Franklin not passing the blame
Following are the highlights of James Franklin’s Tuesday press conference:
Saturday’s game: at Nebraska, Noon (FS1)
A clearly frustrated James Franklin refused to point the blame in any one area but consistently expressed that the Nittany Lions need to play better as a whole, explicitly citing a need to win the turnover battle and create more explosive plays than their opponent, something that the team struggled to do against Maryland.
“Ultimately we are responsible for what we put out there on the field and everything that comes with that,” Franklin said. “It’s not one thing. It’s all of those things. If it was one thing and I could put my finger on it, it would be an easy solution and you wouldn’t see this pop up in college football across the country or in the NFL if they were easy solutions. It’s complicated and it’s layered.”
A recurring theme of was Franklin’s mention of questions he fielded being “fair questions.”
Franklin continuously mentioned that he will “lead with love” and will not “point the blame” and he walks a “fine line” in answering questions honestly without being divisive for his team.
“You can’t come in and pat the program on the back when you’re successful and not discuss it when times are challenging,” Franklin said of the team’s culture. “I know that our approach hasn’t changed. I’m going to lead with love through the good times and the bad times. I’m being tested right now and we’re being tested. Leadership 101 is consistency.”
SPARKING THE RUN
One of the more glaring areas that needs improvement is Penn State’s continued lack of a consistent running game outside of quarterback Sean Clifford.
While Franklin didn’t specify a need to limit the quarterback’s carries, he believes the numbers are a byproduct of the amount of times that Clifford has been pressured.
“I think that the number is a little bit skewed because a lot of those runs are scrambles or pressures so it has worked out like that, but at the end of the day, the numbers are the numbers,” Franklin said. “I think with Kirk (Ciarrocca) it starts with the run game. Once you get the run game going, then the RPO and the play-action pass all come off of that, and that’s where you create the explosive plays and get into manageable third-down situations.”
Franklin reiterated that he did not make excuses, but losing Journey Brown and Noah Cain continues to be a factor.
“We have to be more physical at the point of attack. We’ve got to break more tackles,” Franklin said. “The funny thing is, those two things are complementary. If you get more push, you will create more big runs. A running back that breaks three or four tackles and creates an explosive play or a touchdown, that also motivates the offensive line. It’s a complementary deal there.”
PLANS FOR LEVIS
After a rough outing for Clifford in which he completed 27-of-57 passes (47.4 percent), including a pair of interceptions and had a fumble that led to a Maryland touchdown, Franklin doubled down on his confidence as the starting QB.
“I feel like Sean has earned that,” he said. “He is our starter and I am not a guy that yanks guys and has quarterbacks looking over their shoulder. I think that is something that has served us and has served me well in the past 10 years. Having played the position, I don’t think that breeds confidence. When (backup) Will (Levis) is the guy, he is going to want the same treatment that Sean has earned.”
Franklin did express a need to get Levis involved.
“I do think mixing Will in, having used him in some packages (in the past) has taken some hits off of Sean,” Franklin said. “Mixing him in to protect Sean and keep him healthy while also giving Will some experience, I think that’s the right thing to do. We could have mixed that in last week as well. We probably need to be doing that every game and moving forward.”
Franklin opened up about how not having his family with him through the season has been challenging. Franklin’s wife, Fumi, and two daughters are living at the family’s home in Florida.
Franklin’s youngest daughter, Addison, has sickle cell anemia, and Franklin said his family will most likely be away until a vaccine for COVID-19 is established.
“I have not done a great job of managing my family being gone,” he said. “They are my fuel. I go home, they are able to pour into me and I have not done a great job of that. At the end of the day, I have to. I have to manage those things. I have to come to work.”
Overall, Franklin spoke about the lessons that can be learned amidst an 0-3 start.
“I clearly understand the wins and losses, but I also understand that we are using the game of football to teach life lessons,” Franklin said. “You learn a lot more — I hate to say this — but you learn a lot more about yourself during adversity. You learn a lot more about your team and individuals through adversity.”
(Compiled by William Whisler of the Lewistown Sentinel. Whisler can be reached at email@example.com.)