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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Inside Training Camp - Equipment Staff

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Training Camp Central

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - One of the most unsung groups within the Penn State football program is a unit responsible for a wide-range of things that truly drive a day of training camp.

From setting up for practice to laundry to handling all of the team's equipment needs, take an inside look at a day in the life of training camp with the equipment staff and the student managers.

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VIDEO: Behind the Scenes - Green Screen Shoot

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Training Camp Central

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Creating content for the videoboards inside Beaver Stadium is no small task. Planning projects commence long before the home opener.

A big piece to creating content takes place during "Green Screen" shoots. The Nittany Lions recently had some fun in front of the cameras to get ready for 2015 gamedays in Beaver Stadium. Take a look.

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Inside Training Camp - Lion's Den

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Training Camp Central

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The stakes inside the Lion's Den are simple.

The offense has four downs to score.

The defense has four downs to get a stop.

Head coach James Franklin calls four names on offense - three on the line and one in the backfield - and calls four names on defense - three on the line and one safety.

The whistle blows and the two sides go to battle.

Head inside the Lion's Den at training camp.

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Training Camp: Mangiro Leading the Battle in the Trenches

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11247159.jpegTraining Camp Central | August 12 Camp Update | August 12 Photo Gallery

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Confidence is a powerful tool when it comes to leading players around you.

When a player makes assertive decisions in the heat of battle, his peers tend to trust him and follow suit.

Enter senior offensive lineman Angelo Mangiro - the only player outside of Christian Hackenberg who had his hands on the ball during more than 90 percent of all the offensive plays last season.

Having played in 37-straight games, Mangiro is the offense's most experienced player, and he is one of the most versatile. The 6-foot-3 graduate senior worked his way up the depth chart to become the team's top guard and center reserve in 2012. He played at center and both guard positions in 2013. Last fall, Mangiro started two games at right tackle, but he found a home in the middle of the line by starting 10 games at center.

Now, with added depth up front, Mangiro and the offensive line have found some continuity leading up to the 2015 season.

"Their approach this off season, taking ownership of their position and their responsibility and their role, taking ownership of the success of the offense, having a chip on their shoulder," said head coach James Franklin. "All of those things are huge for us."

Mangiro is one of four players with significant starting experience back on the offensive line. As Coach Franklin noted, it's a group practicing with a chip on its shoulder. The line knows what type of potential it has, and Mangiro and the unit are practicing with a sense of urgency.

"I think our approach to things is what has stood out," Mangiro said. "It's how we are going into meetings, preparation, conducting ourselves in a professional manner that a veteran team should be doing."

The personable guy wearing No. 66 has done a terrific job developing a rapport with the man under center. Mangiro and Hackenberg walk to the line of scrimmage with a consistent vision and a common voice for the players around them.

"It's just something you see with time," Hackenberg said. "It's not just one guy in Angelo, it's what you see in all of those guys because they are older and more mature. I'm super excited for the opportunity they have because it's going to help the team."

Mangiro's belief in the line's potential resonates with everyone on the Penn State offense, not just Hackenberg. Being vocal is the name of the game and comes with the territory of the position he plays. That's why so many individuals around the man in the middle are so enthusiastic about what is in store for the fall.

Mangiro's air of confidence in those around him on the football field leads right into voicing his take on other subjects off the field. He's never shy. Take his pizza preference as an example.

Hailing from New Jersey, the senior comes from a family with Italian roots, so naturally he sought out a trip to taste test Chicago-style pizza during his trip to Big Ten Media Day at the end of July.

"Deep dish was great. But being a North Jersey guy, there is something about taking that slice and folding it, I have to go with the New York style pizza," Mangiro joked.

Mangiro is on a mission to do his part in leading the Nittany Lion offensive line to the best of his abilities.

He has the utmost trust of the men lining up around him because being the voice of the offensive line is the task Mangiro knows best.

And it's a task he is doing with confidence in 2015.

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