For the first time in more than two years, Penn State coach James Franklin got to talk with reporters in Beaver Stadium’s media room.
Franklin spoke to reporters in person after all seven of the Nittany Lions’ home games last season but held them on the field as opposed to in the media room.
Franklin addressed the media Monday ahead of Penn State’s first spring practices, and here are some notes from what he had to say.
YEAR TWO OF YURCICH
Mike Yurcich’s first season as Penn State’s offensive coordinator didn’t go the way he, Franklin or anybody in Happy Valley wanted it to go.
The Nittany Lions finished 2021 10th in the Big Ten in scoring, behind Nebraska, who finished 3-9.
“I think Mike would be the first one to tell you that he had greater and higher expectations than the way things played out,” Franklin said.
With Yurcich no longer a rookie in Franklin’s staff and Sean Clifford back for his sixth year and fourth as starting quarterback, Franklin is confident that a better understanding between QB and offensive coordinator can lead to more points.
“Sean has done some really good things over his career here,” Franklin said. “His ability to have the same offensive coordinator two years in a row, same scheme. Obviously, we tweak some things every offseason and make some adjustments when necessary, but I think he can have a big impact. Not just in terms of his understanding of offense, but really their relationship. Him understanding how Mike works, how Mike operates, and vice versa.”
Plenty of Penn State’s new players in 2022 have fans excited.
Drew Allar, Nick Singleton and Kaden Saunders are three players in Franklin’s celebrated recruiting class that people are excited to see.
As promising as those freshmen are, however, they are still freshmen and whether they’ll make an impact in year one remains to be seen.
Mitchell Tinsley, however, is hardly new to college football, and he figures to play a significant role in Yurcich’s offense right away.
Tinsley has 130 college receptions and 18 touchdowns under his belt and is coming off a 1,402 yard, 14 touchdown season at Western Kentucky. He transferred to Penn State in December, and although Franklin and his staff haven’t seen much of what Tinsley can do from a football standpoint in person, the head coach sees a lot of promise in his new receiver.
“Mitch is just so mature, and he’s so experienced,” Franklin said. “Obviously, we haven’t had a chance to see him as a football player yet. The feedback from the quarterbacks and guys, they’ve been really impressed with him. What we’ve been able to see with testing numbers, with winter workouts, with those types of things is about what we anticipated. A mature guy who’s had great production that we feel like there’s still some areas that we can help him develop and grow.”
WHAT THE O-LINE LOOKS LIKE (FOR NOW)
There isn’t a complete picture of what Penn State’s starting offensive line will look like this season, and there won’t be until Cornell transfer Hunter Nourzad arrives on campus.
For the spring portion of the season, however, Franklin said the starting line looks like this.
LT: Olu Fashanu
LG: Landon Tengwell
C: Juice Scruggs
RG: Sal Wormley
RT: Caeden Wallace
WHERE TO PLAY JONATHAN SUTHERLAND
Sutherland has been used as both a linebacker and safety in his time at Penn State. So which role is the sixth-year senior more suited for?
Franklin said that the plan is to use Sutherland as a “DB with linebacker traits.”
“We’ve kind of looked at Sutherland and kind of looked at his career,” Franklin said. “He has played his best football when he’s been closest to the ball. The bowl game, obviously, he had an interception, and a lot of times, when he was playing safety, we were dropping him down into the box very similar to what we did with Marcus Allen.”
ALLAR IS HERE; NOW WHAT?
Penn State fans have been waiting for quarterback Drew Allar to finally become a Nittany Lion for more than a year. With the five-star QB having such high expectations, it will inevitably fire up more than a few Twitter fingers if and when Clifford struggles for any stretch of time in 2022.
Franklin knows nobody can control public reaction and, instead, is excited to have both Allar and Clifford– along with Christian Veilleux and true freshman Beau Pribula– in the quarterback picture this season.
“I also think the competition is going to bring out the best in everybody,” Franklin said. “I think that’s going to be a really important part of this. Internally, we want that. We want that type of competition. The external stuff, we can’t control.”