James Franklin Speaks To The Media At Pre-Bowl Press Conference
The regular season has come to a close, and the conference championship dust has settled, which can only mean one thing—it’s bowl season. James Franklin spoke to the media today as focus begins to shift to Penn State’s upcoming Pinstripe Bowl matchup against Boston College.
Franklin stressed the importance of the coming week’s practices, especially on getting a look at younger players that haven’t seen much game action this season.
“We’re excited about [the bowl game], and we’ve obviously broken [Boston College] down, but haven’t gotten to the point where we’ve started gameplanning,” said Franklin. “Right now we’re in program development, which is really like a spring ball mentality where we go good against good in practice, and let the young guys get some reps as well, especially those who were redshirted.”
Productivity of the bowl practices were discussed at length, given their importance in regards to evaluating the young talent on the roster, and how they allow the coaching staff to spend additional time with their team, time that not every coach is fortunate enough to have.
“I think they’ve been very productive,” Franklin said. “It’s great to see these guys who have been on scout team basically for the entire year, to now getting some legitimate reps in practice. We’re giving everybody solid reps, I mean we’ll go five reps with the ones, four reps with the twos, and three reps with the threes, as opposed to in the regular season when we just work the ones and the twos with the scout team. Everybody is getting looks, and so far it’s been good.”
Franklin mentioned a few younger players in particular that have stood out from the rest, indicating that while certain voids may be left by graduation, the outlook remains bright for the future.
“I think [kicker] Joe Julius has done a really good job for us,” Franklin said. “That’s going to be an important piece moving forward with Ficken graduating and moving on. Offensively, getting DeAndre Thompkins involved, we all know he’s a guy that is explosive, so we’ve been doing some things with him in the last couple practices. Honestly, there are a lot of guys. Antoine White is a player that has been jumping out really all year long, and it’s interesting to think that next year we could potentially have three guys from the state of Alabama either starting or playing a lot for us. You think about guys like Parker Cothren, Christian Campbell, and Torrance Brown. These are some of the guys that have really stood out for us.”
Among the many points coach Franklin brought up, the one he emphasized most was wide receiver separation, and how it would be an area to improve upon as the team progressed into the offseason.
“We have to get better there, and that will be a big part of our offseason speed development program,” Franklin said. “Top of the route is so important, because it’s where wide receivers have a chance to be special, because it’s where they get into their route and out of their route to create the separation. Let’s be honest, all of those things are magnified by what’s going on up front. The more time we have to hold the ball, the more time a receiver has to work the route and work the defender.”
Overall, Franklin seemed excited about going to New York City with his team, and also stressed that with the conclusion of the regular season, recruiting becomes a big priority for Franklin and his staff.
For the first time since the preseason, offensive coordinator John Donovan spoke to the media, much to the delight of all in attendance. Donovan began his session with some humor, saying “I’m sure there’s no questions” as he approached the podium.
Donovan discussed the team’s youth, primarily at the wide receiver position, and how the lack of veteran experience played a role in the offense’s struggles.
“Last year here [Penn State’s offense] had a second-round draft pick and got him 90 catches or whatever he had last year,” Donovan said. “We don’t really have that sure-fire first- or second-round pick. Will they eventually be? Hopefully some of them will grow into that. On the perimeter [at wide receiver], we played two true freshmen, a redshirt freshman who lead the league in catches, and a sophomore. Up front we had a lot of guys who were inexperienced too. That’s college football. You’re going to go through that and get a lot of teams who have experience, and some teams that don’t, and you’re going to have to find a way. Long story short, we don’t have a true exceptional veteran difference maker to try and get him the ball so we’ve got to do whatever we’ve got to do week to week.”
Donovan discussed quarterback Christian Hackenberg, and the adversity that he overcame during the course of this season.
“He’s frustrated, he wants to win. That’s the bottom line. He’s a competitive son-of-a-gun,” Donovan said. “When you’re not winning, you know we won enough games to go to a bowl game but we had two games that we could have closed the deal and we didn’t play as well as we could have, and all that stuff too. He’s a competitive fiery guy. He’s 19 years old still, so he’s only a sophomore. Last year he was the young buck and everyone was kind of carrying him along and carried the reigns and he took charge when he needed to take charge. He’s the one guy last year who played in every game.”
Donovan stressed that the lack of experience on offense will only help this team going forward. He emphasized that the rapport that Hackenberg has developed with players like wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton will only make the two better.
The mood seemed joyous, as the team prepares to play its first bowl game since 2012. The coaching staff knows that there is plenty of work ahead, but remains confident that those issues will be addressed in the coming weeks.