Penn State Football

Will John Reid return on Saturday? Takeaways from James Franklin’s press conference

Penn State head coach James Franklin and the Nittany Lions face Kent State on Saturday.
Penn State head coach James Franklin and the Nittany Lions face Kent State on Saturday.

On Tuesday, James Franklin reflected on Penn State’s 51-6 thrashing of Pitt, talked about a couple of Nittany Lions who didn’t see the field and set his sights toward Kent State, Kent State and Kent State.

Here are the highlights of Franklin’s 45-minute press conference


Before getting into football, Franklin addressed the 17th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

“This day, 9/11, represents a lot of things for a lot of different people in our country. It hits close to home,” Franklin said. “I actually had a teammate from college that passed away on that day, as well. So when we were able to take our team a few years back to the site (prior to the Pinstripe Bowl), I think it was powerful. Another example how college athletics and specifically football can use our platform to do other things. That was an important day in our program.”

Reid’s return?

Redshirt junior cornerback John Reid, who missed last season due to a serious knee injury, did not play at Pitt. And he might not play against Kent State, either.

Franklin is “hopeful” that Reid will suit up and actually see the field Saturday. Last week, the coach said Reid — who didn’t participate in the fourth quarter or overtime against Appalachian State in Week 1 — “played like a guy who hadn’t played in a year.”

In Reid’s absence at Pitt, Donovan Johnson started at the nickel corner and impressed. The redshirt freshman did not allow a reception and pressured Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett twice off edge blitzes.

“In that first week, he played cautious. But he learned from it and grew from it,” Franklin said of Johnson. “I saw him take a big jump on special teams and defense. And we’re going to need him. We’re going to need him to continue to grow.”

Veteran drops

Juwan Johnson and DeAndre Thompkins — starting wideouts with five seasons of experience between the two of them — haven’t looked crisp in Penn State’s first couple contests.

Johnson had at least two drops against Appalachian State and one at Pitt, while three balls slipped through Thompkins’ fingers at Heinz Field. The former had only two catches on Saturday, and the latter hasn’t recorded a reception yet this season.

Still, Franklin has the “utmost confidence” in Johnson and Thompkins and expects “huge years” from them.

“I think Juwan and DeAndre have higher standards and expectations of how they want to play,” Franklin said. “I think there are a few plays they wish they could have back. There’s no doubt about it.”

Stevens on the sideline

Like Reid, backup quarterback (and starting “Lion”) Tommy Stevens did not play against the Panthers. Instead, third-stringer Sean Clifford spelled Trace McSorley when the game was fully out of reach.

Stevens — who has dressed, but didn’t see the field against App State — suffered a lower left leg injury in the offseason. He was in a walking boot in the spring, was out of it in late June and then was spotted in it yet again on Aug. 18’s team photo day.

With Stevens’ out, Franklin said they’ve slightly limited McSorley’s designed runs as a precaution — and he’s looking forward to having the redshirt junior available in the future.

“Getting Tommy back is going to open some other things up to us,” Franklin said. “He can factor in a lot of different roles, wear a lot of different hats. ... It opens another aspect of our gameplan.”

Players of the week

Every week, Franklin and the Nittany Lions announces the players of the week. Against Pitt, it was:

Offense: WR KJ Hamler — three catches for 40 yards; one rush for 32 yards; two touchdowns

Defense: CB Amani Oruwariye — three tackles, two pass breakups, one interception, zero receptions allowed

Special teams: P Blake Gillikin — five punts, 42.6 yards per attempt, three punts inside the 10-yard line