UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In the midst of a busy recruiting weekend on campus, Penn State head coach James Franklin met with members of the media Saturday morning for a year-end press conference.
Franklin spent time reflecting on the historic season which featured a Big Ten Championship and a Rose Bowl appearance, among an abundance of highlights.
Among all the highlights though, Franklin was pleased with the poise and maturity the Nittany Lions demonstrated throughout the season, continuing to remain focused even in the face of both adversity and success.
"I think our guys really handled a lot of things well," Franklin said. "I think the way the season ended, I think the Rose Bowl, how our guys handled themselves academically, how our guys handled themselves socially - you know, right now I think we're in a position that we're going to be able to retain most if not all of the staff, which is great."
With signing day less than 10 days away, Franklin did speak to the decision of a few of the newest Nittany Lions who have already arrived in Happy Valley.
Penn State welcomed four early enrollees including, hybrid linebacker Brelin Faison-Walden, defensive back Lamont Wade, offensive lineman Mike Miranda and wide receiver KJ Hamler at the start of the spring semester.
Although Franklin hasn't been able to spend a ton of time with the newcomers due to a packed recruiting schedule, all four are well underway taking classes and also getting into the weight room for a jump on winter workouts.
"I'm going to have a meeting with all four of those guys today and just sit down and just make sure they are doing well and they're adjusting well, but the feedback I get from Todd Kulka, our academic advisor, they seem to be doing really well," Franklin said. "The feedback that I get from Dwight Galt, the strength staff, they seem to be doing well. Tim Bream and his staff, Will Flaherty, who runs our player development, is very hands-on with our guys in the adjustment process, they seem to be doing well."
As Franklin and the staff have stressed throughout the season, the decision to enroll early certainly offers tremendous value, providing student-athletes with an edge in all different phases, getting a head start on transitioning from high school to collegiate life as opposed to arriving for camp.
"If you're just showing up on campus for the first time, it takes a pretty special guy to say you're going to play as a true freshman or earn a starting job when you've only been on campus for four to six weeks and you're competing with guys who have been on campus four, three, two years. I think it helps, but it's not for everybody," Franklin said.
As noted though, Franklin stressed that he and his staff never try to convince student-athletes that enrolling early is the way to go. Rather it's more of a case-by-case basis, taking into account the student-athletes' total readiness, from a social, academic and athletic standpoint.
ever try to talk guys into doing it because I also think there's value in
saying I'm going to go to my prom; I am going to play my senior year of
basketball," Franklin said. "There's value in that, as well, being with my
buddies for six more months and kind of going through that process, being able
to go away for vacation with my mom and dad after I graduate for a week, those
types of things."
On The Quote Board -
- While proud of the way his Nittany Lions handled their business this year, Franklin noted that there's only really one happy team at the end of the year.
"We have things that we should be very proud of, and our guys, they should be confidence-building experiences, but we also have things that I think should be motivating, that, again, the way I look at it, there's one happy team at the end of the year, and that's Clemson and my boy, Dabo [Swinney]. Everybody else is salty and angry and ready to get back to work again."
- Among those Nittany Lions who are ready to get back to work again, is quarterback Trace McSorley, who Franklin praised for being totally aware of his strengths and weaknesses, with great intent on utilizing the offseason to study the year.
"What we're going to do between now and next year is how can we take the amount of times that he maybe made decisions that he would prefer to make differently in the future and how can we limit them," Franklin said. "Say 12 percent of the time last year he made decisions that he would have, now looking back at it, made differently; how can we take that and reduce it to maybe 8 percent or 6 percent next year, and kind of keep heading in that direction."
- Franklin stressed that under his guidance, the Penn State Football program is simply not in the mindset of building a team that's meant to be a feeder system for the NFL.
"And for us, what we're trying to do is we're trying to recruit guys that we think are great fits to this community, that are great fits academically, that are going to be really, really good college players, that will leave here with degrees, and then hopefully can continue playing the game of football as long as they possibly can in the NFL, but it's really in that order."