With only 10 days left until his coaching debut with Penn State, James Franklin addressed the media to talk shop Wednesday afternoon.
The portion of training camp that Franklin and Co. spent focusing on internal preparations is over — they’ve now moved on to UCF preparations. Franklin said things have went well, yet mirrored recent concerns over his offensive line.
“We still have some work to do,” said Franklin, referring to his front five. “A lot of it is not just figuring out who these guys are, but getting all the parts to fit together. We haven’t had the same five guys in the same five spots for multiple practices. Now that we’ve evaluated the guys, we need to get some consistency.”
Franklin acknowledged that the offensive line will not have “traditional depth,” or a two-deep setup in which there is starter and backup for each position up front. Instead, Franklin said he and his staff have seven or eight offensive linemen in whom they are confident. They have been trained at multiple positions.
“Maybe the starting center is the backup right tackle and so on,” he said.
Moreover, Franklin explained that positions along the offensive line are among the most difficult and counterintuitive to learn. “You’re asking guys to do things you don’t grow up doing,” he said, such as running backwards while trying to slow someone down.
But aside from that, Franklin said he feels confident about the his offense’s progress and potential, particularly at wide receiver.
He said the biggest loss is Allen Robinson, but that he has seen and expects great contributions from a trio of true freshmen on offense: receivers Chris Godwin and Saeed Blacknall, and tight end Mike Gesicki.
At an open practice to the media last week, Franklin mentioned that he had recently heard his Nittany Lions were the second-youngest team in the nation. It’s a stat that doesn’t phase Franklin — a young coach in his own right — but instead a challenge he hopes to embrace.
Defensively, Franklin cited another trio of freshmen — safety Marcus Allen, cornerback Grant Haley, and linebacker Jason Cabinda — that have made great strides, all at “positions that we need.”
Haley could see playing time as early as next weekend’s opener against Central Florida, as Franklin stressed a need for five competent cornerbacks.
“[Junior corner Trevor Williams] has gotten the most reps, but the others guys are making a name for themselves as well,” said Franklin.
Looking forward, Franklin said that his team had only started preparations for Central Florida. Throughout training camp, explained Franklin, the Nittany Lions have a better idea of its identity and its personnel.
He also suggested that the trip to Croke Park in Dublin, Ireland is most equivalent to a bowl game in regards to travel, hotels, and game preparation. More than anything, however, Franklin is just ready for some football.
“Whether we’re playing at the State College High School or Croke Park, were just happy to go out and compete.”
No word from Franklin on the volcano.