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VIDEO: Temple Week Player Q&As

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com talks with quarterback Christian Hackenberg and linebacker Nyeem Wartman-White during Temple week.

Christian Hackenberg


Nyeem Wartman-White




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2015 Tuesday Press Conference Roundup - Temple Week

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CN1RTBDWUAA5enW.jpgTranscript: James Franklin | Transcript: Players | Depth Chart | VIDEO: Player Q&A with Christian Hackenberg & Nyeem Wartman-White

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach James Franklin met with the media on Tuesday for the first time on game week in 2015 to preview Penn State's season opener against Temple.

The Nittany Lions and Owls are set to collide on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. (ESPN) inside Lincoln Financial Field. Franklin spoke with the assembled reporters for more than 30 minutes in the Beaver Stadium media room on Tuesday afternoon while offering his thoughts on game one.

"I would say that myself and the staff and the team is in a much better position this year than last year," Franklin said. "Last year we were excited to play the first game, but I think we could have also used another two weeks of preparation. I don't feel that way as much. I feel like our staff and our players are ready to play this game. We need the rest of this week to clean a few things up, but I feel good."

Collectively, the Nittany Lions have taken significant strides forward on both sides of the ball since the final snap of the Pinstripe Bowl. Offensively, the pieces around third-year starting quarterback Christian Hackenberg are much more confident heading into the season. The offense has grown, and the man under center has taken a step forward with it.

"I feel much better about it, and I see Christian so much more relaxed and so much more confident right now as a player and as a leader because of that," said Franklin. "He's really taken control of the offense and that side of the ball."

The big thing Franklin and the two players present at the press conference noted on Tuesday was the team's consistency at this point during the season. A lot of that has to do with the players and coaching staff being in year two of the same system. But another component to that is simply the growth and maturity of what was a very young team last year. Penn State's roster is still very young, but much more experienced when it comes to play in games.

"You need 11 guys to execute at the same time for a play to be successful," said Hackenberg. "So you know, I think that we've done a really good job of everyone being more comfortable with what we need to do, talking the same language, understanding how we want to attack teams, what we're good at. And you know, I think that has been evident throughout this entire camp."

On the defensive side of the ball, forcing more turnovers has been a big point of emphasis. Like Coach Franklin said on Tuesday, creating turnovers can elevate a good defense to a great defense. Temple finished among the national leaders in turnovers gained (No. 11) last season by forcing 30 turnovers.

"It's going to be a big factor in this game of obviously eliminating that, but then also I think that's an area that our defense, as well as our defense played, that's the one area that we probably weren't as dominant as we would like to be in creating turnovers," said Franklin. "That's where I think you can go from being good to elite."

Junior linebacker Nyeem Wartman-White is the centerpiece of the defense at the middle linebacker position. Wartman-White moved from outside linebacker to the middle, and he has become the vocal field leader of the defensive unit.

Being consistent each time he steps on the field or walks into a meeting room were the two big components to Wartman-White's new position. But as a leader on the team, he's very encouraged with where the team is at heading into the season.

"I feel like our bond even got even stronger, our communication got better and overall as a team we got better. So I think camp went very well for all of us," said Wartman-White.

The Nittany Lions will practice in full pads on Tuesday and Wednesday before the final complete pre-season session on Thursday. The team will then travel to Philadelphia for the opener on Friday.


Press Conference Notes:
- Nyeem Wartman-White grew up in Philadelphia and dreamed of an opportunity to play at Lincoln Financial Field. He will have that chance on Saturday in front of his friends and family.

"I remember at some points when I lived in Philadelphia I could actually see the Linc from where I live, and I remember never playing a football game in my life, but I knew I loved football at that time. It was dreams to play in the Linc, and look at me now, eight, nine years later, moved from Philly and I'm playing for Penn State, about to go play in the Linc. So it's truly a blessing, and all glory goes to God for that."

- Wide receiver Chris Godwin is a player on the cusp of a breakout season. Coach Franklin highlighted some of the things that make Godwin a unique player for only being a true sophomore.

"He's a very, very mature young man. That's what allowed him to play as a true freshman last year, not just his physical ability, but his maturity and how he handles himself, and I think all those things are showing up even more this year. Ended the season with a real strong bowl game, as we all know. But you know, if you had a list of characteristics that you were looking for, body type, speed, hands, maturity, intelligence, you know, all those types of things, he's going to have a checkbox. He's going to have a checkmark in almost every single one of those boxes. He gets it. He really does. "

- Christian Hackenberg has been outstanding in his two previous season-openers. He has thrown for an average of 366 yards per game and three touchdowns. What's the secret to game one success?

"I think it's just focus. You know, you really gotta be a guy who's really prepared, you understand the game plan; you feel like you know what you got to do, what have you to do to make sure that the team's successful, and you know, I think that you have to know what the other guys have to do and they have to know what you have to do."



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Depth Chart Released for Season Opener vs. Temple

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11284053.jpegDepth Chart - Temple Week (8/31/15)

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach James Franklin released a depth chart heading into the season-opener against Temple on Tuesday morning.

The first depth chart of the fall season features five senior starters (one on offense and four on defense).  The chart is also filled with youth. In all, there are a total of 15 players on the top line at their respective position who are sophomores or redshirt freshmen on offense, defense and special teams.

On defense, the front seven is stacked with experience, including five starters who are either listed as junior or senior eligibility. All-Big defensive tackle Anthony Zettel and junior Austin Johnson headline the defensive line as returnees at the tackle position. Redshirt senior Carl Nassib and redshirt sophomore Garrett Sickels make up top lines at the end positions.

Junior Nyeem Wartman-White is atop the middle linebacker position, with junior Brandon Bell on the top line at strongside linebacker and true sophomore Jason Cabinda at the weakside linebacker spot.

In the secondary, seniors Jordan Lucas (Strong Safety) and Trevor Williams (Cornerback) are two of the most experienced players in the lineup (73 games of combined experience). Additionally, sophomores Marcus Allen (Free Safety) and Grant Haley (Cornerback) return after strong rookie seasons in 2014.

On offense, 2013 Big Ten Freshman of the Year Christian Hackenberg will direct the offense for the third-straight season at quarterback. Penn State's running back corps features a host of talent, including junior Akeel Lynch, along with redshirt freshmen Mark Allen and Nick Scott and true freshman Saquon Barkley. Junior Dom Salomone is listed as the fullback.

The projected starting offensive line includes four players with starting experience. Graduate senior Angelo Mangiro (C) will man the middle of the line, with junior Brian Gaia at right guard and sophomore Brendan Mahon at left guard. Redshirt sophomore Andrew Nelson returns at right tackle with junior college transfer Paris Palmer atop the depth chart at left tackle leading up to his first game as a Nittany Lion.

The depth chart features three tight ends/H-backs. The list include true sophomore Mike Gesicki, junior Brent Wilkerson and graduate senior Kyle Carter.

Redshirt sophomore DaeSean Hamilton (Z), sophomore Chris Godwin (X) and DeAndre Thompkins (F) are the starting receivers listed on the depth chart, but look for contributions from a host of players.  In addition to Hamilton, Godwin and Thompkins, junior Geno Lewis, sophomore Saeed Blacknall, graduate student Matt Zanellato, along with true freshmen Juwan Johnson and Brandon Polk, are expected to play key roles in the receiver rotation.

Redshirt freshmen Joey Julius is listed as the top kicker, while sophomore Daniel Pasquariello is listed as the top punter. Chris Gulla is the top holder, while sophomore Tyler Yazujian is the long snapper. Redshirt freshman Koa Farmer, Barkley and Scott are listed as the top kickoff returners. Allen, Thompkins and Polk are listed as the punt returners.

There are six true freshmen listed on the depth chart. That list includes - Saquon Barkley (RB), Nick Cox (LS), Juwan Johnson (WR), Brandon Polk (WR), John Reid (CB) and Tommy Stevens (QB).

Penn State kicks off at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday (ESPN) against the Temple inside Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.



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8868956.jpeg
By Miranda Kulp,
GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Continuing season-opener tradition, the No. 23 Penn State men's soccer team opened the season with a victory against the University of San Francisco.

 

In front of a packed Jeffery Field crowd, both teams were striving for the first win of the 2015 season. Battling back and forth for the first goal, but the match remained scoreless until late in the second period.

 

"This felt like an NCAA Tournament game," said Head Coach Bob Warming. "It was tight physically and there were a lot of chances for both teams."

 

In the 72nd minute of the game, the dynamic freshmen duo Mac Curran and Austin Maloney scored for PSU with a cross kick in the bottom left corner. Penn State snatched a 1-0 lead to clinch the season-opening victory.

 

"We've all been training extremely hard during preseason for this first game so it was great seeing some of the younger guys make an impact," said senior goalkeeper Matt Bersano.


Following Friday's victory, the team entered Sunday's match focused on another win for the weekend.

 

Just like the season-opener, Penn State and Navy remained scoreless until the second period. After a foul on the Midshipmen, veteran PSU player Connor Maloney scored on the penalty kick in the 58th minute to get the Nittany Lions on the scoreboard.

 

Within ten minutes of Penn State taking the lead, Navy's Derek Vogel answered back by scoring an unassisted goal with only 22 minutes left in the match.

 

Head coach Bob Warming and his crew weren't going to give up that easy.

 

"I think especially in these situations, we have a very young team, it's very adverse conditions-I've got to try and create energy, and cheer them on" said Coach Warming. "I have to try and get a lot of energy, whatever that takes, I cannot be that guy in one of those situations that just says `ok guys go ahead and kill yourselves out there.' I have got to give the guys some energy and I think the guys really appreciate that."

 

The score remained tied at the end of regular play, forcing the match to enter what would become double overtime. 

 

With the first ten minutes in extended play, the Nittany Lions continued to stand strong as Bersano blocked everything the Midshipmen kicked his way.

 

Despite best efforts offensively and defensively, Penn State couldn't take back the lead in double overtime, ending the match at 1-1.

 

"It's all about learning and getting better after every game," said Bersano. "It's still early in the season so we'll learn from this situation and improve upon it. We played tough this weekend and are off to a great start, but we always want to improve so next time we end up on top for close games like this one."

 

The Blue and White walked away from opening weekend knowing they played their best last weekend with earning 1-0-1 record to start the season.

 

The Nittany Lions will take the lessons learned from opening weekend on the road as the team travels to Philadelphia to face Temple University this Friday, September 4. 

Schafer Shines for Lions Over the Weekend

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11283501.jpegBy Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The sixth-ranked Penn State women's soccer team is off to a familiar great start. After defeating Hofstra and Loyola Marymount handily at Jeffrey Field, the Nittany Lions battled a formidable Duke team to a 0-0 tie and impressed with a 4-2 win against Arkansas during weekend matches.

Megan Schafer was a huge part of the successful duo of games, scoring twice in the win over Arkansas and imposing her will on a stingy Duke defense that hasn't surrendered a goal yet this season. The sophomore was unable to net one Friday night, but her hustle and speed created multiple chances that just fell short for PSU.

As a team, the Nittany Lions amassed 21 total shots against the 21st-ranked Blue Devils, but goalie EJ Proctor was able to turn away a career-high 11 shots. Senior captain Mallory Weber hit the post early in the first half on a promising attack, and reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year Emily Ogle struck the crossbar on a powerful free kick in the 62nd minute, but it wasn't meant to be.

"Great energy tonight and learned a ton about our group," said head coach Erica Walsh. "There were times when we were all over them and when they were back all over us I thought we did a good job of solving some problems. I was looking out to the field and seeing players solve problems which is big for us with such a young team."

Despite the blank goal line, Penn State's front line played a fantastic game. Schafer led the charge as every forward pressured the Duke back line whenever they touched the ball. The aggressive game plan forced a plethora of turnovers and breakaways, which is a strong positive to look back on.


"We were all pressing hard and committing numbers," said goalie Britt Eckerstrom. "That does leave us a little bit vulnerable to their attack, but that's just what it takes to waste a little bit more to hopefully get a goal but we didn't get one tonight."

Eckerstrom played a stellar game between the posts for Penn State, as did the entire defense. The keeper saw 14 shots in 110 minutes of play and was able to stop each one on target. The nationally recognized front line of Duke was stifled all night long by Eckerstrom's quickness and length.

"Our defense is strong," Eckerstrom said. "We work together really well and we always want to keep that clean sheet and do everything we can to give our team the best opportunity."

Sunday was a different story as Penn State came out firing on all cylinders. After a flurry of chances in the early goings, Raquel Rodriguez found Mallory Weber with a perfect ball over the defense and Weber skillfully sidestepped the keeper with one touch and finished with her left foot to put PSU on the board in the 27th minute. Her goal vaulted Weber to eighth place on the all-time PSU scoring list.

Six minutes later, Weber shared the love and found Frannie Crouse for a close range goal to put the Nittany Lions up 2-0. Crouse was one of 11 players that appeared off the bench for PSU.

"Feeling comfortable to put all 27 players into this game is massive, especially on a Sunday," said Walsh. "We talk all the time about how it's going to take all 27 to be successful and I thought today was a great step forward. We saw some really good performances out of some of these players who haven't had the chance."

In the second half, Schafer took it upon herself to finish off the Razorbacks in dazzling style. The forward masterfully guided a pinpoint header off of an Emily Ogle cross in the 49th minute to the back post and in with defenders draped all over her.

Later in the contest, Schafer received a through ball from Alina Ortega-Jurado with the defense out of place and beat the final defender en route to a powerful left-footed strike to seal the game for Penn State.

"Coach told me to go in with about 11 minutes left and she said finish it off," said Schafer. "It was an awesome pass from Erika and I had one focus and that was just goal."

Schafer now leads the team in the young season with three goals. She is on pace to shatter her total last year of six goals, and it doesn't look as if she'll be slowing down any time soon.

The Duke game on Friday saw an attendance of 4,207, the second highest total in the history of women's soccer at Jeffrey Field.

The Nittany Lions will be back in action on Sept. 4 in Morgantown, W.V., as they take on the West Virginia Mountaineers. PSU will be back at Jeffrey Field on Sept. 17 to welcome the Wisconsin Badgers in the Big Ten opener.

Upperclassmen Led Nittany Lions to a Win in Penn State Classic

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11283007.jpegBy Anita Nham, GoPSUsports.com Student Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - The two-time defending national champions opened the new season right where they left off. The No. 1 Nittany Lions swept Buffalo, Stony Brook and Villanova, respectively, over the weekend to win the Penn State Classic.

Even after losing the leadership of the likes Micha Hancock, Dominique Gonzalez, Nia Grant and Lacey Fuller, the returning veterans' direction and leadership helped guide the new-look team to success during the first weekend of action.

Senior Megan Courtney was recognized as the Penn State Classic Most Outstanding Player and redshirt senior Aiyana Whitney and sophomore Ali Frantti joined her on the All-Tournament Team.


"There were some jitters and a little bit of nerves coming out in a few of us," said Whitney. "I think it's just one of those things where each game, we have to get more comfortable playing in your gym. This is the place where the atmosphere is positive towards us, so if there is anywhere we need to play well, it's at home."

Whitney powered the offense with a match-high 11 kills to allow Penn State to open the weekend with a sweep against Buffalo (25-18, 25-12, 25-16). Sophomore Haleigh Washington added seven kills and five blocks. She also earned her first service ace in her collegiate career.

"Buffalo does some things really well," said head coach Russ Rose. "They've got a couple of athletic kids that take big swings. I'm sure there were some nerves associated with how they came out of the gate, but I thought there a lot of nerves associated with how some of our players came out. I thought Aiyana and Haleigh were pretty solid...Aiyana and Haleigh had nice jobs hitting tonight."

The first match of the season was also a homecoming for Buffalo Bulls head coach Blair Brown Lipsitz. Lipsitz was a four-time national champion at Penn State (2007-10), a two-time first-team All-American (2009 & 2010) and during her time at Penn State, the Nittany Lions won 109 matches in a row. Friday's match was the first match in her head coaching career.

"I'm a big fan of Blair Brown," said coach Rose. "That was the first match that Blair Brown ever lost in Rec Hall. She's doing a nice job. She's a great player. She's a great mentors. She's a fabulous role model, and I think Buffalo selected a great young person for the job."

Penn State won in straight sets (25-13, 25-13, 25-20) against Stony Brook Saturday afternoon. Courtney tallied 11 kills, nine digs and four blocks. Frantti recorded 10 kills, her first double-digit kill performance of the season. Washington added seven kills and four blocks.

Washington had a fantastic rookie season last year, but she's been working a lot this offseason in order to be an even bigger component to the team.

"I focused a lot on my mental game [this offseason]," said Washington. "I really wanted to have a good, strong IQ so that way, this year, the seniors wouldn't have to worry so much about me, they can focus more on the freshmen and the other new players on the court. I tried to get my IQ up, so I could see the block, see where I needed to attack, try to do the best that I could do for me, so I could bring it to the team, so we could be a more dynamic flowing team together. I just tried to get as good as I could be so the seniors could focus more on who they need to focus on."

The Nittany Lions finished off the weekend with a win against Villanova (25-20, 25-23, 25-21) to claim the Penn State Classic crown.

Courtney earned a double-double of 16 kills and 13 digs in the match. Whitney also posted double figures with 14 kills alongside two digs. Washington led the team in blocks with six, and Frantti had the second most digs of the match with 12.

Even with the three wins, the team will work to improve with each set on the floor.

"We're a work in progress for sure," said coach Rose. "Long way to go."

VIDEO: Red Land Visits Practice; Kicking Challenge

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Photo Gallery: Red Land Team VisitTraining Camp Central

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Red Land team paid a visit to the Lasch Football Complex to spend some time with the Nittany Lions en route to Williamsport.

While watching some of Penn State's Friday practice, head coach James Franklin challenged a member of the Red Land team. The result of the kicking challenge sent everyone in attendance into a frenzy. Take a look at a fun night during pre-season practice.




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Inside Training Camp - Safeties

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Defensive coordinator and safeties coach Bob Shoop loves the approach veteran senior Jordan Lucas and sophomore Marcus Allen bring to the secondary from the safety positions.

Lucas, who has started at cornerback in 24 of the last 25 games, moved to safety during the offseason to create more depth at the position. A gifted athlete with corner-like traits, Lucas has found a home in the back of the defense. Allen made his debut in the starting lineup mid-way through the 2014 season after Ryan Keiser was injured, and he hasn't looked back since.

"When you have elite, veteran players lined up around you, like Jordan Lucas, it helps you game grow that much more," Allen said. "As far as being comfortable calling the plays, it just comes natural because it is second nature. I know it like the back of my hand."

In addition to Lucas and Allen, the unit has very good depth with veteran Malik Golden leading a host of young players, which includes returnees Troy Apke and Koa Farmer.

Spend some time with Coach Shoop and the safeties during preseason camp.



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Inside Training Camp - Linebackers

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Training Camp Central

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Linebacker U is in good hands with the likes of Nyeem Wartman-White, Brandon Bell and Jason Cabinda heading in to 2015.

The unit has made good progress during the first three weeks of practice. Additionally, coach Brent Pry's unit has added depth at all three positions.

Spend some time with the linebackers during preseason camp.



Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Training Camp: Gesicki Eager to Begin Year Two

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11275994.jpeg

Training Camp Central

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Mike Gesicki knows that he just grazed the surface of his potential during his true freshman season in the Blue and White.

Sure, he caught 11 passes for 114 yards, had at least one reception in nine games and showed flashes of big things to come. But 2014 was a year of learning.

Now, the 6-foot-6 tight end from New Jersey is a different man heading into 2015.

With a year of game experience and an offseason of conditioning under his belt, Gesicki is primed to be a significant contributor for the Nittany Lions this fall.

"I just feel so much more prepared to contribute," said Gesicki. "Last year heading into the season, my head was spinning because everything was so new. Now, I understand the system. I understand my job. And I know what I have to do."

Described by Director of Performance Enhancement as a "freak" athlete in the weight room, Gesicki added 20 pounds since last season and is playing with more speed and quickness than he did a year ago.

"He is extremely athletic. He runs really well. He's got tremendous ball skills," said head coach James Franklin. "He's not put himself in the position physically to change his body. He's 255 pounds now. Last year, he was 235. So blocking, he's able to fill a bigger role with that part of the game."

The added size aids in the area Gesicki worked on most during the offseason. Prior to suiting up for the Nittany Lions, the true sophomore had little, if any, experience putting his hand in the ground and blocking from the tight end position. Being a good in-line blocker is essential to being a productive player at the tight end position for the Lions.

"One thing I most certainly had to work on was my blocking ability," Gesicki said. "Last year, I was not a good blocker. I didn't get the job done. I had to put a chip on my shoulder going into the offseason to try and get bigger, stronger and faster to help build that negative into one of my strengths."

The early results have been positive, as Gesicki is among a host of players who have played very well during pre-season practice. The sure-handed tight end is a matchup nightmare for an opposing defense. With a 6-foot-6 frame to go along with long arms, strong hands and quick feet, Gesicki is an appealing target in the passing game.

The measurables speak for themselves, but what is separating Gesicki's production now from where it was a year ago is confidence.

"That's the big thing. When you play with confidence, you believe in yourself and what you can do. And that's when you start seeing results," Gesicki said.

Gesicki's diverse background in a wide range of sports has helped mold him into the athlete he is today. He was Southern Regional's (New Jersey) all-time scoring leader in basketball, named Boy's Volleyball Player of the Year (2014) and on a state champion volleyball squad. He also ran track growing up.

"It helped development in hand-eye coordination, speed, jumping ability, and overall, it teaches you discipline," said Gesicki. "Playing all of those sports growing up, it was definitely a positive in terms of how it has helped me grow as a football player."

Led by senior Kyle Carter and junior Brent Wilkerson, Gesicki and the tight ends have high expectations for what the unit can bring to the offense in 2015.

"We have some good depth with the group and that adds to good competition," said offensive coordinator and tight ends coach John Donovan.

The season opener can't come soon enough for Gesicki. He's ready to carry the progress he's made during the offseason onto the game field in 2015.



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