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James Franklin, Penn State Football Remaining Flexible During Lead-Up To Delayed Season

James Franklin and the rest of his team will do their best to be ready for anything these next few weeks. Penn State is now getting set to run through a fairly unusual training camp as it prepares for a mid-October start to the football season.

Franklin and Penn State Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Sandy Barbour sat down with media Thursday to discuss the Big Ten’s decision to reinstate the fall football season. The conference announced Wednesday that its nine-game season will begin the weekend of October 24 and finish with a championship December 19.

With nine games in nine weeks ahead of his squad, Franklin knows the five weeks of preparation will be unlike anything he’s gone through as a head coach.

“It’s going to be challenging, we’re gonna have to continue to make great choices,” Franklin said. “We just can’t look at anything like how we’ve done it in the past — this is all different. The schedule is going to be different. Camp, if you call it ‘camp,’ is going to be different.”

After being allowed to train for just 12 hours per week this past month or so, the Nittany Lions will now be allowed to fully ramp up their practices in the coming days. Full pads and tackling will be allowed starting on September 30, something that Franklin is more than ready to get back to.

“When was the last time a Big Ten football player tackled anyone?,” Franklin said. “Most of us, we had no spring practices, so there’s also an aspect of that. We gotta get ramped back up to get some tackling in, because you can’t go from last season to your first game and never tackle.”

Along with on-field issues that will need to get worked out, Franklin also mentioned that he’ll miss taking part in chemistry-building activities with his team. He explained that he loves to have different position groups and classes over for dinner at his house, but things like that will have to wait for the foreseeable future.

The head coach said that the “chemistry stuff” with his team is one of the things he’s missed out on most during the pandemic.

There’s no doubt that another challenge during this upcoming season will be the amount of games played during such a compressed amount of time. Penn State doesn’t know it’s schedule yet, as that will likely come out within the next few days, but the team is well-aware it will play nine games in just over two months.

One advantage teams will have, though, is the fact that this season won’t count towards any player’s eligibility. This means that players who may normally be redshirted do not have to worry about playing a maximum of just four games.

“That opens your roster to allow you to play more people, which I think you may need,” Franklin said. “Not having a bye week and going nine straight weeks, those things help.”

The obvious concern throughout this strange season will be the looming threat of the coronavirus for players, coaches, and team staff. On top of practice and preparation over the course of these next few weeks, Franklin and Barbour are both hammering home the fact that all players will need to remain extremely vigilant of each other in order to stay healthy.

With daily testing and serious precautions surrounding cardiovascular health, the Big Ten already has some of the most stringent virus protocol in college athletics. However, Franklin understands that it’s the players who will need to take these precautions seriously so the season can run smoothly.

“The accountability is gonna need to come from not just the administration and the coaches, but the players,” Franklin said. “The players are gonna have to police [themselves] as well. We’re gonna have to look out for each other and remind each other to make good choices. The reality is, if you’re not following the rules, you’re gonna be out for a large number of days and miss not only practices, but games as well.”

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About the Author

Will Pegler

Will is a senior majoring in digital and print journalism and is an associate editor for Onward State. He is from Darien, Connecticut and is a lifelong Penn State football fan. He loves a good 80's comedy movie, Peaky Blinders, The Office, and the New York Yankees and Giants. You can catch some of his ridiculous sports takes on his Twitter @gritdude and yell at him on his email [email protected]

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