The Penn State Nittany Lions enter their bye week with a perfect 6-0 record, ranked third in the AP Poll. Head coach James Franklin joined The Jim Rome Show on Tuesday and said he was pleases with his teams’ all-around play, but also aware of the work that lies ahead.
“I think we are playing really good complementary football,” Franklin said on CBS Sports Radio. “We’re playing well on offense, we’re playing well on defense, and we’re playing well on special teams. I’ve been doing this for 23 years at every level, including the NFL, and I don’t know if I’ve ever been anywhere where all three sides of the ball were playing at such a high level.”
After taking Penn State to the Rose Bowl last season, Franklin’s team came up short against USC. But it supplied the fuel to the offseason, and is a big reason why the Nittany Lions are playing this well through the first half of the regular season.
“Our kids are playing with a lot of confidence. And as you know a confident team is a dangerous team and were going to need it because we’re going into a tough stretch right now,” Franklin said.
It helps to have Saquon Barkley. Through six games, defenses have tried to focus on Barkley, but have had little success slowing down the Heisman contender, who has already surpassed 1,000 yards from scrimmage.
“If you were making a Frankenstein running back and you listed out all the attributes and traits you were looking for, he’s got all of them,” Franklin said. “I’ve never seen a back who can beat you with his size—he’s 230 pounds—he can beat you with his speed, his quickness, he’s intelligent, he’s thrown a touchdown pass, he’s returned a kickoff for a touchdown.
“We’re using him a lot in the passing game right now because people are over loading the box and saying we’re not going to allow Saquan Barkley to rush for 300 yards on us. So were able to use him in a lot of different ways. We’ve all seen really good backs, but they weren’t good receivers, or really good backs, but they couldn’t pick up the tough yards. And this guy just does so many things well, which makes him so difficult to defend.”
Franklin spent a year coaching in Green Bay, an inside look at one of the NFL’s most successful franchises. After having success at Vanderbilt and now Penn State, Franklin was asked if he had any interest in coaching in the National Football League.
“The year that I took this job I had multiple interviews with NFL organizations,” Frankin said. “But when the Penn State job came it was a just a tremendous opportunity for me. This is back home for me, I grew up just outside of Philadelphia so we’re focused on building on what we’ve got here, which I think is really special.”