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Franklin, Nittany Lions Kick Off Spring Practice

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FB_Practice Blog_Spring.jpgVIDEO: Spring Practice I Sights & Sounds | Practice I Photo Gallery

James Franklin Press Conference Transcript - March 17

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Football is back in Happy Valley.

Head coach James Franklin and the Nittany Lions took the field inside Holuba Hall on Monday afternoon for the first of 15 spring practices.  Penn State will practice four days a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday) leading up to the culmination of spring drills at the 2014 Blue-White Game on April 12 in Beaver Stadium.

The Lions made good strides during the winter strength and conditioning program.  Now, Coach Franklin and the staff are excited to see how things translate onto the field during the spring practice season.

FB_Spring Practice_2.jpg"Just like I told the coaches and the players, we need to go out there with the mindset that we've been here for three years," Franklin said.  "We know how to practice.  We know what the expectations are.  We can't allow the fact that this is our first practice for us to use that as an excuse to not go out and fly around.  We need to go out and practice like a veteran team, like a veteran staff, and like a veteran organization, so that's kind of our goal is to hit the ground running."

With 26day window from the first spring practice and the Blue-White Game, the coaching staff has a four-week window to install everything it wants to between now and the start of fall camp in August.

"So we do basically 15 installs - offense, defense, special teams, run game, pass game, whatever it may be, and how we break it up," said Franklin. "They were able to get two or three of the installs in written form to look at before they left for spring break to have it with them over spring break, and then also video as well.  So, for example, install 1 of the defense may be Cover Two. They'll get that in writing, exactly what the responsibilities were, but then they'll also get film of examples of that coverage as well."

Franklin wants to see an up-tempo, energetic approach with a positive attitude each day during spring practice. 
The emphasis during the spring practice season is geared towards individual technique, improving fundamentals and consistency for the Nittany Lions.

Additionally, the Nittany Lion coaching staff will examine different players in different positions.  Among the position changes this spring, Derek Dowrey and Brian Gaia have moved from defensive tackle to offensive guard.  Albert Hall has moved from tight end to tackle.

Those moves were made to bolster the depth on the offensive line.  Additionally, Franklin confirmed on Monday that Anthony Zettel would move from defensive end to defensive tackle.  Zettel may continue to get looks at end, but playing on the interior will be his primary assignment.

"A big part of that is when I looked at the defensive line, we had a four-deep of scholarship players on the defensive line basically, four deep at defensive end, about three and a half deep at defensive tackles, nose guard and D‑tackle," said Franklin.  "The offensive line; we did not have a two-deep of scholarship players.  Not even a two-deep.  So, I just felt like we needed to make some moves."

On the defensive side of the ball, Franklin is pleased with the personnel and experience back for the Nittany Lions this season.

"I feel really good about our defense and about our secondary in general.  I really do," Franklin said.  "I think it's a little different on the defensive side of the ball compared to the offensive side of the ball.  Those guys are two deep on the secondary.  They've played a lot."

Franklin believes there is one area where the Nittany Lions can make a big jump in 2014.

"Probably as excited about special teams as any area on the team because if you look at us statistically the last year or so, it's the area for most improvement, I think," Franklin said.  "It's the area that we can make the biggest impact, and we're committed to playing the best players on special teams."

While there are several things Franklin and the coaching staff want to accomplish this spring, the primary item the new leader of Penn State Football wants to see is progress each time the team steps onto the field.  He wants to see an enthusiastic group with an undying work ethic.

"We're looking for guys that are going to run around and compete and have fun," Franklin said.  "That's one of the things I think is so important to find coaches, to find people, to find players that can work extremely hard, but while they're working extremely hard, they can have fun and enjoy themselves, and that's what I want to see."

The Nittany Lions will practice on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday this week.

Press Conference Notes:
- On players who have stepped up in leadership roles
"I think Hackenberg, obviously.  The position kind of calls for that, but he's a quiet leader.  He really is a quiet leader.  On offense, if I kept going, Dieffenbach has been another guy I've been impressed with.  He's kind of gone out of his way in that role.  I think it's important to him.  The tight ends are a quiet group overall.  The running backs are a quiet group overall.  They're probably the two guys that stand out to me the most.  On the defensive side of the ball, Hall is a quiet leader.  When he speaks, people listen.  When he does open his mouth to say something, it's well thought out and it's calculated.

"Jordan Lucas never lacks for something to say.  He enjoys talking and speaking his mind, and he's got a lot of personality, and he's very, very charismatic.  It's not always as well thought out before he says it.  It just comes out of his mouth.  He's a great kid, love him.  I think Amos is a quiet leader as well and has done some nice things.  They're the guys that when you say that jump out to me.  The guys that have gone out of their way."

- On contact at practice
"I think we can get a lot of work done with tag off, which is basically two‑hand touch, but you're doing it in an athletic position.  You've got to be able to legitimately when you watch the tape say that guy would have made the tackle.  He was in an athletic position.  He was down in a football position, bent down, good bend in his ankle, knees and hips, and was able to tag palms up with two hands on the ball carrier.  If not, they're going to run.  They're going to keep running to the ball carrier until they're able to do that.  I think you can get a lot of work done if you do it the right way and you demand the fundamentals and the technique in an athletic position."

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

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