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Lions Building on Depth Looking Toward Fall

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State's 2017 spring season officially came to a close Saturday afternoon, as the Nittany Lions hosted their annual Blue-White game in Beaver Stadium.

In front of an estimated 71,000 fans, Penn State put an exclamation point at the end of a successful spring season with a culminating event that showcased a little bit of everything when it comes to meeting offseason expectations. 

"I think we really accomplished our goals," head coach James Franklin said. "We were able to develop a lot of depth, get some reps for some guys that maybe normally don't get reps."

Looking back to just a day over a month ago, it was Franklin who noted this year's spring objectives were mostly focused on getting back to the basics, giving 100 percent effort and creating one of the most competitive environments around - just to name a few. 

An unprecedented level of competition has certainly been the case through the 15-session spring game, spanning March 21 to April. Fueled by the confidence of a highly successful and historic 2016 season, it's a welcome atmosphere to continue to cultivate for the Nittany Lions, who are now in position to continue developing depth and building on a foundation that has already showed its solid shape.

Penn State showcased some of its promising depth Saturday, with a few Nittany Lion stepping forward to display some of their most recent progress.

Sophomore Tommy Stevens threw for 216 yards with 17 completions and a trio of touchdowns, even finding wide receiver DeAndre Thompkins for a 50-yard grab. 

"Ultimately, it's just fun to come out and put on a show for the fans," Stevens said. "The best part of my day was just coming out and working hard with some of my best friends and I had a good time."

When it comes to Stevens though, his playmaking ability and positive approach isn't something that has caught the Nittany Lion staff by surprise this year.

"To be honest with you, not a whole lot different, he just keeps getting better," Franklin said. "We saw these things last summer, this is why it was a true quarterback competition." 

For Franklin though, there's still work to be done at the quarterback position when it comes to creating even more depth with exciting possibilities from Stevens and the already proven success from starter Trace McSorley.

"We have to create more competition," Franklin said. "I think we have two quarterbacks that we can win with, and I think you have to have that. I think that you need to have three. That is no disrespect to the guys that we have. Jake Zembiec, Michael Shuster and Billy Fessler are doing nice jobs developing. We have some guys coming in, but I do not think any of those guys are ready for prime time yet. They have a lot of work to do."

Taking a similar approach to preparing as if your number could be called at any moment this spring is sophomore Juwan Johnson. From teammates to coaches, there was simply no denying the type of spring season Johnson has put together, often picked as the top breakout guy this offseason. 

"He's showing that he can play at the highest level and he's doing a great job - and lucky for me, he's one of my best friends and he's an even better person than he is a football player so I'm glad to have that guy on my team," Stevens said. 

For Johnson, the spring success is clearly welcome and earned, but that doesn't mean the work is over. 

"I still have a lot of things to work on," Johnson said. "Whether it's route running or just catching the ball, I still have a lot of things to work on to get this offense going. I can be proud of what I did this spring, but I still have a lot to work on."

On the opposite side of the ball, Penn State has made significant progress this spring in replacing veteran defensive ends in Garrett Sickels and Evan Schwan.

Among those stepping up, Shareef Miller highlighted team Blue with four stops, adding 3.0 tackles for loss and a team-high 2.0 sacks. Miller joined veteran Torrence Brown, who played in all 14 games last year with four starts. Brown also added one of five sacks coming from the Blue squad.

"There is a good group of guys at that position that are competing and battling, so I'm encouraged by the competition and depth we can have there," defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Brent Pry said. "We still have some work to do to find two guys who can equal the production that Schwan and Sickels had - that [Carl] Nassib and Sickels had last year and even back to C.J. Aloniyan and Deon Barnes before that. Torrence Brown is a veteran guy that we're very excited about."

Among the linebackers, Penn State saw sophomore Jarvis Miller make the move from safety this spring, following along a similar path as junior Koa Farmer, who has made significant strides settling in at the Sam position since he made the move last year.

Miller finished tied for first on the squad with seven stops, including one would-be sack, as the Nittany Lions did not actually bring down quarterbacks. Miller though, was quick to credit Farmer for helping him through a few of the nuances of the transition. 

"We're both fast and the thing about playing linebacker, you have to be physical all the time so being in that physical mindset and just learning how to be a linebacker, because I've never played linebacker before and he didn't either so when I made the flip he just gave me little tips and things to help me out," Miller said.

With spring ball now complete, the work has merely just begun for the Nittany Lions. Drawing from the entire slate of practices, Franklin and the staff will get right to work distributing feedback as the team sets its sights on summer conditioning with training camp looming in the distance.

Regardless of comfort or increasing competition and confidence though, Franklin still noted that he'll remain consistent in his approach to demanding 100 percent effort even long after spring ball, with a clean slate awaiting.

"For us, the way you do not worry about complacency is - this 2017 team has not achieved anything," Franklin said. "This James Franklin has not achieved anything, Saquon Barkley hasn't achieved anything. Those things are in the past. What are we going to do in the present, and what are we going to do moving forward to be the type of program we want to be. I am fired up right now. I am excited."

Reach Arielle at or follow on Twitter @arielle_sargent

VIDEO: Postgame Blue-White (Nittany Lions)

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State Football officially wrapped up the 2017 spring season with its annual Blue-White game in Beaver Stadium Saturday with the Blue squad coming away with a 26-0 win. 

Catch up with a few Nittany Lions following the game for a few takeaways from the spring ball finale. 

VIDEO: James Franklin Postgame (Blue-White)

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State Football officially wrapped up the 2017 spring season with its annual Blue-White game in Beaver Stadium Saturday with the Blue squad coming away with a 26-0 win. 

Catch up with Nittany Lion head coach James Franklin following the game for his takeaways from the spring ball finale. 

Fan Fest Extra

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Blue-White weekend has finally arrived in Happy Valley. In the culmination of a productive spring season, the Nittany Lions return to Beaver Stadium to officially wrap up spring ball. 

Catch up on all things #PSUBlueWhite all afternoon long with a closer look at a few spring game events you might have missed. 

Catching up with Spice!
Former Nittany Lion All-American defensive lineman and NFL veteran Anthony "Spice" Adams, took a brief moment from his Big Ten Network sideline responsibilities for a quick catch up session. Adams reflected on his Blue-White days, while also detailing some of his participation in the competitive festivities as he also joined the halftime contest.

Halftime Media Kicking Contest
Earlier this week, head coach James Franklin challenged the Nittany Lion beat media members to a friendly competition on the field at halftime fielding punts. Forever Radio's Thomas Frank Carr took home the honors, fielding the most punts from the media contingent. 

#HappyValleyHeisman Photo Booth
Penn State relocated its Heisman Trophy (John Cappelletti, 1973) to the concourse at Beaver Stadium for fans to interact and share their favorite Heisman pose in a free photo booth. 

#PSUBlueWhite Autograph Session
The ever-popular Penn State Football autograph session returned to the stadium gates at  Beaver Stadium for another season with fans treated to a free autograph session. The Nittany Lions spread out across five different gates to greet fans for autographs.

One family jumped in line bright and early for a guaranteed autograph from a few of their favorite Nittany Lions. 

Nittany Lion Team Arrival
Just like the regular season, fans lined the outside of the Beaver Stadium tunnel to greet the team as they arrived for gameday. 

My Hero Zero Highlights Fan Fest
Local band My Hero Zero highlighted Penn State's Blue-White Fan Fest, playing for fans outside of the Bryce Jordan Center ticket office, kicking off the afternoon events before team arrival. 

2017 Blue-White Gameday

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Blue-White Central I Parking Information & Map I Blue Roster I White Roster I Spring Practice Central

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State Football is set to punctuate a competitive spring season with its annual Blue-White Game Saturday. In the culmination a 15-practice schedule, the Nittany Lions welcome alumni, fans, family and friends back to Beaver Stadium for a spring ball finale at 3 p.m. with live coverage on the Big Ten Network. 

On the heels of historic season, Penn State reenergized its momentum in winter conditioning, channeling an unprecedented level of energy into a productive spring season. As Penn State head coach James Franklin noted earlier this week, the annual spring game will now bring one final look at the progress and development for the Nittany Lion staff before training camp arrives. 

"There are going to be some young guys who are going into that stadium and there's going to be some experience that's going to help them," Franklin said. 

Confidence has also been key throughout the spring season, with the motivating results of a successful season under the guidance of defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Brent Pry and offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Joe Moorhead, who's new scheme helped guide the Nittany Lions to a Big Ten Championship and its fourth Rose Bowl Game appearance in program history.

"As a group, we look a lot more confident and you can tell really just across the board, how much more comfortable we are and how we've been able take what we installed last spring, grow it in fall camp and through last season and then refine it coming into this spring," quarterback Trace McSorley said.

Much like the offensive side of the ball, the Nittany Lion defense has also continued to reload with younger Nittany Lions seizing opportunities to step up and make an impact.

"You have guys on the first, second, third, fourth string defense who can all really play and you can see that they're going to be really good players and that's the biggest thing," linebacker Jason Cabinda said. "It's all about executing when it comes down to the fall but guys are working to get their techniques better and you can see we're taking this time to really improve and each day we're making sure that we're getting a bit better every day." 

For Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and Running Back of the Year Saquon Barkley the success of spring ball only adds to the anticipation of what's to come.

"We had a successful season so I think these competitive practices with offense and defense, it's not just one sided when you're both going at it," Barkley said. "You truly get the experience of competing against each other and getting better as a team. I'm really excited to see how that translates to camp and how it translates to the season." 

The work doesn't end for the Nittany Lions at the conclusion of the spring season. Finals are looming and then it's right back at it with summer strength conditioning. For now, it's all about finishing spring ball on a high note, welcoming back the Nittany Lion community for a fan-centered afternoon in game-like conditions in Beaver Stadium. 

"We just want to go out, stay injury free, have fun and put on a good show for our fans," running back Andre Robinson said.

Blue-White Format
Penn State's Blue-White game features the Nittany Lion roster split into two teams (blue and white) with quarterbacks wearing the opposite jersey color of their team. With regular scoring, all four quarters will be 11 minutes in length with a running clock, and the final 2:00 of each half at game timing. Stoppages will occur for penalties and change of possession. Each team will have two timeouts per half at 45 seconds each, with an additional 1:30 timeout at the first change of possession after the 6-minute mark in each quarter. There will also be a 2:30 break at the end of the first and third quarters.

Autograph Session Returns
The ever-popular Penn State Football autograph session will return to the stadium gates at Beaver Stadium for another season, running from 12:15 to 1:05 p.m.

Fans may visit as many as five different gates with one item per person permitted. Team posters will also be available at the following gates. Stadium gates A,B,C, and E will officially open at 1:30 p.m. for fans to enter.


Halftime Kicking Contest
Earlier this week, Franklin invited members of the media covering the Nittany Lions to participate in fielding a few Penn State punts prior to kickoff. Select members of the media who signed up to participate in the challenge will all take to the field at Beaver Stadium for a unique opportunity to catch a punt from a Nittany Lion.

Reach Arielle at or follow on Twitter @arielle_sargent

Spring Football Top Performers: Safeties

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RELATED: 2017 Spring Practice Central

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Its the final week before Penn State returns to Beaver Stadium for its annual Blue-White game. Just a few days separate the Nittany Lions from the culmination of the spring season.

Ahead of Saturday's spring ball finale, take one last look at who's exceeding expectations from the Penn State staff.

For co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Tim Banks, all of the Nittany Lion safeties have put together good spring campaigns.

Among the unit, Banks was quick to point out returning junior Nick Scott, who played in 13 games last year mostly on coverage units, while also making a few returns. 

"Nick had a really good winter and he has really picked it up in the spring," Banks said. "He has done a great job taking ownership of our defense, communicating well, he has been physical."

Scott was also named one of three team captains this year, serving as the Nittany Lion special teams captain.

"I think he understands that now he can be even more vocal," Banks said. "He's a passionate kid, he always has great energy, and I think he understands it's a tremendous honor to be named a captain and he has taken it and run with it."

Banks' other picks for those who have stepped forward include former corner Garrett Taylor, who has made the move to safety, as well as veteran Troy Apke.

"Troy Apke has obviously played a lot of football around here, but he's now starting to play at a high level."

Five Takeaways from Spring Practice Media

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RELATED: 2017 Spring Practice Central

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Just a few days before Blue-White kickoff, head coach James Franklin along with punter Blake Gillikin and running back Andre Robinson all met with the media to preview the upcoming weekend. Through 13 practices, the Nittany Lions have nearly reached the end of the spring session, which culminates Saturday afternoon in Beaver Stadium.

Measuring Spring Game Success -
With the annual Blue-White game quickly approaching, Franklin and the staff aren't necessarily focused on measuring success from just what happens Saturday afternoon. Rather, the truly gauging improvement comes within the results of the entire body of work that is spring practice.

"It's more about what they have been able to do over the 13 practices and the film that we've been able to watch," Franklin said. "I'll have all the coaches grade this just like a game, they'll be going on the road recruiting, but I'd like for them to kind of get that done so we have it."

Looking further ahead, coaches will set up individual meetings to address which areas different guys have improved and which areas will be targeted for more work in the time between Sunday and training camp. 

Robinson Right On Track -
When asked about his progress toward reaching his spring ball goals, Robinson noted that he's right on track when it comes to meeting those goals, settling into the offense with increasing confidence. Before each practice, running backs coach Charles Huff has his unit write down two or three goals going in to practice to go back and watch after practice.

"I think that's helpful," Robinson said. "Thinking about that during practice and then going back over and being honest with yourself after practice and how you did."

Brown Maturing -
Franklin mentioned that linebacker Cam Brown has also made progress, noting his spring ball performance only benefited from his work in the weight room during winter condition, leaving an opportunity to come training camp. 

"I do think that he has an opportunity now to go back and watch the film, take some of the comments from the coaches and be able to make a big jump and put it all together now," Franklin said. "He gained experience on the field last year probably before he was ready and then he was able to have a great offseason for the first time and then come out here this spring, still gain some experience and then kind of put it all together in fall camp, which is really the next step for him."

Gillikin's Goals -
Following a successful true freshman season in the Blue and White earning true freshman All-America honors with a record-setting 42.8 yards per punt. Among all the success though, Gillikin is still focused on continued improvement in the offseason headed toward the fall. in 

"I think something I want to pride myself on this season is location of my punts," Gillikin said.  "Especially with all of the good punt returners we play, I think location helps limit the return and kind of helps our coverage guys to know where its going to be and make the best play they can." 

Franklin Challenges Media Members -
To pair with spring game festivities, Franklin issued a bit of a challenge to the Nittany Lion media contingent in attendance Wednesday evening. Franklin invited members of the media to head down to the field to partake in a few fun challenges, catching punts and kicks in front of the Beaver Stadium crowd. 

Barkley Building on Work Ethic

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RELATED: 2017 Spring Practice Central

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - To this day Saquon Barkley still watches the tape from the Rose Bowl game. Soon after returning home from Pasadena, California, the time he spent home with friends and family away from Happy Valley brought time for Barkley to reflect, to move past the sting of the heart wrenching loss, but never forget.

While the bitter end of the historic season is still imprinted into the minds of the Nittany Lions, its now taken on a new shape, working to fuel the motivation that's driving the future, evident right now in spring practice.

"The motivation that we have is in ourselves because of the standard that we have as a program, and the confidence that we have in each other," Barkley said. "We believe in what we can accomplish." 

For Barkley, part of the internal process to reaching the type of player you ultimately want to be, begins with watching some things you might not be good at. Pouring over clip after clip of the Rose Bowl game to go back and learn from mistakes is all part of the motivation.

"I just take that to my work," Barkley said. "Keeping that in the back of my head, like alright, third-and-1 you didn't get that, maybe this rep in the weight room is the reason why you can get that. You have to go hard on this rep or that set, push yourself a little bit in running, push yourself in practice. Whether you're taking 90 reps or one rep, try to be a leader, try to be focused and locked in so when situational football comes up that has happened in the past, you're preparing yourself for it."

It's a truly humble approach for someone who climbed through the Nittany Lion record books at a staggering pace last year, often painting headlines with eye-popping plays that left defenses dumbfounded, with even a hurdle or two mixed in.

Setting the sophomore single season record, he rushed for 1,496 yards, adding on another record-setting 402 receiving yards by a running back, also in just a single season.

The postseason awards piled up for Barkley, who earned both Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and Running Back of the Year honors last year, as one of just 17 running backs to win Offensive Player of the Year honors in Big Ten history. 

When asked about his conference honors though, Barkley was quick to direct the credit to his offensive line, just another honest reflection of how he has managed success with poise and maturity, just two seasons into his career in the Blue and White.


On the brink of his junior season, Barkley isn't finished with his pursuit, rather focused on embracing a mindset that he set back in his junior year of high school.

"I went through my high school record book and I saw all the records and I said, when I leave here, I want to leave my legacy," Barkley said. "Everywhere you go you want to leave your legacy, and here, I want to leave my legacy. I want to be known as one of the best players to ever play at Penn State."

It isn't all about the records for Barkley, who noted that leaving behind his legacy isn't going to happen just by having his impressive numbers printed in a record book.

"It's going to happen by my work ethic, by continuing to try to grow as a person, to be a better person every day," Barkley said. "Whether it's in football, whether it's someone outside asking for a picture, it's the little things. Being a great teammate, pushing my guys, being there and being supportive of them but also being critical of them."

There's an old saying that part of being great is making others around you better. For Barkley, part of making those immediately surrounding him in the running back room better, is showing up.

"I challenge the running backs by competing," Barkley said. "That's one of our core values and that's one of the things that I bring to this room and that we all bring to this room, that we compete against each other. By us competing, it brings out the best in us and we're really critical of each other."

Outside of the more physical aspects of competing, Barkley's role has shifted a bit in spring ball, now with added responsibility to guide others based on his own success and experiences.

Whether its extra work with younger guys or simply showing the ropes to a few new faces in the room, Barkley noted that in order to reach the highest level in 2017, its on the players to take on the leadership and cultural role to bring out the best in each other.

"I think I've grown in that role just talking to the guys and saying hey, you could try this or try this and see how it works out or this blitz helps give it away," Barkley said.

That type of leadership isn't just paying off for the rest of the guys lining up for each rep in spring practice though.

"Even though I'm not taking those physical reps, I'm taking mentally reps every single time," Barkley said. "Being locked in, I'm seeing stuff that I probably would not have seen and I'm growing, getting better as a player."

As spring ball steadily approaches an end, there's no doubt in Barkley's mind that the level of competition is unlike that of last year's.

Among the things that excite him the most though, his first is of course, the offensive line.

"Just when the play just works perfect," Barkley said. "JoeMo calls it right, the offensive line blocks it right, Trace [McSorley] makes the right read and the running back makes the right read, it makes me really excited."

Perhaps what's most exciting for Barkley as he looks toward what's in the future though, is truly the progress the team has made competing against each other, returners included.

"The way we are handling it right now, obviously anything can change, but nobody has a big head right now," Barkley said. "Nobody thinks they are above the team or above anyone. We all see each other as equal and we all compete and try to get each other better. We all have one goal in mind. That goal is to compete at the standard."

Reach Arielle at or follow on Twitter @arielle_sargent

Best of Spring Ball

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Spring Football Top Performers: Cornerbacks

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RELATED: 2017 Spring Practice Central

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As week four of Penn State spring practice winds down, the Nittany Lions will cap off the final week before Blue-White weekend with a practice inside Beaver Stadium.

As the Nittany Lions draw closer to the end of the spring schedule, continue catching up with the Penn State staff for a closer look at who's exceeding expectations.

For assistant head coach Terry Smith, his group of Nittany Lion cornerbacks are led by a pair of veteran returners in Grant Haley and Christian Campbell.

"Both of those guys have played a lot of football for us and we consider both of those guys returning starters, they are having great springs and getting better," Smith said.

Smith noted that both Haley and Campbell are both putting together strong spring campaigns, as returning starters only building their experience from a year ago.  Earlier this week, Nittany Lion head coach James Franklin noted that Campbell is in the midst of his best offseason ever, mentioning he'll be getting a few more reps come fall.

A steady and oftentimes clutch contributor for the Nittany Lions, Haley made headlines when he became the first player in school history to return a blocked field goal for a touchdown in a dramatic victory against Ohio State, going the distance for a 60-yard score off a Marcus Allen block.

Mid-year enrollee Lamont Wade is another Nittany Lion, who Smith said has jumped on the scene since arriving in Happy Valley just about three months ago.

Adding to his top performers, Smith also highlighted Amani Oruwariye, a returning upperclassman who played in 11 games last year. Oruwariye made 23 stops last season, while also recording his first career interception against Kent State, returning it 30 yards for the Nittany Lion touchdown.

"We have four guys I'm feeling really good and positive about who are having great spring balls so far," Smith said.


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