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Seven Captains to Lead Nittany Lions in 2014

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Garnering respect from your peers is the ultimate honor for a student-athlete.

Penn State Football held a voting process where each player on the roster selected his captains for the offense, defense and special teams. Head coach James Franklin announced the results of the vote in Tuesday afternoon's team meeting.

On defense, seniors Mike Hull and C.J. Olaniyan were selected. On offense, senior Miles Dieffenbach and sophomore Christian Hackenberg were tabbed. On special teams, seniors Sam Ficken, Ryan Keiser and Jesse Della Valle were named captains.

All seven players embody the role of a teammate. Each guy is looked upon as a role model in the locker room. Now, the seven captains will lead the Nittany Lions in 2014 with utmost dignity and class while understanding the importance of the responsibility now on their shoulders.

"The players and the coaches voted on the team captains and these players have clearly earned the respect of their teammates and coaches," Franklin said. "We are trying to promote and develop leadership throughout the entire program and I'm really excited about the role our captains will have throughout the season."


At the conclusion of 2013, Hull took a more active role as a team leader heading into his senior season. The highly-productive, instinctive and physical player on defense and special teams should merit All-Big Ten and CoSIDA Academic All-America consideration this season. He was named first-team preseason All-Big Ten by Athlon Sports and Lindy's and second-team all-conference by Phil Steele's College Football Preview. A three-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree, Hull earned his degree in finance in May.

"It's just a great honor to be captain here at a program like Penn State," Hull said. "All of the guys who are captains have worked hard since the day we arrived. It's an honor, and I can't be more excited to get the year started."

On track to graduate this week with a degree in criminology,
Olaniyan possesses excellent physical attributes, instincts and desire. He led the squad with five sacks for minus-45 yards and was second on the team with 11.0 tackles for loss (minus-64) last season. The quick and elusive athlete, who started all 12 games, earned honorable-mention All-Big Ten honors and should be a candidate for all-conference accolades during his fifth-year senior season.

"It means a lot to me. It means that all the hard work is being noticed," Olaniyan said. "I'm very humbled, very proud, and I couldn't do it without my family, my teammates and the man upstairs."

Entering 2014, Dieffenbach is the most experienced member of the offensive line and is an established team leader.
The talented, tough and intense player has been a fixture at the left guard position since he grabbed the starting spot prior to the 2012 season-opener. Dieffenbach graduated with a degree in advertising/public relations in May with a cumulative 3.27 grade-point average. He is a two-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree.

"It's one of the greatest honors I've ever had in my life," Dieffenbach said. "It means a lot for the other players and coaches to think of me as that type of leader for the football team. Hopefully, myself and the other captains can lead this team to a great season."

For the first time in program history, a sophomore has been voted captain of the Nittany Lions. Hackenberg's leadership traits on and off the field speak volumes about his reputation in the locker room as a sophomore.
The vastly talented and instinctive Virginia native was named the nation's No. 8 overall quarterback by Lindy's and the Big Ten's best passing quarterback by Sporting News. Hackenberg also was selected second-team preseason All-Big Ten by Athlon Sports and Lindy's. The former Fork Union Military Academy All-American became just the second true freshman quarterback to start a Penn State season-opener since 1911 and started all 12 games. Hackenberg was selected the 2013 Thompson-Randle El Big Ten Freshman-of-the-Year.

"It means the world to me," Hackenberg said. "We've worked really hard together this offseason. I just try to be the best teammate I could be for each and every one of these guys. I'm going to continue to try and do that with this honor. It comes with a lot of responsibility, and I think us as a core group will do a great job."

The dedicated and determined Ficken has a strong and accurate leg and should be an All-Big Ten candidate this fall. One of the squad's hardest workers on and off the field, he earned honorable-mention All-Big Ten recognition in 2013. After connecting on his final 10 field goal attempts of the 2012 season, Ficken was true on his first five attempts last year to boost his consecutive made streak to 15, breaking Craig Fayak's school record of 13 straight field goals in 1992. The former Valparaiso High School all-state player delivered the longest field goal by a Penn State player in home game history when he knocked in a 54-yard attempt in the rain against Kent State. The Dean's List student owned a 3.59 cumulative grade-point average in finance entering the summer and is on schedule to graduate in December.

"Obviously, it is a tremendous honor. A lot of times specialists are not in this position to be a captain," Ficken said. "I'm embracing the opportunity to set an example of how to lead and work on and off the field."

The talented, athletic and instinctive Della Valle has played in every contest the past two seasons on defense and special teams. Last season, his second as the team's primary punt returner, he ranked fourth in the Big Ten with an 8.7-yard average on his 18 returns. The Pittsburgh native is the epitome of a core special teams contributor, and he is willing to do anything necessary to help the team be successful. One of the squad's top students, Della Valle owned a 3.38 cumulative grade-point average after the spring semester. He graduated with a degree in advertising and public relations in May.

"It's almost surreal for me because I have come a long way after walking on here," Della Valle said. "We've been through a lot here, and it's the same for Keiser. Knowing all of the great players from here and all of the captains, it is an extreme honor. I'm extremely honored to be in this position. To have the support of my teammates, I'm ready to lead those guys and go out there and have a great season."

Keiser is a talented player with good instincts and a nose for the ball, a combination that will have him playing a significant role during his fifth-year senior season. Keiser has been a consistently productive player on defense and special teams, playing in 36 of a possible 37 career games the past three seasons. A fixture on each of the special teams unit during the vast majority of the last two seasons, the Central Pennsylvania native is poised to again play a paramount role on special teams this fall. Keiser owns a 3.37 grade-point average, made the Dean's List last spring and is a potential CoSIDA Academic All-America candidate. The two-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree is on schedule to graduate this week with a degree in kinesiology.


"It's a great honor to be a captain with some awesome guys," Keiser said. "I really respect everyone on the team. The group is out here working hard every day. It's a great honor to voted captain by such a great group of guys."


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Behind the Scenes at the First Two-A-Day

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions participated in their first two-a-day of training camp over the weekend. Additionally, the two practices coincided with a visit from the Big Ten Network's traveling bus and the team's first trip to Beaver Stadium during fall camp.

GoPSUsports.com takes an inside look at the production behind the Big Ten Network's preview show during its visit to Happy Valley and highlights the evening scrimmage under the lights in the stadium.






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Breaking Down the Football Roster Geographically

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions kicked off week two of training camp practice on Monday. Additionally, this week marks the final one of the second academic session of the summer. Classes during the summer session end on Friday. The fall semester begins on Aug. 25.

With two more weeks of camp to go before game week, GoPSUsports.com took a look inside the roster and its geographic breakdown. Simply put, the 2014 Penn State Football roster is one with significant geographic diversity. In all, Penn State has student-athletes from 21 states, the District of Columbia, Australia and Canada.

The 2014 roster consists of 93 players from states within a 350-mile radius of State College. Pennsylvania leads the way with 51 players hailing from in-state areas. New Jersey is second on the list with 15 players from the Garden State. There are nine players from Maryland and seven from Virginia. Florida is fifth on the list with four Nittany Lions from the Sunshine State.

Take a look at the full breakdown:

Penn State 2014 Roster Geographic Breakdown
Pennsylvania - 51

Alabama - 3

California - 2

Connecticut - 1

Delaware - 3

Florida - 4

Georgia - 2

Illinois - 3

Indiana - 1

Kansas - 1

Massachusetts - 2

Maryland - 9

Michigan - 3

North Carolina - 2

New Hampshire - 1

New Jersey - 15

New York - 3

Ohio - 2

Tennessee - 1 

Texas - 1

Virginia -  7


Washington, D.C. - 1


Australia - 1

Canada - 2




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VIDEO: Inside Training Camp - Defensive Line

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Inside Training Camp - The Secondary | Inside Training Camp - Special Teams

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State defensive line coach Sean Spencer sets the tone with his unit the moment they walk into the meeting room.

Spencer calls his group "wild dogs" because he wants them to treat pursuit of the ball on the gridiron like a group hunting in a pack. The end result is an attacking mentality from the Nittany Lion defensive linemen in every thing they do. From the meeting room to drills on the field during training camp, Spencer's unit is aggressive.

The leader of the defensive line put on a mic to give GoPSUsports.com an all access look into what goes into a day of training camp for the D-Line.






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VIDEO: Inside Training Camp - Special Teams

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Inside Training Camp - The Secondary

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The second installment of Inside Training Camp takes the fans all access with special teams coordinator Charles Huff for a look at the importance of special teams play.

The Nittany Lions devote a great deal of time to special teams to ensure that all three phases of the game are executed at the highest possible level. From the film room to the practice field, the players understand the importance of details when it comes to each aspect of special teams.

"It's consistency. You've got to evaluate consistency," Huff said. "You want to see the guys consistently performing all of the tasks that you want them to do. It's my job; it's the staff's job to look at who is consistently doing what they have to do. Are they going to make mistakes? Absolutely. But you look at who's coming out and getting better every day, who's working at mastering their technique, and those are the guys who are going to make the difference on special teams."

Huff invited GoPSUsports.com inside a special teams meeting and was mic'd up during practice to provide all access for another look inside training camp.





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VIDEO: Inside Training Camp - The Secondary

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Week one of training camp is in full swing for the Nittany Lions, and GoPSUsports.com is going to take the fans inside preparations for the 2014 season with a video series highlighting each unit on the depth chart.

We kick things off with the secondary and the importance of great communication between the cornerbacks and safeties. As assistant coaches Bob Shoop and Terry M. Smith and veterans Adrian Amos and Jordan Lucas will tell you, the communication does not start on the practice field. It starts in the meeting room with the players calling things out as they see them on film.

Take an all access look at the Penn State secondary on the practice field and in the meeting room during week one of training camp for some insight on communication.




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VIDEO: Reverse Media Day Interviews with Jordan Lucas

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com turned communications major and junior cornerback Jordan Lucas loose with a microphone on media day to flip the script on traditional interviews. The New York native made the rounds at Beaver Stadium to talk with some of the veteran reporters on the Penn State Football beat. Take a look.




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Media Day Interview - Christian Hackenberg

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com goes one-on-one with sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg for his thoughts heading into his second season at Penn State.




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Media Day Interview - James Franklin

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com talks with head coach James Franklin during media day inside Beaver Stadium.




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Nittany Lions Host Media Day as Training Camp Opens

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Media Day Press Conference Videos:

James Franklin - John Donovan - Bob Shoop - Charles Huff

Media Day Press Conference Transcript | Media Day Photo Gallery | Practice I Photo Gallery

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - A crowd of more than 170 media members packed the Beaver Stadium media room on Monday for the 2014 version of Penn State football media day.

Head coach James Franklin kicked off the festivities with an entertaining press conference. Coordinators John Donovan, Charles Huff and Bob Shoop followed Franklin on the dais before the Nittany Lions arrived at the stadium for nearly 60 minutes of open media on the finely manicured sod in Beaver Stadium.

"Obviously, we are very excited," Franklin said. "It's been seven months since we arrived. We've gotten a lot of work done in a short period of time. We are excited to get going, working with these guys day in and day out...I think the staff has done a great job preparing. The players have been unbelievable."

Franklin is thrilled with the academic success the team has produced during his seven months at the helm of the program. The Nittany Lions had a strong spring semester, and the best academic summer session, collectively, in the history of the program.

"We are really looking forward to seeing all the progress the players have made since spring ball ended," Franklin said. "Not only physically, but also mentally which will allow them to play fast. You're also excited to get out and watch the new guys in the program to see which guys look like they may figure in."

MDay_blog_1.jpgPenn State took the field just before 4:30 p.m. on Monday afternoon to officially begin preparations for the 2014 season. The Nittany Lions are allotted 29 practices before the season-opener against UCF at the Croke Park Classic in Dublin.

"There is a lot of excitement and a lot of good things going on," Franklin said. "We have 26 days before we open the season against Central Florida. Last night, I addressed that with the team. It will be here before we know it for all of us. But that is the last time we are going to talk about it. We are in a time period where our focus is on Penn State and becoming the best Penn State we could possibly be."

Franklin said that there would be a point in two weeks or so into camp that the team will flip a switch into game preparation mode for UCF. For now, though, the Nittany Lions will work to maximize each day to improve in all phases of the game. Under NCAA rules, the Lions must wait five practices before putting the pads on Saturday.

"The plan going in ahead is to maximize our practices," Franklin said. "We are going to maximize the hours. We are going to do all the things that we possibly can right now. Again we have a little bit of a juggling act with the academics which is always going to be priority No. 1 for the first two weeks, so that's a challenge."

The Nittany Lions will practice each day this week in the afternoon. The season kicks off at 8:30 a.m. (ESPN) on Aug. 30.

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Notes:
- Coach Franklin joked with the standing room only crowd in the media room that there must not have been much in the way of news going on in Pennsylvania on Monday.

"We really appreciate everyone coming out today. You guys have been awesome since the day we arrived."

- Coach Franklin's family moved into State College on Friday evening. He is thrilled to have his wife and two daughters in town.

"Now what was great was yesterday we were able to have two meals with the players. They came and had lunch and dinner with us. My daughters love it. I wish I could spend more time with them but what they wanted to do, as soon as we got there to lunch and dinner, they didn't want to sit with us. Shola went and sat with one group of players. Addie went and sat with another group of players. And I love that. My wife loves it. I love it and it's awesome for our family and it's good for our football team, as well. They get to see me in a different light and I think that's important."

- Franklin on what he wants to see in terms of improvement from 2013 Big Ten Freshman of the Year Christian Hackenberg:

"That's a great question and we are looking for improvements from Hack, but I'm going to be honest with you, where our focus really is, is all the pieces of the puzzle around Hack. You know, that's going to allow him to continue to develop, making sure that we are able to protect him with our offensive line, making sure that we are able to be balanced offensively and be able to run the ball with our offensive line and tight end, having a huge impact in that, as well, and finding some wide receivers to make up for the production we lost, all these things factor into it. So obviously I want him to be more and more confident so he can make really good decisions in terms of protecting the football, get the ball out of his hand as quickly as he possibly can, and what you like to see with a quarterback I know in this system is, they get to a point where they feel like the defense can't be right. You know, that you understand the offense so well, that if you play cover two, wonderful, I'm going to attack the weakness here. If you go cover three, go here; if you go man coverage, here is my man beater. If you throw pressure, I'm either going to go hot or readjust the protection to pick it up. When you get to a point where you feel like the quarterback has all those tools at his disposal, the confidence skyrockets and they feel like the defense can't be right and that is unbelievably valuable."



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