James Franklin Talks Upcoming Season At Media Day
James Franklin discussed a handful of true freshmen who have already worked their way into “green light” consideration, Saquon Barkley’s humbleness, and his offensive line’s growth Saturday at Beaver Stadium.
Franklin highlighted corner Tariq Castro-Fields and defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos as two summer enrollees who will almost certainly see the field this fall. The former, who hails from Upper Marlboro, Md., has reportedly posted ridiculous testing numbers in camp. Come Sunday, the coaching staff will sit down and generate a preliminary depth chart.
“Tariq Castro-Fields, he’s the guy of the freshmen that’s right away making an argument that he’s gonna factor in,” Franklin said.
Following John Reid’s knee injury, Lamont Wade is also considered a shoe-in to play steady snaps his first season. Wade graduated early from Clairton High in Western Pennsylvania in order to go through spring classes at Penn State. Fellow spring arrival, Ohio guard Mike Miranda, has a chance to crack the two-deep and possibly contribute, too.
Franklin also touched on the New York Times’ CTE article from a few weeks ago that made national news, saying he and his coaching staff pay close attention to player safety.
“The most important thing is the health and the welfare of our student-athletes. That’s No. 1,” Franklin said. “I also am a defender of the game of football. I believe in it. I believe in the importance in our society, I believe in the importance in the education system, I believe in the importance of developing leadership. We can’t ignore the studies and research that’s going on out there.”
Penn State’s fourth-year head coach kept discussion of his impending contract extension brief. “I’m in football mode now,” he said. “We’ve been talking about this for a while. I don’t have concerns.”
Junior running back Saquon Barkley’s humbleness and work ethic came up rather frequently during Franklin’s press conference. Neither Franklin nor Barkley put much stock into his upcoming NFL draft decision, saying they’re both fully focused on the season.
“We’re going to use Saquon in every possible way we can to give us the best opportunity to win, short term and long term,” Franklin said. “Since that hurdle in the Buffalo game, there’s been a buzz about him. He’s handled it really well.”
Damion Barber, an incoming freshman defensive end from Harrisburg, has yet to report to campus. While he’ll miss the preseason, Franklin said there’s no reason to think he won’t be in State College when classes get underway. “We’re confident that Damion will be here,” he added.
Penn State’s tremendous growth along the offensive line under Matt Limegrover has been a big topic of discussion this summer. They’ve put a premium on recruiting “swing guys” on the interior like Ryan Bates and Connor McGovern who have the flexibility to play a variety of positions if need be. They generally want “true tackles” on the outside, though.
“Last year, we played seven different combinations on the offensive line,” Franklin said. That won’t be an issue anymore, as the Nittany Lions finally have the pieces in place to be every bit as good as the Big Ten’s top units up front.
As a whole, Franklin says the program has kept upgrading the way it’s developing its players in the offseason with each passing year. “We look different,” Franklin told director of performance enhancement Dwight Galt as camp began this week.
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