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News & Notes From Penn State Football’s Peach Bowl Invitational Press Conference

Eighteen more days, folks.

With the 2023 Peach Bowl on the horizon, Penn State football is ~officially~ going. Representatives from the Peach Bowl stopped by Happy Valley Monday morning to formally invite the Nittany Lions to the game, which they gladly accepted.

Penn State Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Pat Kraft, James Franklin, and Peach Bowl CEO and President Gary Stokan took the stand to talk about the Nittany Lions’ next, and final, competition of the year.

On Former Defensive Coordinator Manny Diaz & Finding An Immediate Replacement

Former Penn State defensive coordinator Manny Diaz departed the program last week, taking a job with Duke on Thursday as the Blue Devils’ head coach. Just as Diaz took the time to thank Penn State when he arrived in Durham, Franklin thanked Diaz for the two years Diaz spent in Happy Valley.

“[It’s a] tremendous opportunity and we’re very, very happy for Manny Diaz and his family,” Franklin said. “[He] did a great job for us.”

Moving forward, Franklin said that the team would find its interim replacement for Diaz within the program. Franklin did the same thing when he named tight ends coach Ty Howle and running backs coach Ja’Juan Seider as interim offensive coordinators after dismissing former offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich after the Michigan loss.

Franklin didn’t name an immediate in-house replacement for Diaz.

On Finding A Long-Term Replacement For Diaz

As with the hiring process with new offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki, Franklin was tight-lipped about the search for his next full-time defensive coordinator.

“I think there’s challenges. I think whenever you’re going to make a decision in leadership, whether it’s a head coaching position, whether it’s an offensive position, defensive position, special teams,” Franklin said. “I look at even my position coaches as being the head coach of their position.”

Franklin also noted how attractive the defensive coordinator position at Penn State can be. Franklin’s last two defensive coordinators, Diaz and Brent Pry, both left Penn State for head coaching jobs. Penn State’s defenses have been considered among the best in the nation for several years, and a plethora of in-house talent means a new defensive coordinator wouldn’t have to work on a rebuild to put together a good unit.

Kraft said he’s giving Franklin full control over who becomes Penn State’s next coordinator, and even jokingly threw his own hat in the ring for the job.

“Probably to James’ chagrin, I played football. So I have a lot of thoughts and none of them are relevant or worthy of text message here or there,” Kraft said. “I believe we have the best football coach in the country… I let our coaches make decisions on assistant coaches.”

On The Impact Of Penn State Winning The Peach Bowl

With Penn State playing in its second New Year’s Six game in as many years, Kraft said he was excited to showcase Penn State as a top-10 program in the country to as many people as possible.

“This year in particular, going to the Peach Bowl, a place where we’ve never been, was really exciting,” Kraft said. “I think it gives you an opportunity to continue to showcase your brand at the highest level.”

Franklin looked at the game from an on-field opportunity, as Penn State can become the first team in college football to win all New Year’s Six games with a victory over Ole Miss.

“Playing in a game that we’ve never played, I think is special and unique. Playing an opponent that we’ve never played is special and unique,” Franklin said. “At our banquet yesterday, being able to tell the team that we have a chance to do something that’s never been done before in college football and will never happen again, I think that’s a motivator and something that our guys will take great pride in.”

On Player Opt-Outs And Draft Declarations

Penn State has seen two players, Chop Robinson and Theo Johnson, declare for the NFL Draft over the past week. Robinson said he won’t play in the Peach Bowl, while Johnson said he will participate. Johnson’s decision is more reflective of last year’s Rose Bowl team, which saw high numbers of players declare they wouldn’t opt out of the game.

“I think Theo and his family know that we are going to do what’s best for Theo and be supportive of that. But I also think there’s a balance where you can do both. Finish with your teammates, finish what you started, and finish the season and do it the right way,” Franklin said. “Theo’s a great example of a number of guys that we’ve had that have been in similar positions.”

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About the Author

Joe Lister

Joe is a junior journalism major at Penn State and an associate editor at Onward State. He covers Penn State football and enjoys yelling on Twitter about Philadelphia/Penn State sports. He also listens to Mac Miller more than you. If you want to find him, Joe's usually watching soccer with his shirt off or at the gym with his shirt on. Please send all positive affirmations and/or hate mail toward him on Twitter (iamjoelister) or via email ([email protected]).

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