"It's an introduction to the program, coaches and even each other since there's a good chance some of these guys will be playing together," according to one observer.
Junior Days are a staple of many programs across the nation. And while some programs choose to bring in a few hundred prospects, Penn State has traditionally taken a more intimate approach, inviting a few dozen players at most. In recent years, PSU has whittled that down even further.
O'Brien's staff is moving back toward the previous approach of inviting a few dozen prospects. It has also moved up the initial Junior Day to this coming Saturday, during Thon weekend. This is earlier than the March and April events that were typically held during spring practice under Joe Paterno.
For the Junior Day event, the players and their families cover travel expenses. Some players make it a day trip. Others will arrive the night before and stay at a hotel. Still others arrive the day of the event and then stay in a hotel that night before heading home the following day.
It is difficult to offer a definitive list of visitors for a Junior Day this early because weather can sometime cause travel problems.
This Saturday's event is expected to see the prospects gather in the Squad Room in Lasch Building to watch highlight film of the team from recent years and discuss the philosophy and tradition of Penn State football related to developing players academically and athletically.
The prospects are also expected to tour the football facilities, including locker room, practice facility, equipment rooms and student-athlete facilities (lounge, computer room, etc.).
Also scheduled is an information session with strength and conditioning coach Craig Fitzgerald on the overview and methodology of the strength program, along with a tour of Penn State's 13,000-square foot weight room (the largest single-sport collegiate conditioning facility in the country).
Prospects will also review the academic support resources and program and meet with academic support staffers to discuss the focus PSU places on academics and the support the program provides.
The prospects are typically split up by position to meet with their respective position coach, review the coaching philosophy and approach, ask questions and review some film and highlights specific to the position and scheme the unit runs.
Also, PSU has traditionally provided prospects with the opportunity to ask a panel of current players about their time at PSU. During this session prospects have asked a variety of questions from why they chose Penn State to how the transition is from high school to college on and off the field. Players are also often asked about the demands as a freshman and the pros and cons of enrolling early.
Finally, O'Brien is expected to talk with the prospects about the values of the program and hist staff along with what Penn State can do for them on and off the field.
If there are any radical changes from previous Junior Days, we'll be sure to get the lowdown and fill you in.
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