In Penn State football’s final media availability before the Blue-White game, James Franklin spent time talking about the progression of his team and the areas he has been looking to improve in over the next several months leading up to the season; he even threw an unexpected curveball at all members of the media.
Although the main focus of the spring is to constantly find places to improve, Franklin was quick to point out five players that have really stood out in practices so far: Tommy Stevens, Christian Campbell, Jonathan Holland, Koa Farmer, and Josh McPhearson.
Stevens saw some playing time at quarterback last season late in games during several blow-out victories against Iowa and Michigan State. His exceptional performances in limited time on the field left a few wondering if he would transfer and explore starting roles around the country. However, Stevens decided to stay and Franklin believes that the rising redshirt sophomore has handled the situation very well and continued to improve throughout spring ball.
“He’s playing at a really high level. We have two [quarterbacks]that we feel really confident in,” Franklin said. “He has the whole team’s respect and I’m really pleased with how far he has come.”
Coming off of last season, Franklin and his staff have emphasized replacing the production of star receiver Chris Godwin, which is easier said than done, and improving depth at several positions including defensive end, quarterback, and long snapper.
Even though the Nittany Lions have two solid locks at the top of the quarterback depth chart in McSorley and Stevens, Franklin was adamant that they were not certain on who would fill the third spot.
“The biggest thing for me was figuring out who the third quarterback was going to be,” Franklin said. “I don’t know if we feel that yet. It’s no disrespect to the guys we have, I think [Jake] Zembiec, [Michael] Shuster, and [Billy] Fessler have done a nice job for us but they need to take the next step to feel like we have three quarterbacks that we can win with in the Big Ten.”
When asked about the new proposed rule change that would allow an early signing period for players who know where they really want to go, Franklin responded with mixed feelings.
“I’m old school and I worry about unforeseen consequences. I get it and I know why they are doing it because there are problems now, but we know the problems,” Franklin said. “Early signing period makes sense but I wasn’t a big fan of the early visits. There’s pluses and minuses to it, but there is part of me that likes the world I have been living in for the past 23 years.”
Franklin also addressed a topic that had nothing to do with his players or the team, but instead focussed on a unique opportunity for the media members. He wants the Blue-White game to be about the fans and getting everyone involved, so he has set up a time slot during the game in which members of the media will have the chance to catch punts on the field at Beaver Stadium.
“We want to get you guys involved in the festivities by going down on the field in front of 85,000 fans and catching punts,” Franklin said. “We will put something out socially about all the people who have decided to do that.”