Skip to main content

Everything Penn State coach James Franklin said at his first summer news conference

Greg Pickelby:Greg Pickel06/14/24

GregPickel

James Franklin addresses Penn State White Out Game, Offense during Summer Update

Penn State coach James Franklin held his first news conference of the summer on Thursday. The now annual June media day starts with the leader of the Nittany Lions, moves on to the 10 on-field assistant coaches plus director of player personnel Andy Frank, and then, new to this year, featured head strength coach Chuck Losey and new-hired Director of Performance Science Andrew Nelson. Below, we cover everything Franklin had to say. And, you can watch it in the video player above.

The first question focused on the status of left tackle Drew Shelton. He missed all of spring practice due to a planned offseason surgery. But, he is now 100 percent cleared for all football activities.

“I think he handled his time out physically the right way,” Lions coach James Franklin said Thursday. “Been a really good coach and mentor to some of the younger players. We talked about it this morning. I think he’s fully cleared now. He was still pretty much doing everything. But, he had a few limitations like in the weight room. But, I think he’s fully cleared now. And I think he’s really in a good position.

“I think he probably needs to put on a few pounds like we’ve talked about, but besides that, he’s a super mature kid, very conscientious, very intelligent. And obviously, he’s played well when he’s been in there, all the way back to as a true freshman. So we’re expecting him to have a good year. But, this summer is going to be important for him, and training camp will be important for him, because he did obviously miss all of spring.”

More: Give Dad a gift he won’t forget by signing him up for 40 percent off an annual subscription to BWI!

Franklin was then asked about Shelton being viewed as a starter, considering how much he’s already played.

“I think any guy in the program that started multiple games, we look at like a starter,” Franklin said. “Now, obviously, that means they got in and played well enough to win. It’s not like somebody gets hurt, you go in, and you didn’t play well enough for us to win, and you were a starter that way. I’m talking about a guy that got in games and played well enough at this level for us to win Big Ten games. And he did that as a true freshman, which is difficult to do on the offensive line.

“I think he had that experience that he had last year where he was rotating in a ton, and now, obviously, coming into this year, healthy, experienced more mature, very, very football intelligent from a football IQ standpoint; I think he’s going to have a really good year for us. I think there’s a lot of confidence and there’s a lot of faith.

“But I also think J’Ven [Williams] has played well enough in practice that he should get time to. We’d like to be able to get him some legitimate reps, as long as things all sit the way they are now. It could become even more competitive during training camp and be more of a split. But J’Ven’s done enough that we need to get him some experience as well.”

Here’s everything else Franklin said Thursday.

On the Beaver Stadium renovation plan

“I think you guys have heard me talk for 10 years, and I was always a believer that Holuba, our practice field, and Lasch were the most important thing for our football program, the buildings that were in 365 days a year from a development standpoint for our players from a training perspective,” Franklin said.

“Once that was taken care of, than I think Beaver was the next thing. But to me Beaver’s more about the athletic department, and about the university, and about the community, and about the state , and specifically the other sports, really more than it is about football.

“We’ve had great environments there. I think people consider us one of the best environments in all college football. But, we weren’t going to be able to sustain that when we haven’t really updated the stadium in a long period of time. So here we are, and now it’s become a massive project. It’s going to allow football to continue to really support all those entities that we just talked about. And also the ability to increase revenue when you’re talking about the opportunity to have more concerts there.

“I think it’s going to have a big factor in terms of Playoff games, because we have some of the challenges with all the exposed pipes that we’ve already started kind of working on it. And then when you’re talking about, whether it’s Flyers-Penguins, just different activities that you can have there yearround, so it’s not a facility that only has the ability to bring revenue in seven days a year. So that’s important for the entire athletic department, especially where we see everything going.”

How can new Penn State offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki influence the running backs?

“First of all, he’s done a great job,” Franklin said. “Done a great job with the staff. Done a great job with the players, and scheme, and the morale. In my mind, you guys won’t see it this way, but in my mind, we have not changed a whole lot in terms of the things that we’ve done here in the past. So what I mean is, maybe some aspects of what you saw when we first got here. Maybe some aspects you saw with Joe Morehead, maybe some aspects you saw with Coach Yurcich, and so on and so forth.

“But I think we’re back to doing all of those things again, which I think are going to make us difficult to defend when you’re using multiple personnel groups, multiple sets, multiple tempos. And I think the running backs have a chance to reap the rewards of that in a lot of different ways, in terms of different ways to get the ball into their hands. Run game, pass game, screen game, whatever that may be. And then also, obviously, one of the biggest issues we had last year was explosive plays. I think the most explosive we were were in the last two games.

“So the more we can be explosive, specifically in the passing game, I think will also create opportunities for us to be more explosive in the running game. And also just in terms of running back touches. The other one that I’m adamant about that was challenging and problematic the last couple of years, was the emphasis of getting the ball into your best players hands. You got to be able to do that as a play caller and that was a big part of this interview process with Andy.”

On why the Lions have not named captains yet

“We did a vote [a couple of weeks ago], and a lot of times, we do that vote right before the summer starts because we would like to go in to the summer with some of that leadership,” Franklin said. “But, we only make the decision if there’s clear and obvious guys in terms of the vote. Like, if there was one guy dramatically on defense, one guy dramatically on offense that got enough votes, or on special teams to make that decision now, [we would]. And, it wasn’t.

[Not naming any captains yet] will give us an opportunity to continue to evaluate, give the players more time to earn that from their teammates and from the staff, and then we’ll vote obviously probably a couple of weeks in the camp like we traditionally have.”

How will the House vs. NCAA settlement affect Penn State football?

“So, as you can imagine, there is a ton to work through and figure out,” Franklin said. “That was a big part of the discussions at the Big Ten meetings in California with the commissioners, with the ADs, with all the head football coaches. And, although we got a pretty good idea of where this is going kind of big picture, how it’s going to play out on all these different campuses is going to be very different.

“Some schools won’t be able to meet the threshold. They just won’t have the revenue to be able to do it. I think we’ll be a program that will. But then, also, you’ll also have Title XI that factors into that as well. So, there’s a lot that goes into it. I don’t have enough information right now to answer your question intelligently and specifically enough because the details have not been worked out.”

On the high number of lettermen who are now on the Lions’ staff

“Whether it’s an actual full-time on-the-field coach, whether it’s someone in recruiting, whether it’s somebody in player development, having people within the building that have walked in their footsteps, institutional knowledge, community knowledge, football at Penn State what it’s like, and then some of those guys also have NFL experience, which gives them instant credibility,” Franklin said.

“I think it has been really valuable. “I think Alan Zemaitis is a great exampl. Ty Howel is a great example. Dan Connor is a great example. All three of them are in different kinds of areas, but have done a phenomenal job. And then I think, like anything else, when Alan Zemaitis comes here and does a phenomenal job, and then he vouches for somebody that he played with or knows, and we have a position open, then it makes a ton of sense to sit down with those people and see if they do make sense. And then some of them, we’ve identified over the last couple of years and were just waiting for the right time to get them in, or NCAA rules, those types of things.

“So it’s been awesome. And then I think you guys know we’ve worked really hard at closing that gap and continue to build those relationships with the players that played here before. Was a real challenge when we first got here. I think we’re at a really good place now. But you can always get better and I think they help with that too.”

On the season Harrison “Trey” Wallace III could have in 2024

“We thought he was going to have a big year last year and then got limited through no fault of his own. We feel that way, and probably more so this year,” Franklin said. “He’s a year older, a year more mature, he’s a year more developed. And, I think he’s very hungry. Because, I think there’s frustration from last year that it got cut short, and I think he felt the same way. He’s in a really good place. He’s had a great summer so far. He had a really good spring.

“We’re expecting him to have a big year for us. We need for him to have a big year for us. He’s super athletic, probably one of the most explosive guys we have in our program. And, I think you guys saw flashes of that at times. I think where some of the challenges were is just the chemistry with all the time he missed with the quarterbacks, taht was lacking. So having him back and getting all this work to summer and this spring has been really valuable.”

How are Drew Allar and the receivers making strides this summer?

“I just think we’re in a better place from an organizational standpoint in terms of the things that the coaches can do,” Franklin said. “Chuck Losey, what he can do in terms of planning, in the big picture, and sure if the throwing is part of that. That the coaches are doing a good job with with the NCAA rules that allow us to work with the guys that now includes a football. I think those things are important.

“And then obviously the players doing it on their own as well. I think that’s been really good. I guess the example of what I’m saying is the players may have a seven-on-seven scheduled, but maybe that wasn’t coordinated with the run that we had that day, and the run was brutal. And they don’t really want to do it in seven-on-seven after just running the way they did. So kinda of making sure all the pieces of the puzzle fit together so that all these areas can be developed and part of the plan. There’s ways to do that, whether it’s low red zone work, where you can limit the running, or top of the routes and things like that.

“So I think it’s been really good. Obviously, we still got a ton more work, but the feedback from the players as well as the staff has been really good. Drew was in my office [Thursday] morning having a conversation about some of those things.”

On hiring Penn State letterman Jordan Hill as the program’s new Director of Life Skills

“It’s probably a new title,” Franklin said. “It’s not a new position. We had we had a position come open. And he’s filling that position just with a different title. I think you guys know Jordan, a lot of you guys have been covering Penn State football for a long time, you guys know, Jordan is a total class act. As I’ve gotten to know him as a letterman, as I got to know him as a high school coach. As a former NFL player who won a Super Bowl with a chance to win two Super Bowls, a guy who wasn’t highly recruited, was a late take and had a really good career here.

“He’s just got a really, really good way about him. Everybody I’ve talked to since I arrived at Penn State just raves about the guy, and as I got to know him, I felt the same way. So we had an opportunity to get him in the building. Actually, we tried to do it a few years earlier. At the time, it didn’t make sense for his family. And this timed up better.”

On when the White Out will be and Franklin’s preferred White Out game if given the choice

“If I could tell you, I would. It’s not solely my answer, or even Pat [Kraft’s] answer,” Franklin said. “If we want to provide the opponent, the experience, the time of day that our fan base wants and expects, there’s a lot of pushing and pulling and compromising and working with the conference and working with the TV partners to try to find a win for everybody. So I don’t have that answer for you yet. I don’t even completely know. I got a pretty good idea of where I think it’s trending. But I don’t know that yet. And the worst thing I could do is say one thing to you guys, and then it changes. Or, even by saying it to you guys, it impacts the chance of that happening by pissing some people off. I don’t want to do that.

“So it’s still working. And then the challenge with that is, we get pressure across the campus as well. Because, all the other [game day] themes, we kind of got to wait for this one, and then all the other themes come from that. Those other themes impact a bunch of different departments and a bunch of different places on campus. So as you can imagine, you’re not the only group that wants to know. Fans want to know. The ticket office wants to know, and really across campus, everything from ROTC and everything down is impacted by these decisions. I wish I had an answer for you but I do not yet.”

More: Inside Lasch: Previewing Penn State’s official visit weekend, plus other prospects to keep an eye on

“I’m prorbably a lot like the fans, in terms o,f I want it all, right? Very few times in life do you get it all. So, you’d like the opponent and time of day for sure. But again, that’s challenging. The time of day thing is what’s really become more difficult because of when prime time games now are chosen. The old days, if you pick this opponent, you had a pretty good chance it was going to be at night. Now, based on the different TV networks it could be at 12 o’clock, seven o’clock, 3:30, you don’t know based on what they think is going to draw the most eyes. So, I’m like the fans I’d like at all. But don’t know that yet.”

On his excitement level for playing new teams in the Big Ten

“It’s exciting,” Franklin said. “I think for me, though, I’m trying to, I think a big part of my job is to limit distractions for the staff and for the players. And I think that’s why to your guys’ frustration, sometimes, it’s just one game at a time, 1-0 mentality.

“Because, I’ve spent a ton of time now talking about like, the House settlement, talking about revenue sharing, and all these things which are important big picture. But at the end of the day, we got to make sure we can play man coverage, make sure we can run inside zone, and that we can cover a kick. And at the end of the day, we got to keep the main thing the main thing, which is developing these young men and putting them in the best position to be successful for them, for our fans, for the lettermen, for everybody for the community, to give us a chance to beat West Virginia.”

More: How is Abdul Carter doing in his transition to defensive end? We asked his coach

“Is it going to be cool to play some of these opponents we haven’t played before? Yes. Is it also going to be challenging? Yes. Do we also have to deal with travel that other conferences that we’re competing against don’t have to? Yes. And all of our decisions that we’re making long term should factor that in. People are talking about roster size right now. Well, our roster size needs to take into consideration that we’re going to be traveling across the country, when other conferences may not be doing that. Our conference plays nine conference games, other conferences don’t do that.

“All these things have an impact. And we got to make sure all of our decisions are are looking at all those factors. But again, for me, I have my opinions that I give to Pat Kraft and we give to the commissioner [of the Big Ten]. We have very healthy and robust meetings in California. But at the end of the day, inside zone, outside zone, man coverage, zone coverage, cover kicks, return kicks, fundamentals techniques, West Virginia, West Virginia, West Virginia, West Virginia, West Virginia, West Virginia, West Virginia, on the road. Which that’s going to be a heck of an environment.”

You may also like