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Mondays With James: Franklin on Nicholas Singleton, More From Last Weekly PC of 2023

Penn State coach James Franklin had his last weekly press conference of the 2023 season Monday afternoon. 

In that press conference, he gave an encouraging update on QB Drew Allar and also denied a report regarding exactly when the team knew it would fire OC Mike Yurcich. 

Of course, that wasn’t all. 

Here’s more from coach in this week’s Monday With James. 

JAMES FRANKLIN ON NICHOLAS SINGLETON’S SEASON

Big things were expected of RB Nicholas Singleton coming into this season. 

Singleton had a fantastic freshman campaign, rushing for 1,061 yards and 12 touchdowns in 156 carries. 

With just 11 fewer carries this year, Singelton has 584 yards and seven touchdowns. 

But Franklin feels that, because of other factors, Singleton has grown as a back.

“I understand the question,” Franklin said, “but I guess what I would say is to me, there is a lot more to playing well than just the runs and just the stats. So for example, I think when we go back and grade Nick’s tape this year and compare it to last year, I think he’s going to grade out as well if not better in being a well-rounded football player. 

What does Franklin mean by that?

“If you look at him blocking for Kaytron Allen on the goal line touchdown the other day, he blocked his guy five yards into the end zone,” Franklin said. “I think that’s a distinct improvement from where he was last year. If you look at his ability to catch the ball, run routes, and be a legitimate factor in the passing game, I think he’s dramatically improved in that area of his game. Again, if you just take the stats, yeah, I get it, but when you study the game like I know you are as a true football guy, really study the tape, I think he’s improved as a football player. I think down the road when these things are evaluated by the people that evaluate players nationally, I think this year is really setting him up for a ton of success in his future, not only at Penn State, but afterwards. So, again, I view it differently, right? There are also players that may have three or four exciting, explosive runs, but then they’re not doing the other things, and fans and a lot of media are, oh, he had an unbelievable game and they really didn’t. You know, so I think when you’re really studying the tape and all of it, I think he’s had a better year.”

JAMES FRANKLIN ON JA’JUAN SEIDER, TY HOWLE’S 1ST GAME AS CO-OCs

Saturday was the start of the post-Mike Yurcich era of Penn State’s offense. 

Yurcich was fired as offensive coordinator the day after Penn State lost to Michigan, and the Rutgers game was the first time new co-OCs Ja’Juan Seider (RB coach) and Ty Howle (TE coach) got to show what they could do calling the shots. 

From the Rutgers-week preparation to Saturday’s product, Franklin was happy with how it turned out. 

“I was very pleased with how we operated,” Franklin said, “from the Lasch Building and in the office and how we game planned, how the scripts were done the night before, how the cards were done early for the scout team and we could look them over and work through in detail, are these the exact looks we’re anticipating getting in the game. I thought the collaboration, the environment that was created that everybody spoke up and had opinions, I thought that was really good.”

Franklin said he felt Seider and Howle were “really good complementry pieces of each other.”

“I thought when they got up in front of the team they did a really good job of explaining how we are going to play offense this week and how that’s going to put our team in the best position to be successful,” Franklin said. “I thought all that stuff was really good. On game day I thought they did a really good job throughout the game of making them defend the whole field, putting people in conflict, and also when we had success with plays, going back to them and forcing the defense to adjust. 

“A lot of times you have a successful play, you want to run it before they get back to the sideline again. You don’t want them to get back to the sideline and let the coaches get on the chalkboard and make the adjustments. I thought the halftime stuff was really good as well.”

Of course, nothing is ever perfect, and Franklin cited one example. 

“If I was going to be critical in any area,” Franklin said, “and I could have been better here in helping them, I thought the one backed-up situation where we didn’t take time off the clock, didn’t get a first down, and put our defense in a position that was not advantageous,” he said. “That was the one thing I will be a little bit critical. Got to get a first down or at least got to run the ball and eat some time off the clock with the plays we call. Besides that, I thought it was really good and I think they’ll build on it this week.”

WILL MANNY DIAZ STAY OR WILL HE GO 

Penn State defensive cooridnator Manny Diaz is a fan-favorite.

He’s really good at his job, and that’s why there’s a good chance he becomes a head coach somewhere within the next month. 

Franklin was asked about Diaz, and said that he would do what he could to help Diaz get a head coaching job.

But Penn State doesn’t want Diaz leaving to be an assistant at another school.

“Yeah, I think as you guys know, every offseason that’s a challenge when you have good people and you have talented people,” Franklin said. “We got to do everything we possibly can to retain them and for them to feel good and appreciated, and that’s with the entire staff. No doubt about it. I think what we talked about in the past is what can we do and what do we need to do here at Penn State to make sure that guys don’t leave for lateral moves. To me, that’s really the main focus. We’ve got to make sure that assistants don’t leave for assistant positions and coordinators don’t leave to be coordinators. If guys have a chance for a clear, obvious promotion, we want that for him. We like to create a situation here for Manny and his family that he wants to be here until he has an opportunity to get a really good head coaching job that’s going to allow him to flourish. I think Brent [Pry] handled it probably as well as any. He had a great job, turned down a bunch of jobs waiting for the right one. What happens is, I think the older and the longer you’re in this profession, you recognize that, right? It’s assistant coaches not leaving for titles. If the assistant coaches have an opportunity to go be the coordinator and call the offense or defense or special teams, then they should do that if that’s what they want to do professionally. But for myself and Pat and Vinnie, we’re going to try and go everything we possibly can to make sure that guys aren’t leaving for lateral moves. And to me, that’s the focus. The other opportunities, I think that’s in their best interest if it’s the right job, and it’s also I think a complement to what we’re doing here.”

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