PARK, Pa. - Penn State football wrapped its 2018 spring season with the annual
Blue-White spring game. In the culmination of a series of 15 spring practices,
the Nittany Lions took to the field in front of more than 70,000 fans for a
final session before breaking until training camp.
wasn't exactly anything Penn State head coach James Franklin learned from the
final spring practice of the season Saturday, instead focusing on yet another
standout spring crowd, in addition to a few final flashes from some promising
young talent on the roster.
estimated 71,000 packed into the stands at Beaver Stadium, marking the fifth
consecutive year the Nittany Lions have drawn 60,000 or more for the spring
energized crowd was treated to a glimpse of the future early with wide receiver
Mac Hippenhammer connecting with quarterback Trace McSorley for the first of
two touchdown grabs.
felt good," Hippenhammer said reflecting on his first trip to the end zone as a
Nittany Lion. "I prepared all spring for that moment and it finally came and I
second touchdown catch came on a 29-yard toss from quarterback Sean Clifford in
the fourth quarter.
is kind of who Mac is, Mac's a gamer, he happens to make plays in big spots,"
offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Ricky Rahne said. "I can see it in
his eyes, especially after that first series where you could tell he was really
focused and locked in. When he does that, he's hard to deal with."
400 miles from Beaver Stadium, Penn State baseball was battling with Michigan.
A two-sport student-athlete though, Hippenhammer was in Happy Valley instead of
Ann Arbor. It's a unique situation in today's typical student-athlete path, but
a scenario that Franklin noted is absolutely do-able with the right individual
and the correct situation.
State was a school that I felt would give me the opportunity to play both
[sports], Hippenhammer said. "When I got here, coach Franklin had discussions
with coach Cooper so I knew it was real."
of the agreement between Hippenhammer and Franklin though meant keeping
academics in line.
crushed it in the classroom and did better than I even anticipated," Franklin
said. "Coach [Rob] Cooper had a spot for him and I know he has been really
pleased for him. Once spring ball started we shut him down with baseball
because he is on a football scholarship and now once spring ball ends he will
go back to doing baseball as well as his academic responsibilities."
to spring ball though, Hippenhammer's day started with football winter workouts
bright and early in the morning before heading over to baseball for an
afternoon practice following a full day of classes.
a lot of going back and forth," Hippenhammer said. "You just have to keep a
balanced mindset and stay focused. It was a really long day but for me I think
it was worth it because my dad always told me to play both as long as you can
so I'm just making the most of the opportunity I was given."
he has done consistently through the spring season, Franklin gave credit to the
blue team's offensive line, consisting of mainly Nittany Lion starters.
Offensive line coach Matt Limegrover noted last week that the level of
competition drove the group all throughout the spring season.
Saturday, Michal Menet emerged to take a firm hold on the starting spot at
think staying healthy has been a huge thing for me to be able to develop my skills
and techniques every day," Menet said.
both Franklin and Menet noted postgame, dealing with nagging injuries early in
his career set him back. Now fully healthy, it was Franklin who noted Menet is
now one of the more improved Nittany Lions from the end of the season to now.
think he has the ability to play all three inside positions, right and left
guard as well as center, we think he may have a really bright future at the
center position as well with his quickness," Franklin said. "He creates some
flexibility, which is what we are trying to create throughout our program, guys
that can play multiple positions, solve problems for us, but overall I have
been very, very impressed with him really since the end of the season."
at the offensive line as a whole though, Menet noted the Nittany Lions have
built on strengthening the finishers mentality, which on occasion plagued Penn
State in 2017.
think everybody is really buying into all the techniques and fundamentals that
coach Limegrover has been teaching us," Menet said. "I think we've been taking
strides every day."
Franklin had to name a player of the game Saturday though, he'd look to
cornerback Zech McPhearson, who finished with three pass breakups and two
created a lot of depth and competition at that position so it's exciting,"
Franklin said. "He's a guy who I think has really kind of showed since the end
of the season that he means business and is going to factor in for us this
business-like mentally all started when McPhearson shifted his mindset following
the end of the season. He wanted to play.
work doesn't stop with spring ball though, as McPhearson noted this offseason
is going to be very big for the emerging Nittany Lion.
the offseason I definitely want to get stronger, maybe get a little bigger but
keep working on my speed," McPhearson said. "I feel like that helps me a lot
driving on routes and things like that."
was of course hard to miss what looked like a second James Franklin on the
field Saturday. Instead, it was Penn State alum, actor and comedian
Keegan-Michael Key who joined the Nittany Lions as a guest coach.
really, really could not be more appreciative of you guys asking me to come and
guest coach," Key said postgame. "The welcoming spirit and atmosphere of this
university is the same as it was when I attended and I think for the most part
I can see that the players are spry and dedicated and I look forward to the
from Key below.