The improvement of Penn State’s defense has been one of the more underrated storylines of the 2017 season. The Nittany Lions have been one of the best teams in the nation defensively, particularly when it comes to takeaways and keeping opponents out of the end zone.

On Wednesday, James Franklin spoke to the media and was asked about some of the reasons behind his team’s success this season, particularly the interception total. Penn State’s nine interceptions currently leads the B1G and ranks sixth nationally.

Franklin suggested that guys put in more work during the offseason and now are starting to see a return on their investment.

“I think the biggest thing is, in the offseason, our guys committed to it,” Franklin told the media. “In the past it had always been the wide receivers and the tight ends on the jugs machine for an hour every day…this year you saw the linebackers doing it, you saw the safeties doing it, you saw the corners doing it. So I think there just comes confidence with that.

“The more balls they catch, now maybe the play in the past would be to go for the breakup, they’re more confident in going for the interception now.”

Penn State intercepted 10 passes in 14 games last season. The team’s nine picks this year have come in just six games. Penn state also leads the nation in scoring defense through six weeks of the season, allowing just nine points per game thus far.

The Nittany Lions are also +12 in turnover margin, another statistic that leads the nation.

Amani Oruwanye leads the team with three interceptions on the year and Grant Haley has picked off two passes. Marcus Allen, Troy Apke, Christian Campbell and Tariq Castro-Fields each have recorded an interception, as well.

The Nittany Lions are in a bye week but will host Michigan next Saturday in Happy Valley.