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Notes From Coach James Franklin’s Penn State Media Day Presser

Penn State Head Coach James Franklin

Penn State coach James Franklin addressed reporters during Penn State’s media day Saturday.

Here are some highlights of what he had to say.

CAMP QUESTION MARKS

Like any football team, Penn State comes into its 2022 season with question marks in all three phases.

Special Teams

Penn State will be without Jordan Stout, who developed into one of college football’s best punters, winning Big Ten Punter of the Year in 2021, and also handled the field goal kicking duties for Penn State.

Barney Amor is the favorite to replace Stout at punter, and at kicker, Jake Pinegar is returning for his fourth season.

Although Franklin has faith in who he has for the 2022 season, he didn’t pretend that replacing what Stout did in 2021– particularly in punting— will be easy.

“Stout did such a good job, and obviously ended up getting drafted,” Franklin said. (Him being gone) is a concern. Obviously, Pinegar’s been a starter here before. I feel like we have some really good options to kickoff. But punting on special teams is probably the biggest question. Barney Amor is leading the pack right now, but Stout did such a good job.”

“The other thing you hope, obviously, is you don’t punt as much. That would help solve that problem a little bit, too.”

Defense 

At inside linebacker, Penn State is losing two talented pieces in Ellis Brooks and Brandon Smith.

At MIKE linebacker, Tyler Elsdon and Kobe King are battling for the starting spot, continuing a battle that was a storyline all spring.

Franklin said that Elsdon and King have done “a really nice job.”

“I think that’s a legitimate competition, and I think we feel good about how those guys are operating the defense right now,” Franklin said.

Franklin also said that Keon Wylie, a true freshman who played defensive end at Philadelphia’s Imhotep Charter High School, has been playing at linebacker.

“He’s super smart, and seems to be handling it really well,” Franklin said.

Franklin also said that Penn State’s second starting safety position, after Ji’Ayir Brown, is unsettled.

Offense

Penn State’s offensive line has been the subject of much criticism in recent years, and Franklin knows it.

He hopes that 2022 brings more success up front, but doesn’t want to promise anything.

“I’m not going to sit here and pound the table about ‘this is the year,'” Franklin said “because that hasn’t necessarily played out that way the last couple of years. I’m going to take a more measured approach there and let them and let us prove that to you.”

Franklin also mentioned Penn State’s running game as an area that needs improved upon for 2021.

The Mike Yurcich Era: Chapter 2

Penn State’s offense didn’t exactly put up video game numbers in Mike Yurcich’s first year as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

Penn State finished eighth in the Big Ten in total points, meaning that more than half of the Big Ten outscored it.

Franklin feels that a lot of things could lead to more success in Yurcich’s second season, with one of them being his relationship with starting quarterback Sean Clifford.

“I think one of the biggest things is him knowing our personnel and what those guys do well, and where we need to help them,” Franklin said. “Again, that’s in the running game, that’s specifically with Sean. I think Sean and Mike know each other better, and I think that’s useful.”

This is the first season since 2019 that Penn State is coming in with the same offensive coordinator that it had the year before, and that’s something Franklin appreciates.

Franklin also feels Yurcich being more accustomed to the Big Ten will be beneficial.

“Having the same offensive coordinator and the same offensive system for multiple years, I think there’s a ton of value in that,” he said, “and then I think the other thing is just the familiarity with the league, with the defensive coordinators, with the venues. All those things I think are helpful.”

With successful stops at places such as Oklahoma State, Ohio State and Texas, Franklin loves Yurcich’s resume, and has faith in brighter days ahead for the Penn State chapter of Yurcich’s coaching career.

“Obviously, Mike has a long track record of success,” Franklin said. “Again, I think we have the ability to do some pretty good things on offense this year.”

CALIFORNIA DREAMIMG

So when did Franklin find out about USC and UCLA’s plans to join the Big Ten?

He said Penn State AD Pat Kraft called him “a day or two” before the world found out.

Penn State had been expanding its recruiting horizons already.

For instance, the school’s 2023 recruiting class got two commits from the state of Alabama the same month the USC/UCLA bombshell dropped.

Before that, Penn State hadn’t gotten a player from that state to commit since 2014.

So will the two California schools in the conference help Penn State’s recruiting in that state come 2024?

Franklin thinks so.

“When you’re able to add two teams from California to your conference, that should allow you to maybe get into some conversations that maybe you haven’t been able to get into before from that region,” Franklin said.

Having USC in Beaver Stadium, for instance, is enticing, as is Penn State playing in the Rose Bowl or LA Coliseum.

“Obviously, we’re going to go out there for a couple of games, they’re going to be obviously coming to us a lot,” he said.

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