James Franklin Field Report

During his Wednesday post-practice presser, the Nittany Lion coach talked about O-line improvement, taking it easy on his primary players during the bye week, youngsters scrimmaging and much more. Check out the story and full video.

With a much-needed bye Saturday, Penn State wrapped up practice for the week Wednesday afternoon by running sprints on the outdoor field next to Holuba Hall.

The Nittany Lions now have off until Sunday. James Franklin and his coaching staff will spend the next few days on the road recruiting.

And only time will tell if the offensive line issues that plagued 4-1 PSU through five games -- and came to a head in last weekend's lopsided loss to Northwestern -- have been resolved to any degree.

Before hitting the road, Franklin admitted that there was really nothing the staff could do from a personnel standpoint to help the O-line. There is just not much experience in the program at the position, period, and the best guys are already playing.

“We don't have the depth to do some things like that,” Franklin said when asked about possible personnel changes up front. He pointed out -- as he did on the Big Ten conference call earlier in the week -- that the Lions have only one scholarship offensive tackle (starter Donovan Smith) who is not a freshman.

So instead, the coaches and players studied a lot of game video.

“Watching it, it's really the footwork, it's the technique, it's the hand-placement,” Franklin said. “It's finishing blocks and things like that.”

On the positive side, Franklin pointed out that Penn State's primary offensive linemen have stayed relatively healthy so far, and the staff has not had to dip into the really inexperienced depth.

At the same time, he all but admitted that only time will really cure the O-line woes.

“We just have to continue getting better and growing,” Franklin said. “That's kind of where we're at.”

TAKE IT EASY

Offensive line is not the only area of the PSU program facing depth issues. NCAA sanctions limiting scholarships have cut into the reserve pool just about everywhere.

With that in mind, the staff took it easy physically on the PSU starters and key reserves this week. There was no on-field practice for anyone Sunday (which is a break from the norm). Monday is the usual off day for the team and was again this week.

Tuesday and Wednesday, the players in the primary playing rotation did not even wear pads.

“What we tried to do with the older guys is take the banging off them, and do the mental stuff with jog-throughs and walk-throughs to work on footwork and front identification and alignment and assignments and things like that.

“So what we tried to do with the older guys is take the banging off them,” Franklin said, ”and do the mental stuff with jog-throughs and walk-throughs to work on footwork and front identification and alignment and assignments and things like that.

“We'll get back into the banging next week,” he added.

STEPPING UP

While there was no hitting for the “older guys” Tuesday and Wednesday, those days did feature scrimmage action for redshirts and athletes on the lower rungs of the depth chart.

As Wednesday's scrimmage was going on, the veterans were hooting and hollering from the sideline whenever a big play was made. The coaching staff was very vocal, too.

“There's a lot of reasons you do it,” Franklin said of the scrimmages. “You do it for morale and chemistry -- it brings something different to practice -- and energy. It keep those guys involved that they know they're still being evaluated, that their time can come at any moment.

“I think it's great for our older guys,” he added. “I talk about how these guys support them like crazy every Saturday, they need to be out their supporting them and coaching them up, as well.”

There is another reason for the scrimmages.

“I've been a part of some programs that by the time you redshirt, you're just kind of forgotten for a year,” Franklin said. “That's usually when you have a high turnover and a lot of attrition, which we don't want.”

HUFFING AND PUFFING

Penn State wrestling coach Cael Sanderson spoke to the Nittany Lion football team this week. Franklin likes to bring in successful folks from different fields to address his team now and then, and Sanderson fits the bill of being successful.

He was undefeated and a four-time national champion as a wrestler at Iowa State. As a coach, he's led PSU to the last four NCAA titles.

When Sanderson was done speaking, Franklin informed him and all the PSU football players that running backs coach Charles Huff once said he could “hold his own with Cael Sanderson.”

“When Cael took his keys out of his pocket and his pen … Huff's face changed,” Franklin said. “The whole room went crazy. That was the end of that.”

He quickly added, “Huff was a good sport and so was Cael.”


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