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Mondays With James: Everything Franklin Had to Say About Firing OC Mike Yurcich, What’s Next

Fewer than 24 hours after the news broke, Penn State coach James Franklin addressed reporters for the first time since the firing of OC Mike Yurcich.

Reporters asked him about Yurcich. A lot. 

Here’s everything he had to say about the decision to change coordinators, and what’s next in this week’s Monday presser.

OPENING STATEMENT

I appreciate the contributions that coach Yurcich made here. Obviously, we made a tough decision that we feel like was in the best interest of the program moving forward. I know there’s going to be some questions, and I’ll answer some questions, but obviously, we’d like to spend as much time talking about our opponent this week as possible.

JAMES FRANKLIN ON PLAY-CALLING MECHANICS, WHY THERE WEREN’T MORE ‘EASY PASSER’ CALLED

As you could imagine, I have conversations about all the things that I have concerns about, and more so than I speak about in the press conferences. I think you guys have heard me come in and talk, whether it’s openers (first-down plays), whether it’s third down, whether it’s starting fast, all those things are things that we’ve had lengthy discussions about and had a plan for. But, a lot of times, when we got to the games, either we did not call the games that way, or we did not execute the games the way we intended to. So, yeah, those things were asked for.”

JAMES FRANKLIN ON WHAT HIS ROLE IN PLAYCALLING, GAME PLANNING WILL BE GOING FORWARD

Yeah, so, a couple of things. I think the first thing is both Ja’Juan and Ty already had the titles, so that made sense. They both had the co-coordinator titles, so those two guys will be handling the game-planning as well as the offensive staff. 

They’re doing a really good job right now. I’ve been pleased. I think we’re a little bit more collaborative right now than what we’ve been here recently, and I think it’s been good. 

I would say that my presence is similar to what it’s been in the past over my 13 years as a head coach. In terms of playcalling, we’re going to work that kind of out throughout this week and on Gameday, but they’ll both have a role in playcalling. 

JAMES FRANKLIN ON IF PAT KRAFT WAS INVOLVED IN THE DECISION TO FIRE MIKE YURCICH

This was my decision. But, obviously, I don’t do anything in a silo. I run things up the ladder and have conversations, but, yeah, this was my decision.

**Franklin later clarified that Seider will be coaching from the sidelines, Howle from the press box, which is where they’ve both been all season. 

JAMES FRANKLIN ON WHO WILL REPLACE YURCICH COACHING QBS, HOW HE HOPES DREW ALLAR AND BEAU PRIBULA RESPOND

As you could imagine, (assistant QB coach) Danny (O’Brien’s) been very involved. I’m going to make sure that I’m in every single one of the quarterback meetings with Danny. It also allows us to get somebody else on the headsets as well in terms of bumping somebody up into that full-time role or headset role or whatever it may be, another voice. So we’re still kind of working through that, and we’ll probably make that decision today, but in terms of the quarterbacks, Danny O’Brien and myself.

JAMES FRANKLIN ON HOW DREW ALLAR TOOK THE NEWS, HOW INVOLVED HE’LL BE IN OC SEARCH

Well, I guess the first thing is these are tough decisions, right? And what makes it even tougher is it’s hard to keep things quiet. I think we did a pretty good job of it, but it’s hard to keep things quiet, and not because we’re trying to hide information from you guys, but I’m just trying to be respectful of the process. I’m trying to be respectful of Mike and his family. I’m trying to be respectful of our quarterbacks. I’m trying to be respectful of the team. Then I’ll want to call all of the quarterbacks’ families so they’re hearing it from me and explain kind of how we got here, same thing in recruiting. So it’s just a lot of moving parts that you’re trying to keep as quiet as you possibly can, so people are hearing it from you, not reading it on social media. But with Drew, I met with all of the quarterbacks first. They were the first to know. Met with them before the team meeting. Then I addressed it with the team, then the plan was for them to call their parents after practice and let them know, and then after practice, I was going to call them and talk through any questions or concerns that they had. That plan went according to plan, except for while we were at practice it leaked out, and then the parents found out before I was able to get to them. Besides that, the quarterbacks heard from me, the players heard from me. It’s something that we don’t take lightly. These are tough decisions that have to be made, they affect a lot of people. I want to be super respectful of that, but I also have a responsibility to everybody in that locker room and everybody in the Lasch building and fans and everybody else. Graduates, alumni, lettermen. So, the quarterbacks, I think the discussion was good. Met with them before practice like I mentioned, then I met with them right after practice ended to see if they had any more questions or concerns, and, again, tough conversations, tough decisions, but I think handled as well as you can under tough circumstances.

In terms of (Allar) being involved in the hiring process, no, but in terms of are they a part of that decision? Yes. In terms of who I’m bringing in, why I’m bringing them in, do they fit the person that I’m bringing in? The person I’m bringing in, do they fit with them? Does everybody understand what they’re signing up for? All of those things, yes. And then, just like this decision, I’d also like them to be the first to know. So as hard as you guys have been trying to get the information, I’ll be trying to keep the information quiet. Again, not because I don’t want you guys to have the information, but I’d like for my quarterbacks and my team to hear it first, rather than it being on social media. I’m just trying to be as respectful of the process, of everybody, as possible, and on top of that, I’ve been through this myself. Sometimes the names getting out there hurts in your chances of actually hiring them. Even with head coach positions. A lot of times, if it’s out there, and it’s public, there’s guys that end up turning the jobs down because they can’t afford for the process to play out. It’s going to cause too many problems where they are to cause issues. So that’s the other reason why you try to keep it quiet as much as you possibly can. So, as many of these possibilities stay on the table as long as possible.”

JAMES FRANKLIN ON WHAT HE’S LOOKING FOR IN A NEW OC

Somebody that’s going to put us in the best position to play our best football when it’s needed most and against the best competition.

JAMES FRANKLIN ON IF STRUGGLES AT RECEIVER ARE A BIG CAUSE OF OFFENSIVE PROBLEMS

Yeah, I think, you know, we’ve talked about, in the offseason, the development of that position, the depth at that position, trying to find a No. 3 before we ended up losing Trey (Wallace) then lose Trey, and now it’s back to kind of figuring out who the No. 2 is. There’s a little bit that kind of goes around to a lot of different groups, but yeah, we’ve talked about, you know, that position and the importance of the development. The importance of the recruitment, the importance of the playmaking on a consistent basis, but, no, I would not describe it the way you just described it. 

JAMES FRANKLIN ON WHY HE MADE THE CHANGE DURING THE SEASON, DIFFICULTIES OF A BIG IN-SEASON TRANSACTION 

“Yeah, very difficult. Very difficult from a personal perspective, very difficult from a, you know, professional perspective, and then, in terms of the timing, I just think for most people and most situations, if you’ve gotten to the point where you feel like that’s what you’re going to do… I’m not great at, like, faking it. You know? I want to be as transparent and as upfront as I possibly can be, so when you get to the point where you feel like that’s the right decision, then I think you make it, and a part of that also is the belief of the rest of the staff, and the guys in the Lasch Building and the lockerroom. To me, when you feel like that’s the decision, in my opinion, you don’t delay the decision, as long as you feel like you have some internal options that can do it. 

JAMES FRANKLIN ON WHY THERE HAVE BEEN FIVE OC CHANGES IN HIS TENURE (2014-)

I wouldn’t necessarily describe it the way you did. Again, I think if you look at the nature of college football, there’s a ton of turnover. Why? Some for positive reasons. You mentioned two (left) for head-coaching opportunities, which is awesome. Which is what you want. In terms of the other end of the spectrum, this is a place that has very, very high expectations and standards, and we have to make sure that each area, whether it’s strength and conditioning, whether it’s academics, whether it’s offense, defense, special teams, for us to go where we want to go and play at the very, very highest level, we need each one of those units producing on a very, very high level consistently for us to go where we want to go. And if they are, guys get opportunities to move elsewhere for head-coaching opportunities, and if they aren’t, then decisions need to be made. So, for one reason or another, you’re going to have to have turnover in college football.

JAMES FRANKLIN ON WHAT SEIDER, HOWLE BRING TO THE TABLE

I think it’s what you’ve just mentioned, right? At the end of the day, good people that are widely respected, that are fiercely loyal, and, also… Penn State is very important to both of them. I mean, Ja’Juan’s been here now six years. Ty is obviously a letterman and a grad. Ty’s also called plays before, Ja’Juan played quarterback, not only in college but also in the NFL, has that background as well. Both have recruited and developed positions that are two of our better positions. So, really, kind of all those things. I know what I’m going to get from them. I know how collaborative they’re going to be with our staff. And I also think they’re widely respected by the players and I think that’s an important part of this as well.”

ON TIMELINE FOR HIRING NEW OC

Yeah, so, sooner rather than later, right? But it’s hard. Hiring someone is like a full-time job. So I can’t really have two full-time jobs right now. So the most important thing is for us to play well this week and finish the season the right way, and then, during that process, be working through kind of narrowing down a list. I already have a list. It’s narrowing it down. It’s running all the numbers. It’s seeing if people are interested and then trying to find a way to get that turned over as soon as we possibly can through maybe some Zoom calls, some in-person interviews, and then, in a perfect world, I think you would like, if you could, to have a situation like we did with Manny where we hired him, had him here for the bowl game. I think we’ve done that at other times as well. So now they’re here, they’re around the guys. They see how we operate. They see how we meet. They get a feel for the culture. They’re able to watch and evaluate the players and say ‘ok, here’s areas where we’re strong. Here’s areas where we need to maybe find some solutions. I think there’s value in doing that if possible. But that’s not always the case. With Manny, it just worked out where he was available and could be hired and was willing to come, and some people are still in positions that they need to finish out their seasons. So, we’ll see. It depends on which direction we go, who we hire and kind of where they’re at in their careers. Is it an NFL guy? Is it a college guy? Is it a guy who’s currently going to be in a bowl game or is it a guy who’s out?

JAMES FRANKLIN ON HOW MUCH BEING 1-7 AGAINST OSU/MICHIGAN SINCE 2021 HAD TO DO WITH FIRING YURCICH 

“That was a big part of that decision. At some point during this press conference, I’d love to get just a few questions about Rutgers, but I’ll finish this question. Yeah, that was a big part of that decision, and it’s everything. That’s kind of what I just talked about. Every unit needs to be operating at the very highest level. That is recruiting. That is development. That is offense. That is defense. That is special teams. And we’ve had times where we’ve done that, but we’ve also had times where we’ve been really strong in certain areas and not strong enough in others. So that’s how you do it, and that was a part of that decision, yes.”

JAMES FRANKLIN ON IF THE OFFENSE WILL HAVE A BETTER PLAN OF ATTACK GOING FORWARD

Yes. I felt like both of those things needed to change. How we came up with the plan, the implementation of the plan, all those things, for sure the execution of the plan. Obviously, you don’t make the type of decision I made without feeling that way.

JAMES FRANKLIN ON HANDLING DREW ALLAR THE REST OF THE WAY

Yeah, again, I had really good conversations with them (Allar and backup Beau Pribula). Had really good conversations with their families. I feel good about that. I mean, obviously, we would love to finish on a really,

really high note this year as a team, and then specifically as an offense and then at the quarterback position. No doubt about it. I feel good about that moving forward in terms of the relationships in the building. Again, that doesn’t say anything about those other relationships, those were important as well. I feel good about the relationships we have in our building and playing well to end the season, and then obviously making sure that the hire complements what we have in the building, what we

have in the locker room.

JAMES FRANKLIN ON THE ‘TAKE HOME LESSON’

I think the biggest thing is understanding kind of what we just talked about, right? That for
us to win the way we want to win at the very highest level, every single unit needs to be
producing and working at the highest level year-round, 365 days a year. There has been a lot of hurdles and battles to overcome to get there since we arrived on campus, to be honest with you, and the reality is we can’t afford not to be thriving in every single one of those areas to be able to beat the people we need to beat on a consistent basis.
So for us, the most important thing we can do, outside of all the things we have already talked about, is get the right people had into the building. That’s staff and that’s players, and then be able to give them all the support they need to be successful on a consistent basis. The most important thing you do is, we’re in a people business. Got to get the right people at
Penn State, that believe in Penn State and what we can do and where we can go, and then
give them all the support and resources they need to produce at the very, very highest level.

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