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James Franklin Talks Northwestern, Hunter Nourzad’s Availability, the State of Sean Clifford

Penn State Head Coach James Franklin

Nittany Sports Now attended Penn State’s Wednesday practice viewing and stuck around for James Franklin’s post-practice availability

Here are some highlights of what the coach had to say.

PETER, PETER

Northwestern hasn’t been a good team this season.

But it has one of the best offensive linemen in the country, so there’s that, at least. 

Peter Skoronski was voted first-team All-Big Ten by the coaches last season and was an AP preseason All-American this year. 

In his Tuesday press conference, Franklin talked a bit about the 6-foot-4, 315-pounder, saying that the opportunity to go up against Skoronski is “awesome” for Penn State’s defensive linemen. 

Skoronski, who attended Maine South High School in Park Ridge, Illinois, was a four-star recruit out of high school, and Penn State had its eye on him.

“We recruited him out of high school as well,” Franklin told reporters Wednesday. “Big, athletic and smart.”

Franklin talked Tuesday about how Northwestern offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian loves to chip and touched on that again Wednesday. 

“It’s funny because, in some ways, you don’t get to completely evaluate him because they chip a lot,” he said. “They’ll use the tight ends and running backs to chip, and a lot of people do that when they feel like its a matchup problem, but they do it all the time, and even with (Skoronski).

“Sometimes, it makes it difficult to evaluate him. But we know how talented he is. We have a ton of respect for him, and we know it will be a challenge on Saturday.”

THEY’LL BE BACK… MAYBE

Defensive tackle Coziah Izzard hasn’t played in any of Penn State’s first three games. 

Franklin said Wednesday that it’s “possible” Izzard will be available Saturday but didn’t go into further detail. 

He went into more detail about offensive lineman Hunter Nourzad, and based on encouraging remarks by Franklin Wednesday and in Tuesday’s presser, it sounds like the Cornell transfer will be good to go against Northwestern. 

“We’re hoping to have him back,” Franklin said. “That’s what we would like, is to have him available this week. He’s a lot closer than, obviously, he was last week, but there’s also things that happen in practice that sometimes make things difficult as well. You get rolled up in practice or whatever it is.”

“We’ll see how he’s doing and how he’s trending.”

CLIFFORD IS JUST FINE

Injuries were an issue for quarterback Sean Clifford over his first five seasons at Penn State. 

In 2019, he got knocked out of the Ohio State game and didn’t play the following week against Rutgers. 

Last season is well-documented. Clifford left the Iowa game with an injury, and although he started all seven of Penn State’s games after that, the common thought is that he was never fully healthy. 

But Franklin said that, so far in Year 6, Clifford is in a good spot.

He also pointed out that Penn State being up by enough points to remove Clifford in three of its four games has helped. 

“I think he’s been good,” Franklin said. “To your point, the way we’ve been able to get him out of almost every game, that’s valuable. It’s valuable. So, so far, so good. He’s in really good position. Probably as good as he’s been at this point in the season, knock on wood.”

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