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Training Camp Breakdown: Offensive Line

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Week three of training camp is winding down, with Penn State capping off the weekend holding its annual team photo day Sunday afternoon at Beaver Stadium.

Ahead of the official start of the 2017 season, continue checking in at each position for a closer look at who's back and who's new to the Nittany Lion roster. 

Who's Back:
- Andrew Nelson (GS/Sr.)                  - Zach Simpson (Jr./So.)
- Steven Gonzalez (Jr./So.)               - Brendan Mahon (RS-Sr./Sr.)
- Charlie Shuman (Sr./Sr.)                  - Connor McGovern (So./So.)
- Sterling Jenkins (Jr./So.)                  - Hunter Kelly (So./Fr.)
- Chasz Wright (Sr./Jr.)                      - Alex Gellerstedt (So./Fr.)
- Michal Menet (So./Fr.)                      - Will Fries (So./Fr.)
- Ryan Bates (Jr./So.) 

- Crae McCracken (Fr./Fr., 6-2/301, Williamsport, Pa./Loyalsock Township), Mike Miranda (Fr./Fr., 6-3/291, Stow, Ohio/Stow-Munroe), C.J. Thorpe (Fr./Fr., 6-3/314, Glenshaw, Pa./Central Catholic), Des Holmes (Fr./Fr., 6-5/325, Norristown, Pa./Cardinal O'Hara), Robbie Martin (Fr./Fr., 6-4/280, Sparta, N.J./Saint Joseph Regional). 

- Brian Gaia, Wendy Laurent, Tom Devenney, Adam De Boef, Noah Beh, Brendan Brosnan, Paris Palmer. 

What To Watch For:
It's no surprise that Penn State's offensive line is trending upward and much improved, shaped by the leadership of second-year offensive line coach Matt Limegrover with an added boost from a full complement of scholarships available to the Nittany Lions.

"Two things that stand out to me with the offensive line is the physicality," defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Brent Pry said on media day. "We've got pretty good front guys that are lining up toe to toe daily with those guys. Even going back to spring, just the movement and size and power and working together, it's hard to find a weakness."


Even with steady improvement, there's still much to settle in training camp, with Penn State putting out seven different starting combinations in 2016. The common denominator amongst the group was of course veteran center Brian Gaia, who the Nittany Lions lost to graduation. 

By spring ball though, head coach James Franklin noted that among a bunch of changes, Penn State would move sophomore Connor McGovern to center. One of five true freshmen to start in 2016, McGovern made nine starts on the offensive line at right guard, before moving to center, where he'll have the entire offseason to continue building not only physical experience, but mental experience too with added leadership responsibilities coming with the position.

Among the veteran leaders in the room, Penn State has maturity and experience in Brendan Mahon and Andrew Nelson at left and right tackle. With 29 career starts, Mahon has the most experience, but was sidelined with an injury, along with Nelson, who missed eight games but has 27 career starts for the Nittany Lions. Working back to 100 percent, Franklin mentioned on media day that he was pleased with their progress.

"They've looked good," Franklin said. "I think when you've got seniors - redshirt seniors - that have played a lot of football, they've got a lot of maturity, so if you're going to have a guy that maybe is a little limited in terms of - they're not limited anywhere physically - their reps, they're probably guys who could handle that situation the best, and they've done a good job with it."

Like any position, injuries to the offensive line last year will only pay dividends this season, with depth now an option even as redshirt Nittany Lions join the mix. 

"Last year they were the unsung heroes of what we did," special teams coordinator and running backs coach Charles Huff said on media day. "Building on that, they have a lot more confidence. Some of those guys are back. They're challenging the younger guys. The younger guys that redshirted last year are taking bigger roles. We've probably seen a lot of growth from those redshirt guys that are really impressive."

In his redshirt freshman season, Ryan Bates joined Gaia as the only two offensive linemen to start every game last year, even making the move from left guard to tackle late in the season. With versatility to play guard, tackle or center, Bates was among Limegrover's top performers from spring ball.

With Bates' move to tackle, Steven Gonzalez made three starts at left guard, playing in 11 games during his redshirt freshman season. Chasz Wright also started all 14 games of his sophomore season last year, starting the final five games of the season at right tackle.

Adding into the mix for the offensive line rotation this year is redshirt Will Fries and Sterling Jenkins, both who Limegrover noted in spring ball as a pair making strides. 


Among the newcomers, both Limegrover and Franklin were pleased with early enrollee Mike Miranda, who also made significant strides in the weight room as noted by Assistant Athletics Director for Performance Enhancement, Dwight Galt at Penn State's annual Lift for Life event. Taking reps with the ones in spring ball per Franklin, Miranda was also a pleasant surprise for Limegrover. At six-foot-three and 291 pounds, the Stow, Ohio native helped Stow-Munroe Falls to a 10-2 record and a state playoff appearance as a senior, ranked as high as the No. 6 player in Ohio by Scout.

Training Camp Breakdown: Cornerbacks

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Week three of training camp is approaching an end, with a mere two weeks until Penn State's season-opener nearly on the horizon.

Ahead of the 2017 season, continue checking in at each position for a closer look at who's back and who's new to the Nittany Lion roster.

Who's Back:
- Desi Davis (Sr./Jr.)
- Grant Haley (Sr./Sr.)
- Troy Shorts (Jr./So.)
- John Reid (Jr./Jr.)
- Zech McPhearson (So./Fr.)
- Amani Oruwariye (Sr./Jr.)
- TJ Johnson (So./Fr.)                         
- Christian Campbell (Sr./Sr.)
- Jabari Butler (Jr./Jr.) 

- Lamont Wade (Fr./Fr., 5-9/196, Clairton, Pa./Clairton), Donovan Johnson (Fr./Fr., 5-9/175, Detroit, Michigan/Cass Tech), DJ Brown (Fr./Fr., 5-10175, College Park, Ga./Creekside), Tariq Castro-Fields (Fr./Fr., 6-0/185, Upper Marlboro, Md., Riverdale Baptist School)

- Kyle Alston, Jordan Smith 

What To Watch For:
The Nittany Lions have clear leaders at the corner position in returning veterans Grant Haley and Christian Campbell. With 22 career starts, Haley returns for his final season in the Blue and White, poised to build on a 2016 season where he was largely responsible for a pair of the most defining plays of the year. 


"We have a great group of guys coming back on offense, defense and special teams as well," Haley said. "You can just tell, the leadership and the confidence of this unit and this group, from the first camp that I was a part of to this camp, you can tell how excited everyone is about the competition that we have a practice." 

Alongside Haley, Campbell is coming off of what Franklin called his best offseason ever during spring ball, also adding nearly 15 pounds to his frame headed into his final season. Campbell played in 12 games last year, starting in two outings. He highlighted the season with his second career interception in the win at Purdue before recovering his first career fumble off of a muffed punt at Indiana.

On media day, Franklin noted that he and the staff had seen exciting offseason improvement from Zech McPhearson, as well added maturity, size and length from veteran Amani Oruwariye.


Oruwariye kicked off his 2016 campaign with his first career interception against Kent State, returning it 30 yards for the first interception returned for a touchdown since 2014, a milestone met by Haley against Temple.

Penn State also has added excitement among its newcomers, with Lamont Wade and Tariq Castro-Fields both garnering some significant training camp buzz.

"Tariq Castro-Fields is probably a guy that there's as much buzz about as any of the newcomers right now," defensive coordinator Brent Pry said at media day. "He's a guy that, of the freshmen, I think right away is kind of making an argument that he's going to factor in."

Castro-Fields and McPhearson were also teammates at Riverdale Baptist, with McPhearson coming off of a redshirt season.

An early enrollee, Wade made significant strides in the weight room, as noted by Penn State Assistant Athletics Director for Performance Enhancement, Dwight Galt in the spring season.

Training Camp Report: Week 3

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State Football has reached the midpoint of the third week of training camp, hosting its second Wednesday media availability at the Lasch Building.

Catch up with defensive line coach Sean Spencer, running back Saquon Barkley and linebacker Koa Farmer for a closer look at what's new in training camp.

Camp Competition At All-Time High
Consensus across Farmer, Barkley and Spencer, the level of competition is the highest it has ever been under the direction of head coach James Franklin.

"This is the most competition that we've had per position throughout my four years, going on my fourth year now, and I think that in itself makes it a lot easier to coach because a guy knows that if he doesn't have positive reps that there's a guy right behind him," Spencer said.

For Farmer, part of where he has seen the competition in full force is during team periods, which are often wire-to-wire on the last play.

"I think that's what we need as a team, to be more competitive and that's what it is," Farmer said.

Barkley on Sanders
Barkley and true sophomore Miles Sanders are now roommates and for Barkley, he thinks Sanders has made a big jump in his development from year one to year two. 

"You can obviously kind of see that with freshmen to their sophomore year," Barkley said. "Not only him but just the running back group in general, coach Huff does a really of making us focus on the little things, understanding the defense and not just being a good back or making that guy miss or making the right cut, but understanding the whole offense as a whole or the whole defense as a whole. You can see the difference from last year, his blitz odds are so much better. Last year he didn't know what was going on and now he's calling them out, he's communicating, over communicating, stepping up and making the right plays."

D-Line Standouts
Along the defensive line Spencer noted he's especially excited about the progress he has seen from Parker Cothren and Curtis Cothran, also naming Shaka Toney and Shane Simmons in addition to Shareef Miller. As a newcomer, Yetur Gross-Matos is perhaps one of the most talented Nittany Lions Spencer has seen come through, but he's still got work to do of course. 

"He's just physically gifted, you look at him walk off the field and you think he's a redshirt junior," Spencer said. "He's six-five, 250 pounds and he looks like a Greek God when he walks off the field. But he's still young."

Farmer Settled In
This time last year, Farmer was in a bit of different situation in training camp. Finding success at linebacker for the Nittany Lions in 2016 only fueled his motivation, as he noted this year he's taking much more of a professional approach to his preparation, not to mention balancing adding strength without sacrificing speed. 

"I'm really watching film, I'm really understanding why we run these coverages," Farmer said. "I'm more comfortable in the box, that was a big thing."

Training Camp Breakdown: Running Backs

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Week three of training camp is well underway, with the Nittany Lions gearing up for the home opener at Beaver Stadium, which is now less than 20 days away.

Ahead of the 2017 season, continue checking in at each position for a closer look at who's back and who's new to the Nittany Lion roster. 

Who's Back:
- Mark Allen (Sr./Jr.)
- Nick Eury (So./Fr.)
- Saquon Barkley (Jr./Jr.)
- Miles Sanders (So./So.)
- Andre Robinson (Jr./So.)
- Johnathan Thomas (Sr./Jr.)
Josh McPhearson (RS-Sr./Sr.) 

- Journey Brown (Fr./Fr., 5-11/194, Meadville, Pa./Meadville).

- Irvine Paye 

What To Watch For:
On media day it was special teams coordinator and running backs coach Charles Huff who detailed that part of developing means coming up with a plan. For consistency, it's a plan that hits on all the essentials, what's the group's identity, where does it want to go and what does it want to accomplish.

Holding the unit to the standards in the plan is of course among Huff's responsibilities, but more so, it's strengthened by the challenge from its leader, Saquon Barkley, who among so many tremendous talents, is often at his best when making those around him better.

From eye-popping athleticism to flat out freaky strength, there's no denying that Barkley is a truly special talent. Smashing records in his freshman and sophomore season on campus, Barkley is just the eighth Nittany Lion in program history with multiple 1,000-yard seasons, ranked 12th on the career rushing yards list (2,572).

Both the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and the Big Ten Running Back of the Year, Barkley has rewritten the record books and stunned audiences along the way, showcasing pure speed and tenacity.

Around the Lasch Building though, when Barkley's name comes up it's often in reference to what type of character he has off the field. During Penn State's poster distribution this, it was Barkley who made it no more than 10 feet off the bus to greet every single fan from Burrows to Hiester, happily signing posters along the way.

"That character I would say comes from my family," Barkley said. "My mother and father did a tremendous job raising me and my brother and sisters."

Like any great player though, Barkley is continually working on his game, spending the offseason dedicated to gaining a better understanding of the game, especially as it relates to defense.

"The one thing people may or may not realize, is that he's still young," Huff said. "So the game of football to him, he's still learning the game of football - what defenses do, what defensive looks, what are defensive tendencies, can I get some pre-snap tips and keys on what may happen when he gets the ball, if he's going to get the ball and how to see things happen before they happen."

As Huff also noted though within in the room, there are no backups. Alongside Barkley, Penn State returns several Nittany Lions with promising experience.

"When you're in the game, you're the starting running back," Huff said. "Whoever runs out there first is luck of the draw and that's the kind of mentality we've got to have because if you take a backup mentality, you're not going to prepare to be the starter, and then when you're the starter, you won't be ready for your opportunity."

Robinson played in 12 games in his redshirt freshman season, totaling six touchdowns, including five rushing and one receiving. He highlighted the year with a career-showing in the win against Michigan State, rushing for 32 yards and a touchdown, also catching a career-high 40-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.


"Andre Robinson is a great example of that who goes out every day and prepares for his opportunity," Huff said on media day. "Is it 10 carries, 20 carries, or one carry? Who knows? Who knows when it may be all 20? Or who knows when it may not be any? But he's done a really good job of preparing every single day and not letting the circumstances dictate his behavior."

As a true freshman, Sanders also for the Nittany Lions, playing in 13 games. As one of five true freshmen to see the field in 2016, he set the single-season record with 33 kick returns in 2016. Outside of kickoffs, Sanders caught his first career touchdown pass in the third quarter on the road at Purdue, on a 21-yard catch-and-run.

New to the group, Penn State added Journey Brown on signing day, before welcoming the freshman from Meadville. Outside of leading Meadville to the PIAA 5A State Quarterfinals in 2016, Brown brings impressive speed to the Nittany Lion roster, having captured his second consecutive 100-meter outdoor PIAA Class AA State Championship with a record-setting 10.43 seconds to break a record originally set by Olympian Leroy Burrell in 1985.

"Obviously, with Journey being a younger guy and he's still learning," Huff said. "He's still learning where to go, how to go, and how to practice. It's all new to him. But like Saquon tells all of us, we're not going to baby you along. You're going to learn the way we did, the hard way. We learn faster like that, with a little bit of pressure on us. And Saquon does a good job of it. He does a good job with the team as well, with holding the team and his teammates to a standard."

Training Camp Breakdown: Linebackers

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Training camp continues to roll into the weekend for the Nittany Lions with practice No. 10 kicking off later this afternoon.

Ahead of the 2017 season, continue checking in at each position for a closer look at who's back and who's new to the Nittany Lion roster. 

Who's Back:
- Brandon Smith (RS Sr./Sr.)
- Joe DuMond (So./So.)
- Manny Bowen (Jr./Jr.)
- Jason Vranic (Sr./Sr.)
- Jason Cabinda (Sr./Sr.)
- Koa Farmer (Sr./Jr.)
- Jarvis Miller (Jr./So.)
- Frank Di Leo (Jr./So.)
- Jan Johnson (Jr./So.)
- Cam Brown (So./So.)
- Jake Cooper (Jr./Jr.) 

- Ellis Brooks, (Fr./Fr., 6-1/220, Mechanicsville, Va./Benedictine College Prep), Brelin Faison-Walden (Fr./Fr., 6-1/212, Greensboro, N.C./Grimsley), Brailyn Franklin (Fr./Fr., 6-2/204, Arlington, Texas/Battlefield-Va.).

- Brandon Bell, Von Walker, Nyeem Wartman-White. 

What To Watch For:
An uncanny amount of injuries to the unit last year proved to be perhaps a blessing, with the results of a bit of a forced next-man-up mentally yielding some invaluable experience. Of the 11 returning linebackers, all but two played in at least one game during the 2016 season. 

Among the most experienced in the group, it's the final season for Cabinda, who leads both the linebackers and the team this year, selected as one of three team captains. In his last year, Cabinda hopes to leave behind a legacy of leadership and for defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Brent Pry, Cabinda's poised to leave behind a lasting mark on the program.

Coming off a year that included third team All-Big Ten honors, Cabinda logged eight or more tackles in eight of the nine games he played, including a team-high 11 stops in the Rose Bowl Game, with seven solo. This offseason though, Cabinda keyed in on shaping his body, focusing on speed and lateral movement, finishing winter conditioning leading the linebackers with a 34" vertical jump, 4.15 in the pro agility a 520 squat and 370 in the power clean.

Perhaps no better example of the next-man-up mentality last year came from Brandon Smith, who stepped into the middle linebacker spot for two starts, playing in all 14 games. Smith highlighted the year with a career-high 14 tackles in the win against Maryland, including his first career interception in the first quarter. 

With the departure of Brandon Bell to the NFL, Penn State has experience in both Jake Cooper and Cam Brown, who made two starts a piece at the Sam linebacker spot in 2016. Cooper missed nearly the final nine games of the season after an injury, but played in six total games. Brown played in 12 games as a true freshman last year, most notably blocking his first career kick in the win against Ohio State, halting a Buckeye punt in the fourth quarter.

Brown added nearly 10 pounds to his frame in the offseason and tied for first on the team with seven tackles in the annual Blue-White game, with Pry praising his length and explosive ability at media day. 

"He's got a great skill set for a long guy, really good work ethic, tough kid," Pry said. "He's growing into the position. I don't know if he's a natural linebacker when he first got here, but he's growing into the position. I look for big things from Cam this fall. He's in heavy competition in the two-deep at linebacker."

Bowen also returns as a Nittany Lion with tremendous experience, playing in 13 games last year, including 12 starts at Will linebacker for the Nittany Lions. Bringing versatility, Bowen finished fifth on the team with 68 tackles, logging six or more tackles in six games. 


Both Jarvis Miller and Koa Farmer made the transition to linebacker for the Nittany Lions, playing in all 14 games, with Farmer earning a pair of starts. This spring, Pry mentioned that he was pleased with the progress that Farmer was making at Sam linebacker - and his excitement hasn't slowed.

"To me, he's what a lot of folks are looking for," Pry said at media day. "He's a hybrid type player that has a lot of DB qualities - I think his roots are there for sure, but he's growing as a linebacker. He's getting tougher. He's shedding blocks better. His tackling is getting better. He understands the play in the box, blocking schemes, things like that. He's really come a long way. I'm very excited about the season for Koa."

Training Camp Breakdown: Wide Receivers

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - More than five practices into its training camp schedule, Penn State Football takes to the field Thursday another day closer to completing its second week back in action.

Ahead of the 2017 season, continue checking in at each position for a closer look at who's back and who's new to the Nittany Lion roster. 

Who's Back:
- Saeed Blacknall (Sr./Sr.)                  - Brandon Polk (Jr./So.
- Isaac Lutz (So./Fr.)                          - Colton Maxwell (So./Fr.)
- Juwan Johnson (Jr./So.)                  - DaeSean Hamilton (GS/Sr.)
- Josh McPhearson (RS-Sr./Sr.)        - Dae'Lun Darien (So./Fr.)
- Tyler Shoop (Jr./So.)                        - Cody Hodgens (GS/Sr.)
- DeAndre Thompkins (Sr./Jr.)           - Irvin Charles (Jr./So.)          
- Christopher Welde (Jr./Jr.) 

- Mac Hippenhammer, (Fr./Fr., 5-11/175, Fort Wayne, Ind./R. Nelson Snider), Alex Hoenstine, (Fr./Fr., 6-1/175, East Freedom, Pa./Central), KJ Hamler, (Fr./Fr., 5-9/170, Pontiac, Mich./IMG Academy, Fla.), Cam Sullivan-Brown, (Fr./Fr., 6-0/182, Bowie, Md./Saint Vincent Pallotti), Justin Weller, (Fr./Fr., 6-0/187, Sinking Spring, Pa./Wilson).

- Gordon Bentley, Gregg Garrity, Chris Godwin.   

What To Watch For:
Penn State enters the 2017 looking to replace 2,000-yard receiver Chris Godwin, who departed for NFL as a third-round draft pick headed to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While Godwin's unique skill-set will be missed, the Nittany Lions have plenty of promising options returning. As head coach James Franklin noted in Chicago at Big Ten Media Days, the Nittany Lions won't look to rely on a single individual to replace Godwin's gritty work ethic and game-changing grabs. 

Even beyond Penn State's media day last week, there's certainly buzz surrounding returning veteran DaeSean Hamilton, who currently sits tied for fourth on Penn State's all-time receptions list with 161 catches for 1,985 yards. Adding nearly 15 pounds to his frame in the offseason, both teammates and coaches have praised his dedication to preparation.

"I think Hamilton right now is having as good of a camp, with all of those things, that I've seen before," Franklin said. "There are bigger guys, there are stronger guys, there are faster guys, but he is as polished and as productive as a wideout as I've been around in a camp setting. I think he's going to have a huge year for us."

Hamilton highlighted the 2016 season with his fifth career 100-yard game in Penn State's thrilling Big Ten Championship Game win against Wisconsin, totaling 118 yards on eight catches, which ranks second in Big Ten Championship game history.

Outside of Hamilton, Penn State has more experienced returners in Saeed Blacknall and DeAndre Thompkins. While Hamilton was responsible for nine passing plays of 20-yards or more last year, Thompkins and Blacknall were right behind with seven and six, respectively. Blacknall was also spectacular in the Big Ten Championship Game, hauling in a 40-yard touchdown in addition to a career-long 70-yard grab and score in the second half. Thompkins started in seven games last year, registering 440 yards on 27 catches.

Coming off a stellar spring season, Penn State's Juwan Johnson was the talk of spring ball, having played in all 14 games in 2016, mostly on special teams. Following the Blue-White Game, Tommy Stevens only echoed the spring ball message that Johnson was among the top performers.

"It's just another example of a guy that came to work every day prepared, like he was a starter and he's getting his opportunity to shine," Stevens said following Blue-White. "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."


Penn State also has experience in Irvin Charles, played in all 14 games last year on both offense and special teams. Charles, who sent the Beaver Stadium crowd into a frenzy with a game-changing 80-yard touchdown grab from Trace McSorley in his first career reception against Minnesota, owns both Penn State's longest passing play of the season and the longest passing touchdown of the year in 2016. 

The Nittany Lions could also see contributions from Brandon Polk, who played in the first three games of the year before an injury cut his season short. As one of four true freshmen to start in 2015, Polk played in 13 games, making three starts. Both Thompkins and Polk bring serious speed to the room, with Thompkins leading the wideouts with a 4.34 time in the 40-yard dash, which is tied for second on the team. 

Among the newcomers, Penn State added Hamler and Hippenhammer in its 2017 signing class. Hamler was a two-year letterwinner at Orchard Lake St. Mary's in Michigan, also alma mater of Nittany Lion great Allen Robinson, before spending 2016 at IMG Academy in Florida. Hippenhammer helped Snider High School to a league championship and an ISHAA regional title, finishing his high school senior season with 620 receiving yards, 350 rushing yards, 1,720 all-purpose yards and 18 touchdowns.

Training Camp Report: Week 2

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Training camp is rolling along with week two nearly in the books for the Nittany Lions. Wednesday evening, Penn State hosted the Big Ten Network at practice while also offering its first midweek media availability of the season, coming just days after media day in Beaver Stadium. 

Catch up with Penn State head coach James Franklin, passing game coordinator and tight ends coach Ricky Rahne as well as linebacker Jason Cabinda and tight end Mike Gesicki for a closer look at what's new in training camp. 

More Praise for Hamilton
Cabinda said he's poised to have a career year and Franklin said he's as polished and productive of a wideout as he has seen. That's DaeSean Hamilton who they are talking about, a veteran who is continuing to get high praise from his teammates and coaches throughout the offseason and extending well into training camp.

"He has had a spectacular camp," Cabinda said. "He's playing at a really high level right now. I'm really proud of him, he has worked his butt off, he's the hardest working receiver in that room so there's really no surprises." 

Intensity Rising
It's no secret that the Nittany Lions are in a tremendous place when it comes to team chemistry. When look back at training camps in years past, this year is different for All-Big Ten second team selection Mike Gesicki, especially as it relates to intensity and buy-in.

"When I was a freshman, it was there and it was coming from a lot of guys but it wasn't coming from everybody," Gesicki said. "The difference now is that it's coming from everybody, all 105 guys out here are completely bought in and out here to get better."

Turnovers, Turnovers, Turnovers ...
Franklin noted on media day that defensively there's a focus on creating turnovers in training camp this year, only echoing the message during the media session. 

"My thing is, if you run to the ball good things are going to happen," Franklin said. "Whether it's recovering a fumble, whether it's gang tackling, whether it's a tip-pass interception, if we can just run to the ball all 11 guys on the field take pride in how we do that." 

For Franklin, part of it involve showing the team clips on film, or "effort plays," from a variety of different levels of the game, highlighting extraordinary effort, things that standout immediate to the staff as an above-and-beyond approach. 

No. 3 Update
Franklin has mentioned that the Nittany Lions are looking to identify a third option at quarterback behind Trace McSorley and Tommy Stevens on more than one occasion this offseason. For Franklin, that type of quarterback competition is welcomed and encouraged, something he noted hasn't been the case recently, and specifically as it relates to the progress of redshirt freshman Jake Zembiec and true freshman Sean Clifford. 

"Zembiec has been here longer, he's more seasoned, he's more experienced and he's got a good feel but Clifford is battling," Franklin said. "Clifford has really attacked this thing all summer, he learns well, the game comes pretty easy to him."

Depth at Tight End
Tight ends coach Ricky Rahne offered an update on the depth at tight end alongside Gesicki. Check it out below.

Training Camp Breakdown: Defensive Line

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Week two of training camp is nearly halfway complete as the Nittany Lions take to the field Tuesday afternoon for practice.

Ahead of the 2017 season, continue checking in at each position for a closer look at who's back and who's new to the Nittany Lion roster.

Who's Back:
- Daniel Joseph, DE (So./Fr.)             - Ellison Jordan, DT (So./Fr.)
- Shareef Miller, DE (Jr./So.)              - Ryan Monk, DT (Jr./So.)
- Ryan Buchholz, DE (Jr./So.)            - Immanuel Iyke, DT (Jr./So.)
- Shane Simmons, DE (So./Fr.)          - Parker Cothren, DT (RS Sr./Sr.)
- Shaka Toney, DE (So./Fr.)              - Tyrell Chavis, DT (Sr./Sr.)
- Colin Castagna, DE (Jr./Jr.)             - Antonio Shelton, DT (So./Fr.)
- Torrence Brown, DE (Sr./Jr.)           - Robert Windsor, DT (Jr./So.)
- Kevin Givens, DT (Jr./So.)               - Curtis Cothran, DT (RS Sr./Sr.)

- Yetur Gross-Matos, DE (Fr./Fr., 6-5/242, Spotsylvania, Va./Chancellor), Fred Hansard, DT (Fr./Fr., 6-3/302/Burlington, N.J./The Hun School), Corey Bolds, DT (Fr./Fr., 6-3/285, Paterson, N.J./Paramus Catholic).

- Garrett Sickels, DE, Evan Schwan, DE, Antoine White, DT, Brenon Thrift, DT. 

What To Watch For:
With a pair of NFL departures in veterans Sickels and Schwan, Penn State is by no means in unfamiliar territory, poised to reload with a variety of promising potential up front. 

For defensive coordinator Brent Pry, replacing the production from a duo responsible for the most tackles for loss and sacks from a year ago comes down to development and recruiting. For head coach James Franklin, he's impressed with the offseason dedication.

"You go out to practice the first couple days and I'm kind of talking to Coach Galt, and I'm covering my mouth and saying, 'We look different,'" Franklin said. "Physically, we just look different."


The Nittany Lions return both leadership and experience at defensive tackle, with Cothran and Cothren setting the tone for the rest of the line - one that's clearly defined by toughness and maturity. Cothran closed out the year with eight starts, totaling 4.5 tackles for loss. Cothren started all 13 games, tallying 5.5 tackles for loss and two sacks, in addition to an All-Big Ten honorable mention selection.

Both Pry and Franklin are pleased with the training camp competition at defensive end, with several experienced candidates in the mix.

"I think Shareef (Miller) is a guy who has a chance to have a breakout year and take that next step," Franklin said. "I think Torrence Brown has played a lot of football for us and is kind of the old wily vet and I think is going to be very productive for us." Both Miller and Brown played in all 14 games last year with Brown making four starts.

Miller registered two sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss in 2016, highlighting the Big Ten portion of the schedule with his first career forced fumble at Indiana. Brown totaled a half a sack and six tackles for loss, also highlighting the year at Indiana with a fourth-quarter fumble recovery for a nine-yard touchdown.


Both coaches also highlighted Toney, Joseph and Simmons as potential options, with all three redshirting during the 2016 season.

"Shaka (Toney) is a guy that everybody is going to say that he's not 260 pounds, so you can't play defensive end in the Big Ten," Franklin said. "I don't know about that. I remember walking in during spring ball and telling our coaches, change your mindset. Don't allow the fact that this guy's not this or that, and you say he can't play because of this. Watch the tape, and watch how he's straining in the run game now more than he ever has. Watch him in the pass game on his third step before the offensive tackle is taking his first. He's going to bring something to us that we haven't had, to be honest with you."

Among the newcomers, Franklin noted on Media Day that none of the true freshmen are looking like true freshmen right now.

"They are big, strong, physically developed guys who can run," Franklin said. "That's going to make our defense better. That's going to make our offense better by going against these guys every day at practice."

Within the group, Franklin also mentioned that Gross-Matos is particularly exciting, with the staff poised to be in position to find him a role. A consensus four-star prospect, Gross-Matos capped his high school career at Chancellor helping the Chargers go 9-3, totaling 21 tackles for loss and 18.5 sacks in his senior season.

Training Camp Breakdown: Specialists

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State Football is underway in week two of training camp, wrapping up week one with the first practice in full pads on Friday afternoon before Media Day on Saturday.  

Ahead of the 2017 season, continue checking in at each position for a closer look at who's back and who's new to the Nittany Lion roster. 

Who's Back:
- Alex Barbir, K (So./Fr.)
- Tyler Davis, K/P (RS Sr./Sr.)
- Blake Gillikin, P (So./So.)
- Daniel Pasquariello, P (Sr./Sr.)
- Kyle Vasey, SN (Sr./Jr.) 

- Joe Calcagno, SN (Fr./Fr., 6-0/256,
Elmhurst, Ill./Fenwick), Carson Landis, K/P (Fr./Fr., 6-2/200, Macungie, Pa./Emmaus), Chris Stoll, SN (Fr./Fr., 6-2/239, Westerville, Ohio/St. Francis DeSales).

- Tyler Yazujian, SN, Zach Ladonis, SN, Chris Gulla, K/P, Joey Julius, K. 

What To Watch For:
Penn State's special teams unit was much improved in 2016, thanks in large part to a collection of clutch performances from a few returning specialists. Leading the unit this year is veteran placekicker Tyler Davis, or the elder statesman of the group according to special teams coordinator Charles Huff.

"It was a role I kind of had to take over," Davis said "With Yaz (Yazujian) and Gulla and Ladonis being gone, I'm kind one of the older guys with the most experience. Me and Danny Pasquariello have kind of taken on the role of being mentors to the younger guys. We have a pretty young specialist group now, so it's just getting them ready for this season and then when we move on for them to be successful." 

Davis set the standard for consistency in 2016, winning the Vlade Award in addition to first team All-Big Ten honors, making 22-of-24 field goal attempts and all 62 extra point attempts. He also stretched his streak of consecutive made field goals to 18 before a blocked attempt against Ohio State.

For Huff, Davis' approach to consistency has shaped his leadership, evident in the progress of Alex Barbir, the Cumming, Georgia native who enters the 2017 season after redshirting his true freshman season in 2016. 

"He's gotten stronger," Huff said. "He can learn or has learned from Tyler to me, which is the most important, how to get in a routine. When you're in high school, you kick. You don't really have a routine of how you kick. But from Tyler, how to prepare on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. Okay, I'm getting close to the game. What do I need to do? It's the offseason. It's a bye week. Okay, it's Thursday. It's getting later in the year temperature-wise. I think those are the things that Tyler has been able to help Alex with."


Also among Penn State's top returning specialists is punter Blake Gillikin, who earned the starting job and didn't look back, putting together a standout rookie campaign in 2016. Breaking the freshman single season punting average record with 42.8 yards per punt, he finished third in the final Big Ten rankings in the category.   

With a year under his belt and nearly 15 pounds added to his frame, Huff sees consistency as the next step for Gillikin, fine tuning his placement and location versatility.

"He knows kind of the routine now," Huff said. "He knows his body better. He's gotten bigger, faster, stronger. He knows how long it takes him to warm up. He knows how long it takes him to cool down. He knows kind of the routine of a game. I think he'll be a lot more comfortable." 

During the 2016 season, Pasquariello stepped into the second half of the Maryland game to send two punts an average of 37.5 yards, pinning both inside the 20-yard line. 

With a few departures to the rest of the specialists unit, Penn State will look to evaluate and sort out roles to secure a kickoff specialist in addition to a holder and a snapper. Perhaps not the most talked about storylines in training camp, Penn State could find any number of combinations with backup quarterback Billy Fessler also potentially in the mix for the Nittany Lions at holder. 

Vasey, a 6-2 long snapper from Hawley, Pennsylvania most recently earned the Coaches Special Teams Award at the 2016 Blue-White game, which is presented to a specialist demonstrating loyalty, interest, attitude and improvement through spring practice.

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Nittany Lions Host Media Day

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Press Conferences I Media Day Live I Transcripts

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State Football hosted its annual media day Saturday afternoon at Beaver Stadium. With less than 30 days remaining until the Nittany Lions officially open the 2017 season, Penn State head coach James Franklin, several members of the staff and the team gathered to meet with members of the media.

Franklin led off with an opening press conference followed by appearances from offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, defensive coordinator Brent Pry and special teams coordinator Charles Huff. Running back Saquon Barkley closed out the press conference sessions before the media members moved to the field for one-on-one opportunities with the rest of the team.

Saturday marks the sixth training camp practice with Friday bringing the first session in full pads for the Nittany Lions. 

Check out a few takeaways from media day press conferences.

All About Consistency
Franklin was quick to note that with success or even had the 2016 season not exceeded expectations, the message from the staff simply would not have changed - and it never will.


"Obviously, we learned from last year's experiences, and it was helpful from a growth perspective and from a maturity perspective, but last year's last year, and this year's this year," Franklin said. "We want to take all those experiences and maturity that we gained from last year and then continue growing and evolving."

This year Franklin has challenged each member of the staff and the team to take things back to day one, absorbing all areas of offense, defense and special teams as if it was the first day of installation.

Weekly Depth Chart
This year Franklin will also be asking the coaching staff to prepare a weekly depth chart on Sundays that he and the staff can review and evaluate as if it were a normal game-week scenario.

"I want the players to know, right after this week, if the number three guy just beat you out and you were the number two guy and you're no longer that guy, I don't want it to be a subtle thing in practice where you've noticed one or two reps that guy is starting to get more of," Franklin said. "No, he beat you out and you know that. So now you have the opportunity to fix that before the first game."

For Franklin, the honest feedback will not only present an immediate opportunity for correction, but also act as a catalyst to elevate the level of competition.  

"My point is, that instant feedback that they used to get back in the day, you'd walk to your locker, and your jersey color had just changed," Franklin said. "You'd gone from first team to second team. And we're going to do the same thing by week but more from a depth chart perspective."

Sanders on Special Teams
As a true freshman last year, Miles Sanders was a consistent piece of Penn State's kickoff return, averaging 20.8 yards on a team-high 33 returns. For Huff, he expects Sanders will only continue to grow from a truly new experience.

"You've got to remember that Miles Sanders was a great athlete, but Miles Sanders never returned kicks in high school," Huff said. "Every time he was back there, it was a new experience. I think he gained a lot from that experience. He feels more confident. He understands a little bit more. Obviously, he's gotten bigger, stronger, faster, and that's going to help."

Huff also pointed to veterans Nick Scott and Brandon Polk as possible options, noting that newcomer KJ Hamler could also be in the mix for the Nittany Lions. Scott averaged 23.0 yards on six kickoff returns for the Nittany Lions in 2016 while Polk averaged 20.9 yards on 10 returns in 2015, sidelined by an injury for a majority of the 2016 season.

"That's probably one area going into summer camp that we feel like we can make a big improvement in, not because we're going to draw up some great play or not because we've got this secret weapon, but just the guys are a year older," Huff said. "They understand the scheme a little bit more. So that will help us moving forward."


Defensive Line Competition
Penn State saw veteran departures for the NFL in defensive ends Garrett Sickels and Evan Schwan, but having to reload is not a new situation for defensive line coach Sean Spencer or Pry. Already a few practices into training camp, there's still a lot of evaluating to do, but Pry is thrilled with the performances he's seeing from candidates likely to replace the production from a duo responsible for a team-high six sacks apiece in 2016.

"Shareef and Ryan Buchholz had some great experience last year," Pry said. "Torrence Brown, being the third wheel, played a bunch of snaps. There's experience there with those guys, and we're very excited about the talent in Shaka [Toney], in Daniel Joseph, in Shane Simmons. Now I know he's been talked about a little bit here - I've seen it all over Twitter - Yetur Gross-Matos. There's good competition there."


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