James Franklin on satellite camps: 'It's our job to do everything in our power within the rules to give Penn State a competitive advantage.' (Joe Hermitt / Associated Press)
Here are excerpts from the press conference by Penn State coach James Franklin at Big Ten Media Days on Monday.
James Franklin: Really appreciate the opportunity to be here. Great experience for our players. They're really, really excited. Got a chance to spend some time in Chicago, and now having this experience has been wonderful. So I want to thank everybody for that.
The only critique I would have is -- I don't know if everybody has seen the elevators -- the elevators. Well, there's one with a Penn State logo on it and there's a logo for each school. Well, the Penn State logo elevator was not in align with my room. And I refuse to ride any other elevator up there, so I had to end up walking up the floors. If there's any way we can coordinate and make sure the elevator's coordinated with the floor I'm on in the future, that would be the only critique I would have.
Excited about what's going on at Penn State and our process and our program. We had one of the strongest semesters academically we ever had this spring.
We have nine guys this year on the roster that have already graduated, and they're going to be competing on the field for us. We're really, really excited about that as well, and that's going to continue to be an emphasis for us and always will be to have some of the highest graduation rates in the country, and our guys have embraced that.
Q. What's it like when you're recruiting and getting to know people, when you're the biggest program in the state?
Franklin: You know, it's been great. I think it's interesting, my background, I'm from Pennsylvania originally, but I've never coached in Beaver Stadium. I've never been there as a fan.
So having an opportunity to come back home and being able to sell all the things that we're selling in recruiting, which is, number one, to get a world-class education; number two, an opportunity to play big-time football, doesn't get any bigger than the Big Ten; number three, an opportunity to live in a town that's going to be unbelievably supportive of the program.
We talk about an opportunity to play in front of 107,000. That's unique. That's special. Differentiates us.
And last thing is early playing time. Right now we have some challenges and issues that we need to overcome. So guys are going to have an opportunity to come in and impact the roster quickly. We don't guarantee playing time to anybody. You hear the stories, coaches telling kids that they're going to start as freshmen. We don't do that.
Guys are going to have to earn it. I think our football program is designed to help these kids prepare for life. And they're going to have to earn everything that they're going to do in life. It's the same thing in our program. But we offer that opportunity.
Q. How do you prepare your players for what amounts about a seven and a half hour flight out to Ireland to start the season?
Franklin: Well, that's an interesting challenge. We're excited. It's a unique deal to open the season against Central Florida, against a really good football coach and a tremendous football coach in George O'Leary and a great program.
We're excited about doing that, no doubt about it. But there's a lot of things that go into it. We've obviously reached out to programs and organizations that have played in this game in the past. Navy and Notre Dame have been a resource. Our equipment staff have reached out to them, our administrative staff, as well as our trainers and doctors.
We think we've got a pretty good plan going into it. We're going to need to be very disciplined. We'll leave Tuesday night. Go to class on Tuesday, practice on Tuesday and leave Tuesday night, and we'll get there on Wednesday. We're going to have to force them to stay up that entire day and try to get adjusted and acclimated as quick as we possibly can, but no doubt it's a challenge.
Q. In spring how much emphasis did you put on kind of developing your roster in terms of the younger players being the depth issues you have with some of the sanctions, and how much more of an emphasis will that be in camp?
Franklin: I think it's always going to be an emphasis for us. It was this spring, trying to get as many looks, and really in the spring it wasn't really about developing depth, it was about getting to know our roster and giving everybody a chance to compete.
I want the message to our players and everybody involved that you're going to have to come and compete and earn your job every single year and every single day.
So we want to be able to come into camp with those freshmen, give them a legitimate job to compete for a starting position. And, if not, have an opportunity to compete for playing time in terms of depth.
And that's going to be very, very important to us, creating depth throughout our roster, playing as many guys as we possibly can, and then being able to call the game on offense, defense, and special teams to hide some of our deficiencies as well.
Q. Some of your players last week talked about you crying and saying you weren't going to leave Vanderbilt just before you did, and then at Penn State you talked about better facilities at Vanderbilt than there. I'm curious, were you misquoted, or were those comments disingenuous?
Franklin: Well, this is what I've learned. There's no good way to leave. When you invest so much in a place and you invest so much in people, there's no good way to leave. There's going to be hurt feelings.
I've read a lot of different ways the way people leave, and we tried to do it the right way. We stayed, had a team meeting, addressed the team and said goodbye.
But I hope over time that people look back and realize how much we cared and how much we invested in that program and in those kids and in that community.
Q. Do you think Christian Hackenberg at least from a talent standpoint is the best quarterback in the country?
Franklin: I think Christian's got a lot of tools. There's no doubt about it. The thing I'm probably most impressed is you talk about a kid that started as a true freshman, gotten all type of attention. There's been a lot of things that have gone on at Penn State through his recruiting process. Once he arrived on campus and now being a starting quarterback at Penn State is a big deal.
The thing that I'm most impressed is how humble and how hungry and how open he is to coaching. I think Billy O'Brien and our staff did a really good job of teaching concepts. That's kind of what we believe is you teach the game from a big picture perspective. They understand concepts. They've got a chance to put things together in their head and understand offenses.
So now we come in, there's a lot of similar philosophies, but he understands concepts of football. But I've been very impressed with him. You're talking about a 6-4, 235-pound guy who can run.
I think he's a much better athlete. I think he runs a lot better than people give him credit for. But he's going to have to continue to develop. And part of his development is us being able to surround him with the right type of talent. And that's creating the depth and things like that.
Q. Are there experiences you had getting Vanderbilt up out of the basement at SEC that you can apply to dealing with scholarship deficiencies and some of the obstacles there at Penn State?
Franklin: I do think there's some similarities. Whenever you take over a program and you're trying to do things and there may be challenges, for whatever reason the challenges exist in the past, they're there, so I think some of those experiences are going to be helpful.
I think one of the things that we really believe in is by creating depth. Everybody looks at your depth chart based on recruiting and things like that, but there's so much more about that. It's about developing the players in the weight room and in the offseason with their approach and watching film and spending extra time working on the footwork and things like that. I think that's very important. And then playing guys. A lot of times coaches go into the season and they have plans and they say we're going to play a bunch of guys, then they don't really do that.
You have to be willing to stick to your plan and play guys. It may be a tight game. You have to be willing to pull out your starter and put in a younger guy, and there may be some mistakes. But you're going to grow with that. That will help you in the fourth quarters of games. That will help you in the second half of the season because you'll be able to stay fresh.
Q. The SEC really doesn't like your satellite camps. They went as far as to use the term competitive disadvantage in taking some of the camps to the southeast. How would you respond to them?
Franklin: Well, the thing that's interesting, I'm not really sure why it got all the attention that it did. People have been doing this for a long time. We're a program that believes in studying best practices and get on the Internet every single morning, find out what other people are doing, see if it makes sense for our program.
It's our job to do everything in our power within the rules to give Penn State a competitive advantage. And whatever that may be, whether it's recruiting certain parts of the country, whatever it may be, whether it's the satellite camps, we're going to look into all those things. So we're going to study best practice and find what's the best way to allow Penn State to be competitive.
When we talk about being competitive, that's in the Big Ten but that's also nationally. So we were excited. It gave us an opportunity to get to the part of the country where maybe kids who aren't able to travel to Penn State we were able to bring Penn State to them.
And it was awesome. We had a great experience, enjoyed doing it. The colleges that we worked with were awesome, but the reaction, I can't speak on that. All I can talk about is what we're trying to do at Penn State, which is build a world-class program.