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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.

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

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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Women's Soccer Christens 2015-16 Sports Season with Strong Start

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11269681.jpegUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach Erica Walsh and the Nittany Lion women's soccer team could not have asked for a better setting to open the Penn State sports season than what they had on Friday night.

In front of a picturesque sunset in Happy Valley, more than 3,100 fans packed Jeffrey Field to cheer on the Nittany Lions to a 2-1 victory over Hofstra in the first contest of the fall.

A tremendous turnout of students, spearheaded by "Park Avenue Army" group, set the stage for an outstanding opening weekend for the sixth-ranked Nittany Lions.

"This was one of the most incredible environments we've had here at Jeffrey Field in my nine years," said head coach Erica Walsh. "In a lot of ways, those guys in the stands won the game for us by keeping our spirits up."

On the pitch, the Nittany Lions showed their versatility in two wins over the weekend. On Friday, senior Mallory Weber notched the first tally of the season on a great feed from freshman Ellie Jean in the 17th minute of action.

"It's always a huge emphasis to start fast," said Walsh.

The score remained 1-0 until Hofstra found the back of the net in the 65th minute of play. Nonetheless, the lead was short-lived and the Lions quickly answered. Emily Ogle deposited a perfectly placed shot into the back of the net on a free kick to give the Lions the lead for good in the 68th minute of play.

Ogle's goal was a thing of beauty off of the free kick, but the team's ability to take control so quickly after Hofstra equalized the match is what stood out on Friday night.

"So much of the character about this team was shown tonight," Walsh said. "Obviously you have to build that character over time, but we took a really positive first step in that area tonight. With a young team you're never sure what the response will be when you face a little adversity, but I was really proud of them."

Penn State showed its balance on Sunday afternoon during a 4-2 victory over Loyola Marymount. Four different players scored - Weber, Frannie Crouse, Charlotte Williams and Megan Schafer - and the Lions tallied three scores in a span of 11:06 during the second half.

The Lions accounted for 45 total shots in the opening two matches, including 19 on goal. Starting a season with two victories is a good step for a young, athletic squad.

"I think a lot of the things we did during preseason, I saw on the field," said Walsh. "It was a positive step forward."

The Nittany Lions return home on Friday for a matchup against Duke (8 p.m.). The Duke match is part of a big night on the University Park campus. The men's soccer team will kick off its season and a tripleheader on campus with a contest against San Francisco (5:30 p.m.). The two-time defending NCAA champion women's volleyball team begins its campaign at 7 p.m. against Buffalo in Rec Hall.

The fall sports season is off to an unblemished start thanks to two wins from the reigning Big Ten champion women's soccer squad.

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

Training Camp: Marcus Allen Continuing Growth in Secondary

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11264453.jpegTraining Camp Central

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - When defensive coordinator and safeties coach Bob Shoop called Marcus Allen on the Thursday before the Ohio State game last fall, Allen was understandably a little nervous.

Ryan Keiser had just gotten injured at practice, and it was time for Allen to step up.

Keiser was Allen's natural mentor, but the man who had shown Allen the ropes as a true freshman would not return for the rest of the season.

Allen had played in the first six games of his rookie season, but never a full game on defense and never without Keiser to bounce questions off.

Thrust into the starting lineup, Allen grew with each passing rep. He finished fourth on the team with 58 tackles and headed into the offseason ready to take another significant step forward.

The game reps during the latter half of 2014 were invaluable for the Maryland native's growth at safety.

"Just having a lot more experience doing everything, you can feel a difference," said Allen.

His safety spot isn't an easy one to learn, but Allen has relished in the opportunity to be vocal while ensuring everyone is on the same page.

"I really like playing this position," Allen said. "I like to be in a position to make a hit, make plays when they are there and playing a big role in helping run the defense and being the voice."

"He's the undisputed quarterback of the defense," said Shoop. "He probably is a lot to the defense what Christian (Hackenberg) is to the offense. He's very vocal. He understands the defense inside and out."

A lot of credit goes to Allen for his tireless efforts in his mastery of the scheme, but being a sponge around the veterans is huge, too.

"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."

The other component to Allen's growth is just that, his measurable growth.

He's added nearly 15 pounds since he stepped on campus. Standing at 6-2, 209 pounds, Allen is hard to miss when you peer at the Penn State defense on the field. He plays at a height just one other Penn State starting safety measured during the past nine seasons.

Allen's size hasn't been a commonplace for a player in the secondary, but it's an area of his game he uses as an advantage, much like the player he looks up to in the NFL - Seattle Seahawk Kam Chancellor.

"He's keeping the big safeties alive in football," said Allen. "Everyone talks a lot about how big safeties need to play linebacker. He's still out there playing well and doing it as a bigger guy. He's a big guy and runs like a corner. That's why I model my game after him."

"He watches a lot of Kam Chancellor film, he sees himself a little bit like that, that box type safety who's very good in the run game," Shoop said. "He is a good pass defender. He does have good range. He does have good quickness and speed."

Because of his game reps last season, it's easy to overlook the fact that Allen is just a true sophomore in his second training camp. He's still maturing with each passing day. The impact he had on the defense last year was just the beginning.

Allen knows he has a long way to go, but he's ready and willing to take the steps necessary to improve each component of his game. Fine tuning his ball skills is an area Shoop and Allen noted heading into the season.

"The thing I really like about him is it's really, really important to him," said Shoop. "He's on the Jugs machine every day. He's worked on it, and he's aware of his strengths, he's aware of his weaknesses, and he's looking forward to improving that piece of his game."


A physical player, Allen's is going to play a key role in the middle of the defense. He's developed a great rapport with the rest of the secondary and figures to be an impact player for the Nittany Lions in 2015.

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

Inside Training Camp - The Game Ball

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Training Camp Central

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - A good game ball is a quarterback's best friend.

When he finds one he likes, he may stick with it for an entire season.

With 2015 practice well underway, the Nittany Lions have been putting a newly designed game ball through its paces. With a new broad design, similar to an NFL game ball, junior Christian Hackenberg and the Nittany Lion receivers enjoy Nike's new design for 2015.

"I enjoy throwing the new ball, a little bit rounder ball," said Hackenberg. "It's got great grip, a little better throwing ball. It's got a little different texture to it. The laces are the same from last year. Last year's ball had textured laces. On the new ball, the stripe is just painted on."

Wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton, who led the Big Ten with 82 receptions last season, said the old ball was a bit difficult to catch in wet conditions. He's a fan of the new game ball, but he lets the QB make the decision as to which balls are used during the game.

"He's very particular about which balls we use during a game," Hamilton said. "He picks two or three out for a game and those are the only balls we use."

On the first day the team used the new game balls, not everyone was on board with the new design.

"You should ask Saeed (Blacknall) about it. He was a little skeptical," joked Hackenberg.

"The old ball was narrow and a little more pointy on the ends. The new ball is a little thicker in the middle and wider, but now that we have been playing with it more, I like it more," said Blacknall.

With longer practices during training camp, new game balls are in game shape in no time.

"You can break a ball in in like three days," Hackenberg said. "We'll break them in and then start rotating balls into the rotation for routes on air and one-on-ones. The sweat gets on them. They bounce around. And they break in well."

The Nittany Lions held practice No. 16 on Thursday. The Big Ten Network is slated to be in town on Friday during the morning practice.

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

VIDEO: 2015 Season Preview - Women's Soccer

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The defending Big Ten champion Nittany Lion women's soccer team will have the honor of kicking off the 2015-16 Penn State athletic season on Friday (vs. Hofstra at 7:30 p.m.).

The Lions host Hofstra in the first regular season contest of the season. With a host of talent back from a squad that advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals for the 10th time in program history and a recruiting class rated No. 2 in the nation by TopDrawerSoccer, the Nittany Lions head into the season with a great deal of confidence.

GoPSUsports.com paid a visit to pre-season practice to talk with head coach Erica Walsh and a host of players to preview the 2015 season. Take a look.

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

VIDEO: 2015 Preview - One-on-One with Russ Rose

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The two-time defending NCAA champion Nittany Lion women's volleyball team returns to action on Aug. 28 with a season-opening match against Buffalo.

GoPSUsports.com recently spent some time at preseason practice and caught up with head coach Russ Rose for an exclusive conversation to preview the 2015 season. Take a look.

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

VIDEO: Training Camp Update - August 19

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Training Camp Central

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions held their second two-a-day of training camp on Wednesday, with a full-padded practice conducted in the morning.

Following the morning session, defensive recruiting coordinator Terry Smith, along with wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton, running back Akeel Lynch and linebacker Jason Cabinda talked with the media to provide an update on the progress the team has made during camp.

Terry Smith

Player Interviews

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Training Camp: Hamilton Primed to Build on Strong Season

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Training Camp Central

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - At this time last year, DaeSean Hamilton had not yet played a down in a Penn State uniform.

Hamilton sat out during much of spring ball in 2014 before ramping up during training camp.

The Virginia native caught fire in his debut at the Croke Park Classic with 11 receptions for 165 yards, setting the table for leading the Big Ten in receptions (82) in 2014.

Now, one year later, Hamilton has a year of learning under his belt and is ready to take another step forward with the rest of the receiving corps.

"I've been focused a lot more on the little details of the game," Hamilton said. "Being a student of the game helps you as a player. I try to focus on every aspect - routes, catching the ball, footwork - everything that helps you become a better player. It all begins with your mental approach."

Since the day he arrived, Hamilton worked to develop a rapport with quarterback Christian Hackenberg. Good friends off the field, the two have established the type of chemistry necessary to be a force on the field.

"Hack and I have been good friends since we got on campus," Hamilton said. "We've had a lot of classes together. We developed really good chemistry. Since then, it has carried over onto the field. Even when I wasn't cleared to play, we still watched film together. We've worked so much on timing. It's always important to stay on the same page."

That can be said for all of the receivers on the roster. From the most eldest, Geno Lewis and Matt Zanellato, to a host of second-year players in Saeed Blacknall, Chris Godwin and DeAndre Thompkins, the wide receivers and quarterbacks have taken significant steps forward in being one cohesive unit in year two of the offensive scheme.

"The confidence the group is going to be able to play with and the speed and how decisive they are able to be; those things all come with more experience," said head coach James Franklin. "Reading coverages and adjusting routes are two things that will help Hack. I think it's a big piece to making bigger plays, as well."

The entire unit spent the spring and summer looking for more ways to become versatile in the way they compete on the field. With more experience, Hamilton and company are on the cusp of a breakout campaign in 2015.

"The nice thing about our system is that the receivers can be very multiple," offensive coordinator John Donovan said. "They don't have to line up in the same place. They will play multiple spots. DaeSean has had a great summer."

Growth on the field hinges on the work most people do not see. It is the film work during the offseason and the field training when no one else that is around. Time will tell, but the foundation for a strong campaign has been laid.

"The receivers, working with me, they've pushed me. I've pushed them," Hackenberg said. "I always want to make sure the guys are holding me to the highest standard."

On the heels of a record-breaking redshirt freshman season, the sky is the limit for Hamilton.

The same can be said for the deeply talented and young collection of receivers set to take the field for the Nittany Lions in 2015.


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Depth Playing Key Role in Special Teams Growth

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11255233.jpegTraining Camp Central

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Practicing with a two-deep across all positions on both sides of the ball pays big dividends in how a team is able to prepare for a season.

It's a type of practice environment the Nittany Lions weren't able to create last season at this time.

But what a difference a year has made for the team's development. Head coach James Franklin talked at great length during the offseason about what a two-deep could do for the growth of the team.

"It helps in so many ways that I don't think a lot of people realize," said Franklin. "It's not just how much it helps at practice, but it's getting to the games fresh. We had to cut everything back (last year). Now, you can get so many more guys reps that we will learn so much more about the team by watching film. The fact that we have a legitimate two-deep at most positions and a three-deep at some positions, I think it will allow us to do a lot of different things from a preparation standpoint. And it's going to help guys get ready at a number of positions that were maybe a challenge last year."

Look no further than the special teams units.

Simply put, more depth on the overall roster means more competition for spots on Penn State's special teams units. And thanks to the depth, special teams coordinator Charles Huff is expecting to see a step forward from the units in 2015.

"The more depth you have the more competition you have and the more options you create," said Huff. "You are able to spell guys when you need to in a game. And what it allows you to do in practice is create more game-like reps to be able to evaluate guys a little better."

Live special teams play has been an integral part of training camp, and it's something the team couldn't do last year at this time.

"The first time we did it live, it was in a game," said Franklin. "Now we have more depth, so we're able to do some of those things (at practice)."

Consistency is paramount all positions on special teams. Take an inside look at a day within the special teams units during training camp.

The Nittany Lions participated in their first two-a-day of camp on Monday.

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