right decisions that we forget about. And in providing this closing statement, Franklin was right again.

 

BREAKING: Penn State Lands at #4 in the First College Football Playoff Rankings

The initial College Football Playoff Rankings were unveiled on Tuesday Night. Penn State comes in at #4 with an 8-0 record on the season.

They come in behind #1 Ohio State, #2 LSU, and #3 Alabama. They are ahead of defending National Champion Clemson at #5.

Meanwhile, their opponent for Saturday, undefeated Minnesota, comes in at #17. This is well below their ranking of 13 in the AP poll.

What do you think of the rankings? Is Penn State too high, too low, or right where they should be?

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.

Injury Notes

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.

Defensive Line

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.

Coaching Rumors

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!

News and Notes from James Franklin’s Press Conference

After holding on in the annual White Out game against Michigan, Penn State now hits the road to take on Michigan State. Here are the key talking points from James Franklin’s weekly press conference leading into the game in East Lansing.

White Out Players of the Week

Offensively, Steven Gonzalez and Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week KJ Hamler were Players of the Week. On defense, Tariq Castro-Fields and Micah Parsons won Player of the Week honors. Lastly, on special teams, Dan Chisena had a great week and won Special Teams Player of the Week.

Michigan State

The Spartans gave the Nittany Lions fits each of the last two seasons, as they upset Penn State the last two years. Dual-threat QB Brian Lewerke is back and is someone Penn State will have to stop this season.

Coach Franklin cited the importance in staying in rush lanes, getting their hands on the QB, and finishing the play when trying to stop Lewerke. In addition, Penn State needs to excel when “defenders are in conflict”. What this means is when a quarterback is scrambling, Franklin wants the defender to stay back in coverage and keep the quarterback in front of them, instead of coming to tackle the quarterback and leaving a receiver open for a big play behind him.

Other offensive playmakers include wide receivers Cody White and Darrell Stewart.

Defensively, Michigan State has a collection of playmakers. These include senior linebacker Joe Bachie, senior defensive end Kenny Willekes, and senior defensive tackle Raequan Williams.

As always with Michigan State, Coach Franklin is preparing for numerous trick plays, especially on special teams. So, look for Penn State to be extra cautious when it comes to a fake field goal, fake punt, or a surprise onside kick from Michigan State.

Status of the Offense

Yes, Penn State scored 28 points last week, but just seven came in the second half. For the game, Michigan dominated time of possession, 37:45 to 22:15. They had more total plays, 88 to 62, more first downs, 26 to 14, and allowed less than 300 yards to the Penn State offense. Although Coach Franklin is not typically worried about the time of possession battle, a deeper look at those stats is concerning. So, let’s dive into what he had to say about numerous parts of the Penn State offense.

Consistency

“We can get better” is how Franklin phrased it and emphasized being more consistent on offense.

Tempo

One big positive from Saturday night was the final touchdown to KJ Hamler. Typically, Penn State runs a hybrid style of hurry up offense. They will get to the line quick, then get a read of the defense, then check to a desired play. But, on the 53-yard touchdown to Hamler, Penn State got right to the line and did not allow Michigan to make their adjustment, resulting in the huge play. Franklin said he wants to mix tempo and that turning tempo on and off is the most valuable way to do it.

Finishing the Game

We saw in the last few seasons, especially 2018, where the Penn State offense could not finish the game by running out the clock and not allowing the opposing offense to have a shot to tie or even win the game. On Saturday, Penn State did just that when KJ Hamler took a third down carry and gave Penn State a game-sealing first down. Coach Franklin credits his offensive line for plays like that.

The depth of the group keeps them fresh for late game moments like that. Also, talent, maturity, and leadership from Michal Menet, Will Fries, and Steven Gonzalez are helping this group close games and rack up midseason awards.

The Running Backs

It appeared that after the Iowa game where he ran for 102 yards and a touchdown that freshman running back Noah Cain would become the featured back. But, Cain went on to receive just five carries against Michigan. Personally, it is rather confusing to me why Noah Cain does not get the bulk of the carries. But, Franklin insists that he has “four backs we really like”. I like them too, James; but I think myself and the rest of the fan base like Noah Cain a whole lot more than the other three guys.

How the Offense Plays Complementary Football

The Penn State defense is dominating in 2019, allowing just 10 points per game, third best in the country. So, what is the job of the Penn State offense? Obviously, their job is to score, but Franklin had an interesting way to think about it. He wants every offensive possession to end with a kick. That means each drive ends with an extra point, a field goal, or a punt. All Coach Franklin wants is to limit offensive turnovers and he feels confident his defense will allow Penn State to win the game.

Tamba Hali

Alright, enough on the Penn State offense. Let’s get into a former Penn State defensive legend, Tamba Hali. The former All-American visited Penn State as an honorary captain for the White Out game and left his mark on the team over the weekend. Coach Franklin pointed out the humility Hali showed when he was around the team. He left a huge impression on the Nittany Lions by delivering a simple message, “talk less and listen more”. Now that Hali is retired, Franklin hopes the 12 year NFL star will be around the team even more to leave more positive messages with his team.

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.

Michigan

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.

Iowa Struggles

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.

Sean Clifford

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.

Whiteout Conditions

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.

 

News & Notes from James Franklin’s Press Conference

It is Tuesday so it is time to recap what Penn State Head Football Coach James Franklin had to say during his weekly press conference.

The Letter

Yesterday, a letter written to Jonathan Sutherland made headlines throughout the Penn State community. James Franklin opened his press conference by addressing the letter. Among the highlights of his opening monologue, he described his team and teams in general as “the purest forms of humanity we have”. In addition, he went on to mention Sutherland, who is a 2019 team captain, as “the ultimate example of what our program is all about”.

Very well done, Coach Franklin, very well done.

Purdue Recap

The offensive players of the week from the Purdue game were Jahan Dotson and Noah Cain. On defense, Lamont Wade and Shaka Toney won defensive players of the week. Then, Journey Brown won the special teams player of the week.

Iowa, Iowa, Iowa

“They do what they do and they do it really well”. That is how Coach Franklin described Kirk Ferentz’s Iowa Football team. Offensively, Franklin is impressed by the starting tackles of the offensive line, LT Tristan Wirfs and RT Levi Paulsen. Those two will have to keep a Penn State defense that just recorded 10 sacks away from QB Nate Stanley. Franklin called Stanley a “big, good looking sucker” during today’s press conference. He is a big, imposing guy and is able to make big time throws.

Defensively, expect a typical Iowa defense under defensive coordinator Phil Parker. They are currently third in the country in scoring defense. Currently, Wisconsin, Penn State, Iowa, and Ohio State make up the top four in scoring defense nationally, in that order. Watch out for DE AJ Epenesa, LB Michael Ojemudia, and DB Geno Stone as key playmakers for the Iowa defense on Saturday night.

Also, Coach Franklin is very excited to wave to the kids in the Iowa Children’s Hospital on Saturday night. In case you do not know about perhaps the best modern tradition in college football, here is a good example of it.

Player News

Coach Franklin highlighted a few of his own players throughout his press conference today.

Shaka Toney

Franklin “couldn’t be more proud of Shaka” after picking up three sacks on Saturday against Purdue. Franklin recalls when Toney did a cart wheel after receiving his offer from Penn State. But, initially, Penn State wanted Shaka Toney as a linebacker. But, Franklin cites Toney’s good stubbornness and knowing his identity as a player to insist to Franklin and his staff that he is a defensive end, despite his 195 lb frame at the time. Franklin knew he just wanted Shaka the person in his program and the two became a perfect match.

Sean Clifford

“It’s kinda how he is wired” is what Franklin had to say when talking about Sean Clifford as a leader. He mentioned Clifford is probably more vocal than Trace McSorley. But, he understands playing quarterback is a lifestyle and that permeates throughout the program as every player realizes being a Penn State Football player is a true lifestyle.

Noah Cain

The true freshman is having a lot of success in the Penn State backfield and a lot of it could be related to his background. Cain played in a similar crowded back field in high school at the highly reputable IMG Academy. As a whole, Cain is a very mature person and very well liked on the team.

Fred Hansard

After picking up a sack on Saturday, Franklin was asked about DT Fred Hansard. Franklin loves Hansard’s personality and his ability to overcome the multiple injuries he has had at Penn State. Also, he may be the best dancer on the team and could give former Penn State DB Marcus Allen a run for his money, according to Franklin. I am not sure about that one, Marcus was really, really good.

Kirk Ferentz and Kinnick Stadium

James Franklin believes Kirk Ferentz has been at Iowa so long because he built a team with a true identity. It all starts with the head coach and “they’re gonna do it the way they do it”, which Franklin added is easier said than done.

Also, according to Franklin, Iowa has a unique home field advantage at Kinnick Stadium because the place is sold out, the fans are right on top of the sideline, and they receive great support because they are the only show in town.

HBO Special

The HBO Special “24/7 College Football” episode involving Penn State will air tomorrow night at 10 PM ET on HBO. It will be a “Hard Knocks” style of show featuring Penn State’s preparation leading into the Purdue game. But, when the program is over, Coach Franklin reminded Penn State students and fans that if you see his players not to talk about the show. But, instead, say “Iowa, Iowa, Iowa”.

 

 

Penn State Fan Sends Discriminatory Letter to Penn State Football Player

It is surprising this Penn State fan even signed the bottom of this letter. Maybe he did not think his words would be conveyed this way. But, from reading this letter just one time, it is easy for anybody to pick up on the message this person was trying to send.

A Penn State Football player received this letter from a Penn State fan. Based off the heading of the letter and the description of the player, it is easy to assume this fan was addressing Penn State captain Jonathan Sutherland.

By telling Sutherland he has “awful hair” and “looks disgusting”, in my opinion, Antonio Shelton is 100 percent correct; you cannot justify saying this letter was not racist. In addition, adding the last paragraph about the NFL and the description of the players just confirms Shelton’s comment.

It is disheartening that something like this arises in the middle of such an excellent start to the 2019 season. But, this fan should send an apology letter before he thinks of writing anything else to this program.

« Older Entries