Before heading to the eastern part of Pennsylvania with defensive line coach Sean Spencer for a weekend of recruiting, Penn State football head coach James Franklin answered questions during his weekly radio show Thursday.
With the Nittany Lions on their second bye week of the month and no opponent looming until Ohio State visits Beaver Stadium next Saturday, Franklin mainly spoke about his team, which is 4-2 at the halfway point of its season.
Donovan on the sidelines
Offensive coordinator and play caller John Donovan was on the sideline during Penn State's 18-13 loss to Michigan on Saturday. It was a move Franklin said was intended to create a spark and improvement in communication for sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg and the offense.
Penn State managed just 214 yards of total offense, Hackenberg was sacked six times and the Lions didn't score a point in the second half. Five days after the defeat, Franklin said he thought the move had the reverse effect of its intention.
"Christian, his first year, the guy who called the play was on the sideline with him," Franklin said. "We thought it might help from a communication standpoint and some other things. I actually think it did the opposite."Penn State coach James Franklin addresses the media at a press conference earlier this season. With the Nittany Lions on a bye week, he will spend his weekend making recruiting trips to Philadelphia and Allentown. Mark Pynes | email@example.comMark Pynes | firstname.lastname@example.org
Future schedule adjustments
The Lions have just two October games this season, and though their open dates are not spread out well through the season, Franklin is happy to have a pair of them especially during the Big Ten slate.
It will not be the same for Penn State in coming years as in both 2016 and 2017, the team has its lone bye sandwiched between its non-conference and Big Ten schedules. The Lions are set to play all nine of their conference games consecutively both seasons, and Franklin revealed Thursday that he and his staff have been making some calls in an effort to change that.
"I don't know why it's set up that way, so we're trying to make some adjustments right now, calling some schools and seeing if they'd be flexible and move around, Franklin said.
"Because I don't think that's what anyone wants."
Franklin has dealt with a plethora of questions about his team's offensive line all season. And after two losses in which Penn State combined for 104 rushing yards and yielded 10 sacks, "What are you going to do about this offensive line?" was the first question a fan asked Franklin on Thursday.
"I don't have a magic wand to wave over to solve some of those issues," Franklin said in his response. "I don't have two 6-foot-6, 300-pound juniors that are just hanging out in the Lasch football complex that I just decided not use."
Franklin also pointed out that the only healthy Penn State offensive lineman that had any experience prior to the season was left tackle Donovan Smith.
Smith had been lining up beside Miles Dieffenbach for both of the past two seasons, but Dieffenbach has not played this season due to an injury. Dieffenbach could return to the field soon, but until then, Smith will be putting his hand down next to someone who is learning as they go.
Redshirt freshman Brendan Mahon got the start at left guard on Saturday, and Franklin said no matter who is next to Smith, the tackle's play is being altered by the absence of Dieffenbach.
"I actually also think not having Dieffenbach next to Donovan those two guys have been playing together for a long time, and being able to communicate and talk, I think that's affected Donovan," Franklin said. "Donovan now has Mahon next to him, who I love, but he's a redshirt freshman."
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