James Franklin’s usual excitement and energy level came through during his press conference at Big Ten media days in Indianapolis on Thursday. And he made it clear that Penn State is ready to put last year’s struggles behind it while looking for a big bounce-back season.
“There’s a lot of excitement in our program,” Franklin said during his media session on BTN. “Our leadership has been tremendous.”
“We’re hungry. I would say, obviously, we’ve got a chip on our shoulder. We’ve had a lot of success at Penn State and excited to get back to that.”
The Nittany Lions started 0-5 last season — the first preseason AP top 10 team ever to do that — before bouncing back with four wins to end the year.
Franklin said there was one thing he learned having gone through the struggles while dealing with COVID protocols.
“What it did for me is it reinforced some things that I realized and I already knew,” the coach said.
“I’m a relational leader. I always have been. I want to connect with people. I want to be face to face. … That’s who I am. And having every meeting up til game five on Zoom … and people can’t see the emotional connection and love that I have for them had an effect.”
The Lions were “able to get back to doing things that we were more accustomed to doing” from a relationship standpoint at the end of the season, and Franklin said that helped the team turn things around.
For Penn State to enjoy a big bounce back this season, Franklin knows there will be a gigantic challenge right off the bat with a game at Wisconsin in the opener.
“We have had a countdown clock going on in our facility like we do every single year,” Franklin said. “But I must admit, having Wisconsin’s logo up there has raised the standard for our guys, and they realize we’d better be ready to go.”
Franklin is very high on some of his positional groups, most notably linebacker, secondary and running back.
“We’re as talented, I think, as anybody in the country at the linebacker position and probably have the best secondary that we’ve had,” he said.
“I think we probbably have one of the most talented running back rooms in the country,” he added.