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Tuesday’s With James: Franklin Discusses Joey Porter Jr., Smith Vilbert, More in Weekly PC

James Franklin

Penn State is 4-0 this season, and coach James Franklin loves to stress his team’s goal of going “1-0” every week.

The team is looking to finish a week undefeated for the fifth time in 2022. 

Penn State caps off its week against Northwestern at Beaver Stadium Saturday.

Franklin has his weekly press conference Tuesday, and this week’s “Tuesdays With James” will highlight some of the session’s key points. 

JAMES ON JPJ

Joey Porter Jr. is putting it all together this season and has developed into a player that opposing offenses try to avoid.

According to Pro Football Focus, Purdue targeted the Penn State defensive back 14 times in Week 1. 

In the next three weeks, teams have targeted Porter seven times combined. 

Sure, Purdue passes more than most teams, which Franklin pointed out when asked about Porter. 

But teams are starting to stay away from JPJ. 

“There’s some examples that we show the team, and we show the defense of really Joey just eliminating a guy in a play, that he’s not even an option for the quarterback,” Franklin said. “I think there’s a ton of value in that. Schematically, there’s a ton of value in that. There’s a ton of value in that as a defensive coordinator in maybe what you are able to do, maybe to stop the run, that if you didn’t have the confidence in the corners that maybe you were limited in.”

 

JAMES ON SMITH VILBERT’S ABSENCE 

“Yeah, just not available.”

Franklin said this when asked about defensive end Smith Vilbert’s absence. 

On the first day of 2022, Vilbert had three sacks in Penn State’s Outback Bowl loss to Arkansas. 

Now, with the year into its fall portion, Vilbert hasn’t played in any of Penn State’s first four games, despite performing well on the scout team, even being named Developmental Squad Player of the Week by Franklin in the same press conference. 

As expected, Franklin didn’t fully answer why Vilbert hasn’t been playing. 

“I’d like to sit down with Smith and make sure that me and him are on the same page,” Franklin said. “Again, like we talk about all the time, whatever it may be, whether it’s injuries or whatever it may be, I don’t like to make announcements here publicly before we have spoken, so we’re all on the same page.”

 

“I’ve got a ton of respect for all the players in our program, and I want to be respectful of their situations, whether it’s personal, whether it’s professional, whether it’s academic, whatever it may be. I want to be respectful of those things. I’m really proud that Smith Vilbert is a part of our program and I’ll leave it at that for right now.”

ON NORTHWESTERN’S STAR O-LINEMAN 

Penn State’s pass rush has done its job this season. 

Defensive end Adisa Isaac looks like he never left, despite missing all last season due to injury. Maryland transfer Chop Robinson has been one of the best edge rushers in college football, and Pro Football Focus has him as the highest-graded player in the country at his position. 

This week, Penn State faces one of, if not the best offensive linemen it will face this season in Northwestern left tackle Peter Skoronski.

The 6-foot-4, 315-pound Skoronski was voted first-team All-Big Ten by the coaches last season and was a preseason AP first-team All-American this year. 

Franklin loves the challenge Skornski presents.  

“Yeah, I think that’s awesome, right?” Franklin said. “That’s why you come play in the Big Ten, and specifically, that’s why you come to play at Penn State is to have the opportunity to compete and practice with really good players and have an opportunity on Saturdays to line up against guys that are highly regarded.”

Franklin referred to Northwestern offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian, who worked with Penn State offensive line coach Phil Trautwein at Boston College in 2019, as a “big chipper.”

“So, whether it’s a running back or a tight end, chipping the defensive ends before he goes out,” Franklin said. “Some people do that when they feel like there’s a match-up challenge. He does it all the time. We’re going to have to deal with that, as well, and we’re aware of that.”

Franklin knows his defensive ends are excited about the challenge. 

 

“This is why you come to a place like Penn State,” he said, “to compete and play against this type of talent week in and week out, for the most part.”

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