Penn State football had a productive Junior Day (think of it as a field trip to Penn State for some of the nation’s top junior high school football players) this past weekend landing three recruits to start off the 2015 recruiting class.
It’s an important day for the future of the program with 2015 recruits getting close to making their college decisions. While Junior Day might be the marquee event during a fairly calm period in the college football world, here are six more dates Penn State fans can look forward to in the coming months.
February 19-25: NFL Combine
As the NFL Draft races closer and closer, the NFL Combine is one of the two chances that some of Penn State’s best talent will have to prove their worth to NFL scouts. An invitation only event, defensive tackle DaQuan Jones, wide receiver Allen Robinson, and offensive guard John Urschel will all be put to the test over the week long combine. Each former Nittany Lion won’t be tested on the same day, but as all three look to find a future in the NFL, the entire week is an important part of the process.
March 17: Spring Practice Starts
James Franklin will have been on the job for months without having really worked with his team. That will all change in the middle of March though as Franklin takes to field for the first practice of his Penn State career. This will be an important time for everyone at Penn State as the team learns all of the ins and outs of a Franklin run operation. It took almost a full year for the team to fully “get” what then head coach Bill O’Brien was looking for in his first season at the helm, so each practice in the spring will be equally as important under Franklin. From schemes to simple practice expectations there will be a learning curve for the both the staff and players.
April 8: Pro Day
For all of Penn State’s departed players, Pro Day will give them one of the last chances to prove their worth to NFL scouts before the NFL Draft. O’Brien’s open-door policy with scouts makes this day a little less important than in previous years since most scouts have been watching NFL prospects progress in practice throughout the year. Even so, players who weren’t invited to the combine can show off their physical abilities. Robinson, Urschel, and Jones can choose to retest any evaluations they were unhappy with two months earlier. NFL careers won’t be made on this day, but a good showing never hurts.
April 12: Blue White Game
After Bill O’Brien contemplated getting rid of the Blue-White game all together to keep his team healthy, Penn State has it back on the schedule. Once again, the Nittany Lions wrap up spring practice with a scrimmage that’s open to the general public. There is only so much you can take away from an event like this, but it is a good chance to showcase the team’s depth and development under Franklin. It will be our first chance to see Franklin’s offense and Shoop’s defense, but don’t expect the playbook to open wide. Still, it’s an opportunity to take a look inside the program for 60 minutes of football.
April 15: Evaluation Period
Franklin plans on making big strides with Penn State’s recruiting, and the evaluation period starting on April 15 is one good way to do that. While coaches can’t contact players in-person during these visits, Franklin and his staff will now be able to watch prospects in person. The period lasts just over a month, but is one of many important junctures on the recruiting schedule.
May 8: NFL Draft
Months after the NFL Combine and Pro Day, Penn State’s best will finally learn their fate. Free agency is far from a curse but Penn State’s best chance for a first round pick is in Allen Robinson. A few of his teammates will probably hear their names called in later rounds as well. Draft day is important for the PR departments of major football programs across the nation but Penn State’s legacy with NFL football is fairly well established at this point.