2021 Big Ten Media Days Recap: Franklin, Dotson, Mustipher, Castro-Fields Take to the Podium in Indianapolis

By Joel Neuschwander on July 23, 2021 at 8:00 am
James Franklin
Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports
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On day one of Big Ten Media Days in Indianapolis on Thursday, James Franklin and a trio of Nittany Lion seniors took to the podium and addressed a variety of topics surrounding the 2021 season.

FRANKLIN TAKES THE STAGE

Franklin touched on new offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich, lessons learned from last year, and NIL (name, image, and likeness) as it pertains to his squad.

Franklin expressed his excitement for the Nittany Lions’ Sept. 4 clash against Wisconsin, calling the game “a great challenge to open the season.” Franklin mentioned having a countdown clock for the game in the football facility, as is the case every season, but he said this time it’s a little extra special.

Franklin talked about his history with Yurcich, including the fact that the two both played and coached in Division II’s Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference. Franklin said he’s been pursuing Yurcich for a couple of years, and “couldn’t be more excited about having him with us.”

Franklin said there won’t be too much of a difference stylistically on offense, but the talent will remain.

Franklin made note of having to replace several stars on the defensive side of the ball.

“I feel like we have the ability to do that with the way that we’ve recruited,” he said.

Franklin then took questions from the media, starting with how NIL has impacted the Penn State program.

“I don’t really look at it as something to use in recruiting. I look at it mainly as ‘how do we make sure we’re doing everything we possibly can to support the student-athletes,’” he said. “We’re trying to prepare our guys for life after football, and this is going to be part of that.”

Franklin said he was “proud” of how his team and the Big Ten handled the Coronavirus pandemic in 2020, with one minor exception.

“The one thing I haven’t figured out yet is how to wear a mask and glasses...the entire game I was fogged up and that was challenging.”

Franklin said the lessons he learned last season will continue to serve him well.

Franklin wrapped up his initial availability by answering questions about leadership on his team and what it would take to get this year’s team back to the Big Ten Championship game for the first time since 2016, saying “alignment” among players and coaches is critical.

“I think we understand what it takes to get there.”

DOTSON, MUSTIPHER, CASTRO-FIELDS SIT DOWN WITH MEDIA

About 90 minutes after Franklin wrapped up his session, seniors Jahan Dotson, PJ Mustipher, and Tariq Castro-Fields sat down to field some questions.

The trio discussed their collective response after the 0-5 start in 2020.

“Our team was hungry. We were looking for some [wins] in the beginning of the season...we kind of came together in the middle of the season, just put our head down, worked together, came together as a family, and we got it done,” Dotson said.

Mustipher and Castro-Fields both said they hope to build off the momentum of the season-ending four-game win streak.

“You use last season as fuel. Don’t dwell on it,” Castro-Fields said.

“We’re going to keep this thing rolling,” Mustipher added.

Dotson and Castro-Fields talked about their decision to turn down the NFL Draft and return to Penn State.

“We had unfinished business. We didn’t want to leave with that sour taste in our mouth,” Castro-Fields said.

“We knew we had the pieces in place, we just had to put it together. We know that no one’s going to push us like we push ourselves,” Dotson said.

Mustipher talked about his role as a leader on the defensive line after the unit lost Shaka Toney and Odafe Oweh, among others.

“It’s my room, and I have to be responsible for what goes on in that room.”

Dotson discussed his early thoughts of Yurcich’s offense.

“I use one word, and that’s exciting. Throughout the offseason, we’ve been picking Coach Yurcich’s brain apart.”

Dotson also spoke about Sean Clifford’s search for more consistency.

“Sean is hungry. He’s looking for any possible way to get better at his craft. He works like a champion.”

All three said they were excited for the challenge of beginning the season on the road in Madison, and Mustipher said a high-profile opponent doesn’t affect the Nittany Lions’ preparations.

“It doesn’t change the way we prepare. Our standard has always been high.”

LONNIE WHITE JR.’S STATUS

If you haven’t heard, 2021 signee and Pittsburgh Pirates draft pick Lonnie White Jr. has a pretty big decision to make. He has not reached that decision yet, but according to Franklin, is leaning a different way than he originally was.

The MLB Draft pick signing deadline is Aug. 1, while the Nittany Lions start fall camp on August 6.

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