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Penn State HC James Franklin Talks Utah, Portal, More in pre-Rose Bowl Presser

Tyrone Broden committed to Arkansas
Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin November 12, 2022 David Hague/NSN

Hours after the world found out, officially, that No. 11 Penn State and No. 8 Utah would be playing in the Rose Bowl, Penn State coach James Franklin spoke with reporters via zoom in two press conferences.

First, he and Utah coach Kyle Whittingham spoke at a joint press conference provided by the Rose Bowl.

Afterward, Franklin talked with Penn State’s beat reporters.

Here are some of the key things Franklin said in his pre-Rose Bowl presser as Penn State prepares for Utah.

“THE TWO UTES”

A clip that Penn State fans have been posting on Twitter over the past few days is from the 1992 classic “My Cousin Vinny.” In the clip, Vinny, a lawyer played by Joe Pesci, tries to tell the judge about “two youths” that committed a murder that two other youths were charged with. The problem was that Vinny’s New York accent made “youths” sound like “yutes,” or, more conveniently for Penn State and Utah fans, “Utes.” The judge misunderstood Pesci, which led to the humorous scene.

But the 2022 Utah Utes are no joke, and Franklin and Penn understand that ahead of the Rose Bowl.

“They’re a tough, hard-nosed football team that is resilient and can overcome adversity,” Franklin said.

Franklin watched Utah’s PAC-12 championship win over USC as a fan, with Penn State off this past week and Utah fighting for a trip to the Rose Bowl.

“Obviously, USC is a talented football team,” he said. “They made their plays. They’ve got a talented quarterback (Cam Rising) that made plays and Utah just kept competing and made timely plays.”

One moment from the game Franklin mentioned wasn’t a touchdown or even a big gain.

It was a big hit that Rising took from USC’s Ralen Goforth in the third quarter.

“One of my favorite plays in that game is when the quarterback hurdled over a leg or body and then got hit, and his helmet flew off,” Franklin said. “To me, it’s very telling when you watch a guy that gets hit like that and how they respond. He bounced right up and put his helmet right back on.

Franklin’s QB, Sean Clifford, took a big hit earlier this season at Auburn on the game’s first possession. Clifford got back up and Penn State ended up cruising to a 41-12 win. So Franklin knows how much a QB bouncing back from a massive can help a squad, and Penn State will need to prepare hard for rising ahead of the Rose Bowl.

“That has such an impact on your team and on your program when your quarterback can take a shot like that and bounce right back,” he said. “I think that’s very telling of who (Utah is) as a program.”

Franklin also complimented Utah’s coach, Kyle Whittingham, for the job he’s done over his PAC-12-leading 18 seasons as Utah’s head coach.

The Utes have won the PAC-12 two seasons in a row, and Penn State has been rolling since mid-October. Franklin’s expecting a good one.

“It’s going to be a heck of a game,” he said, “and it’s going to be a heck of a challenge in a tremendous venue. I know our guys will be looking forward to it.”

NO MORE JPJ

Franklin said Sunday that he expects “almost the entirety” of Penn State’s roster to be available for the Rose Bowl. That’s good news for Penn State fans, as it means there probably won’t be a flurry of bowl game opt outs like there was last season, when six players skipped the Outback Bowl against Arkansas. But regardless of potential opt outs, Penn State will for sure be without two of its best players, one from each side of the ball. Penn State’s No. 1 receiver, Parker Washington, is out for the year, Franklin announced ahead of the team’s regular-season finale against Michigan State at Beaver Stadium. Washington hasn’t played since Penn State’s Nov. 12 win over Maryland.

Last week, one of Penn State’s best defensive players, cornerback Joey Porter Jr., announced that he’s going to NFL Draft and opted-out of the bowl game.

So ends one of the best careers for a Penn State corner ever.

“Here’s a young man that we recruited out of Western Pennsylvania,” Franklin said, “and obviously comes from a football family.

Porter’s father, of course, is Joey Porter Sr. The elder Porter was an All-Pro and Super Bowl champion over 13 NFL seasons.

The younger Porter arrived at Penn State before the 2019 season, and he made the most of his four years.

“He came here and really thrived,” Franklin said. “Thrived academically, thrived from a football perspective, and kept getting better and better. Obviously, you guys have seen him physically. He’s got a lot of physical tools that most corners do not have.”

“He just kept getting better, you know, within our program, from the strength and conditioning perspective, from a technique and fundamental perspective, from an overall football perspective. (Cornerbacks coach) Terry Smith did a phenomenal job with him.”

Porter played for two defensive coordinators at Penn State; Brent Pry for his first three seasons and Manny Diaz this year.

He made life easier for both.

“We were able to call certain things or run certain schemes,” Franklin said, “because of the confidence that we had in our defensive backs and specifically with our corners when we’re talking about Joey.”

Toward the end of Porter’s college career, he missed two games due to appendicitis. Porter fought through it and played on Senior Day.

“For him to be able to fight and battle and try to come back as quickly as he did from his medical situation, which was the appendicitis during the season, and do everything he possibly could to try to get back,” Franklin said. “I think that was very telling on his commitment to his teammates and his commitment to this program and university. So I’m proud of him, and we’re going to be there to support him every step of the way.”

PORTAL MANIA

The transfer portal opened Monday, and things are about to get crazy in college football. On Penn State’s end, QB Christian Veilleux and DT Rodney McGraw already entered the portal. Although big schools like Penn State will likely benefit more from the portal than be hurt by it, Franklin has his worries.

“Well, you know, for me to sit here and say that I’m not worried about college football and that I’m not concerned about maybe some of the advice that some of these guys are getting, I’m not talking Penn State-specific, I’m talking big picture right now, you know, is concerning,” Franklin said.

Franklin would love for every one of his players to become a millionaire in the pros, but he knows that there are many other ways that they can succeed in life. He doesn’t feel every coach stresses that enough.

“At Penn State,” Franklin said, “and specifically with me, I want as many of our guys to play in the NFL as possible. But I’m also still a big believer in what getting your undergraduate degree, and for a lot of our guys, a master’s degree, what that’s going to do for them for the rest of their lives.

“What my concern is, the more coaches I talk to and the more people I see, academics is less and less a part of some of these decision-making processes. It’s strictly about football. I do think there’s still a balancing act that I think needs to happen and can happen, you know, where a kid can reach all of his goals from an academic perspective and still be able to chase his football dreams.”

Franklin feels Penn State is a place where people can put themselves in a position to succeed after football, and that’s a benefit to anybody thinking of entering the portal.

“That’s why being at a place like Penn State is so important, and it’s so special because the young men in our program have the support and resources to achieve all their goals and all their dreams,” Franklin said. “That’s not the case everywhere, you know, that’s not really the case everywhere. So to be fortunate to be at a place like Penn State as a coach or a player is a phenomenal thing. I think it’s magnified right now in the landscape of college football.”

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