Franklin embracing all criticism

James Franklin wants you to question him. To challenge him. To expect more from him and his Penn State football team.

The coach doesn’t shy away from it. He embraces it.

Because Franklin has the same goal in mind as every PSU fan, and that’s to be the very best.

So, coming off a tough 27-26 loss to Ohio State 11 days ago, Franklin talked Tuesday about the little ways that the Nittany Lions can achieve the goal of going from being a great program to being an elite one.

“(Losing), obviously it hurts,” Franklin said. “It hurts our fans. It hurts our coaches. It hurts our players. I think the last thing you want to do is ignore that. You recognize that. You watch the film. You evaluate the film, you make the corrections and you move forward.

“The thing that I’ve been really harping to the team this week is really two things. Number one, we’re at a point in our program, we have to fight for every little gain we possibly can find, and it’s not going to be in one specific area. Can we improve 1 percent in nutrition? Can we improve 1 percent in sleep? Can we improve 1 percent in scheme? Can we improve 1 percent in terms of practice, effort and focus, in meetings, in taking notes and all those types of things?”

Trying to meet those goals is something everyone is taking a long, hard look at.

“We spend a lot of time talking about that and challenging each coach, including myself, and the players to all look at it that way.”

The other aspect Franklin has focused on the past week and a half is asking the question: Have we gotten better?

“I know we did not finish the (Ohio State) game the way anybody wants us to finish the game,” he said. “I get that. But OK, we understand that. We study that. We learn from that. We grow from that.

“But let’s go back to that first question: Did we get better from week one to two? Yes? Did we get better from week two to week three? we’ve gotten better every single week. If we continue to do that individually and collectively, I think we’ll like where we’re going to be.”

Franklin doesn’t fly off the handle when asked pointed questions about certain shortcomings with the team. He doesn’t dismiss criticisms, either internally or externally. To his credit, he has remained open-minded about ways to improve the overall program, even if that means people within the program questioning things at times.

Not all coaches would allow that type of environment or culture, but Franklin views it as necessary.

“You guys (in the media) question us, which is good,” he said. “The players questioning each other and the coaches, the coaches questioning the players, coaches questioning each other, offense/defense, and defense/offense, and not from a defensive standpoint, I think that’s something we’ve done a good job of creating a climate.”

Franklin’s questions don’t end while he’s at work, either.

“I go home and I get in bed, and my wife questions and challenges, and I think all those things are good,” he said.

“I’m working really hard at not being defensive, because you’re defensive because you care so much and you’re prideful. But all these questions are good because they allow you to make sure that you don’t have holes or blind spots in your program. And the questions allow you to double-check and make sure those things don’t exist.”

SUBHD: Praise for Rahne

Offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne received heavy criticism for his fourth-down call late in the loss to Ohio State, but Franklin said Rahne has been “really good” this season.

“We’ve been pretty productive,” Franklin said of an offense that’s fifth in the nation in scoring at 49.6 points per game. “I think we’ve been pretty consistent both in the run and the pass. We’ve done a really good job. I think at one point we were leading the nation in scoring.

“Overall, I think Ricky and Brent (Pry) and Phil (Galiano) and all of our coaches have done a really good job. Again, I know after last week, there’s criticism. I get that. … But I love our coaches. I love our players. I love what we’re building and where we’re going and what we’re doing and who we’re doing it with. We’re just going to keep plugging away.”

SUBHD: Hamler ready to go

Receiver KJ Hamler was knocked out of the Ohio State game by a vicious hit, but Franklin said he expects him back this week

Franklin also had a lot of praise for the redshirt freshman’s skills on the field and attitude off the field.

“KJ is what’s great about college football,” the coach said. “He’s got an awesome mom and he’s got an awesome dad that couldn’t be more supportive of their son and couldn’t be more supportive of Penn State and what we’re doing here. He never asks for the ball. Just the opportunities he gets, he makes the most of them.

“He’s a positive impact on his teammates, on the coaches, on the players, on this community.”

Wounded Spartans

Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio announced punter Jake Hartbarger’s leg injury from September is likely to end his season.

Hartbarger hurt his lower leg in a game against Arizona State. Shortly after that, Dantonio said the fifth-year senior would be out 6-8 weeks. Now, he said Hartbarger was unlikely to return this season The Spartans are also expected to be without guard David Beedle for a month. He was hurt early in last weekend’s loss to Northwestern.