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Parsons hasn’t yet reached huge potential

A capsule look at James Franklin’s weekly news conference.

Opponent: Michigan State (4-3, 2-2 Big Ten)

Kickoff: Saturday, 3:30p.m., Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, Mich.

TV: ABC

About the Spartans: They’ve been crushed in last two games, 34-10 at Ohio State and 38-0 at Wisconsin. Also lost at home to Arizona State, 10-7. … Those three games show offense clearly has been a big issue. … QB Brian Lewerke has 1,596 yards passing, and RB Elijah Collins leads ground game with 492 yards rushing. Darrell Stewart Jr. has 46 catches for 683 yards. … Coach Mark Dantonio has come under fire this season because of team’s poor play.

Last time vs. Penn State: Spartans pulled off upset last year at Beaver Stadium, 21-17, and have won two in a row and five of six in the series.

Line: Penn State is favored by 6.5; over/under is 44.5

Parsons’ potential immense: Sophomore LB Micah Parsons is playing at a high level and, with a team-leading 45 tackles, is in position to lead the team in stops for a second straight year. But Parsons still can get so much better, according to Franklin. “Micah has gotten a lot better fundamentally from last year, but he’s still making a lot of plays just on athleticism and instincts,” the coach said. “As his fundamentals and technique continue to improve and his understanding of the game at that position, which is still fairly new to him, it’s hard to say where he can go as he continues to mature.” Asked about Parsons’ potential, Franklin noted, “I don’t think he’s anywhere close to his ceiling. … I don’t want to come off the wrong way because I think he’s one of the better players in college football. But this is all still very new to him, and he’s embraced the techniques and the fundamentals and things like that of the position, but I think he can be even better there.”

About the officiating: It’s no secret there has been a lot of controversy over some calls in PSU’s last two games — a 17-12 win at Iowa and Saturday’s 28-21 win over Michigan. Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh took the officials to task Sunday with comments about some calls his team didn’t get. Franklin has never been one to publicly criticize the officials. “The thing I’m not going to do is I’m not going to come in here and after a game talk about penalties and the impact that they had on a game,” he said Tuesday. “We’ve done that the last couple weeks, a bunch of questions about officiating. The officials have a very tough job to do. Each week there’s going to be calls our opponent doesn’t like, and there’s going to be calls we don’t like. I’m going to handle it through the process that the Big Ten has, to be able to communicate one-on-one and be able to send plays in and try to learn and try to grow and try to coach my team and control the things that I can control.”

WR production imbalance: KJ Hamler is having a good season with 32 catches. Jahan Dotson has 15 catches. But no other wide receiver has more than eight catches, including once-heralded recruit Justin Shorter, so the Lions are not getting balanced production. “Part of it is we’re rotating two guys at that one position,” Franklin said. “Part of it is, like I mentioned before, when one of those guys (Shorter) has missed two games. But again, it’s the opportunities that present themselves. When a team is a press team at the line of scrimmage, they are going to take some of the free access throws away. That’s going to create some different type of opportunities in our slots and with our tight ends and things like that. So there’s going to be weeks where those guys have a bunch of production, and there’s going to be weeks where they don’t, just depending on what the defense does.”

Beware the fake: Franklin discussed how Michigan State is known for its trickery on special teams. “They do a really good job, especially when it comes to fakes and trying to steal a possession,” he said. “We are going to be working all week like crazy — fake punts, onsides kicks, things like that. They just always seem to have something in their package. Fake field goal, and they have run some pretty famous fake field goals against people.”

Hail to Hali: Former PSU and NFL star LB Tamba Hali addressed the Lions last week and impressed Franklin. “Tamba’s humility was one of the most impressive things I’ve ever been around,” the coach said. “You introduce him to the team and you put all of his accolades, and his resume is as impressive as anyone, and he got up and talked to the team. Some guys get up and talk to the team and they wow the room because they are dynamic. He wowed me and wowed the room because of his humility. I mean, it was unbelievable.”

— Compiled by Cory Giger

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