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James Franklin talks defensive line: ‘we feel good about the depth that we have’

The Nittany Lions’ head coach sat down to talk some D-line ahead of Penn State’s first spring practice.



James Franklin
Apr 17, 2021; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin looks on during the Penn State spring practice at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Alberti-USA TODAY Sports

STATE COLLEGE, PA — On Tuesday, Penn State kicked off its first spring practice leading up to the infamous Blue-White game on April 15th. Before the Nittany Lions’ practice, Penn State head football coach James Franklin addressed the media — when asked about his defensive line, Franklin feels confident that Penn State football is in good shape there.

James Franklin talks defensive line at Tuesday press conference

Here is what Penn State head coach James Franklin had to say about his defensive line, its depth, and his size preferences on the inside of his line:

“Yeah, I think we feel good about the depth that we have there,” Franklin said. “Obviously, you would like more, but when you talk about, we got four guys that have played a decent amount of football, three specifically that have played a decent amount of football, with [Hakeem] Beamon, [Zane] Durant, [Dvon] Ellies, and [Jordan] van den Berg, those guys have all played.

“And then we’ve got two guys that we’re excited about with [Kaleb] Artis and [Davon] Townley. And then [Sam] Siafa is a guy that’s just transitioned over there, so see what he’s going to be able to do as well. And then we got Ty Blanding coming in in the summer, so we’ll see how that plays out. You never really kind of depend on or expect a true freshman to be able to play there, but you never know. Durant, Zane Durant was able to do it last year.

“So we’ll see how that plays out. But Beamon, Alize, Durant, van den Berg, those guys. Then we have some guys obviously, as you guys know, [Coziah] Izzard has played a ton of football. I’m not sure how much he’ll be able to go this spring with some bumps and bruises that you guys will find out about obviously when you come out to practice. But when you factor him in, then you really got five guys that have played a ton of football at Penn State.”

Deion Barnes will help Penn State football improve at D-Line in 2023

James Franklin made a point to circle back and again address the depth that Penn State football brings at D-line heading into the 2023 season. Franklin also brought up his new defensive line coach, Deion Barnes, who was promoted to D-line coach just a few days ago.

“To me, if we can have a two-and-a-half deep at every position, with guys that have played in games and showed that we can win with, then great. I would like us to be a little bit bigger at D-tackle. I think there’s some games where we’re able to get away with it because of our athleticism and our quickness, but to win the way we want to win, we need both, we need size and quickness and athleticism.

“I think Deion’s going to be able to build off of what we’ve done the last couple of years, but I also think he’s going to put his stamp on it as well. I know one of the things that’s really important to him is effort, and I think now that sounds like a simple thing, but we think there’s a little bit left in the tank to get our guys to play on a different level when it comes to effort.”

‘The game starts up front’

As we turn the page from the 2022 season to a brand new season this fall, James Franklin says that the offensive and defensive lines of his team will determine the Nittany Lions’ success.

“I’m a big believer on both sides of the ball. You guys have heard me talk about this before, is the game starts up front, whether it’s the defense or whether it’s the offense. To your point, I think we’ve got a chance to be really talented at defensive end. I think we got a chance to be really good at defensive tackle. But there’s probably a little bit more question marks there and a little less depth. I also could see us maybe getting into some situations where in passing downs, we’re getting more of those defensive ends on the field if they show that they’re able to rush as internal players as well.

“I know Deion wants to put his stamp on it. I think we’ll have a better idea for that after spring of what we did well, what we need to build on. But I think at the end of the day, it all starts with relationships. He’s got really strong relationships. But I also think they need; the players need to understand, and I know Deion addressed this with them yesterday, like, this is not going to be the same Deion, as much as he thinks he’s going to be and as much as they think he’s going to be, when you’re in a complementary role compared to running the show and running the room, there’s a transition that happens, and it’s going to be fun and it’s going to be exciting. I also think we’ve all got to play a part in that as well in supporting Deion in that room through this transition. That would be for whoever we hired.”

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