James Franklin Talks Adam Breneman, Kicking Competition In Press Conference
With Penn State’s season opening matchup against Temple less than a week away, James Franklin touched on a number of pressing topics relating to his team and recent depth chart announcement on Tuesday in Beaver Stadium.
Franklin opened up his press conference with some high praise for Temple head coach Matt Rhule, who Franklin called a “Penn State guy,” noting he was able to enjoy dinner with Rhule — a Penn State alumnus — during the staff retreat last month. Franklin also noted Temple’s veteran presence, and the overall history of the Penn State-Temple rivalry — specifically how close recent contests between the two schools have been. He mentioned that last time Penn State went to Philadelphia in 2011, the Nittany Lions escaped with a 14-10 win over the Owls.
The notable absence of Adam Breneman on the team’s initial depth chart was the list’s most glaring omission, and although Franklin’s answer was rather cryptic, he hinted that Breneman is still not running at 100 percent. Though he wouldn’t get into specifics, there seems to be an air of uncertainty as to when exactly Breneman will make his return to the field.
“Adam’s a great guy, a great student, and was one of the most highly recruited players to come to Penn State,” Franklin said. “As we all know, he’s had some issues in high school, and had some further issues since he’s been at Penn State, but we’re here to support him, but he has some challenges that he needs to overcome on the football field.”
When asked if Breneman will play at all this season, Franklin responded with, “I don’t know. I can’t speak on that.” He also said that everyone’s body reacts differently to medical treatment and injuries.
Being without a player of Breneman’s caliber hurts, but with Penn State’s staggering depth in the passing game — headlined by the presence of veteran tight end Kyle Carter and sophomore Mike Gesicki — there’s reason to believe James Franklin’s offensive rhythm will be unaffected. Franklin expanded upon the element his tight ends bring to the table, especially in the running game.
“[The tight ends] are bigger, stronger, and have a better understanding of the offense headed into this season,” Franklin said. “The weapons that we do have on this offense are important from a developmental standpoint, but as you all know, this game is played up front in this league. I think our tight ends can make a big splash in the running game, and will be relied on in the passing game moreso than they have in recent years. They’ve bought into the blocking aspect of their jobs, and have gotten more physical in that sense to assist with that.”
Mike Gesicki is noticeably bigger, and should be relied upon heavily in the passing game. His blend of size and speed allows him to gain an advantage when drawing favorable coverage matchups, especially against slower linebackers. Gesicki and Carter will be perfect compliments to one another, with the younger Gesicki using a veteran presence like Carter to learn, and in turn, improve his own game.
Saquon Barkley is expected to make an immediate impact in the running game in 2015, but he’s not the only true freshman that could see carries early on. Franklin elaborated on the performance of former Bishop McDevitt star Andre Robinson, and what he expects of him in the coming season.
“Robinson had a very good camp, and showed us some really good things this offseason,” Franklin said. “He’s got extremely good vision, great hands, and a powerful lower body. He does not go down easily whatsoever, but there are still aspects of his game he needs to work on. That said, I expect him to have a very bright future here.”
Penn State’s kicking game was identified as an area of concern this past offseason, and the competition between Chris Gulla, Tyler Davis, and Joey Julius has been neck and neck. Though Julius was announced as the week one starter against Temple, Franklin dispelled any rumors that the decision was permanent; the kicking competition is far from over.
“I think it’s interesting — we chart every single kick, and measure every single possible statistic. That being said, the competition is incredibly close,” Franklin said. “I want to say it’s within a percentage or two between [Joey] Julius and Tyler Davis. Joey, right now, is in the lead. Tyler [Davis] is a little bit older, a little bit more seasoned. But it’s very close. I’m impressed with Joey’s confidence, and it’s something that will help him succeed. He reminds me of Babe Ruth, in that he just steps up to the ball and whacks it.”
Penn State squares off against Temple on Saturday, September 5 at 3:30 on ESPN.