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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — Penn State coach James Franklin has a long-term plan.
"As fans and coaches and players, we'd all like it to happen faster," Franklin said Tuesday.
He knows it takes time to develop a cohesive offensive line, powerful running game and team depth.
The first-year coach has guided Penn State to a 3-0 start, with the Nittany Lions rallying to beat Central Florida and Rutgers. Quarterback Christian Hackenberg has been hit, harried and harassed on a weekly basis, and Penn State is ranked 117th out of 125 NCAA FBS teams with an average of just over 75 yards rushing.
"Obviously, we're going to have to improve in the running game and our protection," Franklin said. "That's going to be very, very important. I think it really comes down to our communication and coordination up front, making sure that all five or six guys, depending on the protection and the play, are all on same page and working together and that hasn't been the case so far.
"That's time, that's chemistry, that's all those things that have to happen."
It won't happen, Franklin said, without an overall grasp of the program's future, something he said he and his staff possess.
"I've been a lot of places where your focus is on the game that week and that you're not really connecting with the freshmen and you have a lot of turnover with the freshmen," Franklin said. "I think that's so important to keep those guys so involved and have fun and enjoy themselves and also see that they have bright futures here. That's really, really important as well.
"We try to balance that. To me, recruiting and coaching and developing, you're really splitting those things year-round. We take a lot of pride in developing the whole program and developing the whole kid," Franklin said.
A lot of communication goes into solid line play; a little bravery is involved as well, Franklin said.
"It deals with really being confident and brave enough to make a (blocking) call," he said. "Because if someone makes the call and it's wrong, then there's someone to blame. I don't want them to approach it that way.
"I want them to make a decision they think is a right decision for the team and move on. If we make a mistake we learn from it, you man up to it, you own it and you move forward. I think they understand that."
Despite the lackluster rushing attack, Penn State is ranked first in passing offense (360.7 yards per game) in the Big Ten (and 10th nationally) behind Hackenberg, the conference leader in total offense with 1,103 yards.
A scoring defense that's ranked first in the Big Ten and 11th nationally, and a rushing defense that is No. 2 in the conference and No. 7 in the country has provided momentum, Franklin said.
"Our guys have done a great job of having a sense of urgency when we needed it most," he said.
"I think there are a lot of things that factor into it. It's not like we're just waiting till the fourth quarter to call those plays."
NOTES: A movement on Facebook is setting up what organizers are calling a "Joe-out" for Saturday's home game against Massachusetts. People are urged to either dress like late Penn State coach Joe Paterno or display the No. 409 to signify his overall total number of victories. The NCAA restored Penn State's available scholarships to a full allotment of 85 last week and also made the university eligible for the postseason. Those were sanctions the university had placed on it after the Jerry Sandusky child-abuse scandal. The NCAA also removed 111 Paterno-led victories from the record book.
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