Five takeaways from James Franklin’s Tuesday press conference:
1. Digging the Gophers: Franklin is normally pretty restrained, for a college football coach, in praising upcoming opponents. Perhaps to push against anyone taking 8-0, 17th-ranked Minnesota lightly, he took off the restraints.
The Gophers offensive line, he said, is not only “the best that we have played,’’ but also the biggest in the country, “including the NFL.’’
(That might actually be true. The right tackle is 6-9, 400 pounds. The right guard is 6-5, 370.)
Minnesota also has, “the best wide receiver group we have played.’’
“It's hard to not be impressed with what (coach P. J. Fleck) has been able to do,’’ Franklin said, adding that he has a “huge man-crush,’’ on Minnesota safety Antoine Winfield.
“As the year has got on, like good programs and coaches do, they keep getting better,’’ Franklin said.
“They know how to win. Obviously it's going to be on the road against the 13th-ranked (in the AP poll) team in the country at 12 o'clock. That's going to come at us fast.”
2. Job prospects: As is inevitable with success, Franklin’s name has been coming up in connection with potential coaching jobs, such as USC.
“As you know, we work very, very, very hard at staying focused on the task at hand,’’ he said when asked about the rumors.
NEW YORK (AP) — Two from the Big Ten. Two from the Southeastern Conference. And the undefeat…
“Whenever anything comes up, we try to address it. But we love it here. Really enjoy coaching these guys and don't really see that changing any time soon.”
Franklin then suggested we call Fleck, whose name is also starting to come up for jobs. Even offered to give his phone number.
“I would love for all you guys to call, though, call (Minnesota), all week long,’’ he said.
A couple hours later, Yahoo! Sports’ Pete Thamel reported that Minnesota and Fleck has agreed on a seven-year contract extension.
3. Roster news: Two key pieces for Penn State, running back Noah Cain and cornerback John Reid, left the Lions’ last game with Michigan State with apparent injuries.
May as well just go with straight Q-and-A here:
Question: “What's your sense regarding John Reid and Noah Cain's availability Saturday?”
Franklin: “We're expecting them to go.”
4. All quiet on the offensive front: Penn State’s offensive line has been quietly, stolidly pretty good. Quiet is good, in this case.
“The fact that not a lot of people are talking about the O-Line, and I don't get a lot of questions about it, is a good thing,’’ Franklin said.
The unit has stayed healthy, which is a huge hurdle. Returning starters Michal Menet, Steven Gonzalez and Will Fries have set the tone.
“Gonzo and Menet and Fries are just doing awesome,’’ Franklin said, “in terms of how they practice, in terms of how they play, how they communicate on the sideline with our coaches; how they kind of set the tone.
“So we're in a good place. As you know, when I got here, that was not the case.’’
5. The bye week: Last time Penn State came off a bye, it destroyed Maryland Sept. 27 with a near-seamless performance. The script didn’t change much during the time off last week.
“The first thing is rest and recovery,’’ Franklin said. “ The older I've gotten, I've gotten a little better at that. My answer for everything is more and that's not always the right answer.’’
He gave the travel-team players Thursday, Friday and Saturday of last week off.
During practices, there was more individual work than usual. The coaches got in some self-scouting. And, of course, there was recruiting.
“Got a lot done,’’ Franklin said. “Got a lot done here in Happy Valley. Got a lot done all over the country, from one coast to the other.’’