UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State football hosted its annual Blue-White spring game Saturday afternoon at Beaver Stadium. Catch up with Nittany Lion head coach James Franklin following the final spring session.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State football is set to cap its 2018 spring season with the annual Blue-White spring game Saturday afternoon. In the 15th and final spring practice of the season, the Nittany Lions will take to Beaver Stadium for a 3 p.m. outing with live coverage on the Big Ten Network.
In a different place than perhaps any spring season under the head coach of Penn State head coach James Franklin, the Nittany Lions have a mixture of depth and veteran experience, all responsible for driving yet another productive slate of practices.
On the heels of a second consecutive 11-win season though, what's next for Penn State following a series of departures that has more than 10 former Nittany Lions headed toward the upcoming NFL Draft is especially intriguing.
Among the intrigue of course is the addition of six early enrollees, a vital group who arrived in Happy Valley at just the right time to work their way into the mix at a variety of critical-need positions.
"I'd make the argument that this is where the mid-semester guys are so valuable because without them, it would obviously change the way we would run the game and the way we run spring practice," Franklin said earlier this week after breaking down the format of the spring game.
Released yesterday, Penn State's blue and white rosters feature mostly one's on the blue squad with two's and three's competing for spots assigned to the white team.
While Franklin described Saturday's Blue-White game as one final opportunity for total team evaluations, it's whole new game day experience for Penn State's newest Nittany Lions.
The Nittany Lions took spring practice 12 to Beaver Stadium last weekend, as all six early enrollees passed through the tunnel under a completely different circumstance.
"I went up to Coach Franklin and I said this is what I committed here for," linebacker Micah Parsons said. "Even with the fans not there, I just imagined them from when I was a recruit and it was just insane."
For tight end Zack Kuntz, it was special moment among the early enrollees as they gazed around before eventually finding each other on the field, this time for practice instead of a visit.
Ask any Nittany Lion early enrollee and they'll describe the process of transitioning from a high school senior to a college freshman as anything but easy.
all done very well," Penn State defensive coordinator and linebackers coach
Brent Pry said. "They work, they want to do right. They want to do everything
they can to compete with the old guys. They want to play. That's why they
enrolled early. They want to play in the fall, they don't want to redshirt."
The willingness from the group to compete at the highest level from winter workouts on through spring ball has been both obvious and impressive to staff members to teammates.
"About a week before I came here, Coach Pry said winter workouts are pretty tough but I was thinking it would be like a normal hard work out that I've been through," Parsons said. "That first one was probably one of the most intense workouts I've ever been through in my life."
Parsons can remember his first few winter workouts where he often finished last. Progressing through the winter, he worked his way toward the middle.
"I think I stayed right in the middle all the way until the last winter work out," Parsons said. "I came in and I didn't get any sleep the night before because I was thinking about the last winter work out. I said to Coach Pry, I'm going to come in top five in this 400 lap."
Fueled by his work ethic and a desire to earn his spot from the very beginning, Parsons finished in the top four.
A quick glance up at the record holders listed the wall inside the Lasch weight room already has Parsons on it. Listed under linebackers, a 4.52 in the 40-yard dash in winter 2018 - Parsons, M.
In the thick of spring practices, there were still wake-up call moments, learning to adjust to the speed and tempo of the collegiate game and of course, an experienced offensive line.
"I came in off a blitz and Chasz Wright, a fifth-year senior, 346 pounds, I was running across the middle a little high, but not too high, and I tried to come in and he just knocked my block right off," Parsons said.
In his transition from Mike to Will linebacker though, Parsons soaked in everything from his teammates, learning best by listening.
"As a young guy you just listen and learn," Parsons said.
For someone like Kuntz, he listened when his veteran teammates told him find time for the JUGS machine.
"I try to get 100 balls before practice, 100 balls during practice from reps and everything and 100 balls after practice," Kuntz said.
His only problem?
Being the only early enrollee on the offensive side of the ball doesn't always match his schedule with his fellow newcomers. So Kuntz opts to work alongside his lifting partner, junior tight end Danny Dalton.
Within the first week of arriving on campus Kuntz met with the quarterbacks to begin learning the offense, taking points from quarterback Trace McSorley before putting them into action on the field.
"Coming early I knew it was going to be a challenge but I knew it was going to be an advantage as well," Kuntz said. "Being able to get reps right away, I'm learning it by physically doing it. If I do something wrong, now I know if I'm in that situation again, this is what I do should do instead of what I did before."
Come Saturday, both Parsons and defensive end Nick Tarburton will represent the blue team. Kuntz, along with safety Isaiah Humphries, cornerback Trent Gordon and linebacker Jesse Luketa are all slotted on the white roster.
Penn State's Blue-White game features the Nittany Lion roster split into two teams (blue and white) with quarterbacks wearing the opposite jersey color of their team. With regular scoring, all four quarters will be 11 minutes in length with a running clock, and the final 2:00 of each half at game timing. Stoppages will occur for penalties and change of possession. Each team will have two timeouts per half at 45 seconds each, with an additional 1:30 timeout at the first change of possession after the 6-minute mark in each quarter. There will also be a 2:30 break at the end of the first and third quarters.
Penn State fans will have the opportunity to receive autographs from their favorite Nittany Lions Saturday from 12:15 - 1:05 p.m. outside five stadium gates at Beaver Stadium. Team posters will also be available while supplies last.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State's spring season has nearly come to a close, culminating with tomorrow's Blue-White spring game. In the final position by position look at the Nittany Lions this spring, check in with Nittany Lion running backs coach Ja'Juan Seider for a closer look at who is standing out.
For Seider the running backs have all made strides this spring, but it's the older Nittany Lions like Miles Sanders and Mark Allen who are leading the way.
"The older guys are playing like older guys, taking pride in working on the little things like technique and footwork, all of that stuff," Seider said.
Earlier this spring it was Sanders who noted the process of stepping into more of a leadership role was something he's actively working toward.
"Miles is a guy who we are leaning on and he's doing a great job of stepping up and trying to be a leader," Seider said. "He'll call at night and say, 'hey coach I could have done this,' which is important because that's what you want to see with an older kid who has growth potential."
Seider noted Sanders has taken the increased leadership responsibilities off the field too, spending more time going through film and taking time to study all aspects of his game.
"It's encouraging to see him taking on that aspect of the game because that shows me this kid is really developing and working on being that back we want him to be," Seider said.
Looking toward the younger Nittany Lions, Seider has been impressed with the strides Journey Brown and Johnathan Thomas have made, but is more impressed with just how much the group has continued to lock in on their new position coach.
"They are taking to coaching which is important and gravitating to me, a new coach coming in, and it's been fun seeing those guys buy in," Seider said.
By Andy Kuros, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After being cut during Penn State's softball tryouts in the fall of her freshman year, Amanda Grieco spent the majority of her first year in Happy Valley playing for Penn State's club softball team. Fast forward a year and the now-sophomore once again attended the team's tryouts hoping to earn a spot in the program as a walk-on.
Although Grieco admitted the second time around was another difficult week of practice, she got the news of a lifetime by head coach Amanda Lehotak and her staff - she made the team.
"It was just so surreal. It was awesome," Grieco said.
Just making the team, however, wasn't enough for Grieco. Without a doubt, the nursing major has been a great addition on the field for the Blue and White. She's started a total of 28 games and is tied for first on the team in runs with 17 over the course of her first season.
"I just think getting on base is really important in any way you can. It doesn't really matter how," Grieco said. "Scoring runs is the biggest aspect of the game."
"I just show up and work hard every day," Grieco added about her early success. "I think hard-work pays off."
Coach Lehotak has certainly noticed Grieco's hard work and drive that has helped her become an impact player in such a short amount time.
"Her work ethic is amazing in the classroom and on the field," Lehotak commented. "And just who she is as a person, too. She's high character and will do anything for the team. A very selfless person, which is just so contagious."
"Amanda's worked her way into the lineup. She's had a really good year for not playing for two years (since high school). If this is her baseline now, I can't imagine how much better she's going to be next year."
Grieco credited the upperclassman on the team for helping to make her transition from a club player to a varsity starter easier.
"I think everybody's great, but all the seniors, Jess (Cummings), Gianna (Arrizurieta), Toni (Polk), Tori (Dubois), and (Madison Shaffer) have all been here for me since day one," Grieco said. 'It's be awesome."
Grieco will look to continue her good play on the field as her and the Nittany Lions prepare to take on Indiana for a three game road series this weekend.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - This time last year Lamont Wade was nearly finished with his first spring season, set to take the field at Beaver Stadium for his first Blue-White outing.
Seated inside the fueling station at the Lasch Building nearly 365 days later, Wade paused for a moment to look back.
"Coming in it was real rough," Wade said. "Being in high school one week and then literally next week, next month, being in the college system, it's really great seeing how much I have changed from then."
In a span of time just shy of year, Wade is bigger, stronger and mentally tougher too. The result of a ferocious winter conditioning effort - one where Penn State assistant athletics director for performance enhancement Dwight Galt described him as a piranha in a small pool in a media session on max out day.
"Coming in, like I said, it's real rough," Wade said. "Sometimes you're up and down about it. You're not sure and when something gets hard and you might want to give up. Getting older you realize you don't really have the option."
Wade is older, yes, but things aren't exactly easier. Instead, what now comes easier is more in learning how to deal with change, like understanding lifts and workouts, eating better and even something like switching positions.
At the start of spring ball, Penn State head coach James Franklin listed off a variety of position changes across the roster. Among the moves, Lamont Wade from cornerback to safety.
When asked about the move, Franklin noted the Nittany Lions are in good shape depth-wise at cornerback. In Wade's case it's perhaps an opportunity for Penn State to replace a few question marks at safety with exclamation points.
"Lamont is a football player and although he's not the longest guy in terms of height, he's put together," Franklin said. "He'll hit you, and we just felt like it probably played to a little bit more of his strengths."
Since arriving back on campus for Penn State's NFL Pro Day, former standout safety Marcus Allen asks Wade the same series of questions every time he sees him.
"He asks me how I like it, how it's going so far," Wade said. "I just let him know and he lets me know all of the upsides of playing safety, what was hard about it and what came naturally."
For Wade, it's a certain toughness and aggression that happens to come easy for him.
"It's one thing safeties have to have," Wade said. "I feel like my aggression comes natural. I feel like my instincts come natural even though there's a whole different step playing safety. You're kind of pushed into a captain role because you're starting to make more calls out there. You have to make sure other people are in alignment too."
Outside of a natural aggression, there's of course the added emphasis on communication, something Wade says started at cornerback. Looking over, getting the call and flying into action.
"At safety, you have to not only get the call to yourself but get the call to the man to the right, to the left and in front of you," Wade said. "Just making sure everyone is straight and taking accountability is one of the biggest things."
One of three true freshmen to start in 2017, Wade played in 12 games, finishing the season with three pass breakups and a forced fumble, which came on a kickoff return at Rutgers.
Wade had a significant role one special teams last season, something he credits to helping him tremendously.
"I played a lot on special teams," Wade said. "My role increased on special teams throughout the season. Special teams is a part of the game, they say if you start on special teams, you're a starter."
This spring though, Wade is back at square one, or starting right back at the beginning if you ask him.
"It's a new position, so I have to take new strides," Wade said. "I've played safety for probably two games in my whole high school career so it's completely new to me."
It's a humbling experience, but one Wade is determined to see through, setting his spring goal to get fully comfortable at safety.
"I'm a sophomore, in my second year but honestly it feels like I am a freshman again because it's a whole new position with whole new techniques," Wade said. "I know the play book but it's going out there and adjusting."
Come Saturday, Wade will have one final opportunity to go out and get adjusted. Represent the white team in Penn State's annual spring game, he's listed alongside a spring ball standout in Jonathan Sutherland and current early enrollee Isaiah Humphries, to name a few.
For new position coach Tim Banks though, when it comes to Wade he knows, he'll be ready to go when it's time to.
"Lamont's excited, he loves to play football, it's important to him," Banks said. "Obviously with a new position, there's a learning curve he has to get through but he is a willing participant. He's really working hard."
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