PENN STATE UNIVERSITY MEDIA CONFERENCE
August 5, 2014INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
COACH FRANKLIN: How is everybody doing? How is everybody's summer you guys look shocked like this is unusual to start it this way.
Obviously very excited. You know, I guess it's been seven months since we arrived and we've gotten a lot of work done in a short period of time, and excited to get going and working with these guys day?in and day?out, there's also a part of me that wished that we had another seven months because it's just one of those jobs, probably no different than your guys's job, there's always more that you wish you could do and you always more?? you wish you had more time.
So, we are excited. I think the staff has done a great job of preparing. The players have unbelievable. You guys have heard me say this before. This spring we had one of the strongest semesters we've had academically. The first term of summer school, we had the best term of summer school that Penn State has ever had, and one of the things that's a little bit challenging this year is the way the calendar fell, usually I guess there's been a week of school that is gone with camp. This year the way the calendar fell, we actually have two weeks of school for the first two weeks of camp which is going to be challenging, as well.
But we are excited and I'm looking forward to seeing all the progress the players have made since spring ball ended. Not only physically but also mentally which is going to allow them to play fast and you're also excited to get out and watch the new guys we have added to the program and see who looks like they are going to be able to figure in.
So, a lot of excitement, a lot of good things going on. I think we have 26 days until we open the season against central Florida. Last night I addressed that with the team and it will be here before we know it for all of us. That's really the last time we're talking about that. Our focus right now, we are in a time period where our focus is on Penn State and becoming the best Penn State we possibly can and then there will come a point in about two weeks during camp where we will flip the switch and we will start specific preparation for central Florida.
Really appreciate everybody coming out today. There must not have been a whole lot going on in the state today. We have got great numbers but once again I can't tell you how much we appreciate everybody being here and supporting Penn State. You guys have been awesome since the day we have arrived and we really truly appreciate your support.
Q. What's it been like to get your family back?
COACH FRANKLIN: Awesome. I was at the airport. I had two balloons, because you guys know I love balloons, right, birthday parties and airport arrivals. I was at the airport waiting for them to come. It was Friday and Mike was actually flying home for the weekend to see his family. I'm knocking through the glass at Mike and my daughters are screaming running down and Mike sent me a text, he said, that was one of the cutest things I've ever seen, both executed really in for tackles. It's been great.
It's really been strange because my wife and kids have been such a big part of our programs. The fact that none of these kids really know my daughters and none of these kids really know my wife is weird, because my wife and kids are there every single day.
Now what was great was yesterday we were able to have two meals with the players. They came and had lunch and dinner with us. My daughters love it. I wish I could spend more time with them but what they wanted to do, as soon as we got there to lunch and dinner, they didn't want to sit with us. Shola went and sat with one group of players. Addie went and sat with another group of players. And I love that. My wife loves it. I love it and it's awesome for our family and it's good for our football team, as well. They get to see me in a different light and I think that's important.
Q. Christian Hackenberg, quarterback that's been in a system for a year at the collegiate level, you're a new coach and a new staff coming in. Is there an advantage to him not being so entrenched into the system but still has a year under his belt that is an advantage to you when you come in?
COACH FRANKLIN: Well, I think where the advantage comes is we run a similar system. So a lot of the concepts that he's been taught, there's a lot of carry over. We teach in a form of concepts, as well. So I think that's been really helpful.
I think in a lot of times, it's difficult because when a young player has had a bunch of success, they have embraced that system and they know the system is part of their success. It's difficult sometimes. But he's been great and I think the parallels and the similarity between the way Billy does things and the way we do things has been really helpful, has been really helpful.
The other thing that's exciting is talking to the players and talking to the strength staff, one of the most improved players on the team from spring ball to now has been Michael O'Connor. He's done extremely well. So I'm happy with him. As you guys know, we are trying to create competition at every position. But I'm excited. I'm excited to get out there to work and help and develop just like all these guys.
Q. Back to Hackenberg. What improvements would you like to see from him?
COACH FRANKLIN: That's a great question and we are looking for improvements from Hack, but I'm going to be honest with you, where our focus really is, is all the pieces of the puzzle around Hack.
You know, that's going to allow him to continue to develop, making sure that we are able to protect him with our offensive line, making sure that we are able to be balanced offensively and be able to run the ball with our offensive line and tight end, having a huge impact in that, as well, and finding some wide receivers to make up for the production we lost, all these things factor into it.
So obviously I want him to be more and more confident so he can make really good decisions in terms of protecting the football, get the ball out of his hand as quickly as he possibly can, and what you like to see with a quarterback I know in this system is, they get to a point where they feel like the defense can't be right. You know, that you understand the offense so well, that if you play cover two, wonderful, I'm going to attack the weakness here. If you go cover three, go here; if you go man coverage, here is my man beater. If you throw pressure, I'm either going to go hot or readjust the protection to pick it up.
When you get to a point where you feel like the quarterback has all those tools at his disposal, the confidence skyrockets and they feel like the defense can't be right and that is unbelievably valuable.
Our focus is on making sure that he's going to be able to do those things by getting all the rest of the pieces of the puzzle place, if that makes sense.
Q. You've talked in the past about walk?ons earning scholarships. What does it take in your eyes for a walk?on to get to that point?
COACH FRANKLIN: I think the biggest thing is this: College education is expensive and it's expensive nowadays. All across this country and when you are able to help a guy out, you help a guy out. A lot of times it may be based on a guy has earned it. Sometimes it may be that you have a scholarship available and you have a senior and you can help his family out, rather than just letting his scholarship sit, you're going to reward it to a guy. That has earned it.
So it's not really one specific thing. There's a lot of factors and variables that go into it, there's no doubt about it.
So it's hard for me to necessarily answer that question, because there's so many different situations that could make that play out. To me, that's a special part of the job and that's a special part of college football, is you've got these guys that come here and they are chasing their dream and working their crazy.
In our program, everybody is treated the same. Obviously some guys are recruited on the front end a little bit differently than others but once they are in the program, everybody has a right and everybody has a right to go out and earn a spot. I think that's a unique deal. But it's hard for me to pin it down because there's so many variables and situations that go into it.
Q. Do you feel better about the offensive line going into preseason than you did coming out of the spring and how important will it be to develop depth there?
COACH FRANKLIN: I don't know if I would say I feel any better or any worse without seeing them do it. I do think we have got some guys that have got bigger and stronger. I do think the fact that we have a defensive line that we have a lot of confidence in, is going to be helpful because iron sharpens iron and the fact that they are going to be out there at practice every single day going at what we feel is a quality defensive line, that's going to allow us to see where we're at.
I don't really have an answer right now. I do feel really good about what we're going to do in terms of calling the offense to help with that; that we've got a really experienced offensive line coach, I think that's helpful. We do have some guys that have played a little bit. The issue I think is a little bit of body types and flexibility with those body types. If we had a bunch of 6?5,6?6 guys that were playing guard that we felt like gave us the flexibility to play multiple positions, then that would be helpful.
Right now we have got a little bit better depth at guard and center I think than we do necessarily at tackle. That's some of the challenges that we have. Did I answer your question?
Q. I know you're limited to what you can do the first five days of camp but after that period, can you outline your plan for camp in terms of if you will utilize two a days, three a days, that sort of thing and do you expect this camp to be as physical as what players were talking about in spring ball, how you guys really brought a physical mind?set to practices in spring?
COACH FRANKLIN: Basically whatever the Big Ten and the NCAA will allow us to do, that's what we're going to do. That's the plan going in ahead of time, so we are going to maximize our practices. We are going to maximize the hours. We are going to do all the things that we possibly can right now. Again we have a little bit of a juggling act with the academics which is always going to be priority No.1 for the first two weeks, so that's a challenge.
But basically we plan it all out ahead of time based on what we're allowed to do within the rules and maximizing that and then over time, what we do is, based on a thousand different variables that could go into it, weather, depth, health, just maybe what you think you may need at the time, then we'll tweak and adjust practice. We may cut back. We may cancel. We may modify, we may turn practice into a walk through or whatever it may be, take extra meeting time.
So our idea is we always go in trying to maximize what we can do and then based on where the guys are, our training staff, Tim Breem (ph), giving us great feedback, Dwight Galt, our strength coach has been doing this a long time, seeing where the players are and what they need; I think this staff probably more so than most staffs that I've been on, we spent a lot of time focused on chemistry and morale. I think chemistry and morale are as important if not more important than the X's and O's and the toughness, but those things are important, as well. So we'll start out really aggressive and then we'll start the cut back as things go.
But that's kind of how we plan it out, if that makes sense.
COACH FRANKLIN: I actually think where a lot of the makeup for the production that we lost will come from the tight end position. I believe that that's where we have the most veteran players. That's where we have the most experience and depth. I'm excited about those young guys, but that's kind of what it is right now. It's excitement based on what they did in high school, based on what they did when they arrived on campus and the testing and what the players are saying about them. But football is kind of different. They show up on campus and they have to adjust right away academically. They have to adjust right away athletically. They have to adjust right away socially, the whole package. Where other sports, maybe you come in in the fall and you adjust and you're competing in the spring.
There's a lot on their plate. Some guys may be ready physically but they are not ready mentally. Or they are ready physically and mentally but not ready emotionally. There's so many things. Right now it's purely just excitement based on potential but that's it. We'll see how the thing plays out but I can see right now, early on, that that production being made up by the receivers that are returning, as well as the tight ends with the depth and experience that we have there.
Q. I wanted to get some info on defensive freshmen, who has been standing out, especially linebackers, safeties, just some of the freshmen standing out in the backfield and linebacker core.
COACH FRANKLIN: Again, you know, it's hard for me to say that because I haven't really watched them or worked with them or had an opportunity to evaluate while they are competing or watching tape and it's all just based on what strength coaches have said and what the players are talking about and things like that.
I do think as you guys have heard me say before, we've improved our speed. We had five guys this spring on our team that ran sub 4?5 ?? with just the incoming freshmen class, we ended up having 11 guys that ran sub?4?5, so that's exciting, getting Tompkins in here early, he ran the fastest 40 on the team and then getting confidence on the team and getting Grant Haley in here, I think he might have passed. So the two fastest guys on our team are both in the freshman class. Running backs?? to do it in shorts is one thing but to do it on the field is another. It's hard for me to say right now because again, I haven't seen them compete. I can throw some things out but I don't think it would be really valuable information for you because it's all based on what people are telling me.
COACH FRANKLIN: Comes from a football family. His dad was a football player. He's had a trainer I think training him in football specific movements and in work outs, I think since he was 11 months old. So he's a little bit different from that standpoint. Both of our linebackers, they don't look like a lot of typical freshman linebackers. I think one is 236 and one is 242.
So they have the size that you're looking for already. So those guys, they are excited and they are excited we are going to need them as you guys know, so we are going to need them to come in and play for us.
Q. You have not exactly a mobile quarterback, not that he can't run, and you have a young offensive line. Do you have contingencies in place in case it looks like Christian is not very well protected after the first three or four games where you change what you ask him to do and change what the offense does if that makes any sense?
COACH FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think that goes back to what we were saying before is we are going to have to call the game to help with those things. That's moving the pocket, that's getting the ball out of his hand as quickly as we possibly can, and there's a variety of ways of doing that. That's committing to the running game.
I think when you have a quarterback like Christian, you say, well, let's just throw the ball but you have to be careful because over time, you become predictable and you have to be careful. We are going to have to commit to the running game and sticking with the running game, no matter what. I think that's going to be very, very important for us. I actually think that Christian is a lot more mobile and a lot more athletic than people realize, but he has not been asked or used that way. And I think that probably makes a whole lot of sense. We are probably not going to, as well. It's not like we are going to be running quarterback powers and read options and things like that with him. But there is a way to still take advantage of those things. And what we are going to need Christian to do is can you take the negative six?yard sack and turn it into a plus six?yard gain and get down.
So now instead of it being second and 16, it's second and four, is that right?
Q. Going to Chicago, actually said he didn't think it was possible??
COACH FRANKLIN: You say that it's impossible? I don't think there's any doubt in my mind that he could do those things, yes.
Are you based out of Orlando now? One of the things I always struggle with is how do I answer your questions and give you the information that you need with also not talking directly to George O'Leary, because he's watching this right now. Hi, George.
So that's the thing I struggle with, because we do the same thing. We watch all these things and we read all these things, so that's the thing that I struggle with. That's the whole thing with injuries and all these other things. I'm not just trying to be difficult. You know, there's a reason for it, and I've got to do everything I possibly can to help and protect Penn State without giving free information to our opponents, if that makes sense.
COACH FRANKLIN: I've been really, really, really impressed with Mike. I really have. He has great strength for us. He's a guy that not only does he have the physical tools in terms of running and changing direction and strong, but he processes information fast, as well. I mean, you watch the tape, and offense is running a counter play and they start outgoing this way and everybody on the defense takes three steps in that direction, Cole takes two and is already moving in the other direction.
He plays fast. Although if you look at him, he's not a real big guy, I think it's a little bit deceiving. Talking about how much I love his features, he's kind of got?? inaudible.
But he's 235, 237 pounds, which is big enough to play Mike linebacker. He doesn't blow you away when you look at him in terms of how big he is, but he's big enough to get the job done, and kind of like a running back that's not just a downhill running back. He can do both things. I'm excited about him. We need him to be really verbal, and he was more verbal this spring than he's ever been and he's comfortable doing that now than ever before. I think he is going to have a really big year for us. And think there is a lot of confidence he's gained from his teammates and how he's conducted himself in his entire career here, and a lot of coaching confidence from the coaching staff, as well. I brought that thing up about his size because when we moved him inside the Mike, I know there's a lot of questions about that, is he big enough to do that and we think he is.
COACH FRANKLIN: Who has had experience internationally, our trainer, Tim Breem has had international experience from a football perspective. We have talked about maybe at Notre Dame about things game about what they learned and experiences they had. So there's a lot that goes into just playing a home game and there's a lot that goes into playing an away game and there's obviously even more so than that when you're talking about playing a game in a different country.
Q. Any thoughts about??
COACH FRANKLIN: Awesome. I mean, it was great. I think there's a lot of excitement and there's been a lot of fans sending pictures to me on Twitter outside of the stadium. I think it's going to be a real unique experience but the hard part is everybody keeps talks about what a great cultural experience for the players but it's not like we are going to be touring the countryside.
We have got a tight schedule. What we have got to do is we have to make sure our guys have an unbelievable experience at Penn State and get their degrees, and a degree that means something so that once they graduate, they can afford to go on a vacation back to Ireland and enjoy the countryside. But this trip really isn't for that.
COACH FRANKLIN: I don't think there's any doubt that experience counts and year one, we had a model we revised and tweaked it in year two and we did the same thing in year three and then obviously in year one or year four, however you want to look at it, we learned from all those experiences.
What's interesting is there's some similarities from a depth perspective, for different reasons, but the same problem still exists. One of the things that's a little bit different here is at Penn State, 175 guys show up for the walk?on tryout and that creates some opportunities for you.
Numbers are a powerful thing, it's a powerful tool being able to have 175 guys show up for a tryout is important because it allows us to be really selective and we all know there's walk?ons all over the country that have had huge impacts at universities and have gone on to play in the NFL.
So we are excited about the impact that those guys are going to have on our program and will continue.
COACH FRANKLIN: I think No.1, if you look across the country college and the NFL, you really need three running backs for a whole season. To keep those guys healthy and fresh and rotate them so that you have a chance to dictate the terms of the game and force your will on your opponent in the fourth quarter; and to do those things late in the season, you're going to have to do that.
I think the other thing is you look at whoever is going to be your third tailback, once you kind of let it all play out, you'd love for that guy to be your kickoff return guy. It's a way to get him involved in the game and get him some touches, as well and typically kickoff return, you'd rather have a big, strong powerful guy to be able to trust the scheme and hit it full speed; or maybe the punt returner, maybe you're looking for a guy with more quickness and change of direction than a smaller guy.
There's a lot of ways to do it but I really believe three is the number that you need to have, anyway, and we are blessed to have three guys that we feel really good about, as well as some young guys that are going to have opportunity, as well.
COACH FRANKLIN: I think it's very important. Well, first of all, let me say this; that that gift was actually in place before I got the job. Sometimes things don't necessarily come out in the media but people have been great and very supportive because people care about Penn State. They want to care about these kids and have a great experience and give us an opportunity at every aspect. We believe you treat people a first?class way, you get a first?class result.
Yeah, those things are important and probably even more important now than ever before, because, you know, we have had some financial challenges, obviously. So I think there's a lot more made out of that than really what it was. But I'm a guy that studies best practice, not just in football, but in a lot of businesses and a lot of industries.
And being aware of what's going on out there in this country, not that we need to be leading the charge with those things but we need to be aware of what's going on in this country and we need to make sure that we are doing everything we can with technology and with nutrition, with all these things to provide the best learning experience we can.
COACH FRANKLIN: I think a couple things. I think senior leadership is critical and always will be. But what we are trying to do is develop as much leadership as we possibly can throughout the entire roster. You look at our leadership council, it's all of our seniors, six jurors, four sophomores and it's two redshirt freshmen; and we are really even talking about adding a component of two freshmen in there, as well, because you want to make sure that you have leadership throughout your program and you're constantly developing those things so that when they do become seniors, they are prepared for it.
If you look at it from a defensive perspective, typically your Mike linebacker is going to provide that role, or you would like him to but you would like your safeties to do the same thing. The safety is going to be talking all the time to make sure that the secondary and the linebackers are on the same page, the linebackers need to be talked to all the time to make sure the linebackers and the defensive line are on the same page.
Because the reality is you want to be right 100% of the time, but the truth is, you can still be successful if you are wrong, but you're all wrong, if that makes sense; that they are all on the same page, you've got a chance to be successful, you really do.
A lot of times, I've seen that over and over, as coaches, as you're watching something, and they didn't get the check and the coaches go, no, no, no; yes, yes, yes, because the players ended up executing a different call but they executed it together and that's the important thing. That's the important thing. It's not always about making the perfect call.
It's about getting everybody on the same page and pulling the rope in the same direction. That's the players on the field and the coaches and the fans and the community and that's all of us. That's what we have been working so hard to do for the last seven months is bring the family back together and make it stronger than it's ever been.
COACH FRANKLIN: They have been great, they really have. I think you heard me talk about it before at first, there were some challenges there. Think about for these redshirt seniors, I'm the fourth head coach they had?? they have been through a lot.
Early on, there was some challenges there but since then, they have been great and I'm so appreciative and thankful to them that they allowed us to enter their family because this is their family. This program belongs to the players. This university belongs to the student and the alumni and I'm so thankful that they allowed us to join and break into their circle of trust. That's how you're going to build it and that's how you're going to do special things is us all working together to help them achieve their dreams.
COACH DONOVAN: ?? ultimately time builds relationships and the more they hang around, and you the more you hang around them, that builds. So I think at this point, they are ready to go. We are here. We trust them and they trust us as we go into the season.
Q. You said before that the idea you guys have is to scheme towards your strengths and way from your weaknesses. At what point in camp do you have to know that by or will it start right away today or at what point do you have to have that locked down before you have to play UCF in Ireland?
COACH DONOVAN: Like I said, the sooner the better. The sooner the better. Being around as short or long as I've been in this position, you don't ultimately know who you are going on or what you are going to be or why. Sometimes you do if you have a lot of returners back or whatever. Doesn't always end up as planned.
As you go into camp you have an idea. We have a lot of things on paper day by day by day by day by day. Some of those things we may not get to and some of those things we may not be good at than the other things. That's our job as coaches, be able to teach the information and have them process in a manner where they are going to be able to play fast and for us to be able to figure out what they do best ultimately is what we are going to do an game day because you only get so many amount of reps and situations in a game and each play is extremely important. So our job this camp is to find out what we do as well as we possibly can going into week one and go from there.
Q. We've heard a lot about Jesse James, a lot of glowing reports about him over the spring and the summer and Coach Franklin mentioned the tight end group might be the leader of the receiving core as far as making up for the production lost last year. How high is his ceiling? Where do you see him in I guess like a pantheon of tight ends and where could you see him ending up?
COACH DONOVAN: You look at him, he's the prototypical guy you think of when you hear tight end. He's tall, he's big, he's massive, he's strong, he can run and he's smart. So he's definitely got everything you want. He made some improvements in the spring I thought from some of the things he studied on tape from last year.
He needs to be dominant, and if a tight end?? if you're going to be an integral part of the receiving core, you need to be able to do both. You can't only catch the ball. You have to be able to block and you have to be able to line up in different ways and if they can't block and they can't think, we'll play four receivers and that's what they have to know going in.
If they are able to be versatile and not only catch the ball but block and stick their face in there and create movement and be tough and enable us to present people different things with them in the game, then they will prove their worth. If not and they can't do those things, we'll find the guys that are the best for us to win, and you know, that will dictate ultimately who are the top receivers.
Q. Bill Belton was a guy in high school who played quarterback and first year here he ran the wildcat; how many more options can a guy like that give you with what you want to call and how does his experience do in all those different things help you ease in as your first year with a new set of guys?
COACH DONOVAN: He's played in a lot of games, a lot of big games. He's got a lot of ability and he's a senior. That's a pretty good combination right there. You're going to lean on your seniors. It's their team. They are going to have to show the young guys how to play. Light is at the end of the tunnel for them and he's one of those guys. Because he's in that role and he's played in a lot of big games and he's got a lot of ability, you know, we are expecting big things. He's got to be able to step up and prove that to us but we are looking forward?? I'm looking forward to see what he has as we step on the field.
COACH HUFF: Very appreciative and humbled to be here for this opportunity. Thank Penn State fans and Penn State administration and coach Franklin for this opportunity.
Q. Talking about Bill Belton, Lynch and Zach Zwinak, now have you seen the other running backs progressing through the spring and into the summer?
COACH HUFF: The good thing when you have three guys like that, we have a couple other guys in that room; when they kind of set the bar, the rest of the room kind of keeps up with them.
So for the younger guys, especially the freshmen that just came in, keeping up with them is a big step in their development. They see how they work and they see how they prepare and they get a chance to follow a good leader and that's one exciting part about having that kind of leadership in that room and that experience; the younger guys come in and they get to follow in their footsteps immediately. You don't necessarily have to train someone how to do that.
COACH HUFF: We have a few guys we think have a chance and you'd love for your third running back to be that guy, just from a numbers standpoint, plus it helps them get reps. As spring goes on and we go through spring and we go through camp, the guy who develops with the most talent and dangerous talent, he can protect the ball, run the scheme, trust the scheme will be the guy.
Like you say, you love for whoever the third tailback is that he does that so he's constantly getting reps. But the best guy is going to play. I'm looking for the fastest strongest guy, you find him, you call me, please.
Q. So from a kicking perspective, obviously you have Sam coming back and he's a veteran guy but in a punting game you lose Butterworth and you have two true freshmen and then Chris Gulla is a redshirt freshmen. How secure and confident are you in the punting game and how will you ease those guys?
COACH HUFF: We are very confident now because we have a lot of competition. The one thing about not having a proven guy, when you go out and you recruit and you bring in a lot of competition, you know that those guys are going to have to compete every day so.
Whoever becomes the guy is going to be tested because he's going to have to compete every day from now until we get to central Florida. We know whoever it is?? you run into an issue when you don't have anybody to push the guy who is in front. You worry about getting lackadaisical or falling in a groove but when you come out every day and you have two or three guys that are going to compete, when you win the job, you won it fair and square.
Q. Coach Franklin talked about the fact that you really increased your overall team speed, hurt Penn State last year?? how is that going to help you as a special teams coach?
COACH HUFF: Well, it helps. It's definitely a help because any time you can play faster, you race angles, you cover better and you're able to defeat some people in coverage. Your return game is better.
As a team we got faster, so now, as Coach talked about, every day that we compete against each other, we are competing against people that have gotten faster. So we are getting closer to game speed on a daily basis. And that's what you want.
You want to get as close to game speed as possible without having to go full speed and tackle every play every day in practice and that's what we have been able to do with Coach Galt and the strength staff and all the work these guys have done this summer has increased the competition level, increased the speed and practice and now when we get to the game, it's easy, because all week was tough.
Q. Special teams, one of the most explosive physical aspects of the game, Coach Franklin brought up the depth issues you guys face, well documented. How do you foster that while kind of balancing the fact that if a guy or two goes down, that that depth really becomes an issue; how do you balance that, trying to keep everybody healthy while developing that physicality and explosiveness?
COACH HUFF: Guy goes down, we'll find another neck. There are tons of them over there.
No, what we do, is we do a very good job as a staff is training the entire team as special teams. Not just hey, it's special teams period and these 20 guys go practice. Because we don't know. Like you say, we may get to Ireland and one guy may go down and the next guy has to be ready to go.
But we try and train the entire team in special teams in some areas, so we are more than one or two deep. Yeah, your talent level does drop off, but that's an opportunity and with opportunity comes the challenge. So for those guys that may have to step in and accept the challenge, that's their opportunity to show us what they can do on special teams and get them more reps offensively and defensively.
Q. We have a kid, Zach Ladonis can you talk about how he's developed and the importance of walk?ons in that position or positions on special teams?
COACH HUFF: Zach has done an excellent job for us. Last year he came in and got thrown in the fire but he had an unbelievable summer and he had a chance to get stronger and he had a chance to get bigger. He's got a lot more confidence now. You ask him who is the best snapper in the country, he says me, why are you asking me coach.
But those are the kind of guys we want and that's the kind of attitude you've got to have, because if you don't believe in yourself there's not very many people that will. Whether it's a walk?on or starter we really don't look at it as, hey, you're a walk on. A lot of times, because of the nature of special teams, that's an area where a walk on will have an opportunity to get more reps sooner. But we play the best guys. Mike Hull is going to play special teams, Hackenberg is going to take reps at gunner today but he'll be out there.
All of our guys are involved in special teams just because we don't want it to be just another phase and your offense and defense is great and you put your special teams out there and it's a bunch of guys that are not necessarily ready to play.
So we play all of our guys because of that and that's an area where you can get some younger guys, walk?ons, scholarship guys that are still growing to get reps early.
Q. What do you see Joey Julius's role?
COACH HUFF: He's coming in to compete for the same job, no different than all the other freshmen here. We think he's got some talent. Be interested to see how he matures from high school to college. Him and Sam are going to compete.
Yes, Sam has kicked in a bunch of games. Really the best thing for Joe, like I told him is Sam has kicked in a bunch of games. There's been some times he missed some kicks and he went downtown and kids said some really mean things to him. There's times he hit four in a row and people told him how great he was. Those are experiences Sam can pass on to Joey to help his maturation speed up a little bit.
A lot of times young players come in and they really don't have that bridge gap between a senior who has done it and done it well for a while, and the growing pains are tough. So Sam can kind of help mature him as he grows and gets better. Like we tell Sam, you go out and kick him way left, I'm sure Joey would love to get a shot and that's across the board. We're excited about him now.
Q. Did you pair them together for camp? Was that your decision?
COACH HUFF: I believe so. I think I did, because of that factor. I wanted Sam to start grooming him. Not that he needs to be groomed but it's experience that he's going to experience at Penn State that Sam has been through that I think will be helpful for him to learn sooner than later, both positively and negatively. So I think that will help. Thanks Charles.
COACH SHOOP: Like Charles and John and Coach also said, I think we are all very much excited and looking forward to the start of camp. It's been a long time since we sat here, April 2, spring game and our players made a real commitment over the summer to coming to camp in shape.
With the new rules this summer, we took advantage the second half of summer and spent some time with them in the classroom and I think we have made some progress. We are a little closer to developing the identity of our unit and looking forward to getting on the field today.
Q. Can you in general terms describe your defensive philosophy?
COACH SHOOP: Yes easy. I say this all the time. Each defense, first of all, takes on its own identity and the identity of this group is still yet to be determined. The questions asked a lot of times, are your 4?2,4?2?5,3?4,3?2?6, a dime defense, and I think the answer is we do a really good job as a staff of identifying good players and putting them in a position to be successful.
The best players are going to play so there's still a little bit of time like I said in developing the identity of this group but what is nonnegotiable is we are going to be an in your face style of defense that's a lot of fun to play, and it will be built on relentless pursuit of the football and never?ending pressure, and that's what we talk about all the time.
Q. To follow up on that question, based on what you saw in the spring, how have your ideas and expectations for this defense kind of evolved throughout the summer?
COACH SHOOP: Well, I think the thing that happens in the spring is you kind of recognize the hand you've been dealt. When we got here in February, it was about developing relationships with our players.
You know, keep in mind, I always say, it's funny, I'm actually the fourth defensive coordinator these guys have had in four years. Especially for the fourth and fifth year seniors, getting to know them, them getting to know me, a lot of the same things that coach butler had done last year, just different terminology in some ways and we feature maybe some different things he didn't a year ago. Each group has his own thoughts and ideas.
The spring went well and it was really about identifying who our playmakers are, identifying our roster, and then what you do, it's not like the NFL where you can sign free agents or make trades or draft guys. It's all about recruiting. We recruited a class and now we knew we had some holes in our roster we needed to get filled. I'm really excited about our defensive ends. I think between Barnes and C.J. we have as good a one, two punch as there in in the league. Excited to see Brad Bars get out there. He's over common injuries and put himself in a position to be really gold. Carl Nassib and Garrett Sickels are good players.
Inside, Austin Johnson and Zettel are really good players. Some young guys have to step up behind them. Obviously everybody has talked about Mike Hull and the leadership he provides from the linebacker position. I'm looking forward to seeing Bell and Mortman in training camp. And we have toyed around and tinkered in today's game with all these spread offenses, we have toyed around with playing a third safety, a 4?2?5 package and you guys have written a lot about the star position or that field linebacker where you have two box backers and a guy back to the field and that could be a number of different people.
And I think we are excited about the experience in the secondary. I think Adrian Amos, I said this a hundred times now has as good a skill set as anybody I've ever been around. Ryan Kaiser is the proverbial coach on the field and is an underrated athlete. There's a guy who made a lot of plays. And Jordan Lucas is ready to take his game in the next level and Trevor Williams has really embraced being a corner and has improved maybe as much as anybody over the course of the summer. Really looking forward to working with those guys on the back end.
Q. You talked about that star position. Could you explain a little bit more what that is and what kind of athlete are you looking to be in that position, or is it multiple types of guys?
COACH SHOOP: It is, multiple kind of guys. The star, you know, the game has changed. We are facing?? this isn't 20 years ago, when it was rock 'em, sock 'em, robots run downhill. The field, there's more skilled athletes on the field on offense than ever before. There's more three and four wide receiver sets than ever before in today's modern huddle spread offenses.
Defensively what you're trying to do is maximize your athletic ability on the field and that body type, the hybrid safety outside linebacker has become a key component for what we do. So really I always use the analogy, in baseball they say you're good up the middle, catcher, pitcher, second and short and center field.
What we do I think if you look at us, our two d tackles and middle linebacker are kind of those inside guys. Our ends, inside linebackers and safeties, large medium and small, that body type, real athletic on the perimeter, able to make plays and somewhat interchangeable parts. And our corners out on the perimeter, they are the guys that are going to lock people down. And that's the formula I've observed to be successful in college football and in this league specifically.
Q. Is there a way to scheme around the depth at linebacker? And is it imperative that you get freshmen involved to get the depth you need at linebacker?
COACH SHOOP: There's ways to scheme around any limitations and depth at any position and specifically as it relates to linebacker this star package or the 4?2?5 package is one of the ways teams can do that.
I think it plays in our favor to a certain extent because as you guys talked about on the offensive side, tight end being a position of depth, I feel strongly that safety is a position at depth for us. You look at, like I said, Adrian Amos and Ryan Kaiser at safety, you look at Jessie Della Valle has played a lot of football. Malik Golden has played a lot of football. Jordan transferred from Bucknell and showed well this spring and we have a couple good freshmen safeties that can make an impact there. That star position enables you to?? with he can play an outside linebacker there in certain situations, we can play a hybrid outside linebacker, strong safety, someone like Adrian or Golden. We can play a corner there. Lucas, all the star is in some ways is a nickel, and he can do some of that stuff as well. And I forget what your second question was.
Yeah, yeah, definitely. I think like I said about the spring, the spring we had the opportunity to go out 15 times with the upper class guys. We have a pretty good idea what some of those guys can do. I think Coach Franklin does an incredible job of formatting practice so we are able to maximize our time with our freshmen because we really need to get an evaluation on them and figure out who going to factor into the two?deep and who is going to be in a position to help us in 2014.
Q. James mentioned at Big Ten Media Day you would be in the box during games. Butler was on the sideline. What advantage do you getting upstairs and why would you prefer it?
COACH SHOOP: I say this joking and I'm joking; I want to get as far away from Coach Franklin as I possibly can on game day, all right.
No, that's not it. I really think it's like the players practice the things that they are going to do on game day, they put the muscle memory, the movements, the keys, reads, things like that. If you think about it, my vantage point when I study film is the vantage point you get from the press box, and I enjoy that. I enjoy the sterile environment about being up in the press box. I have my little folder I was doing my practice plan while I am waiting for John and Charles. I'm organized and thorough; I have my notes in front of me and I can make adjustments much more readily and easily from the press box than I can on the field and it's just where I feel most comfortable on game day.
We have a great process. We communicate the call to the guys on the sideline and the guys signal it in and we haven't had much problems with that. The communication is very good. You guys know how I feel, we have the best defensive staff in all of college football. Shaun Spencer, Brent and I have been together now, this will be our fourth year and we are so excited to Terry with us coaching the corners. People thought initially, Penn State guy who helped in recruiting on western Pennsylvania, and he's done that, don't get me wrong. He's a heck of a coach and an even better person than he is football coach. We have two great GA's, Will Wyndham and Steve Williams have done a great job and done everything we asked them.
Q. Anthony Zettel, he's bumped inside and he's a lot bigger. How important is he going to be going forward with what you want to do on that front line.
COACH SHOOP: Very. Anthony, he had a great spring, arguably one of our top players in the spring. He's a little bit like what we are looking for. We'll take a little undersized guy at that particular position as long as he's got what we call twitch movement.
We do so many different things. We are not going to really be static in our alignment a lot. We'll do a lot of movement and things like that and Anthony provides a lot of what we are looking for. He's got great get off and movement and tenacity and it allows us to really put our best players on the field, and I did more off?season stuff this year scheming for him, C.J. and de on than I've ever done.
Most of it you think scheming you think in the back end stuff, coverage patterns, things like that. We have done some different things trying to put those guys in the best positions they are able to make plays.
Q. Barnes and Amos burst on to the scene two years ago, and in a lot of respects last season in terms of numbers was a bit of a mixed bag. What have you seen from those two so far and have they bought into the system? What makes them able to contribute on 2014?
COACH SHOOP: I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am to work with both de on and Adrian. They have bought in 100%. I think the thing if you have not figured it out about this staff, I think I get the?? I see Chris back there, Chris jokes and he wrote in the Tribune Review that I'm zero on the swag meter and all that stuff that coach said.
But my swag is when I sit down with a player and he sees that I can put him in a position to be successful, I can help him maximize his ability and Deon and I have had those conversations; this is how we are going to utilize you; this are the things I think are your strengths; these are the things I think are your weaknesses; we are going to put you in a position to make plays. We are going to make teams put you in a position where the weak person is going to protect you whether it's a running back or the weakest pass protectors, things like that, put him in a position to make plays.
And Adrian, we have talked about this before, has a safeties's body and corner's skill set. You'll find him all over the field. He's embraced everything we are doing. He's been great. He and I have as good a relationship as any player I've ever coached and I've really enjoyed getting to know him. He and de on are both players that if they play up to their potential have all Big Ten potential this year certainly and can play a lot of years at the next level if that's what they want to do.