Penn State Football

Backup QB Tommy Stevens finally cleared to play — and other highlights from PSU’s James Franklin

James Franklin comments on the team’s quarterbacks

Penn State football coach James Franklin talks about the team’s quarterbacks during the weekly press conference.
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Penn State football coach James Franklin talks about the team’s quarterbacks during the weekly press conference.

Here are the highlights from Penn State coach James Franklin’s weekly press conference on Tuesday, where he spoke ahead of Friday’s matchup with Illinois and addressed the injury status of quarterback Tommy Stevens:

Backup QB Tommy Stevens cleared to play

Franklin initially said he wouldn’t discuss injuries — but changed his mind halfway through an answer Tuesday afternoon.

“We expect to have all three guys for Friday,” Franklin said, referring to the quarterbacks. “We expect to have all those guys available for this week.”

He added: “If we needed Tommy last week, we could’ve played Tommy. ... We’re just being a little more cautious than probably we need to be.”

Stevens dressed last week and warmed up before the game but did not play. He wore a walking boot last month due to an apparent leg injury but tweeted out, “Don’t panic!” after the injury went public. He’s been dressed at practice open to the media the last few weeks.

Sean Clifford has competed in his place, and Franklin said he’s been impressed by the redshirt freshman so far.

“I think he’s completed every pass and 50 percent of them for touchdowns,” Franklin said with a smile. “Pretty good start; pretty good start for him. ... In a lot of ways, this has been a blessing in disguise.”

Green light for Oweh?

True freshman defensive end Jayson Oweh turned some heads against Kent State when he recorded two sacks on the same drive. Based on how he plays this week against Illinois, he could be in for some more playing time.

Before the season, Franklin said planned to play Nick Tarburton in the first two weeks and then Oweh in the two weeks after that. The staff planned to evaluate from there.

Now, with Oweh’s two-sack effort, Franklin said he has a chance to play more this season and avoid the redshirt — if he plays well Friday.

“Obviously, he’s got a lot of genetic gifts,” said Franklin, who added Oweh had the fastest 40 of any freshmen brought in during the summer. “I don’t think there’s any doubt about it, but the game is still very new to him.”

Either way, Franklin said the future is very bright for Oweh.

Opportunity for African-American coaches

On Friday, Franklin will take on another African-American head coach in Lovie Smith in a matchup that’s all too rare in college football. There are only 10 such coaches in the 130-team FBS.

Franklin didn’t mind addressing the fact, saying there’s still room for progress:

“I’d love for us to get to a point where this really isn’t even a conversation anymore,” he said. “Obviously I don’t think we’re there yet. But I remember thinking back as an assistant, when Tony Dungy and Lovie were playing against each other in a Super Bowl, and I said this is going to have an impact. And I think it did. I think it did especially in the NFL.

“I do think there’s a lot of progress that still needs to be made in college and probably the NFL as well. But at the end of the day I think all that anybody wants is that people have opportunities, and whether that is people of color, whether that is women, whether that is whatever it may be, that they have opportunities.”

The Penn State coach acknowledged he’s “carrying that weight for thousands of African-American football coaches. The success we have here hopefully opens some opportunities for other guys.”

‘Psychological affect’ of Fridays

Franklin is not a fan of holding games on Friday nights.

He’s voiced that since the Illinois game showed up on the schedule. He said it before the season, and he said it again last week. But he wouldn’t say it Tuesday — for “psychological” reasons.

“We’re not talking about this week any other way than this is game week,” he said. “I do not like talking about it any different than that, because I think it has a psychological effect and we won’t do that.”

Penn State usually has Mondays off but practiced instead because of the shortened week. Franklin and the Nittany Lions have chosen not to host any Friday night games but could still be forced to play Fridays as the away team in future seasons.

“I voiced my thoughts before this week started, but this is game week for us,” Franklin said. “We embraced it.”

CB John Reid to make return

The fan favorite played Week 1 but was pulled because he showed a little too much “rust,” after his first game back from last year’s season-ending injury.

Reid did not play in Weeks 2 or 3. But Franklin said Tuesday that he should make his return this Friday against Illinois.

He did not offer specifics.

“We expect John back,” Franklin said.

PSU Players of the Week

Every week, the coaching staff names a standout from every element of the past week’s game. The Players of the Week from the 63-10 win over Kent State:

Offense: QB Trace McSorley

Defense: DE Shareef Miller

Special Teams: WR Isaac Lutz and WR KJ Hamler