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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.

Matt is a co-owner and Editor in Chief of Basic Blues Nation. Launched in 2022, Basic Blues Nation is one of the fastest-growing websites covering all Penn State athletics, with over 3.5 million readers in 2023. Matt is also a credentialed member of the Penn State football beat, and is a member of the Football Writers Association of America.


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