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Nittany Lions Finish Spring Practice with Confidence

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VIDEO: James Franklin Blue-White Postgame Interview | VIDEO: Postgame Player Interviews

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach James Franklin and the Nittany Lions were thrilled to wrap up spring practice on Beaver Stadium's finely manicured sod before 72,000 fans on a sun-splashed afternoon on Saturday.

"It was fun seeing so many fans out there," cornerback Jordan Lucas said.  "They were very supportive, as always. And it's always fun to play in front of them."

BW_blog_story.jpgPenn State practiced 15 times from March 17 to Saturday's Blue-White Game.  It was a spring practice season marked by progress on offense, defense and special teams.  Now, Franklin wants to see the team take another step forward during the next phase of preparations for the season-opener against UCF in Dublin, Ireland, on Aug. 30.

"We got a lot of work done this spring. I think everyone can tell, we still have a long way to go, but our focus every single day is on getting better from now until our first game against Central Florida. If we do that, get better everyday - academically, athletically, socially and spiritually, then we'll be in great shape by the time the season gets going, I truly believe that," Franklin said.

While the coaches and players are pleased with the progress made during the four-week spring practice period, they know the work is just beginning.  But everyone involved is ready to fight.

"These players are committed and I'm excited," Franklin said.  "I think we obviously have a lot of work to do in a lot of different areas, we have to get better, myself included.  The coaches, the players, the trainers, the managers, all of us that are in this thing together, we have to get better.  I like where we're going. I couldn't be more excited to be here."

Everything was new for the Nittany Lions when they first met with the coaching staff to begin spring drills.  Experience within the new schemes was invaluable this spring for the team's preparations for the start of training camp in August.

"It's definitely new, but I think unlike last year, I got through spring and that's good for this team and the offense to move forward," quarterback Christian Hackenberg said.  "This summer is going to be big for us in terms of us getting stuff done as a team and having our team leaders step up. I'm already preparing for summer camp."

From here, the coaching staff will evaluate Saturday's game first thing on Monday.  The staff will grade the film in great detail.  Franklin said the staff will go over the game film with a fine-toothed comb to evaluate each player on the roster.

"Then, I will sit down and go through each area of responsibility, areas that they need to improve, and I'm going to give them my feedback as well (things that I want them to work on, where we're going, and goals for the offseason).  So I'll meet with every single player on the team," Franklin said.

For the players, the next phase of the offseason focuses on improvement.  The team had 15 opportunities to get better this spring, and it felt like it did so every time the group stepped on the field.  Each unit on the depth chart took great value in each rep on the field.

"I feel like you can never get enough reps," said guard Derek Dowrey.  "We have got 15 practices under our belt right now, but the more we get the better we are going to be.  In the fall we are going to pick it back up, and the more reps we can get with this offensive line the better we are going to be I feel."

Like the offensive line, the summer is a critical period for the receivers.  Developing a rapport with Hackenberg is an ongoing process for the young, but talented receiving corps.

"The summer is huge for us," wide receiver Geno Lewis said.  "We have some young receivers, and it will be big for us to work with Hack over the summer.  We are going to work hard during the offseason and when summer camp rolls around, we are going to be ready."

With a strong spring practice period in the books, the Nittany Lions head into summer looking to take strides on their own to pick up right where they left off on Saturday when the team returns to the field for training camp in three and a half months.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

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