Franklin: Nittany Lions Have “The Ability To Chase Their Dreams Now”
James Franklin may have tried to deny it, but there was no doubt: the coach certainly an extra “pep” in his step today at his weekly press conference.
With the news that the sanctions against Penn State’s football team have been lifted, Franklin and his staff now have a full stash of scholarships to offer, and the chance to go to a bowl game for the first time in three seasons.
But even with this incredible news, Franklin tried to keep everything in perspective.
“We’re very, very appreciative of the opportunity that we have,” he said. “It’s amazing how many people emailed me and texted me last night saying ‘How awesome it is that you’re bowl eligible!’ We’re not bowl eligible. We have an opportunity to go to a bowl game. We need to make sure we can take care of our business this week, which is Rutgers.”
Franklin expressed his disappointment that he and the team found out on social media, but he “tried to get a mass text out to the team as soon as I possibly could.”
“They were already finding out, so I just re-enforced what they already knew [at the team meeting],” Franklin said. “I think it was received extremely well, and the guys are excited.”
At an emergency team meeting later that day, Franklin said he called up the 49 players who have been through the sanctions from the start and decided to stay with the program to the front of the room. There, they received a standing ovation from the coaching staff and the rest of the team.
“The rest of the team… told them how much they mean to them, how much we are all in debt to them, and how much respect the University, the alumni, and the community has for them,” Franklin said. “We’re going to play for them, because they were here when this program and University needed them most. I don’t think there’s any doubt that those 49 guys that stayed will forever be remembered as the foundation for our present and for our future. That they sacrificed, and didn’t take a shortcut. Those guys are a perfect example of that.”
“There’s nothing being held back from them in terms of opportunities. They have the ability to chase their dreams now. But we’re going to go back to our same approach, which is ‘one day at a time, one game at a time, one class at a time.'”
Franklin also mentioned someone else who helped keep the program afloat during the hard times: Bill O’Brien. “I actually texted Billy last night thanking him for all he’s done the last couple years. I think he’s had a huge role in what’s happened here.”
When asked about the pride being back in State College and the students celebrating in the streets, Franklin had perhaps his best response of the day.
“We were game planning and watching film, but I was aware of what was going on,” said Franklin. “I think it’s great to have excitement and enthusiasm. It shows how much people care. I think it’s part of the educational process as well, because you can go out and enjoy yourself with others, but we have to do it the right way. We have to make sure nobody is injured, that nothing is damaged and that people are being respectful. There’s tremendous pride in this school.”
“I actually believe [the pride] has always been there. That’s one of the things I said early on in my time at Penn State. I’ve worked at nine different institutions, and that’s what jumps out to me. The pride at Penn State is unbelievable. Even when you’re in another community or an airport, you’re wearing something with ‘Penn State’ on it, and someone screams “We Are!” and you scream back “Penn State!” It’s a really special thing.”
Here are some notes from the rest of the press conference:
- On the things the team can improve on: “Akron won the turnover battle, which is an area we’re going to have to get cleaned up. I thought we made real strides from the penalty perspective, we did win the penalty battle, dropping down to three penalties in the game. But we’re going to have to do a better job protecting the football. Offensively, we’re going to have to develop a consistent running game. I’m not telling you anything you guys don’t know. That will happen. We’re going to have to score touchdowns in the red zone, not field goals. We have to consistently protect the quarterback, and I think we’ve done a pretty good job at that.”
- Players of the week from the coaching staff: Geno Lewis (offense), Mike Hull (defense), and Chris Gulla (special teams).
- Franklin mentioned that he wants to get “the young guys” more playing time this weekend. Names such as Grant Haley, Marcus Allen, Saeed Blacknall, Chris Godwin, Mike Gesicki, and Christian Campbell were all mentioned.
- On this weekend’s honorary captains: “I’m really excited about Adam Taliaferro and Eric LeGrand being the honorary captains. I have tremendous respect for Adam. I’d like to get to know Mr. LeGrand a whole lot better, I don’t know him very well. But I think they’re an unbelievable example for all of us, especially our players, of what you can do when you persevere and have an unbelievably positive attitude.”
- On the team’s approach to the Rutgers game: “I know some people feel that our message in front of the media is different from the message to the team. Our message is consistent, because I know our players read everything. This game is no more important than what Central Florida was… or what Akron was. We approach every single game ‘one game at a time.’ That’s the most important game on our schedule, because it’s the only game on our schedule. That helps us prepare and play consistently.”
- On making mistakes: “We have great kids here, and the best part is, they’re coachable. They watch the film. You make a mistake, you own up to it, you man up to it, you get it corrected, and you move forward. That’s the same thing on the football field, and the same thing in life. I think our guys understand that. So because of that, we’re able to get it corrected.”
- On playing on the road in a hostile environment: “We’re just as motivated for this game as we were for Akron. Our approach will not change. The one thing we may do is, when we’re playing on the road, the noise will be a different factor in the game, so we’ll have to have more noise in practice to get our guys prepared for that. That will probably be the one difference. We started with our silent counts and implementing noise in practice from the very first day of camp. Will it be emphasized a little more in practice this week? Yeah, there’s no doubt. We’ll have rock, rap, country, hip-hop. It’ll be a very ‘club-like’ atmosphere at practice this week.”
- On Rutgers’ coach Kyle Flood and the Rutgers’ program not saying “Penn State”, instead referring to it as “The School in Pennsylvania”: First of all, I really like and respect Kyle Flood. Second of all, I think we are a school in Pennsylvania. It just describes us, we’re a school in Pennsylvania. I’m good with it. I think this game, from a regional perspective, is good for Pennsylvania and New Jersey, good for the Big Ten, and good for both institutions.”