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News & Notes From The First Half Of Penn State Football’s Spring Practice

Penn State football is getting into the nitty-gritty of its spring practices.

Head coach James Franklin seems pleased with how the first eight spring practices have gone, especially with the competitive balance between the offense and defense.

“It’s been very competitive,” Franklin said. “There’s been years in the past when the offense has dominated and the defense has dominated, and it shouldn’t be that way. In the competitive periods, it should come down to a point or two every single time.”

The Nittany Lions crossed the halfway point of their 15 scheduled practices this week, and a number of interesting storylines have already developed.

Defensive Position Battles

Franklin outlined a few specific position battles he’s kept his eye on throughout the spring at his first press conference of the season. Defensive tackle, safety, and wide receiver are among the positions on his radar, and he’s seen some players begin to stand out.

At safety, he praised Garrett Taylor for his maturity and leadership, adding that Lamont Wade has had a “really nice” spring so far. Wade has also earned high marks from his teammates for his energy on the field.

“I always told [Wade] I can’t wait to be on the field with him,” senior cornerback John Reid said. “The type of energy he plays with reminds me of Marcus [Allen]. We’re kind of on the same page — we like to have fun and joke around on the field.”

Meanwhile, defensive tackles Antonio Shelton and Judge Culpepper both earned Franklin’s praise after practice this week. He said Culpepper is starting to “show some flashes” that may help him see the field in a regular role, and he commended Shelton for translating his hard work in the weight room to the football field.

Offensive Position Battles

Outside of quarterback, wide receiver might be the offense’s most intriguing position battle of the spring. Redshirt sophomore KJ Hamler is the most experienced of a group littered with young talent.

Although the group includes talented players like Justin Shorter, Jahan Dotson, and Daniel George, Franklin still said his receiving corps has a ways to go in terms of development. He noted that Dotson is the most mature of those three thanks to the amount of game experience he’s garnered.

“The Daniel Georges and Justin Shorters of the world got to play a little bit last year, but not enough,” Franklin said. “Their maturity from now until [preseason training] camp is going to be really important — with quarterbacks, film, 1-on-1s, and strength.”

Veteran cornerback John Reid said he’s competed against Dotson quite a bit this spring, and his smoothness in route running has helped him stand out.

Defensive Objective: More Turnovers

On top of the position battles, Franklin wanted the defense to focus on generating turnovers heading into spring practice, including a particular emphasis on fumbles. He said that venture has been “pretty good” so far.

“We track that every day,” Franklin said. “Every single day, we put up turnovers in the team meeting. Did the offense meet their goal, which is no turnovers, and did the defense meet their goal, which is three turnovers per practice? Last practice, the defense was able to get their hands on a lot of balls through fumbles and interceptions as well, but I think it’s probably about where it’s been.”

James Franklin’s Evolving Coaching Methods

From a personal standpoint, Franklin said he hasn’t changed too much about his approach entering his sixth season in charge of the Nittany Lions. One thing he has changed, however, is Penn State’s end-of-practice routine. The team now wraps up practice in specific situations, like last-minute playcalls.

“I don’t think you can ever do enough of that,” Franklin said. “We try to end each practice with some type of situation. Today was four-minute — we try to do something like that every day, whether it’s two-minute, four-minute, backed up. That’s always important, but it’s also magnified when you’re young and inexperienced.”

Penn State football has also utilized some new advances in technology this spring. A large, portable screen has been used at both the team’s outdoor and indoor practices, and the media got its first glimpse of it this week.

Franklin said the team uses the screen mostly for replay purposes. The players can instantly watch the previous play and see exactly what went right or wrong and make corrections as needed. He wants to permanently install a screen like that inside Holuba Hall, but for now, the mobile one will have to suffice.

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About the Author

Mikey Mandarino

In the most upsetting turn of events, Mikey graduated from Penn State with a digital & print journalism degree in the spring of 2020. He covered Penn State football and served as an editor for Onward State from 2018 until his graduation. Mikey is from Bedminster, New Jersey, so naturally, he spends lots of time yelling about all the best things his home state has to offer. Mikey also loves to play golf, but he sucks at it because golf is really hard. If you, for some reason, feel compelled to see what Mikey has to say on the internet, follow him on Twitter @Mikey_Mandarino. You can also get in touch with Mikey via his big-boy email address: [email protected]

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