Penn State football wrapped up another spring practice Wednesday afternoon. James Franklin, Jason Cabinda, and Ryan Bates discussed standout freshmen, plans for the return game, and how players are taking better care of their bodies.
Franklin mentioned that spring ball is the optimal time to figure out who some of the guys truly are. This is the time to find out who else can play besides the established players on the team. “We need to find out who [Michael] Miranda is, we need to find out who Lamont Wade is, we need to find out who Will Fries is,” Franklin said. “We’ve had an opportunity to see them, but not take in 45 reps during practice. Are they going to be able to sustain it for the length of the practice?”
When the team was working on the punting game, early enrollee Lamont Wade lined up alongside Josh McPhearson and Mark Allen. Franklin isn’t afraid to give freshmen a shot at fielding kicks, as Miles Sanders filled that role last season. It basically comes down to who shows the most natural instincts back there.
“We’re good with it, but they have to show us they’re able to consistently catch the ball and they’re going to make great decisions and be able to communicate,” Franklin said. “That’s usually the hard thing.”
Franklin also gave high praise to Connor McGovern, who started nine games at right guard last season as a true freshman. “His movement and his athleticism has been very good,” Franklin said.
McGovern is the odds-on favorite to replace Brian Gaia as the starting center, and even though Franklin loved what Gaia did in his time at Penn State, he’s excited to add more size to the position. “We’re hoping he’s going to be able to give us more of a physical presence inside,” Franklin said. “It gives us a little more girth inside for third-and-one, fourth-and-one, four-minute offense, and low red zone.”
A big topic of discussion around the team this offseason has been nutrition and making sure the athletes are eating healthy and getting plenty of sleep. Franklin talked about how Jason Cabinda has done a better job treating his body right to drop some weight, increasing his ability to play sideline-to-sideline without sacrificing any physicality.
Cabinda himself said that having his weight down allows him to play faster and focuses on his nutrition has been a big part of it. “You get out of your body what you put into it,” Cabinda said. “When you’re eating healthy, you just play better. You feel better and you recover better.”
Cabinda admitted that giving up fast food is tough, especially Panda Express, but he knows that he needs to treat his body right. “If you do it now, it’s going to be easier down the road. I want to get the most out of my body,” he added.
Bates, who has taken most of his snaps at left tackle this spring, said he enjoys the competition during practice and knows that this is an important time to get better and build chemistry. “We all make each other better. We’re all competing,” Bates said. “There’s no hurt feelings on the field, and we’re best friends off the field. We’re a tight-knit group of guys.”
With the Blue-White Game quickly approaching on April 22 at 3 p.m., the team is getting closer to showing the Nittany Lion faithful what it’s been working on this spring.