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Tuesdays With James

Tuesdays With James: Franklin on Auburn, Olu Fashanu, More

James Franklin

Penn State is 2-0 this season, and coach James Franklin’s most famous saying at Penn State is “1-0 this week.”

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

Penn State caps off its week on the road at Auburn Saturday.

Franklin has his weekly press conference Tuesday, and here are some key points from the session.

JAMES ON TAMING TANK AND CO.

Penn State hasn’t played a run-heavy team yet this season.

In Week 1, Purdue threw the ball 59 times and ran it just 22. In Week 2, Ohio didn’t present Penn State with much of a challenge. 

But Auburn is a team that loves to run the ball and can do it effectively. Leading the way is Tank Bigsby,  who broke 1,000 yards last season and ran for 102 and two scores in last year’s Auburn-Penn State game. 

Penn State’s front seven will face a test, and its linebacking corps is largely unproven aside from Curtis Jacobs. 

Franklin said it’s “hard to get an evaluation” of Penn State’s linebackers through two games. 

“You know, obviously, when you just talk about disruption plays, like tackles for loss and sacks and things like that, I think going into the year we knew that linebacker; we had questions there in terms of just returning experience,” Franklin said. 

“But, again, we have been able to get those guys a ton of reps. They’re getting better every single day. Again, I still am a huge believer that it starts up front with our defensive line in setting the tone, especially when you still have some inexperience behind them. It helps and takes some pressure off.”

Franklin said stopping Auburn’s run is “going to be a challenge.”

“You make a mistake against this crew, and it has a chance to cost you,” he said. “They’ve got guys you watch on tape and obviously guys that can make big, big plays, so we’re going to have to be sound. We’re going to have to make sure that fundamentally, we are prepared and executing the way we’re going to need to execute.”

ON JI’AYIR BROWN, MARCUS ALLEN COMPARISON 

At Penn State from 2014-17, Marcus Allen played safety. 

In the NFL, he’s been a linebacker. 

Ji’Ayir Brown plays safety at Penn State but has seen time at linebacker in first-year coordinator Manny Diaz’s defense, playing 29 snaps in the box against Ohio, according to Pro Football Focus. 

Franklin was asked about the similarities between Brown and Allen.

“I think that’s fair,” Franklin said. “Maybe not stylistically how we’re using him compared to Marcus, but in terms of plays he’s making. There have been a couple times where people have run in non-traditional downs, and Ji’Ayir has made some big-time plays. Even sometimes taking on offensive guards, defeating a block and making a tackle on the ball carrier, or just timely tackles in space.”

I think in terms of similar types of plays that he’s been able to make (Brown is similar).

ON ‘OLU MANIA’

“He’s playing really well,” 

Those were the first words Franklin said in response to a question about offensive tackle Olu Fashanu. 

According to PFF, Through two games, Fashanu has a pass-blocking grade of 92.1 and hasn’t allowed a QB pressure or committed a penalty through 83 snaps. 

Franklin is a big fan of the big man. 

“We’ve had a ton of respect for Olu really since he stepped on campus,” Franklin said. “He’s one of those high-production, low-maintenance guys that really does everything right. 

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