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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.

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Training Camp: Gesicki Eager to Begin Year Two

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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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By Mike Gilbert, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - When a former captain of the Nittany Lions' football team has something to say about teamwork and winning, it's best to listen.  That is why Head Coach Charlene Morett-Curtiss was thrilled when the Penn State standout turned motivational speaker Lee Rubin was able to talk to her team.

"He was clear and concise and gave us some great takeaways, including the five components of success for an extraordinary team," said Morett-Curtiss during Tuesday's media day at the Bryce Jordan Center.

Lee was dropping his daughter off at Penn State, and the head coach entering her 29th year seized the moment.  Coming off an NCAA quarterfinal appearance a year ago, the squad sat down and listened to the former star defensive back.

Rubin, who played in three bowl games in three seasons while roaming the defensive backfield, listed the five "C's" of success in athletics.  The first "C" is competing, and as coach Morett-Curtiss was explaining what that meant outside the green room, both her and senior Haley Kerstetter looked at each other and said "loving to win and hating to lose" in unison, with smiles on their faces. 

The second "C" stood for common goal, and the third was communicating on and off the field. 

"That's something very important to this team, especially building team chemistry off the field," Kerstetter said. 

The fifth "C" was consistency, and as the word came out of Morett-Curtiss's mouth, her smile dissipated, her eyes became locked in, and she went into full-on coach mode. 

"We have to be consistent during every rep in every practice," said the fifth all-time win leader in Division I history. 

Clearly, as the head coach believes and Lee Rubin reinforced, consistency and good reps in practice are the keys to success this season.

As for the offseason practices so far, Morett-Curtiss mentioned connecting better on possession passes during the scrimmage against Drexel as something that needs improvement.  In addition, the defense will need a little more of a spark, but it is much too early to worry about that.    

"I think our challenge right now is to get our defense to play as a unit," said Morett-Curtiss.

With so many new faces vying for spots, it will take a little time in order for the team to gel.  Losing eight starters from a year ago will challenge any team's resiliency and ability to come together.  With that being said, the team is still ranked at No. 7 in the preseason polls and expectations are high.

There are still key players on this team that can provide leadership.  Carly Celkos can play middie and back this season and has been named to the B1G Players to Watch List.  Cori Conley and Stephanie Hussey also made the list, and Morett-Curtiss announced Hussey will play center striker this season.

The team heads to Virginia to start the season, playing at Old Dominion on Friday, then will travel to Charlottesville to face off against Virginia, a team coming off a disappointing season.  The Blue and White will then come home to play Temple on September 4th.   

"It's refreshing and exciting to see what they can do," said the coach about her new-look 2015-16 team.

Time to see what the hype is all about. 

VIDEO: 2015 Season Preview - Field Hockey

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lion field hockey team begins its fall season on Friday with a trip to Old Dominion (6 p.m.). The Lions will cap off the opening weekend with a contest at Virginia on Sunday (12 p.m.).

After qualifying for the NCAA Tournament for 30th time in 33 seasons in 2014, Penn State heads into the season with a number of new faces.

GoPSUsports.com paid a visit to pre-season practice to talk with head coach Charlene Morett-Curtiss, junior Kirsten Gochnauer and sophomore Emily Bruggemeier. Take a look.

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VIDEO: Training Camp Update - August 26

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Training Camp Central

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions practiced for the 22nd time during the preseason on Wednesday evening at the Lasch Football Complex.

Following the afternoon practice session held in shells (helmets and shorts), head coach James Franklin and offensive recruiting coordinator and wide receivers coach Josh Gattis caught up with the media to provide an update on the team. Penn State is in the midst of game preparations for the season opener at Temple (Sept. 5 at Lincoln Financial Field).

James Franklin

 Josh Gattis

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Inside Training Camp - Running Backs

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Junior Akeel Lynch headlines a talented room of Nittany Lion running backs heading into the 2015 season.

Lynch took the reins of the backfield during the latter stages of 2014. He finished the season playing the best ball of his career. Logging seven straight games with 12 or more carries, including back-to-back 130-yard plus outings in November, Lynch scored touchdowns in three of the final four games and tallied 75 yards on 17 carries in the Pinstripe Bowl.

Now the veteran of the room, Lynch is serving as a mentor for the likes of a host of redshirt and true freshman backs.

Spend some time with the running backs during preseason camp.

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VIDEO: 2015 Season Preview - Men's Soccer

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lion men's soccer team begins its 2015 season on Friday with a home match against San Francisco (5:30 p.m.).

After qualifying for the NCAA Tournament for the 32nd time last fall, the Lions are eager to kick off a new season with several new faces. In addition to the San Francisco match, Penn State hosts Navy on Sunday (3 p.m.).

GoPSUsports.com paid a visit to pre-season practice to talk with head coach Bob Warming, along with senior Brian James and junior Connor Maloney. Take a look.

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Teams Contribute More Than 5,300 Hours of Community Service

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11273336.jpegUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Playing an impactful role in the community is a responsibility Penn State's athletic programs do not take lightly.

The 31 varsity teams take incredible pride in efforts that make a difference in avenues outside of the competition field. As representatives of the athletic department, the student-athletes understand the importance of influencing those in many different facets of life. And the groups are able to use their placement in the community as a conduit to helping others.

Through a wide-range of activities with organizations and groups of all ages, Penn State's approximately 800 student-athletes performed more than 5,300 hours of community service in 2014-15. The total number of hours created an average of nearly seven hours of service for each student-athlete this past year.

"I've been so impressed with the service and servant's hearts that our student-athletes and programs have," stated Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour. "There are so many quality ways in which our student-athletes engage with the community and serve as mentors. It's such a great environment and lesson for our student-athletes. When we give, we're the ones who receive and I think our student-athletes are learning those lessons through their great work in the community."

Five Penn State teams completed an average of more than 15 community service hours per student-athlete. The women's gymnastics team headlines the list with 35.33 community service hours per student on the team. The women's golf team completed 26.27 hours per student and the women's basketball squad completed 20.67 hours per student. The football (15.51) and wrestling (15.07) squads also completed more than 15 hours of community service per student-athlete this past year.

In total, 11 different Penn State teams completed more than 100 total hours of community service. The Nittany Lion football team completed more than 2,200 total community service hours.

At the 28th Annual SAAB Academic Achievement Awards Banquet last spring, the CHAMPS Cup Awards for community outreach were presented for the 10th time. Claiming the small teams (20 or fewer on roster) award was the women's gymnastics team. The large teams (20 or more on roster) award went to the Nittany Lion football team's defensive unit.

"Being involved in the community is something that is very important to our program," said John Gondak, head coach of the track and field and cross country programs. "We have one of the largest teams on campus - more than 100 student-athletes - and the experiences they gain being out in the community help them grow as individuals, helps our team grow by working together and also helps the community in so many different ways."

The theme across Intercollegiate Athletics is that while none of the community service activities are mandatory, the student-athletes, coaches and staff members never bypass the chance to help out. The department strives to create comprehensive success across every aspect of the college experience for its students. Community service is a big piece to that puzzle.

"It's so important because there is such a need for our student-athletes to be great mentors," said field hockey head coach Charlene Morett-Curtiss. "To give back to the community is so important, and to create that connection between the community and the student-athletes here at Penn State is really important. Our team is doing a great job academically, so they are excellent role models when we meet with young individuals in the community."

The activity in the community from Penn State's student-athletes is directly aligned with the University's service culture. Each February, Penn State Athletics plays an integral part in THON, the largest student run philanthropy in the world. Since 1977, THON has raised more than $127 million for the Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital. Several student-athletes participate in the dance marathon, in addition to teams hosting THON outreach events, such as the Penn State Football THON Explorers program where more than 50 THON children tour the Lasch Football Building.

Community service is a meaningful part of Penn State Athletics and the mission of all 31 teams on campus. Creating a bond between the athletic department's 800 student-athletes and different sectors of the community is a significant piece to creating a world-class experience on the University Park campus. And with more than 5,300 hours of service completed in the past year, Penn State teams are leaving their mark on so much more than the success in competition arenas.


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Inside Training Camp - Cornerbacks

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Training Camp Central

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Senior Trevor Williams has often been referred to by defensive coordinator Bob Shoop as one of the most consistent players on the Penn State defense.

Williams has played in 36 games during the past three seasons and will again be a staple in the starting lineup of the secondary. Outside of Williams, cornerbacks coach Terry Smith will have a host of young talent competing for playing time, led by true sophomore Grant Haley. Haley, along with fellow sophomore Christian Campbell played a significant role on the defense in 2014 and will again be central figures in the cornerback rotation.

"Clearly, Trevor Williams is a starter for us, and Grant Haley is doing really well," said Smith. "Those next three, four or five position are all up for grabs. We are going to sort through that."

Depth is key for the secondary moving forward, so Smith and the defensive staff have worked diligently to get as many meaningful reps as possible for everyone in the mix for playing time. That group includes true freshman John Reid, who has played very well in his first training camp.

"John Reid is having an exceptional camp," Smith said. "He's a really smart kid and a really driven kid. He's performing well and competing hard."

Spend some time with the cornerbacks during pre-season practice.

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VIDEO: 2015 Season Preview - Women's Volleyball

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The two-time defending NCAA champion women's volleyball team begins its 2015 on Friday inside Rec Hall.

The Lions will be home three times this weekend, including matches against Buffalo (Friday at 7 p.m.), Stony Brook (Saturday at 1 p.m.) and Villanova (Saturday at 7:30 p.m.).

GoPSUsports.com paid a visit to pre-season practice to talk with head coach Russ Rose, along with seniors Megan Courtney, Aiyana Whitney and sophomore Haleigh Washington. Take a look.

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