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Franklin peppered with questions on his future

Following are the highlights of James Franklin’s Tuesday press conference:

Saturday’s game: at Ohio State, 7:30 p.m. ABC

Records: Penn State (5-2 overall, 2-2 in Big Ten), Ohio State (6-1, 4-0)

Main storyline

Franklin has been the subject of persistent rumors that have linked him to openings at LSU and USC.

There were several related inquiries, including a direct question by Audrey Snyder of The Athletic asking if he’s committed to coaching the Penn State football team beyond this season.

His response was yes.

“My focus is completely on Illinois and this team and this program,” he said. “I think I’ve shown over my eight years my commitment to this university and this community. And that’s kind of my statement.”

It was actually the second time in the press conference he referred to this week’s opponent as Illinois, but he also mentioned the respect he has for Ryan Day and Ohio State so while the nine-overtime loss to Illinois on Saturday is still in his craw, he does know who the Nits play this week.

Franklin said the speculative rumors have “not been a discussion with the staff or the players.”

Franklin also tried to clarify a report Monday night that he has hired a new agent, replacing Trace Armstrong with Jimmy Sexton.

He specified though it’s just now being reported, “It happened over the summer.”

Meanwhile, onto the field

Franklin said he expects a healthy Sean Clifford against Ohio State.

He said Clifford, who was injured Oct. 9 at Iowa and had limited mobility last week in the loss to Illinois, though he played, “is much further ahead now to being back to 100%.”

He said “with Sean’s situation, we’re still going to need” backups Ta’Quan Roberson and Christian Veilleux “but we expect to have a 100% Sean” Saturday.

Run game woes

Franklin admitted to having “lengthy discussions” with offensive line coach Phil Trautwein concerning the Lions’ lack of a running game.

Penn State managed a mere 62 yards on 29 carries against Illinois, which put even more pressure on Clifford.

“We’ve got to get more physical up front with the O-line and the tight ends,” he said. “We have to create more push, and our running backs have to be decisive. Obviously, it’s an area we have to get better.”

Loss after the loss

Franklin’s teams at PSU are 3-5 after they’ve taken their first loss.

Though he tries to preach a 1-0 mentality, tweeting “1-0, 1-0, 1-0 …” every Sunday night, he said, “We talk about resiliency. That’s where the 1-0 mantra can be magnified,” adding the schedule plays a role.

He said the team has responded well to the current two-game losing streak, with many players in the building Monday, their day off, lifting weights and watching film.

He also said penalties are an area “we need to get better.” The Lions have been flagged 17 times in the last two games.

He traced the Illini’s 357 rushing yards to “using a formation we hadn’t seen on tape and they added some wrinkles,” but he also said, “At the end of the day, we held them to 10 points, which should have been enough to win.”

Tall order

Franklin is 1-6 against the Buckeyes, who are riding a five-game win streak and have hit their stride offensively, scoring 50-plus in four-straight games.

“I have tremendous respect for everything they’ve been able to do there,” Franklin said. “They are as explosive as any team in the country right now. It will be a tremendous challenge going to the Big House (he meant the Horseshoe).”

Compiled by Neil Rudel of the Altoona Mirror. He can be reached at nrudel@altoonamirror.com.

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