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Say What?! James Franklin Press Conference Highlights

James Franklin had several noteworthy quotes from his winter workouts press conference.



Penn State football head coach James Franklin listens to a question from a member of the media during football media day at Beaver Stadium on Saturday, August 6, 2022, in State College. © Dan Rainville / USA TODAY NETWORK Hes Dr 080622 Psumedia

On Tuesday, James Franklin held his annual press conference at the start of Penn State football’s winter workouts. Franklin discussed various topics, including recruiting, the structure of the college football schedule, and a particular position battle that we have been watching.

It’s nice to hear Franklin in a more relaxed setting, removed from the week-to-week grind of the season. If you have the time, I suggest you watch the entire press conference for the full context.

While James Franklin had several headline-worthy comments throughout the press conference, some were more eyebrow-raising than others. Here are a few that stood out to me.

On the Team’s Leadership Vacuum

“We had really established guys [last year], not only from a make-up perspective but also from a leadership perspective in our program, and I wouldn’t say that we have that right now from a leadership standpoint. We have to identify who those guys are. They need to have strong voices. We need to be aligned with the players and the players aligned, from a leadership standpoint, with the coaching staff. I thought last year that was as good as it’s been.”

We’re going to spend all offseason discussing depth charts, schemes, and physical player development; that’s a given. But the formation of young leaders may be the most critical component for Penn State to achieve its expectations for 2023.

James Franklin is right – the Nittany Lions did have one of the best groups of veteran leaders of any team in recent program history. Leaders like Sean Clifford, PJ Mustipher, and Ji’Ayir Brown helped the 2022 squad overcome two heartbreaking losses and end the year on a dominating run that culminated in a Rose Bowl victory.

To me, the new wave of leadership is most needed on offense. We know that the core of young talent is good. In the Rose Bowl, players with freshmen or sophomore eligibility had 419 of 448 total yards and four of five touchdowns. But for this offense to take the next step, these young players must be a source of stability both on and off the field. This is especially true for the quarterback position, but more on that later.

On the Expectation of the Wide Receivers Under Marques Hagans

“In terms of the room, I’m just a big believer that if you look at the NFL and you look at college football, the room and the position that I think can be maybe the most impactful right now is the wide receivers. Those guys at the NFL level, as well as college, are able to change the game and change the game quickly… I’m looking for us to develop and recruit a room that people in our conference are fearful of, and also on a national scale as well.”

Despite being his final comment of the day, to me, this was the most impactful statement James Franklin made during the entire press conference. It provides insight into why he decided to move on from Taylor Stubblefield, despite declining to go into details earlier in the session.

Franklin made two things abundantly clear with his thoughts on Marques Hagans throughout the day. First, he thinks highly of Hagans as a coach, as a recruiter, and as a person. Second, Hagans still has untapped potential that Franklin will attempt to help him unlock at Penn State.

From a talent development perspective, the wide receiver room was undoubtedly the weakest coming out of the 2022 season. That’s why the Nittany Lions brought in Dante Cephas and Malik McClain from the transfer portal. While Cephas won’t arrive on campus until the summer, Franklin was very complimentary of McClain several times during the press conference. Adding these two talented receivers will raise the level of competition throughout the entire position room.

Marques Hagans may not be in his final form by the fall. But Franklin certainly feels confident in his coaching skillset. Several players have high potential in the receivers’ room, but the issue has been consistency. How Hagans maximizes this talent in 2023 will be a good first test for him at Penn State.

On the Starting Quarterback Position

“… there’s going to be competition kind of across the board at all these positions, but as you know we are going to have to put somebody out there first based on how the season ended and Drew’s [Allar] role last year, then that would be him.”

Ah, the question we all knew was coming. And for most, this was the answer we expected.

No player – including seasoned veterans or five-star talents – should ever be handed a starting spot on the roster. The competition in practice helps elevate the level of play for the entire team. So, it’s no surprise that James Franklin would say the quarterback position is an open competition.

I’ve also been high on Beau Pribula since he was a prospect in high school. I do hope that one day he gets the opportunity to be the starting quarterback at Penn State. Even if that time isn’t now, don’t expect him to go away quietly.

But with all that said, I anticipate Drew Allar will be the starting quarterback when Penn State takes the field against West Virginia on September 2nd (207 days from now, in case you weren’t counting). He has all the raw ability, and we saw it flash several times in 2022.

Allar has been in the limelight since he arrived in Happy Valley. But now it’s time to prove it when the spotlight is fixed firmly on him.


Sean Clifford has some bold statements ahead of the NFL Draft

On Friday, Sean Clifford had some bold statements ahead of the NFL Draft in mid-April.



Penn State veteran Sean Clifford, Penn State football
Sep 17, 2022; Auburn, Alabama, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford (14) takes a snap during the first quarter against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

STATE COLLEGE, PA — On Friday, the Penn State Nittany Lions held their pro day at the school’s football facilities. There, 6-year Penn State football quarterback Sean Clifford made an impact on pro scouts, and made some bold claims about his combine snub and NFL hopes. Whether you love him or hate him, Penn State veteran Sean Clifford believes in himself, and believes that he is ready for what professional football has for him.

Penn State veteran Sean Clifford believes that he is ready for for the NFL

Here is some of what Penn State veteran Sean Clifford had to say during his pro day performance on Friday.

“I feel like I was snubbed with the Combine for sure,” Clifford said. “The body of work that I’ve had with these teams here; when I didn’t see my name as a Combine guy, I felt disrespected for sure. But, hey, it’s just more fuel to the fire.

“Being able to come out here, show the scouts what I got, and being able to really just put on a show, it’s been a lot of fun, and a good way to cap off a great career at Penn State. So I’m really thankful.”

Sean Clifford has an impressive body of work with Penn State football

During his six years in State College, Penn State veteran Sean Clifford broke numerous Penn State football records — such as passing yards, passing touchdowns, and more. Additionally, Clifford became the winningest Penn State quarterback of all-time, compiling a 33-15 record and two New Year’s Six bowls during his four seasons as a starter.

When asked how he through his pro day went, Penn State veteran Sean Clifford claimed that it went “Really well … Especially getting out there and being able to show my speed. I think that’s something I really wanted to come in and kind of re-prove. I know that I’ve shown speed on film. But I wanted to come out here and post a good time. So being able to post a 4.57[-second 40-yard-dash], I’m proud of that number.”

Now that his pro day has passed, Sean Clifford has his attention on getting into the NFL — he will likely be signed after the draft as not many teams are in need of a 24-year-old quarterback. Still, he believes that all he needs is a chance.

“I just need to be in a camp,” Clifford said. “I just need to be able to be in a practice with the pros. Because I know I’m a pro, [and] I know I can come in and add value to a team. I know that more than anything. I still think that I can play in the [NFL], 100 percent, provide to a team, win games, the same way I did here.

“So it’s just being able to come out, talk to as many scouts as possible, get to know some coaches. It’s just being able to get around a bunch of teams, because I truly feel like no matter where I’m at, I could add a substantial amount of value.”

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Penn State quarterback room dips in annual ESPN rankings

The Nittany Lions are a few spots down from where the 2022 QB room ranked.



Drew Allar, 2023 QB rankings

STATE COLLEGE, PA — Ahead of every college football season, ESPN ranks the top quarterback rooms in the sport. Seeing as QB is the most important position on the field, this ranking is a pretty important indication of how a team’s offense will perform throughout the year — ESPN ranks the entire room, not just the team’s starting quarterback. This week, ESPN released its 2023 QB rankings, and the Nittany Lions — led by sophomore Drew Allar — found themselves a few spots lower than they did a season ago.

Where did Penn State football rank in 2022?

With Sean Clifford and Drew Allar headlining Penn State’s quarterback room in 2022, ESPN ranked the Nittany Lions at No. 11 nationally a season ago. After winning the Rose Bowl and finishing 11-2 overall, Penn State football lost two of its three QBs from the 2022 room — Sean Clifford is graduating, and Christian Veilleux has entered the transfer portal.

With only Drew Allar remaining from last year’s room, many thought that this preseason dip in the rankings was inevitable; after all, no one has truly seen Allar or Pribula play ball yet.

Where do Drew Allar and Penn State fall in the 2023 QB rankings?

This year, Penn State comes in at No. 15 nationally in the 2023 QB rankings — just four spots down from last year’s rankings despite losing 2/3 of the room and a veteran starting quarterback. With the nation’s No. 1 recruit from 2022 — Drew Allar — at the helm this year, Penn State fans are hoping for much bigger and better than what the program got under Sean Clifford.

Behind Drew Allar is fellow sophomore Beau Pribula, who has been turning heads during spring ball this far, and could find himself a stand alone role on the Penn State offense this year. According to James Franklin, his most attractive trait is that he boasts an opposite skillset than what Sean Clifford and Drew Allar have.

Behind Pribula at QB3 is true freshman Jackson Smolik.

What is the expectation for Allar & Co. this year?

After four years of Sean Clifford, all Penn State fans are ready to turn the page. While Clifford’s teams had some great seasons — such as 2019 and 2022 which both won 11 games and New Year’s Six bowls — he was never enough to get the Nittany Lions to the next level. Now, Penn State needs to get more from the massive Drew Allar and his counterparts.

As I have written before, the Penn State Nittany Lions do not need Allar to be elite in 2023 to make the CFP. That being said, if Penn State wants to win a national title, elite is the only thing that can be expected of Drew Allar. We will know a lot more about this year’s offense on September 2nd when Penn State kicks off its 2023 season at home against West Virginia; for now, the expectations for Allar and Co. are all over the place.

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Penn State needs KeAndre Lambert-Smith to be a true No. 1, Franklin says

The Nittany Lions need their veteran wide receiver to be one of the best in the Big Ten this year.



Penn State football KeAndre Lambert-Smith
Nov 27, 2021; East Lansing, Michigan, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions wide receiver KeAndre Lambert-Smith (13) runs after a catch during the second quarter against the Michigan State Spartans at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

STATE COLLEGE, PA — Heading into the 2023 season, the Penn State Nittany Lions are losing some solid talent at the wide receiver position. A season ago, standouts like Parker Washington, Mitchell Tinsley, and Brenton Strange were some of Sean Clifford’s favorite targets; however, as we turn the page to a brand new season this fall, Penn State football will be without all three of these pass-catchers. In year one of the Drew Allar era, head coach James Franklin claims that the Nittany Lions need KeAndre Lambert-Smith to be a true No. 1 receiver.

Penn State football news KeAndre Lambert-Smith to be a true No. 1 receiver

The Penn State football team is looking solid at wide receiver right now despite all of its departures from the 2022 squad. The Nittany Lions managed to add two solid receivers from the transfer portal and still have some in-house talent that they can fall back on. That being said, Penn State needs one man to go above and beyond this year: KeAndre Lambert-Smith.

A season ago, Lambert-Smith caught 24 passes for 389 yards and four touchdowns — his best performance of the year came against No. 8 Utah in the Rose Bowl game on January 2nd; there, he hauled in three passes for 124 yards and a touchdown during the Nittany Lions’ 14-point win over the Utes. After the Rose Bowl performance, KeAndre Lambert-Smith claimed that, while the 11-2 season was nice, Penn State football is looking for bigger and better in 2023.

James Franklin says Lambert-Smith needs to be a top performer in the Big Ten, not just at Penn State

Here is what head coach James Franklin had to say about KeAndre Lambert-Smith during his media availability on Tuesday afternoon:

“He’s been really good so far this spring,” Franklin said. “We need him to be THE guy, a true number one [receiver], not just at Penn State but really in the [Big Ten] and a guy that people are talking about nationally.”

James Franklin added that Penn State is still figuring out some depth issues when it comes to the wideout room. “There is going to be a competition really with all of [Penn State’s receivers] — I think that is probably one of the big question marks between now and the first game.”

After an incredible 2022 season, the Penn State football team is looking for even better results from its offense. Right now, the quarterback, running back, offenisve line, and tight ends all appear to be somewhat in place; however, as the spring goes on, the Lions must figure out who will start and who will sit when it comes to their receivers. The one thing that we do know for sure: KeAndre Lambert-Smith is going to be a crucial factor in Penn State’s passing game this fall.

Thank you for reading Basic Blues Nation. Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news and insights on your favorite Penn State athletics.

For feedback, questions, concerns, or to apply for a writing position, please email us at or direct message us on our social media. It’s due to your support that we can become one of the market’s fastest-growing Penn State sports outlets!

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