Penn State Football: James Franklin Illinois Week Press Conference Recap


Now that the Penn State Nittany Lions are bowl eligible, there has to be some pressure taken off of the team and head coach James Franklin and his staff. Franklin talked to the media on Tuesday inside of Beaver Stadium and discussed the Nittany Lions’ victory last week over the Temple Owls. He also looked ahead to this week’s matchup with the Illinois Fighting Illini.

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Franklin was sure to deflect any talk of bowl games, and made it clear that while the thought that the team is guaranteed a postseason game, the team isn’t focused on where they are going to end up in a few weeks.

"“We’re focused on playing Illinois this week at the end of the year. If people tell us we have an opportunity to go somewhere, we’ll be excited about going there. But we’re focused on Illinois, and that’s how you make sure that you’re able to come out and play as consistent as you possibly can week in and week out, by taking it one game at a time.”"

The head coach also announced Akeel Lynch, Austin Johnson and Grant Haley as the team’s Players of the Week.

Below are some of the highlights of Franklin’s weekly talk with the media.

Now that your team is bowl eligible, are you concerned at all that the players will have a letdown?

JF: Illinois, Illinois, Illinois, Illinois, Illinois. We’re excited that last week is over. We talked about those things a little bit once the game ended. But we’re focused on playing Illinois this week. At the end of the year, if people tell us we have an opportunity to go somewhere, we’ll be excited about going there. But we’re focused on Illinois, and that’s how you make sure that you’re able to come out and play as consistent as you possibly can week‑in and week‑out, by taking it one game at a time.

 I know you’ve got to ask the question, and I appreciate you asking the question, but our message is going to be consistent: We’re focused on Illinois now.

I wanted to ask you about the interior of your offensive line. I know you got asked a lot about Donovan Smith and his return. It seems like Wendy Laurent is playing more in recent weeks. What have you seen from him and also the other guys inside?

JF: Well, I actually think Donovan’s impact has a bigger impact than just him playing left tackle and being physical and those types of things, having an experienced player. It allows us to get some guys back to maybe their more natural position, and it also allows us hopefully now to get five guys and leave them at those positions, and try to work with some consistency and building that chemistry and communication within each other. We’ve been working on that all year long, but it’s been a revolving door.

So, getting Donovan back allows you to get those guys back at maybe their more natural positions and have a little more consistency there.

How about Akeel Lynch? What is maybe the biggest thing that he’s improved, in your eyes, in maybe the past month or so?

JF: To be honest with you, like I’ve said before, I don’t really think it’s Akeel Lynch. I think he’s done some nice things, don’t get me wrong and I’m pleased with him, but I think the offense goes the way the O‑line goes. I think the defense goes the way the D‑line goes.

So I’m happy with Akeel, and I think Akeel has done some nice things. But, we didn’t go from Bill (Belton) almost having 100 yards (92) and Akeel having over 100 (130) yards in a game because they’re doing something different or that Coach Galt got them in the weight room and they’re stronger and faster than they were four weeks ago. It’s the development and the confidence of the offensive line and getting some of those veteran guys back.

Looking at a lot of the things that you’ve talked about all year as sort of being complementary to the passing game, and obviously the running game and offensive line and being on schedule and having 2nd and 6 instead of 2nd and 11 or whatever. A lot of that stuff was the best it’s been all year last week. And the passing game probably was not. Why do you think that is?

JF: Well, it’s not like those other things go away and everything just falls into place after not being as consistent as you wanted to be the weeks before. When those other things fall into place, it’s not like everything falls into place at that point moving forward. There are still some things that we’ve got to get cleaned up in terms of footwork, in terms of consistency and route running, a lot of different things. A lot of different things.

 You’re right, there is no doubt about it. We were better on Saturday, but there are still some things that we have to get cleaned up.

You sat Bill Belton for a little while after the fumble. I’m just curious your philosophy on the quarterback. If the quarterback has had some turnovers or is playing inconsistent, what is your philosophy on whether or not to take him out of the game for a series or two? Because you had not done that this year with Christian.

JF: Yeah, we rotate running backs. It just happened when he fumbled the ball that was the end of the series, so it was Akeel’s (Lynch) turn to go in after that. Nothing more than that. Christian Hackenberg is our quarterback, and we love him.