Penn State Football
Weekly Press Conference – James Franklin
August 29, 2017
James Franklin | Head Coach
JF: First of all, our thoughts and prayers go to the City of Houston. Seems a little insignificant right now to be talking about college football with the things that are going on in the city, so our thoughts and prayers there.
Obviously we’re excited about the start of the season. I feel like we’ve had a really good offseason. Combination of spring ball, combination of summer workouts and training camp. I think we’re in a really good place right now. Probably the most consistent training camp that I’ve been associated with. That’s probably the word that I think probably best describes how our offseason and how our camp went. I really like where we’re at right now.
Obviously excited about opening up with our opponent this week. Terry Bowden is a guy that obviously I have a tremendous amount of respect for him and his family, and all the things that they have been able to accomplish. He’s got a veteran staff. Really, a veteran team coming back; a team that gave a lot of people problems a few years ago. Last year, started out really strong, and then had some injuries and dipped later in the season.
We are excited about the challenge, excited about the opportunity and excited to be back in Beaver Stadium and in front of our family and friends and alumni and lettermen. Should be a great environment, and looking forward to the season.
Q. Can you describe your confidence in the offensive line going into this season, and what kind of camp did Michal Menet have?
JF: I think our offensive line situation has changed dramatically since we arrived till now. I still think we have a lot of room for growth there, and that’s exciting, because if you look at us, we’re still pretty young. We’ve got a sophomore at left tackle, a sophomore at left guard, a sophomore at center. Got some maturity at the right guard position and then a junior at the right tackle position.
So we’re still young but I like where we’re at. I like our depth. I like our growth at that position and I feel like we do have confidence there. Especially comparatively speaking over the last couple years.
Michal Menet is a guy that we’re really excited about his future. You know, he’s still a freshman when it comes to football. He’s been able to put on the size that we think he needs to have to play at this level. He’s had kind of some bumps and bruises and nicks that haven’t been any major issues, but it’s been enough that he’s missed a significant amount of practice time during the spring and during the summer.
He just needs the time and the reps to develop the fundamentals that he needs to play at this level consistently. I don’t think there’s any question about his athleticism and his strength and his power and those types of things. He just needs to practice consistently to build that chemistry up with his teammates on the offensive line, as well as just the fundamentals and the techniques he needs to be successful at this level. But we think he’s got a very, very bright future.
Q. Could you speak to the depth that you’ve been able to create in your quarterback room behind Trace McSorley? What have you seen from Tommy Stevens since the end of last year in the spring and in August? And also I was curious, have you been able to form an opinion on your freshman, Sean Clifford yet?
JF: Yeah, so obviously you guys know how we feel about both Trace and Tommy. I mean, I remember a year ago, we had made the conversation that it was a legitimate battle for that spot. People had made their opinions off the spring game two years ago. But we felt like we had a legitimate battle and a legitimate competition there.
I think the quarterback position is like a lot of the positions that we have on our team, and it’s a challenge and it’s a change; that this is normal. For you to be a big-time football program, you should have two legitimate quarterbacks on your roster that you feel like you could win with, and you feel like you have a young developing guy.
So we have a lot of confidence in Trace. Have a lot of confidence in Tommy. Tommy has matured so much in so many different areas of his life. I just couldn’t be more proud of him. He’s really kind of developed into a complete quarterback that I think has a very, very bright future.
Obviously Sean Clifford is a guy that we were excited about coming in. Probably was much further ahead than we had anticipated mentally. Has really picked this offense up quickly. Asked a lot of questions; is locked in; takes great notes; is right on Coach [Joe] Moorhead and Trace and Tommy’s hip all the time. You know, in practice, taking mental reps and has really made a nice move. He probably runs better than we anticipated, as well. Shows really good athleticism, and he’s kind of got some of the “It” factor that people have been trying to kind of figure out and describe for 25 years at that position, or probably longer than that.
But he has some of those things, as well. So we’re excited about him. We think we’ve got three quarterbacks, and even more than that, when you factor in Jake [Zembiec] and you factor in [Michael] Shuster and you factor in [Billy] Fessler, we have got a really good room of guys that allows our team to grow and continue to develop.
Q. You mentioned the play of Troy Apke a few times since camp began. What has he shown you and the staff heading into the season at that safety spot?
JF: He’s always been an athletic guy, he really has. He’s a big guy. He’s 6-1, basically 200 pounds. He’s always been one of the more athletic guys in terms of vertical jump, broad jump, 40. He’s always had those things.
He’s obviously a guy who played as a freshman for us because we felt so highly of him on special teams and some other areas, and has kind of been what you want; a guy that’s going to continue to work hard and embrace the role he has but has continued to strive for more and he’s done that.
There’s a lot of confidence on our team. There’s a lot of confidence in our defensive room. He’s a guy that’s got really good range. He’s got the size to be physical enough in the run game. He’s got tremendous maturity, which we also think is important; and we have right now in our secondary. You look at him and Marcus [Allen] and Christian [Campbell] and Grant [Haley]; that gives us a lot of guys that have played a lot of football. I think they are going to have a really, really good year for us.
Q. You mentioned earlier about this being probably the most consistent training camp you’ve been associated with. In what way, how did you measure that consistency and rank it at the top?
JF: The programs that I’ve been associated with, you get into the dog days of summer camp, and there’s always one or two practices where the guys are sore, or it’s hot, or they are tired, or whatever it is, and you’ve got to pull it out of them. You’ve got to go out there and you’re using every method and every technique you’ve got to try to get them to practice as hard as you think that they need to practice, and we didn’t have that.
I thought the coaches did a good job of setting the tempo in our meetings. I thought the leaders on our team really brought the right energy and mind-set out to practice every single day, and we practiced really, really well. I think obviously the depth helped with that, and the development and the way we’ve recruited.
I think all those things have helped with that but I think more than anything, we had a group of guys that decided that they wanted to practice at a really high level every single day and made sure that happened.
So that’s where I would probably define when I talk about the consistency is just if you came out to practice, there wasn’t a day where the coaches left the field angry and frustrated and the players feeling like that they could have gave more looking back at it after the fact.
I felt like day-in and day-out, we practiced at a really high level. I think the new model may have helped with that a little bit, as well, but I think more than anything, I think it was our depth and it was our leadership.
Q. DeAndre Thompkins seems to have the edge at the one receiver spot over Saeed Blacknall. How close is that? What has DeAndre showed you with that and also being your No. 1 punt returner?
JF: Yeah, I think we really probably should and could have listed that [depth chart listing] as an “or”. Those two guys, we kind of both look at as starters. They are going to play a lot of football for us. Saeed has played a lot of football for us. DeAndre has played a lot of football for us. DaeSean Hamilton obviously, all those guys. Juwan Johnson I think is going to have a big year for us.
We very easily could have listed that as “or”. But you know, we have a lot of confidence in DeAndre. DeAndre is a guy as a return man, we think he’s got a chance to take a real step this year as a wide receiver. His maturity, his strength; when he first got here, he could run, but he was undersized and he was more of an athlete playing wide receiver. Didn’t really have the fundamentals and the techniques down. Wasn’t durable enough. I think he might have been 172, 175 pounds when he got here. And now, he’s a guy that has the strength, has the speed, has the durability, has the quickness and the movement.
I mean, you look at size-wise, basically 190 pounds now. But we think he’s got a chance to be a complete wide receiver, and then be able to take that maturity into the return game, as well, which we really haven’t had maturity in the return game, especially at the punt return position.
So he’s been able to learn and grow from some of his experiences as a freshman and just really his total game evolving.
Q. I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind going back about three years, the last time you played Akron was your first game at Beaver Stadium as Penn State’s head coach. I was just wondering what you recall from that game, your level of nervousness, excitement, and how many family and friends did you have in the audience that day?
JF: Well, to be honest with you, I know it was three years ago; it seems like ten years ago. It seems like forever ago.
I’m not a guy that really remembers. Like I know people that can remember scores of high school games and remember scores of previous seasons and things like that. I’m not really that type of guy.
In terms of friends and family at the game, not many. I’ve got a really small family on my side of the family. My wife’s got a really small family. I’ve got one sister. I have no cousins. I’ve got no first Cousins. I’ve got no aunts or uncles. I’ve got a very, very small family and I’ve got a tight circle when it comes to friends. So I don’t really have a lot of people come to games. Obviously with the success that we’re having, there’s more friends popping up now that I haven’t talked to since eighth or ninth grade.
But you know, the details of that game, I remember the emotion of running out through the stadium, through the gates for the first time; I remember that. But the specifics about that game and those types of things, you know, probably not so much. I just kind of look at really the last three years has kind of been a whirlwind, and all those experiences and all those opportunities have got us to this point.
I wouldn’t change a thing that’s happened over the last three years, all those experiences, all those opportunities, all those challenges have got us to this point.
Q. Looking at the depth chart, I counted 10 true freshmen on the three-deep. Without wanting to put too much emphasis on the depth chart, that’s more than I expected. Is that a little bit of a surprise how many of these guys have picked things up decently so far?
JF: I think right now, we’ve got a handful of guys that we’re talking about playing as true freshmen, and I think that’s Lamont Wade. I think that’s Yetor Gross-Matos, and I think that’s [Tariq] Castro-Fields.
We have three that we plan on burning their red shirts right from the beginning of the season. That could change as the season goes on, and those three, like I said, are Yetor at defensive end and Lamont Wade and Castro-Fields at corner.
The other guys are listed to complete a three-deep, and they are up with the varsity from a training perspective and practice, but we don’t plan on playing those other guys on Saturday. Those guys are all probably considered yellows at this point, where if we have any injuries, then their status will go from yellow to green, which I think you guys have heard us talk about this in the past.
So I think three is the number that we’re at, and that number could grow as the season goes on.
Q. The snapper spot, how important was that competition for the special teams, when you are replacing a really steady veteran guy and how happy are you with how Kyle Vasey has developed there?
JF: Very much. So I think it’s one of those positions that everyone takes for granted until you don’t have one.
I think it’s great that we’ve got a veteran guy like Kyle Vasey who has been in the program for a number of years and watched one of the more consistent players we had in our program over the last two to three years. So I think that’s been really, really important in his development, something that he takes a lot of pride in and takes it very, very serious.
He’s one of the guys that probably works on his craft as much as anybody on our team. I mean, you walk through the weight room and he’s down there snapping on the turf; he’s got a plastic bottle sitting on top of a metal bar, knocking the plastic bottle off over and over and over again as I’m walking through the weight room. He’s in there every single day just kind of doing that on his own.
So he’s a guy that’s approached it the right way and I think is going to have a really good year for us and continue to have the consistency at that position we’ve had.
Jan Johnson is a guy that kind of took it on last year. Has kind of taught himself to do it. And then, you know, we’ve got two true freshmen, Calcagno and Stoll, are guys that have come in and done a really nice job for us that we’re excited about for the future.
I think Jan is a guy who could get us out of a game if we needed him to, and then I think Calcagno and Stoll would be two guys, if we had to make a long-term change; that they would go in and fill that role.
Q. So Akron brings in a tough unit. They are a talented team. But specifically how have you prepared for a player like Ulysees Gilbert who is the reigning MAC Defensive Player of the Year set the tone for the type of talent you’ll face in the Big Ten this year?
JF: Well, I think the first game of the year is always challenging because you just don’t completely know what you’re going to get: What off-season studies have they done, what off-season studies have we done; that we’ve tweaked some things; have they lost some players; do they have some injuries that they are not communicating right now with the roster and the depth chart and the camp.
It’s not completely accurate and you just don’t really know: Are we going to see more bear front than we’ve seen on tape? Are we going to see more o-key-odd front-type stuff than what we’ve seen on tape, and are they playing to what they think their strengths are personnel-wise this year? You know, I’m not really sure. So I think that’s probably the thing that concerns you the most.
I think what you’re talking about is a player that’s been very, very successful at their level for a number of years, and I think what happens is you have a team that is excited about a season opener, and an opportunity to play a team like Penn State and show what they are able to do. You know, nationally-ranked, in our stadium in front of a big crowd.
I was just reading notes from Terry Bowden’s most recent press conference and they are excited. This is their Super Bowl. I’ve been a part of these in the past and I think our coaches and our players also have seen enough upsets. I mean, you look in the Big Ten, Northwestern last year I think losing to Western Michigan; Purdue losing to Bowling Green; Maryland losing to Bowling Green, Indiana losing to Bowling Green; Northwestern to Northern Illinois; Purdue to Central Michigan; Purdue to Northern Illinois; Northern Illinois over Iowa; Central Michigan over Iowa; Ball State over Indiana; Ohio over Penn State in 2012. That’s just from 2012 to 2016 MAC teams that have beat Big Ten teams.
Our guys are aware of it. We respect whoever we play. At the end of the day it’s about us and playing up to our standard but we need to be prepared for what Akron is going to do, as well. Again, first games of the year are always a little bit concerning for both teams because you don’t truly know what you’re going to get until probably the first quarter is over.
Q. Brendan Mahon and Andrew Nelson were kind of question marks at the beginning of spring and even going into this camp. Can you talk about the progress they have made to get to where they are right now in the depth chart?
JF: Yeah, I’m really proud of both of those guys to be honest with you. Mahon is a guy that has been through a lot in his time here at Penn State. Obviously was limited during spring ball and has now been able to be full-go for the last, I don’t know how many weeks, and has really embraced it.
Looking back and watching the tape, when he plays for us, he brings a physical component to our offensive line that we probably don’t have without him. He is a big, strong, physical offensive lineman who has got light enough feet that he could play tackle for us. Gives us more of a road-grader mentality at the guard position, and has some of the heaviest hands I’ve ever been around. I mean, when he punches you, it’s like getting hit with two cinder blocks, it really is. We’re excited about having him back.
Andrew Nelson is I think as talented an offensive tackle as there is in the country. We really could have listed that as an either/or with him and Chasz. He’s still working back through some issues and I think as the season goes on, you’re going to see his role continue to grow and he’s going to play a lot for us.
You know, I really foresee him having a significant role on our offensive line before it’s all said and done. It just really kind of came down to Mahon was ready for week one and Nelly wasn’t. It really just comes down to that.
But those guys are irreplaceable from an experience standpoint, from a talent standpoint, from a maturity standpoint; and the fact that we have them back factored into our offensive line is significant for us.
Q. To go from training camp mind-set to game one mind-set, what are some of the keys and/or challenges to have the players ready to compete from a game mind-set, as opposed to the training camp that they have been going through?
JF: I think the maturity of our team helps with that. I think we’ve got a lot of guys that have played a lot of football for us. I think that helps.
You know, one of the things that we made a conscious choice of this year is to go into the stadium and play in the stadium more. You know, get in there and practice in the stadium. Because some guys, they just get in that environment, whether it’s packed with 107,000 fans or not.
It’s just, it’s different in there, even with the JumboTrons on and the music going. So we went in there and the crowd noise going and the bands going and all that kind of stuff to try to get our guys a little bit more comfortable on being in there.
And then I think just kind of flipping the switch. I think that that naturally happens. Guys just get to the point in training camp with spring ball and then summer work outs and then training camp where they are ready to go against another opponent.
You know, the interesting thing is what I talked to you guys about last week is just, we’re in a different situation. My first two years, not only did we lack some of the depth and the numbers that we needed; but we were also a young football team.
So how do you get a young football team ready to play without practicing hard mentally or physically, which is what you needed to do, but you just didn’t really have the numbers to support it.
Where now, we’re in a situation where we’ve got a lot of guys that have played a lot of football for us, and for us, the most important thing was to build on those fundamentals and techniques and confidence that they have and make sure that we are a well-oiled machine as quickly as we possibly can while also staying healthy and getting to the game.
It allowed us to kind of shift, where in the past, we’ve had maybe the majority of our reps in a team session go to the ones and then a less amount to twos and then a less amount to the threes. If you look in a pyramid style of training, we’ve probably gone to the opposite where we’ve cut back the ones’ reps, and have given a little bit more reps to the twos and a little bit more reps to the threes to try to develop those guys; and then allow the position coaches to be the head coaches of their position and modify where we need to modify.
I think Jason Cabinda is a really good example, Saquon Barkley. Marcus Allen is a good example. It’s not like we needed to scrimmage those guys to find out who they are as football players, where figuring out who the No. 2 are and who the No. 3 are probably more significant.
Q. Last year, after you beat Ohio State, you played seven more games but only two here, so you were insulated from the whole high-pressure situation of playing with high expectations in front of a home crowd each and every week and obviously playing at home is an asset for everybody, especially you guys. How do you get a team ready for a season where people know what you guys are from week one? Whereas maybe last year, by the time they knew how good you were, there weren’t a lot of home games left to really get on you about it.
JF: Yeah, I don’t know if I would necessarily describe the way the season ended was that we were insulated from the pressure. I don’t know if that’s a fair way to describe how that season played out.
I think your point is we didn’t play a lot of games at home. I would agree with that. But I make the argument it’s harder to play on the road than it is at home. You have all those home-field advantages when it comes to noise and cadences and all those types of things.
I haven’t thought about that to be honest with you, at all. I’d love to play every single game at home all year long. I don’t know if the Big Ten or the other teams would agree to that, but I’d like to play at home as much as we possibly can.
But I think our guys handled the environment and the stage very well last year, and I think, again, I think playing on the road, I would characterize the Rose Bowl game last year as a road game.
So I think there’s challenges when it comes to those things.
Q. Last year at the start of the season, you were like, ‘If I was them, I would take Saquon Barkley out of the game and make the quarterback win the game,’ and that’s what you got most of last season. Do you expect that to be the same this year; with what Trace showed last year, with perception of him so much higher than it was this time year ago?
JF: I still think you have to go into it saying that you’re going to take the opponent, whoever it is, week-in and week-out, you try to take their strength away.
So whether it’s a player or whether it is a style of play, whether it’s running the ball or passing game, you try to make people one-dimensional. I think we go into it every single week; if we’re playing a defense and they have a defensive end that you think is a game-wrecker, you can’t allow that guy to wreck the game. You have to have a plan to limit the impact he’s going to have.
No different if they have a receiver and you know he’s one of the best receivers in the country, you can’t allow that guy to dictate the game. You’re going to have to double-team him, roll cloud coverage to him, whatever it may be. I think that’s going to be the plan this year, as well.
If you had to choose between Saquon Barkley and Trace McSorley, I think most people are going to say they are going to try to eliminate Saquon Barkley as much as they can and make Trace beat you.
I agree with your point. I don’t know if that’s a great situation and I think that’s what makes us so difficult to defend is you’ve got an experienced running back that is very well thought of and you have an experienced quarterback now that is very well thought of. You have got an experienced offensive line and you have a weapon at the tight end position and you have multiple weapons at wide receiver.
I mean, DaeSean Hamilton is a guy that not a whole lot of people are talking about. He’s got a chance to be the all-time leading receiver in Penn State history and two years ago led the league in catches.
You know, that’s the challenge, and that’s what you want to try to do in terms of how you develop the guys in your program and how you recruit; that you have a lot of weapons and you’re not one-dimensional. I think that’s what makes us a difficult task, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
Q. Curious, when you look at Cam Brown, year two, what do you want to see from him this year? Obviously he’s a guy that can give you a couple different options at a lot of different spots there?
JF: Yeah, I think Cam is another guy that could easily have been listed as or at a number of spots, at the boundary backer or at the field backer.
Really excited about the depth that we have. Once again, you know, it’s changed. In the last couple years, it’s changed here. You have a guy like Cam Brown, our two-deep with him and Manny is really good, and we haven’t had that situation in the past. He very easily could have been listed out there as the No. 2 at the Sam linebacker position, as well.
And to be honest with you, if we were in a pinch, I think we could put him in at Mike. He’s a smart guy. He’s obviously got tremendous range and length, and has played a lot of football for us.
So we’re excited about him and his development. I think long-term, he’s got a very, very bright future. But you know, again, it starts with Akron this week and him continuing to grow and him continuing to develop as the season goes on. But we couldn’t be more excited about him.
You know, it’s amazing because he’s about 230 pounds now but on that 6-5 frame, he still looks skinny. Him and Manny to be honest with you.
I think that’s kind of how the game has changed and evolved in the days of the 6-2, 250-pound linebackers are gone with the spread offense and the mobility at the quarterback position.
Q. You obviously have a Heisman candidate in Saquon and I wonder your philosophy on such big individual awards, how you approach them and what you think about all the national Heisman watches. Do you constantly try to showcase him a little bit more? Just wonder if you can address that, and have you picked a kickoff man?
JF: Yeah, our focus is on our team being successful. The thing that’s great that we talk about all the time with team’s success comes individual recognition. The award that you were talking about usually goes to the best player on the best team.
So we don’t spend a whole lot of time talking about it or concerned about that. We have a marketing department that will do those types of things, but you know, for us, and I know for Saquon, we just want to put our team in the best position to be successful, and the best way of doing that is putting your best players in the best position to be successful. So I really think one situation will take care of the other.
Oh and then kickoff. I think it will be Tyler Davis.
Q. You mentioned the difficulties of game planning for a season-opening opponent, not knowing what to expect. So I’m curious how you balance the conjecture you might have about what they might introduce that you would be unfamiliar with versus we know they will do X, Y and Z and this is how we handle that, and of course with the extra days, too, coming off training camp.
JF: You really don’t. All you can do is prepare for what you see on film. So we just spent all our time breaking them down, no different than we would any other team.
So you’ve gone back and watched their last four opponents, and then on top of that, you’ve gone and broke down the similar-style teams. Like, for example, if we’re playing a team that played Navy before us, well, we’re not going to use Navy because that film is no value to us. So it’s the four previous opponents or it’s pulling out similar opponents. You know, like-minded teams and similar styles, those types of things. So that’s the first thing.
And then what you’re just trying to do, you’re trying to read every article that you can find that may show you something that they may be majoring in or trying to do a little bit different. But you don’t really know. You know, and that’s where you kind of have rules on offense, defense and special teams to handle.
So we have rules in how we block an odd front on offense, whether it’s run game or pass game, and we may not be preparing for that a whole lot; then all of a sudden they come out and they are doing it 90 percent of the time. We have to trust our rules. That’s also why when we go through training camp, we break it up like that. We start out training camp just going base offense, base defense. Then we work in some pressures.
You know, then we work in DB pressures. No different for our defense. We’ll have a day where we start to work in empty or work in unbalanced sets and things like that, and then I think the other thing we have to do a great job of is now with us being more of a predominant spread offense, well, our defense never gets two-back offense. They never get power. They never get what we’re going to see against Michigan; what we’re going to see against Michigan State; what we’re going to see against Pitt; what we’re going to see against, you know, future opponents.
So what we had to do is all camp, make sure we were spending enough time of getting those things that we don’t see from our defense or that we don’t see from our offense to make sure it’s covered.
That’s making sure that your team is prepared for all the things that they may see as the season goes on. So that’s what you try to do. You try to lay a foundation of all these things, but then all you can really do is spend time on what you see and what you know.
And you know, I made that mistake in my career as an offensive coordinator early on where I spent so much time chasing ghosts, preparing for things that you may see. And all the data would say that you’re probably going to see it less than one percent of the time, but as that young coordinator, you’re trying to cover it all. And then what happens is you end up not being good at anything.
So I think all of us as coaches have kind of been through that, and what is the fine line about covering those things that you need to cover without spending too much time on them that it takes away from you getting good at anything.
Q. You mentioned Tariq [Castro-Fields] and Lamont [Wade] as two freshmen whose redshirts who were going to be burned. Tyler Davis mentioned this morning on the conference calls that those are two guys that have really stood out on kickoff coverage. What will their roles be on special teams from your perspective?
JF: That’s probably a major factor in when you decide to burn a guy’s redshirt and play him as a true freshman is how much of a role do you see them having on special teams.
If you look at Grant Haley, I think he’s a perfect example of a guy who as a true freshman, played a lot on special teams, had a lot of success on special teams, and then his role grew as the season went on to the defensive side of the ball. That’s what you’d like. That’s what you’d like for a number of these guys.
The thing that’s different once again now is we’re just in a situation where our first team and our second team now on special teams is filled with veteran players where in the past, once again, those guys right away would have been in the two-deep; where now they are having to fight to get into the two-deep.
We’re just in a much healthier spot and guys are playing because they have earned it, not because of just the circumstances that we’re in.
So I expect all those guys, including Yetor [Gross-Matos], to have a role on special teams and to have that role continue to grow as the season goes on.
Q. Miles Sanders: how much did he learn last year returning kicks and do you see him as being the guy there? And one last thing, are there instances where you could imagine Saquon Barkley being used in that position?
JF: Yeah, I think there’s definitely situations that we plan on using Saquon. I think Miles has learned a lot and has grown a lot in a lot of different areas.
It’s funny because I think all these guys, they come into it through the recruiting process and what they envision their freshmen year to be. Very rarely does it play out that way. You know, I think nationally, very rarely does it play out the way they kind of pictured it in their mind. And I think that’s good. I think it’s a process for all of us.
This is a very humbling profession those guys being able to go through that, where they were dominant, dominant high school prospects and high school players, and then they get here and they are basically at the bottom of the barrel and they have to fight their way back up. That’s a really important stage and process to go through from a maturity standpoint and from a growth standpoint.
So you know, I think Miles would be the first one to tell you that he’s a completely different player now than he was two years ago. We think he’s got a very, very bright future but I think that those things are important.
And I think obviously having a guy like Saquon in front of you to watch and learn and grow from; and even Mark Allen, that running back group, Andre Robinson, that running back group, they do it the right way.
Coach [Charles] Huff has really developed a culture at that position. They are high production on the field and they are low maintenance off the field, academically, socially, the whole package. Those guys take a lot of pride in that, and Journey [Brown] is part of that now. They are kind of taking him under their wing and showing him how we do things around here.
That’s probably the thing I’m most proud of right now is that we do have a culture and a big brother program where the old guys are really taking the young guys and teaching them what it means to be a Penn Stater. The things that I heard that were so strong in this program for a very, very long time, and I think they are back. I think it’s back in a very, very strong way now, where you have veteran leaders at each position showing the young guys how we do things.
And don’t get me wrong. We had that in the past, but it’s hard for that to happen when the guy shows up and he’s in the two-deep right away. Where, you know, guys are showing up and having to earn that now and earn the respect of their teammates and earn the respect of the coaches and earn that time on the field, I think just helps with that entire process.