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2016 Gameday - Penn State Hosts Kent State in Opener

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Wednesday Practice Update | Charles Huff Q&A Training Camp Central Coverage

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The 130th season of Penn State Football has finally arrived and the Nittany Lions are set to welcome Kent State to Beaver Stadium Saturday for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff on BTN.

Opening the season at home for the first time since 2012, the Nittany Lions and the Golden Flashes meet for the first time since 2013. In that 2013 outing, Penn State shut out Kent State 34-0 at home in Beaver Stadium on Sept. 21 for its fourth consecutive victory in the series.

"The focus has been on this week and doing everything we possibly can to get ready for it," head coach James Franklin said. "I know the assistant coaches and the players are really excited about the opportunity to go out and show our fans and the alumni what we're about."

The Nittany Lions enter the 2016 season with 16 returning starters, with three on special teams, five on defense and eight on offense, including an offensive line that is the 17th most experienced unit in the country and second-most experienced in the Big Ten.

Leading the offense this year is sophomore Trace McSorley, who steps into the starting role at quarterback for the first time against Kent State. With a newly implemented offense under the direction of offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, McSorley's options including seemingly endless potential.

Freshman All-American Saquon Barkley returns to lead running back unit that's packed with potential. Barkley led the offense with 1,076 rushing yards in 11 games to set a Penn State freshman record. Despite missing a few games last year, Barkley totaled five 100-yard rushing performances, en route to becoming the 43rd Nittany Lion in program history to break 1,000 yards rushing.

The Nittany Lions also return a stacked group at wide receiver, led by All-Big Ten second team selection Chris Godwin and All-Big Ten honorable mention DaeSean Hamilton. Godwin caught at least four passes in 11 of 13 games last year and became just the third Nittany Lion in program history to total 1,000 receiving yards in a season.

Surpassing the 1,000-yard mark in each of their positions, Barkley and Godwin are just the third other duo in program history to achieve the feat.

Fourth-year head coach Paul Haynes will lead the Golden Flashes in their season opener, taking on Penn State for the second time during his tenure at Kent State. The Golden Flashes return nearly all of their starters from last year, including eight from a defense that ranked 27th in total defense last year.

Pregame Notes -

What to Watch For: Penn State
1. While there's certainly buzz and excitement this year surrounding the new up-tempo offense, Franklin says he's just as excited about the special teams unit as he is about the offense. Listed on the depth chart this week, the Nittany Lions have true freshman Blake Gillikin at punter, with Tyler Davis listed as the top kicker. Redshirt sophomore Nick Scott and Barkley are listed as the top two kick returners, while senior Gregg Garrity and Thompkins will handle the punt returns.

"I'd probably say the best thing that happened to our special teams this summer was signing the two younger guys," special teams coordinator and running backs coach Charles Huff said. "Not from a, 'hey they are going to come in and be the starter and carry coach off the field winning a national championship,' but it was more from a pure competition standpoint.  Every day those guys are having to go out and compete"

2. Under the direction of defensive coordinator Brent Pry, who was promoted following the 2015 season, the Nittany Lion defense has a fairly new look this year, especially in the front seven. Despite some NFL departures last season, the defensive line has not rebuilt, but rather reloaded. Garrett Sickels, the only returning starter, will look to make another sizeable impact, along with senior Evan Schwan at defense end. Parker Cothren and Kevin Givens will both take over at the tackle position. Jason Cabinda and Nyeem Wartman-White highlight the line at the middle and weak side linebacker positions, respectively. 

Franklin made special note of Schwan earlier this week saying, "We're excited, the fact that we have a senior, which we have a few on our team, stepping up on the defensive line for us. We're expecting good things out of Evan. I've just been very, very pleased and proud of him with how he's approached everything; his leadership, his understanding everything. He's put in five years waiting for this opportunity and really approached it the right way."

What to Watch For: Kent State
1. Kent State returns nearly all of its starters from last year, including defensive end Nate Holley, who has ranked in the nation's top five in tackles per game in 2014 and 2015, with 14 or more tackles in six of his last nine games. Holley is just one of three All-Mid-American Conference first team members on defense, set to be led by newly appointed defensive coordinator Ben Needham. Promoted from linebackers coach to DC during the offseason, Needham is the youngest defensive coordinator (31) in the FBS.

2. Haynes said earlier this week that Kent State plans to play three quarterbacks on Saturday, naming true freshman Justin Agner as the starter. Other quarterback options include redshirt freshman Mylik Mitchell and sophomore George Bollas. Bollas played in 12 games last year, making 94 completions on 167 attempts for 756 yards.

After three seasons at quarterback, including the 2013 meeting between Penn State and Kent State, Colin Reardon moved to wide receiver in the spring. Listed at the top spots at wide receiver for the Golden Flashes are junior Kris White, sophomore Johnny Woods and junior Nick Holley, who is the twin brother of defensive end, Nate Holley.

Final Note -
The 2016 Penn State home opener against Kent State marks the first of four consecutive season openers for the Nittany Lions. Penn State will be at home against Akron in 2017, Appalachian State in 2018 and Idaho in 2019. Having won 12 of their last 14 season openers, the Nittany Lions are 115-13-1 all-time and 47-9 in Beaver Stadium. Kickoff in Beaver Stadium is set for 3:30 live on the Big Ten Network with Scott Graham (play-by-play) and Chuck Long (analyst) on the call.

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By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The 2016 cross country team has spoken and officially named their captains for the upcoming season.

 

"We took a vote from the team," said head coach John Gondak about the selection of this season's captains.

 

"They, as a group, spend a significant amount of time together above what we do as coaches, so I think they have a good pulse of who their leaders are. We let them vote for who their captains were this year, and I think they picked some very good individuals."

 

Captains for the 2016 season on the women's side are senior Julie Kocjancic, junior Tessa Barrett and junior Elizabeth Chikotas. For the men, captains are junior Tim McGowan and sophomore Colin Abert.

 

"I was a little loss for words because it came to me as kind of a surprise," said McGowan on the captain title. "It's cool to get to talk to the freshmen and lead them a little bit."

 

Barrett, who finished last year's season as a NCAA All-American, and Chikotas are excited to lead the freshmen on the women's side as well.

 

"It's pretty cool to be able to usher them through the learning process, helping them with things that we might not have known as freshmen," said Chikotas.

 

The men's team finished 6th at the 2015 Big Ten Championships, and are hoping to change that this year. The new captains have set some goals for the 2016 season.

 

"We've got a young team, so I think a big thing we're trying to do is get them accumulated, make sure we don't have any hiccups, no injuries or anything. With the returning guys, we have a lot of scorers coming back, so I don't think top five in the Big Ten in cross is out of the question," said McGowan.

 

"We do have a really young team on the guys' side, but that kind of allows us to shape the team how we want it to be for the next few years," said Abert. "I think we have a good group of guys. We're going to turn some heads; they aren't going to be ready for it."

 

The women were 2015 Big Ten Cross Country Champions and won the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional. They also finished 16th at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships. They are hoping to defend their Big Ten and Mid-Atlantic titles from last year's season.

 

"We're also ranked first in the Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference right now," said Chikotas. "We want to continue on what we did last year, definitely placing better at nationals."

 

"We want to take everything day-by-day, train week-by-week, putting in the time now and being patient," said Barrett on preparing for the championship meets. "At the national meet we want to get out, be aggressive and competitive and see what happens."

 

Coach Gondak is satisfied with how the team is looking early in the season.

 

"I'm pleased with where everybody is right now. How we're going to do this year? It's too early to tell. I usually like to wait until after our first couple of meets to see how they go out and compete and where their mindset is from a racing standpoint," said Gondak. "Probably after the Spiked Shoe Invitational we'll sit down and come up with some more goals moving forward."

 

The annual Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational is Penn State's first home cross country meet of the season. Races are set to start at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 10th.

 

"I'm most excited about going to Lock Haven, and putting the uniform on and racing our first race of the year," said Gondak.

 

The Nittany Lions first meet of the season is the Dolan Duals this Friday at 6:00 p.m. in Lock Haven.

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By Zach Reagan, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After last week's West Coast swing, the Penn State men's soccer team takes to the Jeffrey Field pitch for the first time this season 7:00 p.m. Friday night against James Madison.

 

The Nittany Lion contingent looks to bounce back from a physically taxing cross-country trip and pair of games in California.  The trip saw Penn State record an impressive draw in double overtime with Stanford, the defending 2015 NCAA champions, before losing 2-1 in a tough battle with UC Berkeley.

 

Home opening games are a unique aspect in sports. They hold sentimental value for some players as they play their last one, while for others it will be the first time they get to play in front of their home crowd as first-year players. Either way, the team gets the opportunity to compete in an environment that they are familiar with. With an electric home atmosphere like the one at "The Jeff", it's hard to not get excited for the home debut of the team.

 

Head coach Bob Warming takes great pride in the privilege of coaching the team on such a special field. When asked about the significance of Jeffrey Field, the seventh-year Penn State coach had endless amounts of positive rave reviews. "Everything, it's the history," said Warming. "It's named after arguably the greatest coach of soccer in American history, Bill Jeffrey, who upset England in the 1950 World Cup in Brazil."

 

"It's a tradition of all of the great players who've played on the field before. We've had soccer for 106 seasons, said Warming. "There are a lot of people who came before us and we owe it to them, our current players, students and fans to give it our best effort. That's what makes it special."

 

Warming sure knows how to get his teams to perform in home debuts. He owns an undefeated 6-0 record in home openers, and his Nittany Lions have outscored opponents 9-1 in the last six years in their first home game of the season. The Nittany Lions have not given up a goal in a home opener since Warming's inaugural season in 2010, when they beat Bucknell 2-1.

 

Not only is the "general" of the team pumped, senior Mason Klerks and true freshman Pierre Reedy are excited for the opportunity to get the 11-game home slate underway. Klerks, a California native, will get to play technically another "home opener" after the team's trip to his home state for the opening two games of the 2016 season. In California, the three-year starter and the squad received an abundance of support from Klerks' family.

 

"It felt like it was a home game for me and our team," said Klerks.

 

When asked about beginning his final campaign at "The Jeff" and his overall outlook on the team, the veteran said, "One last time, it's awesome. I can't wait to play there again I'm making every moment count and I'm just enjoying my last year. I feel like we can be great this year."

 

On the complete opposite side of the experience spectrum of Klerks is Reedy. He'll be making his first home appearance garnering the blue and white in front of the Penn State faithful. He's been waiting for that moment since his recruitment out of Kutztown, Pa. He joked about the small population of his rural hometown and the handful of people at his games in high school were parents of the players.

 

"I never played in front of a big crowd in high school like how the crowd will be Friday night because soccer wasn't a main attraction in my town," said Reedy. I've been to a couple games last fall and seeing the atmosphere and the fans...I'm really just excited to start playing at home."

 

Friday's game against James Madison starts a four-game home stretch for the Nittany Lions at Jeffrey Field. The following game is Monday, Sept. 5 when the Nittany Lions take on Oakland.

 

For more information on Nittany Lion men's soccer, log onto www.GoPSUsports.com and follow the team on the various social media platforms.

Kent State Q&A - Charles Huff

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Sept. 1, 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK Pa. - Penn State special teams coordinator and running backs coach Charles Huff talked with the media to preview the season opener against Kent State Saturday at 3:30 p.m. (BTN) in Beaver Stadium.

Updates from the Q&A with Coach Huff are below.

Q: Last year we talked a good bit about the punt returners and coach [Franklin] mentioned often about consistency with catching and that maybe you would use other players but you were worried about the consistency with them catching punts in games. Have you seen any marked improvement in that area in maybe some of the younger guys or other players you might use in those roles if you could rely on them more often?

Huff: We all sound like a broken record, with all the coaches telling you that having more depth and having more options and being able to have better practices. It goes back to that, having more options, having more depth. There were some guys that redshirted that caught punts in high school that we said, 'hey - this guy has shown the ability to catch some punts in high school is he a guy we give a chance,' well he's redshirting and we can't put him out there.

Also just having the pure competition back there, the group got bigger. We started to lose some of the guys we redshirted that we put in the group but now all the sudden we go from three or four options to five or six options. And the guys that we have here are a year older. A lot of the guys that played early for us like DeAndre Thompkins, did a great job for us. He had some issues in some games and put some on the ground which he has constantly worked on this summer, but if you think back, DeAndre was basically almost a true freshman. He had been here having come mid-year, but he was playing probably a little bit ahead of what he was in a perfect scenario where you would have loved him to play. He's a year older.

Gregg Garrity, he's a year older. All of those guys in situations where the circumstances demanded for them to have to be out there are now a year older and they have learned from those things and have been able to see some live game action. When the ball turns over different off a right footed punter or a left footed punter - all of those things that you gain that experience within a year with the depth, that kind of helps.

Q: One of the things we've heard Saquon Barkley talk about quite a bit and what we've seen in practice is how he kind of helps out the younger guys. Can you talk about the importance of an experienced proven guy helping some of the guys who are coming in?

Huff: It's awesome. The tough part is that you start looking around at your leaders or your experienced guys and you're talking about a true sophomore. So that's a positive and you kind of say, 'wow as young as he is and to have those skills,' I truly believe that leaders are born and it's up to the coaches to help them mature and teaching them ways to lead. But I think leaders are born and Sqauon is that type of person. And it helps - it's hard when your leaders aren't your best players. It makes it a lot easier when your leaders are your best players because then peers see more than what the coaches see. Peers see it as he's out there on the field making plays so I should probably listen to him because he's doing it right on and off the field.  Coaches see a guy that gets it and sees the big picture. So whenever you can put the two together, you can do it on the field and off the field, it helps, and Saquon has been able to do that.

He has been able to handle the tough part sometimes which is when you're trying to be a leader, it makes it tough to prepare yourself because you're always motivating someone else and you're always kind of firing someone up. He has been able to do both, which has been unbelievable. He has been able to consistently improve his game and ask questions saying, 'hey coach I want to improve at this area or why am I struggling at this area,' and he's been able to share his knowledge with the younger guys. The guys like Andre [Robinson] who haven't played yet, and Miles [Sanders], who just got here. He basically said, 'hey these are some things that helped me along the way and these are some things I didn't learn until game four, five or six that I can tell you now that will help speed up your maturation process.'

Q: I'm curious how you thought Miles Sanders looked in camp, both as a kick returner and as a back. Would you guys consider easing him in as a kick returner that way you could try and get him involved to be able to play him at some point this year? 

Huff: I think he [Sanders] looks great. Five stars are easy to see. We could send you out on the road recruiting and say, 'hey bring us back all the five stars and you could do that.' He physically looks like he could play. As you go through camp you get to see a little bit of the mental part - can he handle the playbook, is he able to translate and see blitzes and coverage? Then is he able to go to class and handle the schedule and routine - and he has done an awesome job with that so far.

Putting him back there at kick returner, it's one of those things where you want to be able to get good players on the field as much as possible and any time you can get a really good player on the field whether that's in the backfield, at wide out or at kick returner - you put yourself and you put the team in a much better position. We're looking at trying to get him those looks and returns and the running back and just getting him involved without forcing someone to do something maybe they are not ready for or that they'll kind of grow at.

As we go, we'll see if he can handle It. He has done an awesome job through camp. It will be interesting to see, a lot of those flashes that we see - hopefully it translates but there's going to be a little bit of 'wow I'm playing college football.' It's a growing, slow process and we're in a position now that we haven't been in since we've been here where we can bring those guys along slow, which in the long run I think is going to be a lot better than forcing them because of the depth issues and the numbers. We can bring them along slow and not force feed them, but give them a little bit at a time and let them be able to handle all the other things as well.

Q: When it comes to Miles Sanders - with Mark Allen, Saquon Barkley and Andre Robinson, how has he been able to fit into that group, not only on the field but off as well.

Huff: One of the good things was that Miles committed to us pretty early in the process so he got a chance to build that relationship very early. He came up for games, he came up for practices, so he got a chance to be around those guys very early. From the off the field perspective, he got a chance to get along with those guys and they got a chance to see his personality and open up to him.

When he got on the field, this summer he did an unbelievable job in the weight room so they saw the way that he worked and he earned their respect by working up to their standard. The one thing that he did not do was that he did not come in with an, 'I'm a five star, I'm the number one running back in the country get out of my way' approach, he came in and said, 'hey I want to work at the level and the standard that you guys set and I want to be accepted in that standard.' I think that helped the transition. 

Sometimes kids are highly rated and recruiting is pumping these kids up and then sometimes they get to camp and they kind of have the 'I'm the number one running back, I'm a five star' type of attitude and it rubs some players wrong. None of the guys that we have in our program had that, which makes it a lot easier for the guys to accept guys who say, 'I want to be the best but I also know that you guys work at a certain standard so I want to be able to keep up with that standard.' 

Q: With Saquon, where is he better than he was this time last year? He's talked about making little changes and becoming better at certain things and what's he like to watch film with?

Huff: I think just being a year older he's better. Just having seen some things on the field that you can't always replicate in practice. The speed of how the safety moves, the speed of how the backers blitz, some keys and tips that normal defenses have when they're blitzing and when they're not blitzing, depth of safeties. Seeing that for a year, of course, he's a year older. In high school not every defense on every team gets as extensive as they do in college so he didn't see everything but being a year older he saw that.

I think he worked his tail off this offseason at the fundamentals of the position, keeping his shoulders square, trying to eliminate some of the extra cuts, getting vertical. He worked his tail off on his pass pro, which he came out of last year and said he has got to get better. He understands the game better, the areas of the field, the importance of the down and distance and how doing something a little extra on first down may eliminate third down and all of those things that we talk about in our summer RB school to kind of help these guys understand the game on a deeper level. All of that helps.

The other part, would be just mentally being able to know our program, how our schedule works throughout the summer, throughout the spring and the winter and into the season. Watching film with him, he wants to know like the quarterback does. He wants to know the routes that the wide receivers are running and what concept they are running and why. He's always asking what's the quarterback's read on this or what's the quarterback looking at or when is he going to come to the field or the boundary. He wants to know. I preach to those guys that a smarter player is a better player. He is becoming a smarter player and a smarter play is not just, 'hey I know the plays,' but do you know the situation, what are defenses trying to do in this situation. What are the tendencies and how to do you pick up tendencies - those are some of the things we went through this summer. What coverages and what coverage based teams do and why, what's the difference between one team playing cover four and another team playing cover four and why.

This summer he really dove into that and hopefully it pays off and he'll be able to play a step faster. I tell those guys, if you can get more information before the ball snaps, you're playing much faster. When you're playing much faster you're going to put yourself in position to make bigger plays. Bigger plays lead to more yards and more yards lead to more points and everybody's happy. It makes it a lot easier if you know things before they happen.

Q: What's the punter situation with Blake Gillikin and Daniel Pasquariello?

Huff:
The first week of camp we talked to those guys and we said it's going to be a true competition. For the first two and a half weeks, you could have closed your eyes and picked a punter between Blake, Danny [Pasquariello] and [Chris] Gulla. The thing, that as it went on, was the consistency. Blake was consistent in all three phases. All the other guys had some really good, strong parts, but overall in distance, location and hang time, Blake over the course of camp, proved to be the most consistent and it wasn't a landslide.

I'd probably say the best thing that happened to our special teams this summer was signing the two youngers guys. Not from a, 'hey they are going to come in and be the starter and carry coach off the field winning a national championship,' but it was more from a pure competition standpoint.  Every day those guys were having to go out and compete and that's no different than at the running back position. We're a better running back unit because of Miles Sanders, because of Mark Allen, because of Andre, because all of those guys know when they get in the game, 'I've got to be on because there are three guys standing behind me that when they get in here, they're going to be on.' That's kind of been spread across our team, the numbers and being able to compete.

At the college level, to me and from my experience, there's only two things that motivate people in general. One is money and well, we can't pay them here. So if you go to the NFL and you want to get money, you produce. That motivates you. The second thing is competition, the true competitors in life will compete and if you put somebody beside a competitor and they are ready to race, they are going to compete and they are going to line up again until they win. Those two things are true motivators and we can't pay players. So how do we do it, we recruit competition.

The same thing at punter. Those guys had some great things and flashes of greatness during the year and there were some times they were very inconsistent. The way that we kind of improved that was to bring in guys who compete so now you've forced them to be consistent. I think those two younger guys coming in - Blake really took the punter unit and took it to a whole different level. The same thing with [Alex] Barbir with the kickers, he took it to a whole different level because now you're sitting here saying, 'If I want to play, I have to compete,' and I think that's what really happened this camp. Now of course we have to translate it. I told these guys that we have to take a short half mile walk to Beaver Stadium and do the same thing we do over here at Lasch.

VIDEO: Practice Updates - Kent State

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -  Head coach James Franklin and Nyeem Wartman-White met with the media following Wednesday's practice at the Lasch Football Complex.

Penn State is set to square off against Kent State in its 2016 season opener Saturday, Sept. 3 at 3:30 p.m. in Beaver Stadium. Check in with Franklin and Wartman-White for updates from practice during game week.

James Franklin

Nyeem Wartman-White


2016 Tuesday Press Conference Roundup - Kent State

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Transcript: James Franklin Transcript: Players 2016 Depth Chart VIDEO: Player Q&A with DaeSean Hamilton & Parker Cothren

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State head coach James Franklin kicked off game week media availability, meeting with the media Tuesday afternoon to preview the newly released depth chart as well as the 2016 season opener against Kent State.

The Nittany Lions open the 130th season of Penn State football Saturday with a 3:30 matchup (BTN) against the Golden Flashes in Beaver Stadium. Franklin took time to meet with several media members, answering an assortment of game one related questions.

"It's amazing to me that time has flown by and we're already in week one of the season," Franklin said. "I am excited to watch the team open the season in Beaver Stadium starting at home. We've been very, very pleased with what they did this summer as well as in camp. [The team] had an excellent camp in our opinion."

Several new changes will be on display in full force Saturday afternoon, but perhaps one of the largest changes comes in the debut of quarterback Trace McSorley, who will take the reins of the offense for the first time. Nerves and jitters are no issue for McSorley though, who has been described by Franklin as "Steady Eddie."

"He's a guy that doesn't get too high, doesn't get too low," Franklin said. "He's kind of the same guy."

Wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton shared the same thoughts on McSorley's calm nature ahead of the opener.

"I haven't seen any nervousness from him," Hamilton said. "Ever since he was announced as a starter, he took that role and ran with it. He's just ready to lead this team to the best of his capabilities."

Along with McSorely, Penn State fans will get a chance to see the new up-tempo style offense, engineered in large part by first year offensive coordinator Joe Moorehead.

"Joe's done a great job, not only from a schematic standpoint, but I really think just the leadership and the motivation on that side of the ball has been really helpful," Franklin said.

With a stacked group of receivers featuring starters in Hamilton, Chris Godwin and Saeed Blacknall along with a running back group led by Saquon Barkley all the pieces of the offensive puzzle are certainly present.

 

"My focus is on, let's get to the stadium and let's allow people to form opinions based on what they see," Franklin said.

 

The Nittany Lions enter 2016 with a new look on the defensive line following NFL departures. Among many changes, Parker Cothren not only moves into a starting role this year, but also a leadership role.

 

"I worked harder this year than I probably have in the past, having everyone look to me when they have questions, trying to be that guy that AJ (Austin Johnson ) and (Anthony)  Zettel were to me, to them; taking that leadership role," Cothren said.

 

Penn State will also see significant leadership from its senior class, which consisting of just 12 senior-eligible players is tied for the second-fewest in the FBS.  Among the group of seniors are captains Brian Gaia, Brandon Bell and Von Walker.

 

"Of the things that I think are interesting, you look at our three senior captains which we are very, very proud of what those guys brought to the table this summer, and the team voted for those guys," Franklin said. "It was overwhelming."

 

ON THE QUOTE BOARD
-Parker Cothren has worn his No. 41 jersey nearly his entire life across all sports he has ever played. Why No. 41?

"It actually started back in elementary school when my favorite channel on TV was 41. When asked what number I wanted to be, I said 41."

 

And that favorite channel? Cartoon Network.

 

-The first release of the depth chart featured five true freshmen who could all be called upon to make an impact in their very first season in the Blue and White. Franklin has confidence in the physical ability of his newest Nittany Lions.

 

"They are ready to play," Franklin said. "Mentally they are catching up day by day. Will Fries is a guy who has done some good things in a short period of time on campus and earned a lot of people's respect."

 

"Connor McGovern had a little bit of a head start being here for spring ball, and Michal Menet is another guy that's done some really nice things and has been able to get a lot of reps with our guys and our number one unit in practice."

 

-Making the move to the slot, DaeSean Hamilton took spent time in the offseason building strength and increasing muscle mass to adjust to bigger defenders.

 

The advantages of making the move?

 

"Just going against guys that aren't really used to covering, people that have played wide receiver or that have played outside and are finally moving inside, going against safeties, they are the more aggressive guys that are looking to come in and stop the run, especially in the Big Ten which is a run-heavy conference," Hamilton said.

 

"Then going against linebackers, as well, being able to just definitely take advantage of that mishmash because they definitely don't cover a lot, especially against wide receivers. It's really just putting my advantages to everyone else's weaknesses, so it really has played out in my favor and it's been a good move."

VIDEO: Kent State Week Player Q&As

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUSports.com talks with wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton and defensive tackle Parker Cothren ahead of opening weekend against Kent State. 

DaeSean Hamilton


Parker Cothren

Depth Chart Released for Opener vs. Kent State

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -  Head coach James Franklin released a depth chart heading into the 2016 season opener against Kent State Tuesday morning.

The first depth chart of the fall season features a little bit of everything, from veteran returnees to new faces poised to rise to an opportunity for the very first time.  

Penn State's offense includes a host of powerful returnees with significant experience as well as newcomers who possess the potential to make an impact in the new up-tempo style offense.

Newly appointed signal caller Trace McSorley steps into a starting role for the first time in the season opener. McSorley will have no shortage of options though, with a wealth of talent returning at both receiver and running back. 

Led by Preseason All-Big Ten selection sophomore Saquon Barkley, Penn State's running back group features nothing but talent. Barkley is joined by redshirt freshman Andre Robinson, redshirt sophomore Mark Allen and true freshman Miles Sanders on the depth chart.  

On the offensive line, at least six players with starting experience are listed. Having made the move from right guard to center, senior Brian Gaia will lead in the middle, with redshirt freshman Ryan Bates at left guard and redshirt senior Derek Dowrey at right guard. Redshirt junior Brendan Mahon is listed at the top spot at left tackle with returning starter Andrew Nelson at right tackle. With 91 retuning career starts, Penn State's offensive line is the 17th most experienced in the unit in the country and second-most experienced group in the Big Ten.

Returning starter Mike Gesicki returns at tight end, with redshirt junior Tom Pancoast and redshirt freshman Jonathan Holland also included on the depth chart.  

Redshirt sophomore DaeSean Hamilton (H) and juniors Chris Godwin (X) and Saeed Blacknall (Z) are the starting receivers listed, but the Nittany Lions are stacked with potential at the position. In addition to the trio, DeAndre Thompkins, Brandon Polk, Juwan Johnson and Irvin Charles are just a few returners who could also play a role in the rotation.

Following some sizeable departures to the NFL, the Nittany Lion defensive line has reloaded with a fairly new look this year, especially in the front seven.

Junior Garrett Sickels will anchor the line as the only returning starter at defensive end. He's joined by senior Evan Schwan at the end position.  Junior Parker Cothren and redshirt freshman Kevin Givens will both take over at the tackle position, with Cothren having the most experience following a 2015 season that included 13 tackles and three multi-tackle outings.

Coming off a 2015 season cut short due to an injury, Nyeem Wartman-White returns to lead at the weak side linebacker spot, with 2015 All-Big Ten honorable mention selection Jason Cabinda at middle linebacker. Between the two, Wartman-White and Cabinda have more than 40 combined career starts. Returning veteran Brandon Bell is also listed on the top line at the strong side linebacker spot.

2015 All-Big Ten honorable mention selections Marcus Allen (free safety) and Grant Haley (cornerback) return to highlight the Nittany Lion secondary. Sophomore John Reid and (cornerback) and senior Malik Golden (strong safety) also return having each appeared in 13 games in 2015.

Junior Tyler Davis is listed as the top kicker, while true freshman Blake Gillikin is listed as the top punter. Junior Chris Gulla returns for another season as the top holder, while Tyler Yazujian also returns as the Nittany Lions' top long snapper. Redshirt sophomore Nick Scott and Barkley are listed as the top two kick returners, while senior Gregg Garrity and Thompkins will handle the punt returns.

A total of seven true freshmen are listed on the depth chart including five on offense. The complete list includes: Will Fries (LT), Michal Menet (LG), Connor McGovern (RG), Jake Zembiec (QB), Miles Sanders (RB), Blake Gillikin (P) and Alex Barbir (K). 

Penn State is set to open the 2016 season at home for the first time since 2012 Saturday, Sept. 3, welcoming Kent State for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff in Beaver Stadium.

Composure Key in 2-0 Opening Weekend

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By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUSports.com


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
  It was less than a week ago that Penn State field hockey head coach Char Morett-Curtiss met with the media during fall sports media day, answering one reporter's question regarding what changes would be coming in 2016.

Her response was composure.

"We lost five games in the last five minutes just giving up goals," Morett-Curtiss said. "I think that's something that we have definitely been talking about and working on, is just that composure out of the back field a little more."

Opening the 2016 season at home with traditional opponent Old Dominion, No. 18 Penn State saw an early deficit as the No. 20 Monarchs scored in the second minute of play. A goal from junior Moira Putsch tied the score, but ODU's Danielle Grega scored again to make it 2-1. The Nittany Lions scored once more to even it up 2-2, heading to halftime with the score locked.

"I think we were really nervous," Morrett-Curtiss said. "It's the home opener, there are a lot of fresh faces out there and I think we just needed to settle down and just play our game."

Finding composure, the Nittany Lions came out of the break with four unanswered goals, including another from Putsch and one apiece from seniors Brooke Birosik and Kirsten Gochnauer.

With a 6-2 win in the season-opener under their belt, the Nittany Lions entered Sunday's mid-afternoon matchup looking to sustain the same composure against fifth-ranked Virginia.

The Nittany Lions struck first in the opening half as sophomore Aurelia Meijer fired high from the top of the circle to give Penn State a 1-0 lead.

Penn State continued to control possession throughout the remainder of the first half, with junior Skyler Fretz leading the back field and helping to limit the Cavaliers to just one first half corner opportunity.

"I was just thriving off of everyone's energy and I felt like we were all here and everyone be on and ready pumped everyone up," Fretz said.

The Nittany Lion attack started clicking in the second half as junior Shay Cannon made it a 2-0 advantage off a feed from Putsch. Sophomore Gini Bramley found the back of the cage less than five minutes later - on her birthday, widening the margin to three.  

Without surrendering a single goal and allowing just one more corner opportunity, Penn State held on for its first home victory against a top-five team since topping No. 3 Old Dominion 5-3 in 2012.

"I think just getting that first game under your belt is real important," Morrett-Curtiss sad. "We just talked about how we felt when that game started and those jitters are gone now and we grew as that game went on, but we need to make sure that we start at the beginning of the game and plan on playing hard for 70 minutes."

Sophomore goalie Jenny Rizzo also earned her second career shutout, while also closing out the day with four saves.

"Obliviously the shut out is on me, but I think my defense did a great job with Skyler [Fretz] and the rest of us back there just to keep them [Virginia] outside the circle, keep the shots low and if it wasn't for them - they had one defensive save so they really helped me out there," Rizzo said.

Morett-Curtiss was also quick to give recognition to the Nittany Lion defense.

"I thought Skyler Fretz played the best she's played in a Penn State field hockey game. She just played with such composure. So I think Skyler really set the tone for our back field and I think Jenny [Rizzo] was there and she had an answer for every shot."

At 2-0, Penn State will hit the road for its first road trip of the 2016 campaign next week, traveling first to Temple before traveling to Albany to square off against its second 2015 NCAA Tournament team of the season.

But for this weekend, Morett-Curtiss sees the progress her team has made in taking a big step toward full composure.

"With such a high quality opponent like Virginia, we didn't get frazzled and we really stuck to the game plan as we brought the ball out of our backfield," Morett-Curtiss said.

Nittany Lions at 2-1 after Penn State Classic

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Nittany Lions Win Two, Lose One in Penn State Classic
By Anita Nham, GoPSUsports.com Student Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - The No. 9 Penn State women's volleyball team has started the 2016 season 2-1 after sweeping West Virginia (25-13, 25-13, 25-17) and Georgia Southern (25-13, 25-12, 25-7), but falling to No. 19 North Carolina in five sets (25-16, 22-25, 25-21, 23-25, 11-15). The Tarheels were crowned winners of the Penn State Classic this weekend.

Though the Nittany Lions fell short in their final match of the tournament, their constant determination and two victories would not have been possible if it weren't for the guidance and leadership from the returning veterans.

Junior Simone Lee powered the offense throughout the weekend recording double figure in kills in two of three matches. Lee notched 10 kills against the Mountaineers on Friday evening, eight kills against the Eagles and 23 kills against the Tarheels on Saturday.

"I thought Simone was a hammer the whole [Saturday] night," head coach Russ Rose said. "I thought Simone was taking big swings all night long, and I thought that that was really cool for her."

Lee's 23 kills against North Carolina was also a career-high for her. In addition, she added 10 digs for her first career double-double.

"[The career-best] is a positive coming out of the game...but it shouldn't be just one person getting all the kills," Lee said. "I'm happy to see that I got a career-high of 23 kills, but it's about all of us. It's about all of us working hard together, all of us spreading the offense. It can't just be one person getting every single swing. I think in practice, that's what we need to work on."

Junior Haleigh Washington also made an impact this weekend registering10 kills, three blocks and a .714 hitting efficiency against West Virginia on Friday evening. In the match against Georgia Southern, Washington finished with a team-high five blocks and tied for second with seven kills. Saturday evening, Washington continued to help the team, tying for second on the squad with 11 kills and five total blocks.

Nonetheless, numerous underclassmen and newcomers marked their collegiate debut in a big way this weekend. Freshman Kendall White led the team with 16 digs in her collegiate debut against the Mountaineers and a career-high of 17 digs against the Tarheels. Junior Abby Detering handed out a team-high 29 assists on Friday evening and 23 assists in the opening set against the Tarheels.

Following the season opening win against the Mountaineers, Rose had positive things to say about White and Detering's performances.

"I thought we received a really good effort from two newcomers," Rose said. "I thought Kendall [White] did a good job passing and playing defense, and Abby [Detering] did a nice job moving the ball around and getting a few kills at the net."

A loss at Rec Hall was not what the Nittany Lions were looking for, but they're using it as a stepping stone to see what they need to work on for their upcoming matches.

"Obviously, it's not a good feeling to lose, especially on home court in front of all the people that support us for many years," Lee said. "I think what we need to do is, it's not about talking about it anymore...it's go time. Coach always talks about it. It's our decision when we step into the court for practice about whether or not we're going to go to the ball, going to take big swings, going to be there for our teammates or going to play together. It's time, and that's what we need to do. It's a terrible feeling to lose. It's a terrible feeling to lose at home, and I don't think anyone wants to experience that again."

Penn State is back in action next week, traveling to Boulder, Colorado for a pair of tough Pac-12 matchups. The Nittany Lions meet Colorado first before taking on No. 11 Stanford in the final match of the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge.

 
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