If it wasn’t already official, it is now. The James Franklin era began for real on Monday with the start of spring practice. Franklin and his staff will have 14 more practices as well as the annual scrimmage, known as the Blue-White Game, before breaking again until the summer. At a press conference before practice began on Monday, Franklin discussed how he plans to use the spring practice time as well as what his expectations are for this team.
The first 45 minutes or so of Monday’s practice was open to the media. It was a chance to see how things would run under the new leadership as well as the changes that were made to the depth chart.
Below are some of my random observations that I took away from my time in Holuba Hall on Monday.
• Franklin stated in his press conference that he told his players he doesn’t want to see anyone walking on the field. If the players have to get somewhere, they need to run there. This new rule was apparent even before practice began. Due to field conditions on Monday, practice was moved from the outdoor facility to Holuba Hall. Players, instead of leisurely walking from the Lasch Football Building to Holuba Hall, were running. Every player that came was running to get to the practice field. During practice, players could be seen running from station to station.
• While watching the linebackers do drills, Mike Hull and Brandon Bell were paired on the same rotation. The third person in the drill with them rotated between Gary Wooten and Nyeem Wartman. Heading into this season Hull was the only sure lock to nab one of the starting linebacker spots. Many people felt that Bell, who looked impressive at the end of last season as a true freshman, would grab one of the other starting spots. It seems that the battle for the third starting spot will be between Wartman, Wooten and perhaps Ben Kline when he gets healthy.
• Before the practice, Franklin stated that he plans on using more starters and skill position players on special teams. That’s a change from the last few years when Bill O’Brien used many walk-ons to fill spots on special teams. The Nittany Lions really struggled, especially last season, ranking near the bottom of the conference in kick and punt return yardage. During the practice, running backs Zach Zwinak and Bill Belton were taking kick returns. Senior cornerback Devin Pryor was also working with that unit. Wide receivers DeAndre Thompkins, Richy Anderson, and Gregg Garrity were working on returning punts. Defensive backs Jordan Lucas and Jesse Della Valle were also catching punts.
• Deion Barnes is big, just saying.
• There was a lot of intensity at the practice. Coaches and players alike seemed to have a lot of energy. Of course, the first day of practice is always an exciting time, but that seemed to be intensified with the precense of the new coaching staff. Standing on the sideline, coaches could be heard loudly giving directions and teaching. Players could be heard encouraging each and there just seemed to be a lot of positive energy in the building.
There will be much more news to come over the next few weeks as the depth chart begins to get clearer. Check with VBR for the latest Penn State news.
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