Franklin keeping eye on QB spot
The game of musical chairs within college football — coaches and players — never seems to stop these days, and that’s been true at Penn State.
The Nittany Lions have added and subtracted personnel with the biggest change being the hiring of new offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich, who replaced Kirk Ciarrocca after just one season.
Several transfers have confirmed their intentions, and the Nittany Lions just lost freshman quarterback Micah Bowen, who entered the transfer portal.
James Franklin met the media Monday for the first time since the Lions’ season ended on Dec. 19, and he made no secret that the quarterback position must improve in 2021.
Sean Clifford and Will Levis, incumbent starter and backup, are scheduled to return, and Franklin is eager to learn more about third-teamer Ta’Quan Roberson and incoming freshman Christian Veilleux of Canada.
The Lions also have a commitment from junior Beau Pribula of Central York for the Class of 2021.
But Franklin has left the door open to adding a transfer to compete in 2021.
“We’re going be as aggressive as we have to be at every position to help our football program,” he said. “And if there’s something that makes sense and clearly makes us better, then we’re going to look at it. That’s a responsibility that we have to have for our entire organization and for every position.”
Franklin said “a number” of players at all positions have reached out to the Lions, and “we’re going to do our homework to make sure it makes sense for us.”
During the Lions’ 0-5 start, Clifford was intercepted eight times and had ball security troubles. Levis was used mainly as a runner.
“I wouldn’t say we took a step in the right direction,” Franklin said. “We’ve got to take the next step there.”
Franklin said he’s been open with Clifford and Levis and their families on his expectations.
“I’m not telling you guys (media) anything I haven’t already” shared with his QBs, Franklin said.
He also wants to get more offensive players involved and “more touches.” Clifford and Levis combined to carry 181 out of 402 team rushes in addition to 307 passing attempts.
Yurcich’s hiring is part of that. Franklin said an emphasis will be placed on limiting turnovers, scoring 40 points per game and an offense that thrives on explosive plays, which were missing in the 0-5 start before the Nits closed with four straight wins.
He plans “closer to the offense we were running in the past three-four years – spread, tempo, explosive plays. This gets us back to the philosophy of where we want to be.”
Franklin said the separation conversation with Ciarrocca “was tough” but Ciarrocca took it professionally.
“He handled it extremely well,” Franklin said, calling Ciarrocca “a class act.”
SUBHD: Family update
Franklin gave his family “a cool surprise,” arriving at their Florida home on Christmas Eve and staying two weeks.
Franklin’s wife and two children have been living in Florida since the pandemic because his youngest daughter, Addison, has sickle cell and is at heightened risk.
He said his family gets its groceries delivered, the children go to school online and haven’t left the property in eight months.
He said he hopes they can return to Central PA soon, even if it means he’ll stay in quarters above his garage.
Plans are taking shape for spring practice, but Franklin is not sure whether it will get the go-ahead from the Big Ten or NCAA. A date for the Blue-White game has not been set.