Penn State coach James Franklin cleared his bench in the second half of last weekend's 48-7 blowout of UMass at Beaver Stadium, playing nearly every Nittany Lion not slated for a redshirt.
But Franklin and defensive coordinator Bob Shoop did some much more interesting substituting in the first half, when the game was still well a game.
On three consecutive series, the staff subbed out a veteran starting defensive back and replaced him with a true freshman.
It began with talented boundary corner Jordan Lucas, who was replaced by rookie Grant Haley for an entire series. The next series, freshman Marcus Allen was in for senior safety Ryan Keiser. And the series after that, newbie Christian Campbell took over for field corner Trevor Williams.
So each of the true freshmen got a series with what was otherwise the first team.
According to Franklin, it is all about building depth -- and confidence.
He said playing the rookies is, so very, very important for the growth of our program and the confidence of those kids and the confidence for the coaches.
Senior linebacker Mike Hull agreed.
“It means a lot to get those guys in the game. It helps them adjust to the speed.”
It means a lot to get those guys in the game, he said. It helps them adjust to the speed. You know, later down the road this season or even next year, those guys are gonna have to play for us and possibly start games for us. So it's huge whenever those guys get those reps.
Fellow linebacker Brandon Bell said the young DBs have tremendous talent and that getting early reps vs. UMass was about getting their head right and getting out there and getting a feel (for playing) in front of a big crowd.
So were they wide-eyed in the huddle?
I think they looked like everyone else, Bell said with a smile. That's what you come here for -- you come for the opportunity to play big-time football. And that's what they got.
In the meantime, there is an advantage for the starters, too, according to Franklin.
I think it is very, very important, he said. When you can get a guy out of there for one or two series in each half as a starter, that's going to help us in the fourth quarter and that's going to help us later in the season keeping these guys as fresh as we possibly can.