James Franklin is still seeing effort from Nittany Lions
The following are the highlights of James Franklin’s Tuesday press conference.
The Nittany Lions are treading uncharted waters at 0-5 for the first time in program history. Penn State is the first team to begin a year with five straight losses after being ranked in the Top 10 of The Associated Press preseason poll since it began in 1950.
Penn State at times has been flat out non-competitive. So the question looms — Has Franklin lost the locker room?
He doesn’t think so.
“I look at how we have played late in games,” Franklin said. “We have given ourselves a chance to win some games in the second half by how we have battled and competed. I look at how we’ve been practicing, and I look at us late in games, and obviously, there is frustration and disappointment, but I see how our guys are in the locker room after the game and how our guys competed late in games.”
RIGHTING THE SHIP
Franklin did not elaborate on if Sean Clifford or Will Levis would be the starting quarterback on Saturday, stating that the Nittany Lions “need both of them.” Franklin did acknowledge that offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca is putting in work in order to find a solution at the position going forward.
“I do know that I get here early in the morning and Kirk is usually in here before me,” Franklin said. “He’s a vet and he is working his tail off to get it fixed and to make it better. When it comes to Will and Sean, we are going to need them both.”
After a deflating performance on Saturday against Iowa in which both quarterbacks turned it over twice, Franklin didn’t sugarcoat the problems offensively.
“I think that the reality is that turnovers have been one of our issues and probably one of our biggest issues and we’ve had that with both (Clifford and Levis). We need to protect the football but we need both of those guys.”
While Penn State was obviously not included in this season’s first round of College Football Playoff rankings released Tuesday, Franklin has talked quite a bit this season about how the playoff system has changed things drastically in how fans and teams alike approach each week, making any loss more devastating.
“I think that is a little bit of the nature of college football now with programs like Penn State in terms of the playoff,” Franklin said. “You lose a game and there’s a portion of the fan base that feels like you are out of the playoffs. So it’s a different game now than it was 10 years ago because of the playoff system.”
Franklin said that he is a fan of the playoff system but believes that changes are in order.
“I do think that playoff expansion, which has been discussed for a while, is important so that every major college conference would get an automatic bid,” Franklin said. “I think that is important and it also allows someone from a non-Power-5 to get in as well. This was discussed a lot with the playoff system and what that would do to the bowls, and it’s had an impact. I think in theory I am supportive of it, but I don’t think it’s perfect.”
One of the brightest spots on offense has been the continued development of wide receiver Jahan Dotson.
Dotson once again put together big numbers, snagging eight passes for 139 yards, including a 68-yard touchdown catch late in the third quarter against Iowa. The junior leads the Nittany Lions with 31 catches for 527 yards and six touchdowns.
“Jahan has done a nice job. He’s been productive in games and his growth and maturity as a player and as a teammate has been gradual ever since he has arrived on campus,” Franklin said. He has a really steady approach, he doesn’t really get too high, he doesn’t really get too low.”
He’s grown as a respected voice inside the locker room as well.
“I’ve also seen him be more verbal which isn’t something he had done a whole lot of before that,” Franklin said. “I’m really proud of Jahan. The exciting thing is I still there is a lot of room for improvement for him in terms of development. I think that he is a really good example for the younger players in his approach and his discipline in how he’s gone about his career at Penn State.”
While the Penn State men’s basketball team that had adopted the climbing mantra in recent seasons, it could be Franklin and the football program that needs to climb out of the massive hole it has put itself in with its subpar performance this season, given the expectations of the Nittany Lions entering 2020.
What that may look like at this point is anyone’s guess, but Franklin admitted that it’s something that the program will have to face moving forward.
“When you have challenges like this, it creates work and things that you will have to work through,” Franklin said. “Coming into this season before all of the dynamics changed, I think that everyone would agree that things were going pretty well. We have a challenge right now and we have adversity. Life is about handling adversity and sports is about handling adversity and that’s what we are going to have to do. We need to find a way to get better today and find a way to get back on track.”