UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State Football hosted its annual media day Saturday afternoon at Beaver Stadium. With less than 30 days remaining until the Nittany Lions officially open the 2017 season, Penn State head coach James Franklin, several members of the staff and the team gathered to meet with members of the media.
Franklin led off with an opening press conference followed by appearances from offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, defensive coordinator Brent Pry and special teams coordinator Charles Huff. Running back Saquon Barkley closed out the press conference sessions before the media members moved to the field for one-on-one opportunities with the rest of the team.
Saturday marks the sixth training camp practice with Friday bringing the first session in full pads for the Nittany Lions.
Check out a few takeaways from media day press conferences.
All About Consistency
Franklin was quick to note that with success or even had the 2016 season not exceeded expectations, the message from the staff simply would not have changed - and it never will.
we learned from last year's experiences, and it was helpful from a growth
perspective and from a maturity perspective, but last year's last year, and
this year's this year," Franklin said. "We want to take all those experiences
and maturity that we gained from last year and then continue growing and
This year Franklin has challenged each member of the staff and the team to take things back to day one, absorbing all areas of offense, defense and special teams as if it was the first day of installation.
Weekly Depth Chart
This year Franklin will also be asking the coaching staff to prepare a weekly depth chart on Sundays that he and the staff can review and evaluate as if it were a normal game-week scenario.
"I want the players to know, right after this week, if the number three guy just beat you out and you were the number two guy and you're no longer that guy, I don't want it to be a subtle thing in practice where you've noticed one or two reps that guy is starting to get more of," Franklin said. "No, he beat you out and you know that. So now you have the opportunity to fix that before the first game."
For Franklin, the honest feedback will not only present an immediate opportunity for correction, but also act as a catalyst to elevate the level of competition.
"My point is, that instant feedback that they used to get back in the day, you'd walk to your locker, and your jersey color had just changed," Franklin said. "You'd gone from first team to second team. And we're going to do the same thing by week but more from a depth chart perspective."
Sanders on Special
As a true freshman last year, Miles Sanders was a consistent piece of Penn State's kickoff return, averaging 20.8 yards on a team-high 33 returns. For Huff, he expects Sanders will only continue to grow from a truly new experience.
"You've got to remember that Miles Sanders was a great athlete, but Miles Sanders never returned kicks in high school," Huff said. "Every time he was back there, it was a new experience. I think he gained a lot from that experience. He feels more confident. He understands a little bit more. Obviously, he's gotten bigger, stronger, faster, and that's going to help."
Huff also pointed to veterans Nick Scott and Brandon Polk as possible options, noting that newcomer KJ Hamler could also be in the mix for the Nittany Lions. Scott averaged 23.0 yards on six kickoff returns for the Nittany Lions in 2016 while Polk averaged 20.9 yards on 10 returns in 2015, sidelined by an injury for a majority of the 2016 season.
"That's probably one area going into summer camp that we feel like we can make a big improvement in, not because we're going to draw up some great play or not because we've got this secret weapon, but just the guys are a year older," Huff said. "They understand the scheme a little bit more. So that will help us moving forward."
Penn State saw veteran departures for the NFL in defensive ends Garrett Sickels and Evan Schwan, but having to reload is not a new situation for defensive line coach Sean Spencer or Pry. Already a few practices into training camp, there's still a lot of evaluating to do, but Pry is thrilled with the performances he's seeing from candidates likely to replace the production from a duo responsible for a team-high six sacks apiece in 2016.
"Shareef and Ryan Buchholz had some great experience last year," Pry said. "Torrence Brown, being the third wheel, played a bunch of snaps. There's experience there with those guys, and we're very excited about the talent in Shaka [Toney], in Daniel Joseph, in Shane Simmons. Now I know he's been talked about a little bit here - I've seen it all over Twitter - Yetur Gross-Matos. There's good competition there."