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Penn State Football

Media Day With James: Penn State HC Franklin Talks ‘Question Mark’, QBs, More in Indy

Photo by Penn State Athletics: James Franklin

Penn State coach James Franklin met with reporters at Day 1 of Big Ten Media Days in Chicago. 

Here’s some of what he had to say.

JAMES ON THE ‘ONE QUESTION MARK’ PENN STATE’S DEFENSE HAS

Penn State’s solid just about everywhere this season, and defense is no exception.

Up front, EDGE Chop Robinson has first-round draft pick potential. Penn State also has a solid veteran in Adisa Isaac and a promising up-and-comer in second-year Dani Dennis-Sutton, who was a five-star recruit from the Class of 2022.

At linebacker Abdul Carter and Curtis Jacobs have the potential to be one of the best linebacking duos in college football.

All and all, things are looking pretty solid for Penn State.

For Franklin, there’s only one “question mark”: The secondary.

“When you lose a guy like Joey Porter (now a Pittsburgh Steeler), and you lose a guy like Tig (new-49er Ji’Ayir Brown), who are tremendous players for us, that’s probably the one area of question marks.

Despite Porter and Brown’s departures, Penn State has plenty of experience coming back. 

Fifth-year Keaton Ellis is a captain. Jaylen Reed and Zakee Wheatley, two Class of 2021 blue-chips, are coming into Year 3, and second-year KJ Winston is a player people are excited about as well.

Despite there being some concerns, Franklin’s confident in his defensive backfield.

“We played a ton of players in the secondary with experience, talent, and depth,” Franklin said. “So I think we’re going to be in a good position there.”

WHO WILL BE THE QB

It’s Drew Allar. And everybody knows it.

There’s no reason to think the five-star golden arm from Medina, Ohio, will start his second season on the bench.

With that said, Franklin’s been saying that Allar has been in competition with classmate Beau Pribula since the first day of spring practice, and in late July, nothing’s changed. 

But Franklin knows he’ll have to officially name a starter eventually.

“Obviously, the sooner, the better,” he said, “but we’re not going to rush any of these decisions at these positions. We grade everything in every practice, so all the data will be there. Obviously, you’re going to trust your gut and your instincts on that as well, but you have the data to back it up. I think at any of these positions, the sooner, the better. It’s probably magnified at the quarterback position because you don’t rotate and play the same type of way that you do at some other positions, but it will be obviously watching how they move the offense, the conference that their teammates have in them, and then obviously a lot of the data and analytics that go in it as well to make sure that what your gut is telling you aligns with what the numbers say.”

A BIT OF A DIFFERENT RIVALRY GAME

This year, Penn State will play Michigan State, which it’s done in 27 of its first 30 seasons of Big Ten football. 

But what’s not usual is that the teams won’t play in either State College or East Lansing, nor will they play on a Saturday.

It will be played on Black Friday, Nov. 24, in Detroit’s Ford Field at 7:30 on NBC.

So what does Franklin think of all this?

“Obviously, the one challenge is it will be a Friday game, so you’re talking about later in the season, and you’ve got a short week,” he said. “By that point of the year, you’ve got bumps and bruises and challenges with depth. So the Friday night game can be a little bit challenging, but at least it’s a level playing field, and we’re both having to deal with that.”

Franklin also sees some good things about this change from Penn State’s standpoint.

“When you talk about that point of the season, being able to play in this venue, I think we’ll pack this place. I think our fans will travel. I think Michigan State will travel extremely well. It’s their home game. It’s going to be a great environment. And obviously, being indoors that time of year, there’s a real positive that comes from that too.

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