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Weekly Press Conference - Head Coach James Franklin (Pittsburgh)

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Sept. 5, 2017

Untitled Document

Opening Statement
I'll start with a little bit of a review from last week First thing is offensive players of the week, we gave to the offensive line. Specifically, if you had to single one guy out, I'd probably say Brendan Mahon played really well, played really physical, but we gave it to the whole offensive line. [We had] 569 yards of total offense with a very balanced attack; 322 passing yards, 247 rushing yards, and the obvious stat is zero sacks. So very impressed there.

Defensively, [our player of the week was] Ryan Buchholz with four tackles, one and a half tackles for loss, one forced fumble and a sack. I thought he played really well. He creates a lot of flexibility for us on defense, specifically the defensive line.

And then obviously on special teams, DeAndre Thompkins, who set a school record for [punt return] average in a game and had a 61-yard punt return for a touchdown, first since 2008. Great to get Derrick Williams out of the record book there [laughing] with the 31.8-yard average on four returns.

In general, I was very pleased with our execution and our effort overall as an organization. I still think we've got a little bit more in the tank. I mean, you look at DeAndre Thompkins and his punt return and he gets the credit, but if you watch the punt return for the touchdown, there are a lot of guys that blocked extremely well to set that up. Cam Brown really sticks out in my mind, Zech McPhearson is another guy that sticks out in my mind, and really all of them. Everybody was out there working really hard to allow our team and DeAndre to be successful. So I was pleased with that.



We played over 60 players and I am very pleased with that. We got a lot of experience, kept guys fresh, kept guys healthy. Offensively we had 15 explosive plays. One big emphasis on our team is creating explosive plays. We gave up zero sacks and we were 5 of 6 in the red zone. Obviously we had the one turnover in the red zone and we want to eliminate that. We've got to improve on third down. That is still an area that we need to get better in. We were 33 percent on 3rd down and on 4th down we were 50 percent.

Defensively, it was a good collective effort and we again played a lot of guys, only yielded 159 total yards, zero points, 14 tackles for loss, and only gave up one explosive play, which came late in the game. We didn't win the turnover battle, we tied that, but then when you also win the explosive play battle, you have a chance to have a lot of success, especially when you're talking about 15 explosive plays to one.

We need to create more turnovers on defense, and then we need to finish tackles. We had a lot of guys that had positions for really good tackles, tackles for a loss or minimum-gain tackles and they kind of slipped through our fingers. We have to be more consistent and we have to finish our tackles.

On special teams, again, I thought it was really good, but I'd also make the argument on some of the other punt returns, our effort wasn't as good as it was on the punt return touchdown.

In general, I am pleased with kind of where we're at.

Looking at Pittsburgh, Coach Narduzzi does a really good job and we have a lot of respect for him and their program. They present a very challenging offense. Probably more similar to a Stanford or Michigan State style of offense. Multiple personnel groups, multiple formations, unbalanced, shifts, motions, trades. I think that's something that we're going to spend a lot of time working on this week defensively. They play a base 4-3 defense and will use a lot of nickel, and they'll go with their three-down front, as well. [They are] Very well-coached, play hard, physical and run to the ball.

Special teams is the area I think that they do probably their best job. I think their special teams coordinator does a tremendous job. Quadree Henderson in my opinion is the issue in the game. He's the guy you go into the game and you say who's the guy that can be a game changer or a game wrecker, however you want to describe it. He's that guy. So we have to have a plan for him to try to limit the impact that he'll have in this game.

And the other thing I saw some things reported, which kind of interesting. I listen to everything and I read everything. Not that it matters a whole lot, but last year we went to their place and it was a tough environment. Obviously it's an exciting game for the state. We were the underdogs, everything that I saw, and now this year coming to our place, obviously I think the environment is going to be great, as well. Should be exciting. I know our guys are looking forward to it. The last thing I'll say is I want to make sure people understand what I'm saying. People kind of keep asking me about this game and I understand the significance of this game, and I understand the importance of this game, but I'm also a huge believer that this is the most important game on our schedule because it's the one we play this week. Last week the Akron game was the most important game in the universe for us. This week, the Pitt game is the most important game in the universe. It's the only thing that exists for us.

I don't want people to take what I'm saying the wrong way. This is the Super Bowl for us because it's the game that we play [this] Saturday. Last week our Super Bowl was Akron. So I think when I say these things, people act like I'm trying to say that the Pitt game is not a big game. It's a huge game. It is the most important game that we have on our schedule. Last week, Akron was the most important game that we had on our schedule. Next week, we'll talk about next week. But that's just how we're going to approach it. Always have, always will. It's not going to change.

As much as people want to tell me how we should be approaching it, that's how we will always approach it. It is a very important game for us because it's the one we play Saturday.

Q. Is Pitt much different than it was a year ago with the different offensive coordinator and different personnel in the backfield?
JF: No, I think Pat's running a program where he has systems that he believes in, and he's going to hire coordinators to come in and run those systems. Although it's a different guy doing it, he went out and hired a guy with a similar philosophy to his. Obviously there's some tweaks, but when you watch, you watch the first two, maybe the first three drives against Youngstown State and it looks like the same stuff that they ran last year: trades, shifts, motions, unbalanced, fly sweep, fake fly sweep, inside zone, power split zone. I think it's very similar.

Q. Ryan Buchholz looked very disruptive when he was in there. What are your thoughts on his development?
JF: He's a guy that we've been really kind of excited about from the beginning. Through the recruiting process and once he arrived on campus, he’s been very mature. He's very intelligent. He's a massive human being in every area. I mean, he's 6-foot-6, 275 pounds and carries it really well. He's a very good athlete, a fluid athlete. He's flexible. He can change direction. He's a guy that can do a lot of different things for you. He can kind of overpower people at defensive end, but he's not a guy that is just a power guy. He can counter-move, he can flip his hips. He's got the athleticism of a defensive end but also has the size to move inside if we need to, whether that's our wild package on third down or we try to get four defensive ends on the field at the same time to create a little bit more of a pass rush in obvious passing situations. We like the maturity and the versatility that he gives us, specifically at defensive end, but he also creates some flexibility for us, as well.

Q. Since the spring, how do you think Connor McGovern has handled the transition back to center, particularly the vocal aspect, as well as a communicator?
JF: I think he's been good. I don't know if I would necessarily call it a transition back. I know he played center in high school, but they pretty much ran goal line offense [the entire game] if you go back and watch his tape. He was in almost a four-point stance with the quarterback under center, fullback two yards behind the quarterback. So obviously going to center now, all he does or predominantly is shotgun snaps the whole time, and running a spread type system, it's new. Being in the middle and making the calls and being the captain of the offensive line, I get that part of it, but I don't know how much carryover there is from what he did in high school to what we're asking him to do here.

He's a guy that played at a pretty high level as a true freshman for us last year. He has gotten bigger, gotten stronger, gotten leaner and is really doing a good job being verbal. That was an area I was a little bit concerned about with him, is that he's not the most vocal guy. So making sure that he was going to take control in there and make the calls with confidence. That was something that I think needed to grow, and I think that was communicated through [offensive] Coach [Matt] Limegrover and myself. He's done a good job. So I think you'll just continue to see him get better and better as the season goes on and gain more confidence, which will allow him to be more physical.

As much as we loved Brian Gaia, and Brian did a great job for us from a leadership, intelligence and maturity standpoint and really from an athleticism perspective, but Brian was probably 282 pounds, and Conner is about 312 pounds, so it just creates a little bit different dynamic when you've got McGovern next to Steven Gonzalez, who's, depending on the week, is a cheeseburger away from 360. It just creates a different dynamic inside.

Q. Why did you decide to have Saquon Barkley return the opening kickoff on Saturday, and what is Miles Sanders' role going to be there?
JF: We had it scheduled that [Saquon] was going to return the first kickoff of the game. That's what we had decided to do and we didn't get a first kick of the game until the second half. I know everybody keeps talking about that they felt like the game was in hand. Well, if anybody watched college football this weekend, I don't know if you necessarily could say that. I'm very comfortable with that, and we'll continue to do that.

Miles is going to get opportunities at running back and will also get opportunities as a kickoff returner, as well.

Q. What did you think about the efforts of Tyler Davis and Alex Barbir on kickoffs? Are you going to switch them back and forth moving forward?
JF: Right now, Tyler is the guy. We want to treat Alex very similar to other positions when we feel like we can get him a rep and gain some experience, we will try to do that. But it's Tyler's job. I thought Tyler did a great job with his ball location. You talk about we'd like for that ball to land three or four yards deep in the end zone and outside the numbers. He didn't consistently get it three yards deep in the end zone, but his hang time was really good, and his location was really good in terms of outside the numbers.

You know, I think in the past, we have kicked the ball into the end zone probably a little bit more consistently, but we also didn't have hang time. So if that ball would ever be brought out without the hang time, it could create some stress and challenges on our coverage team.

I like where we're at. I'd like to see a little bit more pop. I'd like to see a little bit more distance. But I also have a lot of confidence in our coverage team right now and how they're playing. So, I think we're in a good place. We'd like to get Alex a little bit of experience, and maybe as Alex gains experience, then he can take a little bit off of Tyler's plate, maybe an every other kickoff type of deal, but we'll just see how that plays out. Right now Tyler is the guy, and we'll just play it day by day.

Q. We all see how great a player Jason Cabinda is on the field, but I'd like to know what kind of guy he is off the field, his leadership, and what kind of a person is he?
JF: You know, Jason has been a guy very early, I mean very early on, from getting the job, getting to know Jason, getting to know Jason's mother. Jason has a really strong mother that's done a great job raising him. He comes from a very proud family, a family that takes education very serious. Jason is a guy that has very strong opinions and beliefs, which I like. That's also why he's such a strong leader, because when he says things, he says it with conviction, because he's thought it through.

He's going to be getting a degree in economics. He should be finishing this semester. He's done a nice job there, as well, taking a leadership positions on campus, as well. Take athletics and take school out of it, and just look at other experiences on campus, he's been great. He's a guy that you go into meetings and he is locked in. He's an active listener. He's an active learner. He's on the edge of his seat. He's nodding his head. He's got great eye contact, and he's the guy that you feel really strongly is going and reinforcing in the locker room and on Saturday what the young guys should be doing.

I'm pleased with him. He’s what you want at the Mike linebacker. We talk a lot about leaving a legacy here at Penn State and leaving a legacy on the football team, in your community or whatever it is. I think Mike Hull is a great example and what he did with Jason. Jason talks all the time about Mike and how he practiced and how he was in meetings and how he was academically and how he played the game and how productive he was every single day. At practice for Mike, it was the Super Bowl. He approached it like that every single day, and it was funny because I remember when the NFL scouts came talking about him, they’d say “well, he's not this and he's not that.” I’d say, “I'm just telling you, this guy is going to be a player for you.” Obviously he's doing it again at the next level, and I think he left an impression on Jason. I think Jason is going to end up leaving an impact with the young guys that we've got in our program now, leaving a legacy that guys say, “this is how Jason did it when he was here.”

I'm very pleased with him. The last cherry on top is making sure that he leaves in December with his degree in economics.

Q. With Andrew Nelson, eventually working him back into the lineup, I imagine if he was a defensive lineman, it would be simple, just move him back into the rotation and go. Is it a little different with offensive linemen?
JF: Yeah. Where I probably would say it's more similar because he's such a veteran player and he's such an older player, and we've got a veteran offensive line, so the fact that he's been able to work in and get reps in practice and we've been able to kind of rotate him and Chasz [Wright], I actually think in a lot of ways, it is like a defensive line mentality in terms of how we'd be able to rotate them. He's played so many games for us and he’s played so many games with a lot of those guys on the line already, so there is a chemistry built with him.

I agree with you, you wouldn't rotate a second-team offensive line like you do on the defensive line because of the chemistry. I do think Andrew doesn't limit you that way, and we do plan on continuing to work him back in as soon as he and we feel like he is ready in every aspect. We think he's a very high-level player. We think he's got a bright future and can continue playing the game after Penn State. But we want to make sure that he is ready before we put him back in.

Q. Blocking downfield with the receivers in the first game was really noticeable. Is that an area you think these guys have gotten better over the last year, and how do you sell that to the young kids?
JF: I think a couple things. Number one, we emphasize it. Number two, we've got big wide outs. If you recruit a bunch of really small, quick, elusive fast wide outs, they can cause some real match-up problems in coverage, but then they're in a challenging situation when it comes to blocking. So when you've got a guy like Juwan Johnson who's 6-foot-4, 225 or 230 pounds, that's essentially like lining a tight end up out there over a defensive back.

That was something I felt strongly about going into this camp that we need to improve on both sides, block destruction on defense - defeating the block and being able to go make the tackle - and then on the offense being able to be physical, create space and sustain the block.

What I asked to happen a little bit more this year and during camp was every time you say one-on-one, offensive line versus defensive line or defensive back versus wide receiver, everybody thinks you're talking about routes and coverage, but we did a lot more this year of the receivers going against the defensive backs and blocking and block destruction drills where you're not trying to simulate it yourself with two wide receivers going against each other. It's just not the same when you can compete against other really good players in a blocking and block destruction drill, it's going to get guys more prepared for what they're actually going to face on Saturday. So we did more of that.

We all know that our run game is going to start with our offensive line to give Saquon a chance to get started. Our tight ends are extensions are our offensive line from that standpoint. We all know Saquon and the rest of our running backs are talented enough to get to the next level, and now you've got a combination of our receivers blocking downfield, and Saquon having to be responsible for the one free hitter that would account for the quarterback, that one player on defense where they kind of have an advantage. That’s the running backs job, to consistently beat the one guy that's not accounted for. A combination of all those things when you do it, you've got a chance to have a pretty successful running game.

Q. You mentioned on Saturday that your young defensive ends need to take the next step to put fear in the quarterback, the offensive tackle, and the offensive coordinator, and you said it would come. Can you elaborate on that?
JF: First of all, that was the position we probably had the least experience returning, so they need to gain more experience, and the best way to gain experience is by playing. We were fortunate enough to play a bunch of guys and for some guys their game is going to elevate on Saturdays. Now, some guys are going to not look as good as they've looked in practice, so being able to kind of identify that and figure that out is important.

To be honest with you, a big particulate of it is the style of offense you're playing. If you're playing a pro-style offense that is going to run the ball, play action, drop back on third down, stand in the pocket and go through progressions, then you've got to be able to make that guy uncomfortable. When you're facing RPO [run/pass option] or quick gain and the ball is coming out pretty quick, the defense has to determine is this a run or a pass on pretty much every single play. That makes it difficult to get to the quarterback, as you've seen with our offense, as well. One of the big reasons we made the change that we did was to help the offensive line.

So I think a lot of it is determined and dictated by the type of team you're playing, that is kind of how the game has changed. My point is if you get up by 21 points on someone and now that team feels like they have to throw the ball to get back into it, then that's a situation where your defensive line and your defensive ends should really be showing up.

I don't know if Saturday was necessarily that type of game because Akron is a big RPO team, and then to be honest with you, I think towards the end of the game, I don't want this to come off the wrong way, but I think they weren't necessarily calling an offense to try to get back in the game, if that makes sense.

So I think all those things kind of factor in, and we've just got to continue gaining experience. I think Sean Spencer does a really good job. Sean and I have been together for a long time. You don't coach a guy who leads the nation in sacks like Carl Nassib did, or you don't coach a unit that leads the nation in sacks without feeling like you can develop those things. I take a lot of pride in how we develop our guys from the time they get on campus until they graduate and I have a lot of confidence that [the defensive line] will continue to improve.

Q. Dovetailing off that question, having had the opportunity now to go back and look at film, with the way your defensive line as an entire group played, what are your thoughts?
JF: Tyrell Chavis was a guy that really jumped out to me. He was physical. He was explosive. I [normally] pull out about six plays a game that I show the entire team on Sunday, and he had a couple plays where he just took the center and drove the center back five yards into the backfield, and I don't care what offense you're running, if the nose guard takes the center and drives him five yards back in the backfield, you're going to have a hard time being successful. So he was a guy that really stood out to me.

As a group, I thought obviously they played well. I thought Buchholz obviously was disruptive. I thought our defensive tackles played really well. I think our ends showed some nice things.

I'd say Chavis was the guy that really kind of stood out to us. We feel like we've got five interior defensive tackles right now that are pretty darned good, and when you're able to have that and those guys are able to rotate and stay fresh and not play a lot of reps, then that's going to help you in the fourth quarter, that's going to help you late in the season. So we're in a pretty good position there.

Q. Ayron Monroe dressed, warmed up but didn't play. Do you expect him to be available this week?
JF: Correct.

Q. Looking at your offensive line and grading out some of those younger guys at the end of the game in the fourth quarter, what did you see there, and what does Zach Simpson bring for you guys because he's doing a lot?
JF: I'm a huge fan of Zach Simpson. He's a guy that showed up here with very little fanfare. All he's done since the day he's got here is put his nose down and got to work academically and athletically. He's one of those guys that earned everybody's respect very early on with that approach.

I'll never forget Anthony Zettel saying all the time, “that guy is going to play here. That guy is going to end up being a good player here.”

He's got a bright future. We're very glad he's here. It's awesome when you're able to keep a local kid from the community home. His parents come to practice all the time, which is really cool. But we love him, and that's kind of what I talk about all the time, for us to have the success that we want to have, it takes so many people with so many different roles having an impact and embracing their roles. That's the lettermen. That's the fans. That's the students. That is our band. That is obviously our coaches. That's the managers. That's the trainers. That's the backup center. That's the fourth team long snapper that maybe people don't know about. For us to run the type of organization and program that we want to run, it takes every single one of those people to take a lot of pride in their job and in their role, and I make the argument that whether you're the fourth team long snapper or the starting quarterback, you should be walking around on campus after that win we had this past Saturday feeling like you had a significant role in it, and I think Zach is one of those guys.

He is not satisfied with his role, but he understands his role and takes a lot of pride in it and comes to work every single day trying to get better for himself, and more importantly, trying to help the team be successful. I love the guy. Huge fan.

Q. Pitt is approaching this week a little differently, and they approached it the same way last year in terms of media access. I was just curious, did you feel that last year you guys were ready for what they were going to bring emotionally, or was it more of a matter of physical execution at the beginning of the game before you guys began the comeback?
JF: I think it was early in the season. We still hadn't found our identity. It was a hostile environment, and I think they were a talented team. You look at their roster, you look at their team last year, they were very talented. They were obviously able to get a win against the National Championship team [Clemson], as well. Then you look at how many guys they had get drafted or make NFL teams. They were a talented team, and they played well. You have to give them all the credit in the world.

You know, from a media perspective, I think you guys know, once again, we're not going to change our approach week in and week out. I'm not going to talk about one game differently than another. I'm not going to exclude the media. Whoever comes to the press conference will get to interact with me and the players. Whoever comes to practice will get a chance to interact with whoever we have assigned to interact with the media that day.

I know you guys always want more access. I think we've probably provided more access than Penn State has ever provided, although I don't know if that's always appreciated to be honest with you. However, [the access] is going to be consistent, and I think that's what most people ask for in life is they want consistency in behaviors, and that's what we're going to do. We're probably not always going to make every single one of you guys happy with every one of your requests and all your wants and all your needs, but you know what you're going to get with us week in and week out. Now, that's how we choose to run our organization. He's got the ability to run his organization however he sees fit. Some programs, and I've been a part of them, they have a one-voice policy all the time, where you never hear from anybody but the head coach. I think that's how the Patriots do it. It's a one-voice deal. You never talk to the assistants.

Everybody kind of has their ability to run their organization, their program the way they see best, but just with us, it's not going to change week to week.

Q. Is there any one of your guys you see as particularly critical to containing Henderson, and is there any challenge to keeping your guys from getting caught up in all the outside hype about this game?
JF: The first comment is our kickers - Tyler on kickoff, and Blake [Gillikin] on punts - and making sure that our punts and our kicks have the right distance, the right hang time, and the right location to allow our guys to get down and cover the ball.
I think it's exciting, and I think our team will approach it the same way. It's a tremendous challenge. He was All-America as a returner last year, so it's going to be a real challenge. He had a significant impact in the game last year. We're excited about it, but I think the biggest factors are going to be how we kick the ball

To your point about all the outside noise and all the distraction, no, because once again, that's why we have the approach that we have. Our approach is consistent. Each week the game we're playing is the most important game that we have.

I guess what I don't understand is are we supposed to prepare harder this week than we did last week? I mean, if we didn't play well, and I said, well, yeah, we didn't prepare as hard this week because we've got this game next week that's a big game...It never makes sense to me, and people get frustrated with it and all that kind of stuff, but we are going to control the things that we can control. The thing that we can control is today, not tomorrow, not yesterday. We can control today. So I want our players, I want our coaches to do everything they possibly can from the time the alarm goes off to the time they go to sleep and be comfortable at night laying your head on the pillow because you know you did everything you possibly could to maximize that day. When it comes to school, when it comes to preparing for this opponent, the more days we put together like that, the Saturdays will take care of themselves, the exams will take care of themselves, and that's how I want our guys to operate in this program. That's also how I want our guys, I hope, to operate in life. Take the game of football and learn these tremendous life habits that are going to allow them to go on and be successful in the future.

I think you focus on the things that you can control. Outside noise is not one of them. Expectations are not one of them. Cheers or boos are not one of them. Focus on the things that we can control. So that's why we don't change our approach. That's why I don't provide access to the media one week and not the next, because our players know what to expect. Our media knows what to expect. Our fans know what to expect. I know what to expect. I wake up in the morning, I know exactly what I've got for the day, and I think there's comfort in that, and I think there's confidence in that, when you have a routine.

My dad was in the Air Force, and one of the things that I've read when it comes to the military is you have an SOP, a standard operating procedure, that allows you to be organized, that allows you to not miss things, because you follow your routine.

There's also another military thing that says that you don't raise to the level of your competition or you don't raise to the level of the challenge, you actually fall back to your training, and that's what I want our guys to do is when times get tough, they don't need to think about what they do, they just fall back to their training. This is what we do, this is how we operate day in and day out, and it's not about the opponent. It's about our standard at Penn State, our standard, not the opponent.

It's something I believe very strongly in, as you can probably tell.

Q. In 2006, five teams averaged 35 or more points a game. Last season 26 teams averaged more than 35 points a game. How does that change what you expect out of a defense on a game to game basis?
JF: I think it's just changed how you have to look at it. The days of a certain yardage -- I mean, before it was like, if you had 400 yards of offense that was crazy, where now, that number is probably 600.

So it has changed. There's no doubt about it. And because there's so much diversity, you can go from defending the option one week to the next week defending a pro-style offense where they're going to try to hammer you with 22 personnel, and then you go to the next week where you may not see a tight end or a fullback for four weeks and teams are running the spread. I think that's what's so challenging and so difficult about being a defensive player and a defensive coordinator now. I would make the argument that's what makes it so exciting and so fun is the diversity in the game right now. There's a lot of different ways to do it and a lot of different ways to be right, and I think that's an argument of why the option is such a great college offense, because there's only a few teams running it. That's what makes it so difficult to defend, because now -- one of the numbers that's really interesting is everybody talks about how difficult it is to defend the option. Okay, if you do it during the week, I think the ideal situation is that you do it in game one, but then the problem is you spend an inordinate amount of time defending the option if you look at people the following week after defending one of those teams, it has an impact. These are all the things when we talk about scheduling and we talk about looking at an entire program and decision making and all these aspects, these are all the things you have to look at when you're studying best practices.

But for a defense overall, it's just changed. For people to look at our defense now and try to compare it to the defense here in the late '80s and early '90s, the numbers -- you can't compare. It's apples and oranges. It's comparing two different universes.

We had a discussion yesterday. I went into the defensive room and was kind of talking about four-minute offense, and we had a lot of discussion this off-season about four-minute offense and who we were going to be and what we were going to be and how we were going to do that. I also make the argument that you need to look at that on defense, as well. You need to play four-minute defense. Four-minute defense as it goes with a spread offense. My point is to think that your offense if you run a spread offense that you're going to just be able to go out and run the ball in a four-minute situation and eat a crazy amount of time off the clock, that's not who you are. You can't change your identity in that situation.

So now, I would say some of that argument now on defense. You can't give up a 75-yard drive in four plays. You've got to make them earn it. So I would say four-minute philosophy now is an entire team philosophy when you're playing a spread-style offense, if that makes sense.

I just think you have to change how you look at it is probably the biggest thing.

Q. Their quarterback has obviously only played one game in this offense. Do you go back and look at last year's tape at all or do you base this off of one game?
JF: I think it's like when you look at a defense and now they have a new defensive coordinator. You're looking at those plays, not necessarily to see how they run that offense. You're looking at that guy to just see his movement, see his arm strength, see his command of the offense. You may even go back and watch high school tape. You're going to do whatever you possibly can to give yourself the best opportunity. You may go back and watch USC spring games. Do whatever is going to give you the best opportunity to understand who that guy is, especially at the quarterback position.

Q. [No Microphone]
JF: I think the game has changed in general. I think there's more parity in football. I think whenever you're trying to compare -- even in Pennsylvania, at Temple, at Pitt, at Penn State -- you look across the country at all these different programs, there are programs that are having a bunch of success that hadn't had it before. People have kind of found the model that has worked for them, and I also think some of the things that people are doing, running the spread offense, running wishbone, doing different things to say, okay, here's my situation, what am I going to do to give us the best chance to be successful.

I think the fact that scholarships are limited [now], where years ago there was no limits on scholarships and certain schools could sign as many as they wanted, not because they wanted the player but just so other schools couldn't get them.

Or even the conference that we play in now.

There's so many factors. When I go back and I kind of look at our history and I try to study best practice from a Penn State perspective, I typically am looking at the Big Ten era, not before that, because again, it's hard to compare. There's just so many differences.

I do think there's an aspect to every fan base and probably every media group that covers historic programs like Penn State. They're comparing things to years ago, which is wonderful that we have the ability to do that, but the game really has changed in so many different ways, and that's where I think our challenge with the small numbers of schools like us is how do you continue to embrace the history and traditions with also moving forward to today's football. I think that's one of the things that we've worked really hard at since getting here of balancing that, and I think probably last year and this year were probably in the best position to do that because, number one, we understand our past and our history, and number two we have a pretty good awareness of the era of football that we are in now, and also the era of Penn State the University, and being able to kind of take all that information and create the best blueprint moving forward for how our organization needs to be run.

Q. You touched on it at the outset, but I'm interesting in knowing, when you travel the state, you talk with your fans, what are they telling you about this particular game on Saturday?
JF: Yeah, you'd have to use Twitter and ask them. They're all over the place. I'm not going to speak for our fans. As you guys know, I kind of hear a lot in a lot of different places. I hear things on Twitter. I hear things when I take my girls Sunday morning for donuts. I think I told you guys the one year on the caravan, I was actually using the toilet and someone came and tapped me on the shoulder and had some advice and wanted me to sign a football.

But if you want to find out what our fans [think,] that's where social media helps. You can ask them directly. I'm not going to try to speak for anybody else. I can tell you what the game means to us if you want me to go through all that again.


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