Penn State’s James Franklin discusses HBO, redshirting and more
STATE COLLEGE — The press conference questions came at James Franklin from some interesting angles Tuesday. It’s Purdue week, it’s homecoming and the HBO cameras are following the Penn State program this week. The unbeaten Nittany Lions are heavy favorites against the Boilermakers (1-3), but anything is possible Saturday at Beaver Stadium.
Even with HBO roaming State College, it’s business as usual for Franklin, the assistants and the players. The HBO special on Penn State will run a week from Thursday, and the focus is the PSU prep for Purdue along with what transpires Saturday. Franklin said the presence of cameras is not new as the Lions are the focus of “Unrivaled,” produced by WPSU.
“You know, we have our own WPSU around so much, and they do such a fantastic job for us,” Franklin said. “The more we kind of went through it, I said, you know, the reality is, it’s not going to be a whole lot different than what we already have, and it’s not like these guys are walking around with like HBO plastered all around them. We have cameras around our building all the time, and like I said before, WPSU does a fantastic job for us.
“After talking to the (PSU players’) leadership council about it and after talking to the coaching staff, we just felt like it was the right thing to do.”
Franklin believes backup middle linebacker Ellis Brooks is playing starter-quality football. The redshirt sophomore had 21/2 sacks against Maryland. He was one of Penn State’s defensive players of the game vs. the Terps.
“Obviously, Jan Johnson and Ellis Brooks now are splitting reps almost one-to-one,” Franklin said.
“And both of those guys, Jan starts the game off with a huge interception to kind of set the tone, and then Ellis Brooks comes in and makes a bunch of plays and has a lot of production, sacks and tackles for loss and things like that.”
It’s clear Franklin and his assistants thoroughly enjoyed reviewing the Maryland tape.
“I thought probably the most impressive thing is the level that we played for four quarters with the twos, with the threes and, at some spots, the fours,” Franklin said. “It was impressive. They played up to the standard for four quarters, so very pleased with that.”
Franklin later added: “I thought the guys were ready to play. I think we’ve created good depth to keep guys fresh. The most important stat you have is scoring offense and scoring defense, and we obviously did well in those areas. Our special teams has been pretty clutch all year long, and we’re going to need them to continue to be.
“We’re seeing a lot of guys play and a lot of guys play at a high level. You know, I thought we handled the noise well. I thought we handled — our guys looked fresh and fast, so I think we handled the bye week well.”
Two talented freshmen who played early in the season might be heading for redshirts. The players in question are outside linebacker Lance Dixon and offensive tackle Caedan Wallace. Freshmen expected to play all season are given “green lights” by the coaches, players who not definites to play are “yellows.”
“We’ve had a little bit of some changes,” Franklin said. “Lance Dixon is a guy that we’ve kind of moved into the yellow category and are going to try to hold his games for later in the year, or if there’s an injury, we still feel like we could play him. But just not getting enough reps right now for it to make sense in burning his year.
“And that would be the same situation at tackle with Caedan Wallace, a guy that we were just playing on PAT, field goal, and it didn’t make sense at that point to burn his year for that. Those guys could slide back to greens right now, but we are going to hold them.”