The drama has been never ending for the Penn State football team, from the final minutes in Wisconsin three months ago until now, the first day of spring practice. Today marks another first in the Franklin Era — the first time he and his staff will get to see their players in full pads. The Lions start 15 full practices beginning today, concluding with the Blue and White game on April 12. We have seen how Franklin and his coaches interact with the media and fans, but today is the first time we will see them in action on the field.
Here are ten questions people will be asking leading up to Blue and White:
1. How will Franklin’s gameplan differ from past teams? With any new coaching staff comes a new vision. Spring practice will be the time for Franklin and his staff to test out the talent.
2. Has the hole left by Allen Robinson been filled? While we mapped out five potential replacements, these next few weeks will be give a better look to see who will take on this big role.
3. After being named Big Ten Freshman of the year, Christian Hackenberg has some big expectations going into the season. How much will be improve? After losing his favorite target and much of his protection in the O-line, it will be interesting to see how the young quarterback handles himself during the sophomore campaign.
4. What impact is the defense going to make? After struggling at times last year, the defense has a lot of holes to fill up with only about half the starters pretty well settles. Defensive Coordinator Bob Shoop is going to use all of spring ball to try out all different combinations of players before the season starts on August 30 in Ireland. We won’t have John Butler to scapegoat this season!
5. What is the offensive line going to look like? After losing four seniors, everyone’s favorite coach on twitter, Herb Hand, is going to have a lot of empty spots to fill.
6. What ever happened to Akeel Lynch? After a good start for the Nittany Lions it looked like Zwinak, Belton and Lynch were going to be a powerful running back trio, but towards the end of the season after a couple of dropped balls in key situations, Lynch never saw the same playing time again. Will spring ball prove that he is firmly back in the trio?
7. What remains of LinebackerU? Legendary linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden left in December, and Mike Hull is the only clear returning starter for the group. Returning players Gary Wooten, Nyeem Wartman, Brandon Bell, and Ben Kline will all be in the running for these spots. And once the true freshman Koa Farmer and Jason Cabinda arrive this summer, they will give Coach Brent Pry more options for the rotation.
8. Does Penn State have a game-ready fullback? Penn State lists three fullbacks on the current roster and they are all walkons: Dominic Salamone, Brandon Smith and Jack Haffner. Since Michael Zordich left in 2012, the Nittany Lions haven’t used a feature fullback, but that could change under Franklin.
9. How is Franklin going to use his tight-ends? O’Brien had a special relationship with this position, with his past experience with the New England Patriots adding a different dimension. But how is offensive coordinator John Donovan going to use this position during spring ball? He has plenty of experience to work with in returners Jesse James, Kyle Carter, and Adam Breneman.
10. And the most important question of the spring season: Is Hackenberg going to cut his hair? We have 15 practices to be on hair watch.