James Franklin Headlines Coaching Staff At Football Media Day

Excitement surrounded Penn State football on Media Day as James Franklin, his fellow coaches, and his team were made available to the media for the first time en masse this season.

The day kicked off with Franklin being Franklin — “I’m excited for football, football, football.” He continued to talk about how the team should improve in his second year at the helm, first citing Akeel Lynch as someone who he expects to see step up. He said he hopes to see the offensive line excite him this season, and credited them with stepping up and working hard in the offseason. Franklin listed the pieces around Hackenberg as where he thinks the team might show its electricity — three freshman wide receivers last year are all a year older, there are four returning starters on the offensive line, and Kyle Carter and Mike Gesicki will now be supplemented at the tight end position by Adam Breneman. Franklin also said he wants the offensive linemen to play in their position — citing Andrew Nelson as someone who his staff believes can play at left tackle, but they’ll do what they can to make sure he stays in his natural right tackle position.

More highlights from Franklin’s conference:

Next up were offensive coordinator John Donovan, special teams coordinator Charles Huff, and defensive coordinator Bob Shoop. Coach Huff started the assistant coach press conference off by explaining how the competition among special teams players (kickers, punters, etc.) is all charted and everything is taken into consideration. Everything comes down to consistency along with other factors like off the field attitude and class room performance. For the kickers especially, a lot of scrutiny comes down on them. The game-like pressure is an important factor and it all comes down to preparation. DeAndre Thompkins is one of many new options for kick returning and punt returning. On the competition among special teams positions Huff states simply, “The only way to motivate truly is with playing time.”

Franklin’s long time offensive coordinator John Donovan started off with an upbeat positive opening statement. “Where we are at right now is to make sure our progress in development is very critical. The next few weeks are critical because it leads to the season.” Donovan showed his excitement for the weapons Penn State has on offense including the maturation of the young receiver core. He talks about how having one year of Penn State coaching experience makes such a huge difference now coming into his second season. “We have to work on the things that we can control, trusting your ability but also the things you can work on- attitude, work ethic, etc.” He added on to that there’s an “all business” attitude that Franklin always tries to instill, Donovan seems to definitely be on page with what Franklin is trying to accomplish within the program. On Hackenberg’s development and his up and down play last season, Donovan is focusing on the present and not being caught up on the past.

Bob Shoop entered smiling and reiterates how excited everyone is for the upcoming season. He first reflected about watching Christian Hackenberg throw for the first time. “He is a special guy, the undisputed leader of the unit.” Shoop talked about his relationship with Hackenberg and how it has helped with the development of both the defense and the offense. Some players that Shoop thinks are flying under the radar right now are Carl Nassib, Nyeem Wartman-White, and Trevor Williams. Marcus Allen, especially, is regarded as the “quarterback” of the defense and Shoop seems confident in the talent and depth he has on his squad. In the mold of Ryan Keiser, Shoop recalls when he was thrust into action during the Ohio State game and how far he has come since then. The connections he has made with his players is evident in the way he talks about them. Shoop touches on the speed on defense and the move of Jordan Lucas from corner to safety. The excitement surrounding highly recruited freshmen John Reid is very high. He said he’ll push the upperclassman and compete for playing time. There is a lot of young talent on this defense and the ceiling is very high.

After the first three interview sessions, the rest of the team was made available on the field. Stay tuned on Onward State for the rest of the month for individual features on players and positional groups.

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