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Penn State Football

Notes from James Franklin’s Outback Bowl Media Day Press Conference


As expected, Penn State assistant defensive coordinator/safeties coach Anthony Poindexter will be running the defense during the Outback Bowl.

Franklin said new defensive coordinator Manny Diaz will use the rest of the season mainly to get comfortable with his surroundings.

“Manny’s really here getting adjusted,” Franklin said. “Obviously, all the HR paperwork that has to be done at a place like Penn State—getting him familiar with the roster, getting him familiar with the coaching staff—just getting adjusted. Recruiting, all those types of things. So, he’s basically here just kind of getting adjusted to Penn State. It wouldn’t be fair to him or the staff to jump right in.”

In the Peach Bowl alone, two of the top six finishers in this year’s Heisman Trophy voting– Pitt’s Kenny Pickett and Michigan State’s Kenneth Walker– decided to forgo the game and focus on the NFL Draft. In the Outback Bowl, Arkansas receiver Treylon Burks is skipping the game, and Penn State wideout Jahan Dotson’s status is still uncertain.

Since LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Stanford’s Christian McCaffery raised eyebrows by skipping their bowl games after the 2015 season, it’s become more and more of a trend in college football.


The more top players skip postseason play, the less interest there will be in games going forward. For Franklin, a solution to this is to expand the college football playoff.

“In my mind, you make it as big as possible. Once we expand the playoffs, in my opinion, we’re going to continue to de-emphasize those other bowl games. To me, if we’re going to expand the playoffs, we should expand it as big as we possibly can.”

“To allow more teams the opportunity to play for the title, but also to protect those bowl games by including them in that process as much as possible… “Every time I turn on my phone, there’s somebody opting out from what we would all consider, people who have been watching college football and loving college football for a long time, significant bowl games where players aren’t playing in them.”


Some aspects of social media are good, but some are bad. Franklin touched on some of the negative aspects and how his team needs to not be distracted by them.

“You look at social media, and there’s all types of information being sent out there about what’s important and what’s not,” Franklin said. “There’s mixed messages across our society in a lot of different things right now. Some people call it rat poison. So we’re trying to elimante as much distraction as we possibly can, but also be realistic about what’s going on and try to do everything we possibly can to put our players and our program in the best position to be successful, and also make sure they have the best experience they can have.


Franklin mentioned two things about Manny Diaz’s experience as defensive coordinator: the tackles for losses and turnovers that Diaz’s defenses have racked up.

He also talked about positive reviews given by Diaz’s peers as helpful in picking him to be Brent Pry’s replacement.

“He has some really good data out there based on his time as a defensive coordinator,” Franklin said.

“You look at the data, and you also watch the film, and then you also talk to people that you respect that went against him during those times as well. Not only did I get that before, but then also got that after. It’s amazing how many people reached out to me after the hire about why they felt like it was a good hire.”


James Franklin was recently watching film of the 2020 Cotton Bowl.

Penn State beat Memphis, 53-39, to finish the 2019 season 11-2. Journey Brown rushed for 202 yards on 16 carries and scored two touchdowns.

It was Penn State’s last bowl game, and as it turned out, it would be the last football game running back Brown would ever play in.

Then a redshirt sophomore, Brown had to retire from football in 2020 due to a heart condition.

Today, Brown is still involved with the program. He walked out for Senior Day with former teammates, and Franklin says his future has yet to be decided.

“To think about what he’s been able to do academically, the number of calls I’ve gotten from influential Penn State people that want to help him, and really Journey and how he’s handled this,” Franklin said. “He’s really handled some really tough news in a pretty impressive way.”

“Whether it’s going to be in football, whether it’s going to be in some type of community aspect, running a community center and making an impact in kids’ lives. Working on a college campus in a football department, but maybe in player development. Whether it’s community service and things like that, whether it’s going into his own business. I think Journey’s still trying to figure out what that next phase is.”


Franklin said that the Outback Bowl would give younger Lions a chance to step up.

One of those players is sophomore wide receiver KeAndre Lambert Smith.

Smith has 447 yards and two touchdowns on 31 catches and will play an especially important role if Jahan Dotson is to forgo the Outback Bowl and focus on the draft.

“He’s shown flashes, and I know he’s ready to take that next step,” Franklin said. “We need him to take that next step, so I think he’s a good example.


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