Franklin Discusses Game Management, Indiana At Weekly Press Conference
Last weekend’s narrow defeat of Army left much to be desired from the Nittany Lions, but regardless, a win is a win, and that’s James Franklin’s mantra moving forward. It was this mindset Franklin put forth during Tuesday’s press conference, wanting to move forward and get on to the next week. Among other topics, Franklin touched on Indiana star running back Jordan Howard and the return of linebacker Ben Kline as he addressed the media.
Franklin and his oft-criticized offensive unit — more specifically, the man calling the shots — have taken some heat over the past few weeks, mainly due to the conservative nature of the offense. Franklin was asked about his gameplan going forward against Indiana, and whether or not he’ll be allowing Christian Hackenberg to test the secondary and stretch the field.
“It goes back to the things we talked about all year long, understanding our strengths and weaknesses, and making sure that some of our challenges don’t become major issues in the game,” Franklin said. “It’s about managing down and distance situations so calling a shot in a situation where if you don’t hit the shot you’re not in a third and long situation and create a tough situation to stay on the field and convert on third down. But we have to be wary of being predictable.”
Last week’s performance was anything but unpredictable, given the staggering amount of simple run concepts executed by the offense. Fans, along with Franklin himself, hope that changes quick.
Tevin Coleman is gone, Indiana’s rushing production hasn’t skipped a beat. Enter Jordan Howard, a 6-foot-1, 230 pound bruiser who transferred from UAB after its program was dissolved. As it currently stands, Howard is 20 yards and four touchdowns behind Heisman candidate Ezekiel Elliott, and is currently compiling his own staggering resume with eye-popping numbers over the past five games. Though his status is uncertain due to an ankle injury suffered against the Buckeyes, Franklin understands the element Howard brings to the table, even if it’s vastly different than Coleman’s skillset.
“Jordan Howard is a big, physical, grind-you-out, runner, and has a sneaky way of making misses and breaking tackles. I have a lot of respect for him, and a lot of respect for how he’s playing.” Franklin said. “They’re having similar production, but they’re two completely backs with different ways of going about it. Coleman was more keen on breaking the long run, whereas Howard looks for those shorter gains that can wear you down, all while possessing that home-run threat.”
If Howard is a go come Saturday, expect the box to be loaded play after play in an effort to keep the high-octane runner at bay.
James Franklin has talked the talk, but he’s been chided at times for not walking the walk by portions of the fanbase. Managing expectations is an integral part of what Franklin does — he understands the success that’s come before him.
“That’s the hardest part of my job. How do you go out and get people really excited about the season, about the team, about the future, without setting up false expectations at a place that’s seen so much success?” Franklin said. “It’s the thing I probably love the most about Penn State, is that there’s an expectation here for greatness. It’s also the thing that can be the most challenging.”
Franklin understands all these elements, but says that he goes to sleep every night knowing that he’s running the program the right way.
It’s been a long road to recovery for Ben Kline, who’s finally suiting up and contributing in games — albeit marginally. His achilles rehabilitation wasn’t easy, but the hard work has paid dividends for the redshirt senior after almost two years removed from competition. Franklin had nothing but positive things to say about the Rhodes Scholar candidate.
“He’s smart, he’s classy, he’s seasoned, and mature. He’s a really, really interesting guy, and he’s just so impressive.” Franklin said. “Now, has he been limited in terms of injuries, in terms of the impact he’s been able to make on the field? Yeah, through injuries and things like that, but it hasn’t affected the type of impact he’s had on our team in terms of leadership and being a role model.”
Kline’s story is inspiring, and it’s refreshing to see No. 38 back on the field where he belongs.
Stay tuned for our coverage of Franklin’s open practice availability as the team prepares to take on the upstart Indiana Hoosiers on Homecoming this Saturday.