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News & Notes From James Franklin’s Lift For Life Media Availability

How soon is August 31?

Penn State football’s summer camp is here, and with that, the program’s Lift For Life is back. Ahead of the Nittany Lions’ annual charity event, head coach James Franklin joined the media for a brief chat on the state of the program.

From discussing the White Out to the wide receiver corps, here’s what we learned from Franklin’s latest press conference.

On The White Out

Franklin didn’t give away anything about when Penn State would host its White Out game, even when StateCollege.com columnist Mike Poorman asked for a secret signal. However, Franklin did say Penn State was trying to find the best game for its fans while working with the Big Ten and TV networks.

“If we want to provide the opponent, the experience, the time of day that our fan base wants and expects, there’s a lot of pushing and pulling and compromising, working with the conference and working with TV partners to try to find a win-win for everybody,” Franklin said.

Franklin said, like the fans, he wanted the perfect scenario for the White Out game: playing against the team’s best opponent at the best time of day. However, TV networks, especially FOX and its Big Noon Kickoff, have made situations somewhat messier.

“I’m probably a lot like the fans in terms of, I want it all. Very few times in life do you get it all,” Franklin said. “That time of day thing is what’s really become more difficult because of when prime time games now are chosen.”

On Beaver Stadium’s Renovations

In late May, Penn State’s Board of Trustees approved up to $700 million of renovations to Beaver Stadium. For Franklin, the renovations were about more than just his football team.

“To me, Beaver’s more about the athletic department, and about the university, and about the community, and about the state, and specifically the other sports really, more than it is about football,” Franklin said. “We’ve had great environments there. I think people consider us one of the best environments in all of college football, but we weren’t going to be able to sustain that when we haven’t really updated the stadium in a long period of time.”

Franklin said the stadium, which recently hosted 80,000 people for a Luke Combs concert, could continue to branch out in the types of events hosted in one of the world’s largest venues.

“It’s going to allow football to continue to really support all those entities that we just talked about. And also the ability to increase revenue when you’re talking about the opportunity to have concerts there,” Franklin said. “Then when you’re talking about Flyers-Penguins, just different activities that you can have, they’re there year-round, so it’s not a facility that only has the ability to bring revenue in seven days [a year].”

On Drew Shelton’s Return To Action

One of Penn State’s better offensive linemen, tackle Drew Shelton, has been cleared to participate in summer camp, Franklin said. Shelton missed spring ball due to an injury.

“I think he handled his time out, physically, the right way. [He’s] been a really good coach and mentor to some of the younger players,” Franklin said. “I think he’s really in a good position. I think [he] probably needs to put on a few pounds like we’ve talked about, but besides that, he’s a super mature kid. Very conscientious, very intelligent.”

Penn State is in the midst of high turnover in its offensive line as Sal Wormley comes into the 2024 season as the only consistent starter from last year’s group. While Shelton will have to compete for starting reps, Franklin said he should be set up for a strong year.

“I think he had that experience that he had last year where he was rotating in a ton. And now obviously, coming into this year, healthy, experienced, more mature. Very, very football intelligent from a football IQ standpoint,” Franklin said. “I think he’s gonna have a really good year for us. I think there’s a lot of confidence and there’s a lot of faith.”

Franklin also went out of his way to highlight tackle J’Ven Williams as a player who could provide impact in the trenches for the Nittany Lions.

On The Wide Receiver Corps

The 2023 season brought plenty of struggle for Penn State’s wide receiver corps, as quarterback Drew Allar leaned heavily on his tight ends to make up the difference in the passing game. With the departure of former top receiver KeAndre Lambert-Smith to Auburn, the Nittany Lions are still looking for his replacement.

With Lambert-Smith’s absence, Penn State may now look to Trey Wallace to fill that void. According to Franklin, he’s set for a big year after missing much of the 2023 season to injury.

“We thought he was gonna have a big year last year and that got limited. No fault of his own,” Franklin said about Wallace. “He’s a year older, he’s a year more mature, he’s been developed. And I think he’s very hungry because I think there’s frustration from last year.”

While offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki and wide receivers coach Marques Hagans were hesitant to highlight any particular wide receivers from the group, they also said the group was playing with a determination to prove wrong those who have criticized the corps.

On Naming Captains

Penn State has yet to announce its captains for the 2024 season, which Franklin said was because the team doesn’t yet have its captains set. The team decides its captains based on a vote by players, however, there weren’t any particular players who stood out from the group in a recent poll. Franklin said a few weeks will pass before the team takes another vote on captains.

“This will give us an opportunity to continue to evaluate, give the players more time to earn that from their teammates and from the staff,” Franklin said.

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About the Author

Joe Lister

Joe is a senior journalism major at Penn State and Onward State's managing editor. He writes about everything Penn State, especially its 10-2 football team. If you want to find him, Joe's usually watching soccer with his shirt off or at the gym with his shirt on. For dumb stuff, follow him on Twitter (iamjoelister). For serious stuff, email him ([email protected]).

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