|Follow PSU Football:||Follow @PennStateFball|
Koa Farmer | Linebacker | Sr./Jr.
Q. James was telling us about the WHOOP sleep tracker. The team started using them in the spring, but what's the process been like for you getting adapted to it and do you like using it?
KF: I'm actually not wearing mine right now because I was at the career fair, but I think it's good. I like looking at it because it measures your sleep, your sleep performance and your daily strain. So, if you're working too hard and you're getting less sleep, how is that going to affect your day? I think that's pretty interesting to look at.
Q. Can you take us back to the first team meeting or whenever this was introduced? Who explained the process and how it worked?
KF: I think [Dwight Galt] mentioned some guy from Australia was going to come and talk about a new device. They were talking about it and we were very excited. Thinking about what it’s going to look like. Is it going to look like an Apple-watch-type thing? When we got it, it was exciting, too. For the coaches to give us that kind of devices and for us to use it is big for our program.
Q. So talk about this week's opponent, Georgia State, what challenges they bring from your perspective and what you're looking for in this game?
KF: I think they are a solid program. They had a good game against Wisconsin last year at Wisconsin...Jason [Cabinda] and I were actually going to watch some film on it yesterday. They have some athletes. They run a solid offense and it's going to be a challenging opponent.
Q. Coach talked about big plays and how they are good about shutting down explosive plays. Talk about that storyline.
KF: I think our offense is very explosive and Georgia State has explosive players, as well. They are fast and athletic. That's just something on our defense that we have to contain.
Q. Can you talk about your role on the kick return team, and how much do you want to see somebody kick it away from Saquon and maybe to one of the up-guys?
KF: I'm a retired kickoff returner, but when 26 is back there, I wouldn't want to kick it to him. I'm looking at the ball every single time we go out there and am ready for that opportunity. I always tell Coach Huff, "If I take [a kickoff] back [for a touchdown], you'd better put be back on kickoff return."
But it's fun. That's how dangerous our special teams are and that's how important special teams are for this program. Just to get that opportunity is good.
Q. Can you address what your role is when Saquon [Barkley] gets the ball? Do you have to wait a certain amount of time?
KF: It just depends on the return [alignment] that week. Sometimes, I'm on the wedge with Jason [Cabinda] and sometimes I'm just focused on a guy on the back side. When I do get the ball, it is my job to get as [many yards] as I can and do as much as I can do.
Q. As a front seven, what's the biggest thing you guys have wanted to improve on going into this week and the next couple weeks?
KF: The details. Coach Franklin always talks about how if we each get one percent better, how much better as a whole we're going to be: running to the football, finishing tackles, wrapping up, playing with personality and things like that. I think that's one thing that we can work on each week.
Q. How much time did you spend on fundamentals like that in practice?
KF: We do as much as we can. You can argue the game of football is changing and not a lot of hitting is done in practice, but one thing we do focus on is the fundamentals: wrapping up, squeeze and roll and things like that.
Q. You’ve established yourself at linebacker after playing many roles. But talk about your comfortability in certain packages, knowing your responsibilities and how you're using your blend of speed and athleticism.
KF: I'm kind of a safety-type linebacker. Safeties are fast, and linebackers are big and strong, and I kind of have both in a way.
As far as defending the run or slot [receiver], a lot of times I'm bigger than those guys. Coach Pry always talks about being a force out there and kind of forcing the ball in, forcing the receiver to make those catches. In the pass game it is reading pass concepts, like get in the curl flat drop or the v-tech drop and being smarter and looking at what each opponent's scheme is.
Q. How often do you guys practice elements of identifying run/pass and then getting off the block? It seemed as if the defense was ready for the play Pittsburgh ran that Marcus got the safety on?
KF: That's just reading off the line -- the offense, the pass, the pass/run read is usually their left tackle. That's what I read looking into the box. If it's a high hat, then it's a pass. If he's pulling or coming down on the defensive end, it's a run.
Marcus made a really good read, as you saw, the blocker didn't even touch him and he made the play. That was just big.
DeAndre Thompkins | Wide Receiver | Sr./Jr.
Q. When you know you're going to return a punt and it's not going to be a fair catch, what's the first thing you look for to see what's going to happen next?
DT: Whenever I catch the ball and I get my eyes downfield I just look for blue jerseys and try to go away from them because those are my guys. I try to look for where my teammates are and try to read them and then run to green grass.
Q. When you first started returning punts, how do you get to the point where you're not worried about getting hit when catching the punt? How do you get that confidence?
DT: I had that [nervous] feeling when I was first returning punts. All I can say is that you have to grow into it. Getting hit is part of the game. It happens to everybody. Everybody gets their shot.
So you've just got to realize that it's going to happen. You've just got to make a play regardless. It's kind of one of those, the ball is in the air and if I get hit, I get hit, and if I don't, I'm going to try to score a touchdown.
Q. At what point did you get over that?
DT: I would have to say when I first started returning punts in the Buffalo game. I had a good punt return in that game, so I had the highs. Then miffing punts and getting hit in a game, as well, kind of puts it all into perspective: the best of the best and the worst of the worst.
Then just growing up with experience, you learn that bad things will happen. And, then good things happen, too. You've just got to go out and make the best of your opportunities.
Q. You guys are wearing a device to tracks your sleep and movement during the day. How long have you been doing that and what has it been like?
DT: We started wearing them in the spring. It's kind of been awhile we've been able to track how we've been doing throughout the night.
My numbers are pretty good. I get in the green as much as I can. There's times where practice and studying and school gets in the way but for the most part, I feel like as a team, even as a receiver unit, we get very good rest.
Q. Are you eligible for kickoffs in practice?
DT: I'm eligible for anything, but that’s up to the coaches. I just do my job and wherever I am on the depth chart at that time, I just go and do that to the best of my ability at that position.
Q. Is there an NFL guy you model after or do you have your own way of doing it?
DT: One thing that's different about punt return is that you can't really watch film on anyone catching punts because it's kind an individual type of technique.
It's really just backyard football. Once you catch the ball, you just try to get away from everybody who is trying to tackle you. It's like playing tag, basically. There's not really anybody in the NFL that I watch consistently catch punts. I do watch punt return at the NFL level but there's not really a guy that I can single out.
Q. What challenge does Georgia State pose from your perspective? What challenges do you see coming up Saturday for you guys?
DT: They are a great team. They are well-coached. They are fast. They have guys who have played a lot of football and have a lot of experience on the back end. They have been playing football together for a while.
Experience is always something that you can't teach, so that's one thing that they have that I've been able to see on film.
Q. Can you take us back to the spring when the sleep program was first introduced; the reaction amongst the guys?
DT: It's kind of weird being able to put numbers to your sleep. So it was kind of a weird situation being able to go on your iPad and track how much sleep you had, how many times you woke up and stuff like that.
But as we got more comfortable with it and understood it better with our strength staff bringing us in individually being able to look at our numbers and talk about things that we need to improve on or things that we're doing very well, kind of helped us as a team be able to come out every day and peak at the right time.
That's one thing that I think the WHOOP has done for us, being able to put numbers to different things and being able to prepare yourself well for not just the game but practice or lifts or anything that you have during the day.
Q. Did you have any reservations about wanting to use that?
DT: Sleep is something that's very important. You talk to any professional athlete and they say that sleep is something that is very valuable. When you have the opportunity to sit down and talk about the WHOOP and what it does; that is something I was very interested in. Whether my coach sees it or not, that's something that I can improve on and make myself better.
Then with my coach watching it, as well, he can give me pointers or tips or advice on how I can make myself the best person I am.
Q. Is the goal eight hours?
DT: It depends. There's a lot of factors that go into it: stress level, whether you're sick or not, how long you've been working out. They actually have a stress level on our meter that tells you how much stress you've had the whole day.
So it kind of depends. There's different factors that lead into it, and the good thingis that it puts a color indicator on how well your sleep is. So of course, red, yellow, green.
Q. Is this something you wear all the time or is it something you put on at night?
DT: Yeah, I'm actually wearing it now. I wear it 24/7. It doesn't come off. I mean, I take it off sometimes in practice if I know it's going to fall off but for the most part, I wear it 24/7.
Q. Does it measure anything besides sleep and stress levels?
DT: From the best of my knowledge: heart rate, that's one thing I look at, sleep and stress level. Stress level being how fast your heart beats in a workout or stuff like that.