Penn State head coach James Franklin met with reporters following practice Thursday afternoon in bucolic Happy Valley. With Mt. Nittany in the distance, he took questions about his Nittany Lions as they prepare for the start of the season in just 16 days against Central Florida.
Check out the complete video of his informal press conference, right here:
Yeah, but this is typical camp. I feel pretty good, the staff feels pretty good. The weather has been unbelievable. I wish it was a little bit hotter to be honest with you, but it's been great. We've got great energy at practice. Guys are flying around. We've gotten better. I've dramatically seen us get better, especially on special teams. I think our punters, from the beginning of camp to the end have improved, and that's going to be big for us. I like where we're at right now.
They're working exptremely hard. They're working together well. They're a very prideful group. I make the argument, everwhere I've ever been the offensive linemen are always great guys. They're the best guys. They get very little attention unless things go wrong. Herb does a really good job of bonding with those guys, not only with him but getting the whole group to bond together and to communicate as one and play as one. Because that's what it's all about. You can be wrong on the O-Line, but everybody has to be wrong together. Everybody's gotta be on the same page and you've still got a chance to be successful. I think they're doing some nice things. We've gotta stay healthy and we've gotta continue to get better and develop some of the young guys.
It really came down to, he came to camp and he's 215 pounds, he ran 4.4, and by the time spring ball comes he's going to be 225 pounds. His dad was a 235 pound tailback at Hawaii. I just think genetics and training table, he's just going to grow into it, and as you guys know, we have some depth concerns at the linebacker position and that gives us another guy that's got the size that we're looking for and has the movement, and that's what's so valuable is you can see right now, in our scheme, we play with three safeties on the field almost all the time, so those guys are valuable. Big, strong, athletic guys that can make plays in space.
Freshman speed on the field:
At this point, I think you're accurate. I think at this point the freshman for the most part are still thinking. You see their speed in individual, but it doesn't always show up the way you'd like it to show up during the periods and that's because they're thinking so much. They're not only thinking about their assignment on defense or on offense, but they're also thinking about how they've gotta react to whatever the teams are going against on defense or on offense. Different coverages, different looks, different formations. So, that's what we've gotta do here in the next 16 days. We've gotta get those guys playing fast.un
They're just so much more confident in what we're asking them to do, and they're consistent. I mean, I think that's the biggest thing across the board at any position, but especially on special teams is being consistent. So, I'd rather you punt it 38 yards every single time than punt it one time 56 yards and another time 26 yards. It's the consistency, and they've done a much better job with that. The location of the ball is something that we've talked about with those guys and I see their confidence growing just like Ficken I saw his confidence grow in the spring and all summer, I'm seeing that right now with our punters.
I'm not really sure. There hasn't been anything that's really jumped out to me from a surprise standpoint. I think we've got some really good football players. I think we do. I think the staff has been together now for four years is really valuable and I see that showing up in a lot of different areas, how we plan, how we prepare, how we come out here and are more effective. I think a lot of times with my personality more I think is always better and that's not necessarily the case. We're being smart and cutting some things back. Tim Bream our trainer has done a great job giving us feedback from that perspective and then so is Dwight Galt as well. I don't know if there's been anything that surprised me, but I think overall I'm pretty pleased with what we've been able to do.
We haven't started anything with Central Florida yet. We will here soon we'll flip the switch when we go to scout teams and those types of things. But yeah, we have a whole plan.
Adam Breneman/Mike Gesicki:
You don't want to lose anybody, but that's the position we probably have the most depth and I think Gesicki's done a nice thing. We all know he's really athletic, and part of his issue though is that he's never put his hand in the ground ever. That's like Chance Sorrell for example, he's playing offensive tackle and when we recruited him, he was listed as a tight end. He played wideout in high school. He was a 6-foot-6, 250 pound flexed out tight end. I don't know if I would call that a tight end. So we got a lot of guys that come here and we're asking them to do things that they've never done before. I think running and catching, things that deal with space and athleticism, he's done a great job with, but we've gotta continue getting him more confident when it comes to blocking. As you guys saw we reported earlier in the summer, he benched 385 pounds for a long, lean kid, so he's got the tools that you're looking for to be an effective blocker.
Coaching a really young team:
I don't think about that a whole lot. Somebody sent me a stat the other day that we have the second youngest team in America. I don't know, I can't change it so spending a whole lot of time on it, we just coach the guys that are hear and we coach them hard and we love them hard and we fly around and have fun and develop them, and we do the same thing with the seniors and the same thing with the freshmen. I probably spend more time with the freshmen. We have brunch on Sundays together, I bring them in at night, we're finishing up class right now because these guys are daeling with a lot of things. They come in right away, they've gotta adjust academically, they've gotta adjust athletically, they've gotta adjust socially, they've gotta adjust spiritually. The whole package. So I'm spending a little bit more time with them because one of the things that's important to me is that freshman picture you saw that we took the other day, I want to see that same picture four to five years from now with those guys walking across the stage and playing some good football for us. One of the things that's been great is, each night we bring different speakers in. President Barron came in and spoke the other night and did a great job, we had the women's center come in and speak to us as well, we're going to have campus police... Each night we have a different message come from outside to come and talk to the team and there have been some really good messages and I think that's really important for our young players like the freshmen from a development standpoint so they can get adjusted to Penn State and the community.
Really good. I've been obviously very pleased with Hack. I think his improvement from the spring and his confidence and his command of the offense, I think across the board is much better. The No. 2 battle is interesting. McSorley, all the things that we thought about him when we recruited him, he's a winner, he's smart, he's picked it up really well, he doesn't panic. That's what you see a lot of times these young kids when you put them in there and you don't see that. So, I think Mike O'Connor has had a great summer. Dwight Galt said he might have had the best summer of anybody on the team. But McSorley is right there, and that's what we want. We want to create competition at every position, especially the quarterback position.
He's got a semester ahead of maybe some of the other young guys, so he's got great movement and he's got great body control. He's like a lot of the young players, he's gotta be more consistent. There's a lot of guys across this country that can make great plays, but can they be consistent? Can they be consistent in how they work and their focus and things like that? As a redshirt freshman who really didn't play a whole lot, he basically conditioned and lifted because he was limited with an injury, this is all still brand new for him to be honest with you.
Hackenberg pitch count:
Yes he is, but I think part of that is we handle that through recruiting and development. So my point is the fact that we have five quarterbacks, it kind of takes care of itself. It's not just reps in team and skelly, it's individual as well. But we're definitely aware of that and keep track of that, but again, having Fessler and having Crook and having O'Connor and having McSorley, that really helps with that. We'd always like to have five quarterbacks on the roster.
I've been very pleased with our defense as a whole this spring, this summer and really this camp. I think if you look across the board at the guys that we have on the field, really all 11 starters and really some really good depth as well at other positions, I think our defense has a chance to play really well, play fast, and play with confidence. I think the strength of our D-line, I'm depending on those guys to help the secondary as well because hopefully the quarterback is not going to be able to hold onto the ball very long, and also just the way we call the game, being aggressive.
Built to win in the Big Ten:
I'm worried about Central Florida. I'm excited about that game and going there. I think it's a really good team. I think if you look at that roster, they've got almost everybody back. Everybody says well they lost their tailback, but their second team tailback made second team all conference. I think it's going to be a tremendous challenge. It's a veteran team, it's a veteran coach, plus they're going to show up there and not only are they going to have their team and their fans, but then George and all of his cousins are going to be at the game as well, so they've got that going for them as well.