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Tuesdays With James: Franklin on the O-Line, the 5-Star and the Fatman

James Franklin

Penn State is 3-0 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 fourth time in 2022. 

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

Franklin has his weekly press conference Tuesday, and “Tuesdays With James” will highlight some of the sessions key points. 

JAMES ON O-LINE PROGRESS

At his Big Ten Media Day press conference in July and Penn State’s Media Day last month, Franklin told reporters he wasn’t going to talk up this year’s offensive line. 

The line did its job against Auburn. It didn’t allow a sack and helped Penn State run the ball for 245 yards and 6.3 yards per carry. 

But Franklin still isn’t ready to heap too much praise.

“I’m going to hold off,” Franklin said. “Like I also mentioned, you guys will clearly tell me how they’re playing.”

“Obviously, I do think this past weekend, with zero sacks and being able to run the ball the way we ran the ball and being on the road and handling crowd noise, which can be challenging for an offensive line, I do think it was a step in the right direction.”

Franklin knows there is plenty to be done. 

“We still have work to do, and I’m still not ready to pound the table,” he said. “But I probably won’t be all year long because I know as soon as I say something positive, something won’t go well. 

JAMES ON NICK SINGLETON

Nick Singleton is good at football, in case you haven’t been watching Penn State football or reading about it. 

The five-star from Governor Mifflin High School in Shillington, Pennsylvania, has lived up to his hype thus far.

Through three games, Singleton has rushed for 334 yards and four touchdowns on 30 carries, suitable for a staggering 11.1 yards per run.

Singleton is becoming a star, and Franklin feels he has the mental make-up to take on any challenge that would come with that. 

“Right now, Nick is handling things pretty well,” Franklin said. “I also think that is a little bit his personality. Like, the players kind of give him a hard time because, like, after he scores a touchdown or something, they say he has no swag. No swag, all substance. He doesn’t wear gloves. They love to give him a hard time, but it doesn’t faze him.”

Singleton doesn’t talk much.

“I think he’s said 17 words since he’s been at Penn State,” Franklin said. “He’s very ‘Steady Eddie,’ level-headed, doesn’t get too high or get too low. I think that’s kind of how he was raised, with his family, as well as the program that he came from, Governor Mifflin. I think they have done a really good job preparing him for this as well. I think the relationships that he has built with our staff has helped with that as well.”

JAMES ON ‘FATMAN’ SLIMMING DOWN

Kaytron Allen’s nickname is “Fatman,” which is strange, considering the true freshman is a running back, not a lineman. 

Ironically, the four-star from Florida’s famous IMG Academy has slimmed down since he got to Penn State.

As of early signing day in December, Allen was 225 pounds. 

Now, he’s 201. 

“I was kidding around about his nickname, ‘Fatman,'” Franklin said. “He’s less and less of his nickname.”

Franklin mentioned that IMG is a place where the training is top-notch.

Allen’s work on his build is continuing to evolve at Penn State.

“He’s probably changed his body as much as anybody in our program,” Franklin said.

“Him and probably (freshman offensive lineman) Maleek McNeil. I don’t know if I; did I tell you guys about Maleek today? I think he’s lost like 47 or 50 pounds since being on campus in not a long period of time. That’s really without us even emphasizing it. I think he went from 381 to whatever that number I said is less.”

Franklin said Allen “physically looks different” and is a better player because of it. 

“I think with that, he is quicker, he’s faster, he’s more explosive,” Franklin said. “I just think he’s playing really confident, really good football right now. I think you’ll see him gradually put weight back on, but it will be the right weight.”

Against Auburn, Allen ran for 52 yards on nine carries (5.8 YPC) and his first two college touchdowns. On the season, he’s gained 106 yards on 23 carries, averaging 4.6 yards per run.

Franklin loves it. 

“Right now, he’s thriving in a lot of ways,” he said. “He’s somewhat of a quiet guy and not the most expressive, so to see him on Saturday, for me, almost like a father figure kind of looking at these guys as your sons, to watch that kid smile and his whole face light up and see the team react to him is cool.”

It’s really cool. He’s really starting to break out of his shell. I’m really proud of him. He’s a guy that’s killed it academically since he stepped on campus. He’s just thriving at Penn State, and I’m really happy for him.”

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