Franklin Talks Offensive Line and Communication In Weekly Presser
Normally, the purpose of James Franklin’s weekly press conference is to address the coming week’s game and what the Penn State football team needs to do to be ready to win in the coming days.
Instead, not one media member asked a single question about this weekend’s game against the University of Buffalo. Every question asked was about last weekend’s debacle against Temple.
“I get it, I get it,” said Franklin. “It was tough to walk into that press conference after the game. It was tough to walk into this press conference today. The last couple days have not been great. The only positive thing that’s happened in the last two days is seeing my wife and daughter after the game and getting a chance to hug and kiss on them.”
Franklin said the biggest problem his team faced on Saturday was communication. “We had communications issues in all three phases — offense, defense, and special teams,” he said. “We need to do a better job there.”
Here are some highlights — or lowlights, depending on your perspective — from Franklin’s presser:
The offensive line combination may change before Saturday’s game
After the unit gave up ten sacks against the Owls, Franklin said on Saturday, “Our best five are playing. The guys that are backing them up are redshirt freshmen that we don’t feel, at the time, are ready… You don’t want to hear it, but the truth is, we still have some challenges there. It’s obvious to anyone watching the game today.”
Franklin has changed his tune a little bit after watching the tape. He said today that, “You may not see new starters, but guys might move around… Wendy Laurent and Chance Sorrell might play also.”
“We’re going to be looking at some different possibilities this week, moving some guys around, find out what’s going to be our best five on Saturday. We’re going to look at that, we have to look at that. For me to come out here and say, “We’re not going to look at the possibilies,” I don’t think is the right thing to do for out program. So we’ll look at those possibilities this week. We’ll get the best five out on the field and to give us the best chance to protect our quarterback and sustain our running game.”
The loss of Nyeem Wartman-White will hurt
Anytime you lose a star linebacker such as Wartman-White, it will set the defense back. But Penn State’s lack of depth at linebacker is a potential problem.
“I looked out on the field at one point,” said Franklin, “and we had [Troy] Reeder who is a redshirt freshman on the field, we had [Jake] Cooper who is a true freshman on the field, and we had Manny Bowen who is a true freshman on the field. Manny Bowen and Cooper didn’t take any varsity reps last week, they were on scout team. We weren’t expecting to play them, so they went right to scout team, then we had to burn their redshirts and get them on the field. So we have communication issues that we need to get cleaned out.”
Franklin also said linebacker Brandon Bell and cornerback Grant Haley are both questionable for this weekend’s game, and wouldn’t give any other updates on their statuses.
There’s a difference between “practice depth” and “game depth”
All offseason, people spoke of how the sanctions were over and that Penn State was up to the level of other schools in terms of depth. Now, Franklin says that may not be exactly true.
“We talked all offseason, and I probably could have done a better job of this, talking about practice depth compared to game depth,” said Franklin. “We’re so excited to be able to get back to practicing the normal standard way, but we still don’t have tremendous game depth. We again, go from losing one or two guys, and now you’re putting true freshmen on the field that you were planning on redshirting. So, our practice depth is much better, but we need to continue to develop our game depth.”
Franklin knows his coaching staff needs to improve
Many were critical of Franklin and offensive coordinator John Donovan’s game plan after the game, and Franklin is aware of it.
“We’re evaluating everything,” said Franklin. “We had some hard discussions this weekend with all of us, the entire staff. I think there’s some things we could do a better job of in terms of managing the game. Continuing to run the ball, obviously the more success we have running the ball, it makes it easier to continue doing that. But I think we can run the ball more, I think we can move the pocket more, those are things I think would be helpful for us. I think we have to be able to take more shots [down the field]. When they’re going to load the box up and play cover-1 or cover-0, play press-man and outnumber you in the box, you have to be willing to take shots down the field. The issue with taking shots obviously is that you hold onto the ball a little bit longer. If you don’t complete them, then you’re in second-and-10, second-and-long, which creates third-and-long situations, which was one of our big challenges on Saturday. The issue is though, you have to threaten them deep to loosen them up. You have to be willing to take those shots.”
To former players on Twitter: “Stay positive”
Response from former players under Joe Paterno, Bill O’Brien, and Franklin was overwhelming on Saturday, but Franklin has a message for them.
“The fans and former players are going to be passionate,” he said. “They take a lot of pride in this place, and they should. We’ve been through a lot in these last three years, and we need to continue to work through these things. The only way to get these things done is to stay positive, stay together, and work through it. I can sit here and list out 15 reasons that we’re in the position that we’re in, but those don’t matter. We have to find a way to get it done. We have to find a way to overcome the situation that we’re in. I know we’re capable of playing better, and we’ve gotta do it.”