Franklin Talks Ryan Keiser’s Return, Handling the Media
James Franklin was several minutes late to his weekly post-practice media briefing because he had to attend to an important manner.
With no classes next week, he said he plans to take his seniors to a movie, in addition to the community service they’ll complete. He needed to meet with them to decide which film they wanted to see.
Ultimately, they decided upon “Mockingjay,” though after a reporter raved about “Interstellar” he said he might reconsider.
Maybe it was because it’s almost break, or maybe because Penn State was practicing inside today (the university doesn’t allow outdoor practices once the temperature dips below 15 degrees), but Franklin spoke in an especially detailed and engaged manner Wednesday evening.
Franklin said that Ryan Keiser is back in State College and attended team meetings today, but wasn’t at practice. Keiser was at the Hershey Medical Center recovering from a rib injury that led to a bowel infection.
“It was great, the guys haven’t seen him in a while,” said Franklin. “Having him back was really good.”
Franklin said Keiser will not travel to Illinois this weekend, but the goal is to have him at the hotel next Friday night before Penn State hosts Michigan State on Senior Day. That’s because Franklin wants Keiser to do his “share,” a special team tradition that started during training camp and now occurs Friday night before games in which a player will stand in front of the team and tell his “story,” as Franklin described it.
“These guys have been together for four years, but some of the details they don’t know,” he said. It’s been a good team building and chemistry exercise.”
Franklin was thrilled to speak about Keiser’s return, but didn’t greet questions about his quarterback’s struggles with as much enthusiasm.
When a reporter asked Franklin about bad habits that Christian Hackenberg has developed, Franklin responded frankly that he didn’t agree. “A habit is habitual,” he said. “It’s an issue that happens over and over again. I don’t see that.”
“I think Christian has done some things that Christian has regretted,” he continued. “He’s made a few choices that he would like to get back.”
Bad habits or not, Hackenberg’s numbers have regressed, and that’s inevitably led to bad press. Franklin, who described himself as a “blocker,” said he tries to shield all of his players from the “noise,” though that’s next to impossible in this age of instant social media. “When you’re winning and playing well there’s nothing better, when you lose a game and don’t play as well as you like things can be tough,” he said. “If there’s ever going to be blame placed, I want the blame to be placed on me.”
At the same time, Franklin said he wanted his players to care about what’s being said about them, because, as he described it, if it doesn’t affect you then you don’t care. “What I try to do is explain the climate in college athletics now,” he clarified. “The climate in sports in general, how our society is, how the negative story sells.”
Regardless, Franklin again said that his team, and especially its offense, is getting “close.” He cited the opening drive of last week’s victory over Temple, in which Penn State both ran and passed the ball down the field, and scored a touchdown that was ultimately nullified by a holding penalty.
“Our defense is playing with a lot of confidence,” said Franklin. “Our offense needs to play with more confidence.”
Saturday at Illinois may be another prime opportunity. The Illini feature the nation’s No. 113 scoring defense and start quarterback Wes Lunt, who Franklin “recruited the heck out of” while he and his staff coached at Vanderbilt, or, as he described it, “the last school we were at.” Lunt fractured his fibula earlier this season, and Franklin said that should limit his mobility.
He also noted that he expects Illinois to bring fake punts and onside kicks.