Penn State's James Franklin talks Ohio State, offseason fun and games, more

Centre Daily Times (TNS)
  • Penn State's football media day was held on Saturday.
  • Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin addressed a number of issues.
  • Franklin said the team’s biggest question marks are at linebacker, defensive tackle and kicker.

Before it even started, big news came out of Penn State media day with the addition of once-dismissed linebacker Manny Bowen to the Nittany Lions’ roster.

James Franklin

That was the primary focus on Saturday afternoon.

But Penn State head coach James Franklin addressed more than just Bowen’s return in 40 minutes at the Beaver Stadium media room dais.

Here are three takeaways from Franklin’s media day press conference.

Urban Meyer, Ohio State situation: Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer is on paid administrative leave, with the school investigating claims by Courtney Smith — the ex-wife of former Ohio State assistant Zach Smith.

Courtney Smith told college football reporter Brett McMurphy that several people close to Meyer knew of a 2015 allegation of domestic violence against her ex-husband.

Meyer released a statement Friday, saying he has “always followed proper reporting protocols” when it comes to these kind of incidents. “And I did so regarding the Zach Smith incident in 2015,” Meyer continued. “I take that responsibility very seriously and any suggestion to the contrary is simply false.”

Franklin said the Nittany Lions are “very sensitive to what’s happened at Ohio State.”

“I think we are also sensitive to what’s happening in our world, in our society and country,” Franklin said. “Very sensitive to what’s going on there at Ohio State. But our focus is on our program and what we need to do to educate people in our program as much as we possibly can with these types of issues.”

"Aim small, miss small:" Franklin said the team’s biggest question marks entering the 2018 season are at linebacker, defensive tackle and kicker.

And on Friday — at the end of Penn State’s first practice of camp — the head coach saw something he liked with that last group.

“We always do some kind of kicking competition, and we had four guys out there who just got on-campus a couple weeks ago, and they made every single field goal and looked great in operation time,” Franklin said. “To have four kickers out there kicking the heck out of the ball and kicking it straight through the uprights is awesome.”

Those four new kickers are Jake Pinegar, Rafael Checa, Vlad Hilling and Justin Tobin. Returners like Blake Gillikin and Carson Landis are also listed as kicker/punters.

Franklin also brought up a new addition to the Lasch facility: Arena league goalposts. On one of the practice fields, narrower uprights are challenging those six kickers — and Franklin believes it’s helping with accuracy.

“It looks crazy on the field, they’re so tight,” the coach said. “Aim small, miss small.”

All fun and games.: In the past, Franklin and his staff have nixed practice and brought their players to the bowling alley or swimming pool. The Nittany Lions recently switched it up and went paintballing on an off-day.

“It was this great idea. Great idea,” Franklin said with a smile. “The rules were, when you got shot, you put your gun above your head and run off the field and no one is supposed to shoot you.”

Well, that rule wasn’t necessarily followed. Franklin was shot, and as he was walking off, “The entire team sprayed me.”

Franklin then stood up at the podium and showed the entire media room proof. The coach pointed to a wound behind his ear; lifted the side of his shirt up and showed two moderate marks on his side; and then he pulled his pant leg up and revealed a massive bruise on the back of his upper thigh.

“Most of those shots came when I wasn’t supposed to be getting hit,” Franklin said, shaking his head. “I’m running off the field, and it’s like pop, pop, pop. Great idea on the front end. Not really good in terms of the execution of it.”