Penn State Football: James Franklin Michigan State Week Press Conference Recap


There’s no denying the disappointment of Penn State’s loss to Illinois last week. The Nittany Lions had put two wins together after losing four in a row, but were unable to get it done against the Illini. Head coach James Franklin took his normal post in front of the media on Tuesday to discuss the upset loss to Illinois and the upcoming season finale battle with Michigan State.

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Of course, the coach was eager to forget last week and move onto the next game. He discussed the role of the seniors on the team who chose to stick around in the face of adversity.

"“It’s significant. I think everybody in our program, all the players kind of look up to them, which is typically the case in most programs. But I think it’s magnified, obviously, from what they’ve been through.”"

The head coach wasted no time focusing on the game and talking about how difficult the matchup with the Spartans will be.

Below are some of the highlights of Franklin’s weekly talk with the media. A transcript of the press conference can be found at

James, you mentioned a couple of times the missed tackles in the Illinois game. I was wondering, how much did you think the team missed Brandon Bell out there? Can you just kind of assess his impact on the defense this year?

JF: Well, first of all, I thought Jason (Cabinda) for a true freshman has played well all year long, and I thought he played well on Saturday. But not having Brandon Bell, I think changes things. I don’t think there is any doubt he’s a starter for a reason for us. I think that did have an impact on us. Same thing, you could make the same thing with (Ryan) Keiser, although I think Marcus (Allen) is playing well as well.

When you lose starters, it has an impact. So I thought Jason stepped up and did a great job. I think he learned from it. I feel like we can win with him, but I don’t think there is any doubt losing Brandon Bell has an impact on us.

We’re in a situation probably to go a little bit further with that, as you guys know. Whenever we lose anybody, it’s significant, and maybe more significant than maybe some other places.

What will you remember most about this senior class, and what will it mean to you to have Ryan Keiser there on Saturday?

JF:   I think a couple things. I think, obviously, with this being my first year and not being here over the last three or four years with these guys makes it a little bit different. But I think being here and now kind of understanding and more in depth, the history and traditions at Penn State, I think what we’ve been through the last three years and what these guys have meant, how they’ve stuck with this university and the football program and the community as well have been tremendous leaders, have been tremendous ambassadors both on and off the field and in the classroom. It’s significant. I think everybody in our program, all the players kind of look up to them, which is typically the case in most programs. But I think it’s magnified, obviously, from what they’ve been through.

Mike Hull is a great example of that. Hard working, blue collar, humble, appreciative of everything that he stands for and everything this program is about as well. I’m just really, really proud of those guys, and I want to send them out the right way. I want them to have a great experience. That would be this game, and it would be going forward as well. So very, very proud of those guys.

Could you assess the last month for Christian Hackenberg, how he’s played and how he’s handled the way he’s played?

JF: Yeah, I think, obviously, Christian has got really high standards and expectations for himself and who he wants to be and how he wants to play. I think there is frustration there with a lot of different things. But I think, again, considering he’s a true sophomore and he’s 19 years old, I think he’s handled it pretty well. He was one of the guys in my office Saturday night, as one of the captains talking about these things.

I had a bunch of individual meetings with guys on Sunday as well about things that I think we could do better or be doing differently. So I think Hack’s been good. I think considering everything that’s happened and how it’s all played out, I think he’s been good. I think he’s getting better every single day. There are some things that we need to continue to work on. Footwork, fundamentals, technique, things like that which are going to be helpful. But I think the other thing is continuing to develop the guys around him, which I’ve talked about before. It’s all of those things. It’s not one factor. It’s all of those things.

I think more than anything Hack’s really, really competitive. He’s really passionate about what he does and how he does it and has really high standards and expectations. There is nobody harder on Hack than Hack. I think that’s something that I know we have to be aware of as a staff.

It seems that more of Christian’s struggles have come when he’s been moving maybe off the run. He’s made some good throws from the pocket. Now that the offensive line is healthier and protecting him, would you like to keep him in the pocket a little bit more?

JF: Well, it’s a combination of things. That was one of the big reasons why we were so aggressive in trying to run the ball on Saturday. Our plan was let’s run the ball, let’s play good defense, let’s play good special teams and find a way to get this win. Mix in the pass when we felt like we needed to.

I felt being in the pocket is his strength. But the pocket has not been a strength of our offense. So moving the pocket and calling movement passes or nakeds and things like that is a way to protect him.

So do I think he’s probably better standing in the pocket and going through his progressions? Yes. But that isn’t necessarily who we’ve been able to be as an offense this year.