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Big Ten Media Days Takeaways

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CHICAGO - Signaling the start of the season with training camp on the horizon, Penn State Football made its annual trip to the Big Ten Conference Media Days, wrapping up the two-day event with a packed Tuesday slate of media obligations and interviews. 

From photos and on-camera interviews to autographs and time with media members, seniors Marcus Allen, Jason Cabinda and Mike Gesicki joined head coach James Franklin for the trip, covering a broad variety of topics and storylines to look forward to headed into training camp, which begins in just a few weeks in Happy Valley.

Penn State kicked off a loaded day with breakfast at 7 a.m. before hitting the circuit for a full day. Check out 10 takeaways and storylines to keep an eye on from Tuesday's media sessions.

Built on Buy In
Franklin noted that some of his staff's best coaching came in the first two years of arrival, all setting the foundation for a year three buy-in fostered by success and a balanced sense of confidence that he says has his team in a pretty good place ahead of a highly anticipated 2017 season.

"I think one of the things that is significant is the relationships and the chemistry that we have in the locker room," Franklin said. "When you take over a new program, for us, we've all talked about this before - I was the fifth head coach, if you count interim, in 27 months. When you're asking players to buy into your system and they've had four other head coaches come in and tell them the same thing, that's not easy to do. We were able to work through those things and we're at a really good place right now where most of our locker room has only really heard one message and has bought into that message and I think there's so much value in that."

O-Line Strides
While there's certainly anticipation and excitement for Penn State's powerhouse duo of Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley, Franklin noted that he's also excited for the progress that has been made by those in front the two, having invested time and resources into the strength and maturity of a much improved offensive line, with veterans in Andrew Nelson and Brendan Mahon expected to return to lead the unit.

"We have depth and talent at that position that we're able to create a good situation," Franklin said. "When you're able to take a guy like Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley and combine their talents behind an offensive line that has a chance to be physical, athletic, with depth, it's a good situation to be in."

On The Set with BTN
Penn State's three seniors hit the Big Ten set for a live segment looking back on a historic 2016 season, giving a quick glimpse at what's ahead in 2017. Check it out below.

Replacing Chris Godwin
Penn State didn't lose much from its unprecedented and explosive offense from last year, but the Nittany Lions will look to replace the production of NFL Draft pick and 2,000-yard receiver Chris Godwin, who is beginning his pro career in Tampa Bay.

"I don't think that you can sit there and say year in and year out, you're going to hang your hat on being as explosive as we were last year," Franklin said. "You look at the 50-50 balls, that was kind of Chris Godwin's deal. He was as good as any guy I've been around, him and Jordan Matthews are probably the two best guys I've been around in terms of winning those 50-50 balls. If I had to guess, we may dip a little bit in the 50-50 balls, but I think we have a chance to be more efficient on first and second down."

Don't Count Out DaeSean Hamilton
Across the board, Franklin and all three seniors unanimously agreed that DaeSean Hamilton is a proven veteran who Penn State could lean on for significant contributions this year. Called dynamic and explosive by Allen and primed for big season by Gesicki, Hamilton was abuzz when it came to who the Nittany Lions are excited to watch this year. 

"He's one of the better workers on our team in terms of preparation, physically and mentally," Franklin said.  "He has seen the highs and seen the lows and matured and grown through those things." 

Expectations for Shareef Miller
Both Franklin and Cabinda had high praise for defensive end Shareef Miller, who could potentially step in to fill gaps left behind by graduation and NFL departures from Garrett Sickels and Evan Schwan.

"He's very similar in a lot of ways to Saquon Barkley in that since the day he showed up on campus, he has embraced everything that we've asked him to do," Franklin said. "He has gotten bigger, he has gotten stronger."

A Complete Tight End
We've all seen the upward trajectory of All-Big Ten second team tight end Mike Gesicki, most notably highlighted by way of some jaw-dropping catches. For Franklin, the next step is adding in the physical component, improving as a downfield threat as well as a viable option in the passing game.

From adversity to prosperity, he's continuing to work toward more progress headed into his final season in the Blue and White.

"Outside of play-making and big catches and touchdowns, I work extremely hard in blocking and I've come a long way in my opinion in being a more physical player and embracing the role of being a blocker," Gesicki said. "I'm excited for another training camp to continue to stay after practice and continue to hit the blocking sled until one day, I'm hoping that thing breaks."

Barbour Meets with the Media
By midmorning, Penn State Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour took time for a question and answer session. Following a few contract updates for a pair of Nittany Lion head coaches, Barbour touched on the success of the 2016 Big Ten Championship season as well as giving an update on the success of Happy Valley Jam and the future of concerts in Beaver Stadium. Listen in below. 


Franklin: "It's a Fast Class"

With NCAA rules and regulations, Franklin noted that it's hard right now to have a strong opinion on the progress of the freshmen class, who arrived on campus earlier this summer. He did note though that from what he can take in, it's a class with some serious speed. 

"I've been doing this 23 years and I don't know if I've ever had four guys who clocked on six watches, under 4.4," Franklin said. 

While we'll have to wait for camp to see the newest Nittany Lions in action, Franklin noted that the current members of the roster will have to bring their best game with no doubt that the freshmen are expected to content for significant roles. 

"The exciting thing is that we don't really need any of these guys to come in and play as freshmen but if they do, it's because they obviously are going to bring value and make us better," Franklin said. 

Accessories on Point
From a Big Ten Championship ring to a colorful bowtie, Penn State's senior trio represented the Nittany Lions showcasing some of their best style in Chicago. Take a look.

Penn State Continues Lift for Life Tradition

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It's been a feel-good weekend for Penn State Football, culminating in the 15th annual Penn State Lift for Life at Holuba Hall. The defining event for the Penn State Uplifting Athletes Chapter, the anticipated event brings out members of the community for a fun-filled afternoon all benefitting fundraising for rare diseases.

While the competition features an entire team effort, the planning and logistics to put on the yearly event is also an essential team responsibility for 2017 Uplifting Athletes officers Andrew Nelson (vice president), Ryan Bates (secretary) and Tom Devenney (treasurer), with Jason Cabinda and Trace McSorley serving as co-presidents. 

"It's an honor to be in a leadership position for Lift for Life," Nelson said. "Just knowing the effect that it has on the community and the rare disease community, which is a community that suffers a lot because there isn't a lot that they can do for them." 

For McSorley, it's been an experience for sure, especially dealing with logistics involved with moving the event from its usual location at the Penn State Lacrosse Stadium inside at Holbua Hall. 

"It's definitely something that I didn't know all of this stuff went into it," McSorley said.  "I worked a little bit with it last year and it was an experience then but taking this step this year where there's a lot more planning and having to move it from the lacrosse field where it usually is into Holuba and really having to handle all of those things."

One of 22 chapters in Division I football across the nation, the challenge for each Nittany Lion elected into a leadership position is continuing on the tradition for those yet to come.

"A lot has gone into this," Cabinda said. "Luckily we have Scott Shirley (Uplifting Athletes Founder) who does such a good job of it all and really just helps guide me and Trace and the rest of the guys on the board like Andrew Nelson, to kind of get these things rolling and then pass it on to the younger guys so that next year it can be an even better event."

Cabinda and Nelson also attended the Uplifting Athletes Leadership Council in Philadelphia, bringing together chapters from around the country for a chance to meet and learn from each other.

"It was a really cool experience, being able to see what Uplifting Athletes is doing at other Universities, hearing their ideas, how they are implementing fundraising," Cabinda said. "There were three or four ideas from that weekend that me and Andrew Nelson kind of picked up and thought we want to implement those here."

We'll have to wait and see what Cabinda, Nelson and the rest of the Uplifting Athletes officers have planned for the future, but if there's one thing that's for sure, this year was certainly a success.

Take a look at three other intriguing topics from the Uplifting Athletes media session for a little preseason primer.


Accountability on the Mind
For Nelson, one of the themes of the year has been accountability, with vocal members of the team all stepping up to hold each other accountable on a day-to-day basis. For Cabinda, a clear leader on the defensive side of the ball, that type of accountability is the byproduct of a more seasoned veteran team, something that comes when guys start to feel more comfortable with the process.

"We have a lot of guys who have been here for years and they know how things are supposed to get done," Cabinda said. "It's easier to teach the young guys because you have so many guys who are leading by example, so many guys constantly putting in extra work, putting in the time that's it's going to take to be great. When you have that kind of culture already in place and established, it's easy for that to trickle down and translate to the freshmen." 

Barkley Building on Leadership Strides
One of those vocal leaders is Barkley, the returning Big Ten Offensive MVP who has certainly earned it when it's come to leadership, but it's not something that he took right to as soon as he arrived on campus.

"I wouldn't consider myself a leader when I was a freshman, I wasn't that vocal," Barkley said. "I think it comes as you grow and you get experience and get more comfortable with the guys on the team. It's harder to lead as a freshman. Obviously, everybody has leadership traits but it's something you have to work on. I always thought that you lead by what you do, coming to work, don't be late, do the right things. That's a way to lead too but you need someone to be vocal and we don't only have one vocal guy, we have about 25 guys and that's going to help us this year."

As Nelson put it, being one of the best players on the team doesn't necessarily make you a leader.

"Saquon has both of those intangibles, off the field as well," Nelson said. "He is a high character guy, a motivator, he cares a lot about his teammates. Naturally as time goes on he has stepped more and more into that leadership role and he's not afraid to be a voice on the team."

What's Next?
Perhaps one of the final team activities before training camp, Penn State will kick off the 2017 season in Chicago, taking part in the Big Ten Media Days, with the Nittany Lions set for July 24. Nittany Lions Mike Gesicki, Jason Cabinda and Marcus Allen will join head coach James Franklin at the event.

"It's going to be a lot of fun," Gesicki said. "All of us being out there, between me, Marcus (Allen) and Jason (Cabinda). We all came in together, we're all in the same recruiting class, we're all really good friends. It's going to be a good time. It gives us a chance to go out there, answer some questions, talk about our team, our expectations and everybody can learn a little bit more about us. It's a huge honor that Coach Franklin selects us three to go out there, we're happy to do it."

For more details on format and performance snippets, catch up with assistant athletic director for performance enhancement Dwight Galt below.

A Visit to the Penn State Children's Hospital

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For head coach James Franklin, part of the developmental process at Penn State means taking time to make a positive impact. True to Franklin's first core value - a single positive attitude duplicated by more than 100 came out in full force Thursday afternoon.

For the fourth consecutive year, Franklin and his 105-member team boarded three buses for a trip to Hershey for an afternoon visit at the Penn State Children's Hospital. From dancing to coloring, games and in-room visits, the Nittany Lions brought smiles to even the weariest of faces, even if just for a moment.

"It's a really good experience we love doing this every year," sophomore running back Andre Robinson said. "This is one of the cooler things that we do, getting to give back to these kids. It makes their day just for us to come and hang out for an hour or two. We're really privileged to have that opportunity to make that impact on their lives."

For both Franklin, the staff and the team, seeing pure delight stretch across the faces of so many is a yearly highlight. For Franklin though, it's something he has always considered a priority, inspired in part by those who gave so much to him growing up.

"There are people who have had much more challenging upbringings than me, but there were people who really made a difference for me and for my family, who went above and beyond and didn't have to, and I realized what's it has done for me," Franklin said.

The Nittany Lions were greeted in the Tree House Cafe where games and coloring activities awaited one group, while other groups split up to spread throughout different floors surprising children and their families along the way.

"It's awesome seeing their faces light up," Robinson said. "The kids will run in the door just to get in line to give us high fives. Things like that just shows us how much they appreciate us and how much we appreciate them having us."

Perhaps the biggest takeaway though has been perspective. From doctors clad in white coats to nurses, hospital staff, children and families, there's simply no way to measure the magnitude of the battle that each and every one of them is tasked with taking on each day.

As Franklin put it, there are of course battles on the field in the game of football, but coming into a place like the Penn State Children's Hospital pulls in perspective regarding those who are really fighting true battles every day, presenting an opportunity to both reflect and make positive impact.

"It's really humbling to walk through and see all these kids fighting every day," senior linebacker Brandon Smith said.

For Robinson, it's as simple as taking a step back from everyday tasks to focus on a bit of gratitude in the face of unimaginable challenges.

"It puts perspective on things," Robinson said. "Seeing these kids, we complain when we wake up at 5:30 in the morning to go work out, but what these kids go through day in and day out, it puts perspective on things it all really makes you think and be appreciative of all that we have."

VIDEO: Penn State Poster Delivery

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State hit the streets in downtown Happy Valley Tuesday evening to hand deliver the newest edition of the 2017 poster.

The Nittany Lions boarded two iconic Blue Buses and headed downtown, arriving just after 6 p.m. to greet crowds on the street anxiously awaiting free copies of the 2017 poster. In an innovative twist, this year's poster features an opening just large enough for a face, for fans to pop their 'Game Face' using the hashtag #PSUgameface.

Walking down the streets for poster deliveries is a bit of a welcome first experience for true sophomore punter Blake Gillikin, who recalls being a young freshman this time last year.

"It's kind of surreal only a year after that as we're walking down here with all the support," Gillikin said

Following a standout season handling Penn State's punting duties Gillikin spent time this summer working with one of his coaches in Alabama, polishing up angles and sight lines, as well as a few mental aspects of his game. 

"I've just been trying to focus on rounding out all of the aspects of my game," Gillikin said. "Obviously my job is to help the defense out as best as I can and that's what I've been focusing on going into fall camp." 

During the spring season special teams coordinator Charles Huff noted that the Nittany Lions are in a bit of battle when it comes to holding responsibilities. While maybe not the most talked about story line of the year, it's something Gillikin has his eye on with options like Billy Fessler also in the mix. 

"I've been holding a lot," Gillikin said. "I try to get snaps from a lot of our guys. We have three long snappers right now, two freshmen just came in. I've been taking a lot of holds from them and I've been getting really comfortable with Tyler Davis. Obviously I want to be his guy this year. I want to help out more." 

Coming off of a productive spring season, sophomore wide receiver Juwan Johnson also enjoyed some time with fans, enjoying a moment to showcase his energetic personality off the field and without the helmet on. 

"We're always behind the helmets and people don't really see exactly who we are or how we act, so just coming down here and walking down the street signing posters and giving out posters, it puts something in our hearts that we're making someone else's day," Johnson said. 

For defensive lineman Ryan Buchholz, it's not his first time making poster deliveries, but perhaps still a little different this year.

"I had no idea this many people would come out, I was kind of shocked," Buchholz said. "The last two years we've just been kind of walking around sort of trying to give them to people, but this year everyone's asking for them, everyone wants them. I like the posters this year too how they are kind of interactive with the fans."

Penn State also paired up with the Nittany Lion Club and a few Penn State Alumni Association chapters will to host poster pick up parties in four cities, hitting Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Washington D.C. 

Beginning with normal business hours tomorrow, posters will be available for fans to pick up at the Penn State All Sports Museum, the Penn State Bookstore and the Penn State Ticket Offices located at both the Bryce Jordan Center and Beaver Stadium.

Inside The Generations of Greatness Uniform

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State treated fans to a surprise announcement Thursday afternoon revealing its generations of greatness game against Indiana, set for September 30 in Beaver Stadium, taking both subtle and carefully executed approach to breaking the news. 

With throwback uniforms as the centerpiece of the exciting announcement, it's something head coach James Franklin had already been talking about since he arrived at Penn State. Those early talks began with Brad "Spider" Caldwell, Penn State's former longtime football equipment manager who returned to Penn State after a brief retirement. Those talks about tradition and how to honor a proud history in a unique way. 

As the talks materialized, Penn State partnered with assistant athletic director of equipment services Jay Takach and assistant marketing athletic director Brad Keen, among just a few of close group who worked together and all kept quiet as plans developed across a lengthy period of time.

Come Thursday morning, Franklin and his staff met with the team at 7:45 a.m. where generations of greatness uniform model wide receiver Josh McPhearson (who also had to keep it under his hat for a significant period of time) burst through the squad rooms doors to send the team in a frenzy at the first sight of a precisely planned uniform that proudly weaves Penn State's proud past through the fabric of its bright future - it's generations of greatness.

RELATED: Generations of Greatness Reveal Photo Gallery

"I think it's something that does two things," Franklin said. "It really shows and reinforces all the tremendous history and tradition that we have here, and our uniform - as iconic as it is and how it has not changed much over time, there have been some subtle things. And we can honor those things and kind of tell this unbelievable story that we have here at Penn State of our history, and what better way to do it with this uniform." 

Spanning through the generations wasn't actually the original concept for construction, but as any great design is born, there are changes and developments among usual additions and subtractions.

Working in tandem with Nike, Penn State originally began drawing inspiration from 1959, the year Penn State earned its third bowl bid in program history on the way to its first postseason victory in the inaugural Liberty Bowl in Philadelphia, shutting out Alabama 7-0.

As Takach also noted though, the concept quickly expanded well beyond a single season. 

"It started as just a throwback with what we wanted to do and then as we started to look at the different timeframes and the history of Penn State Football we landed on a couple of things," Takach said. "Nike kind of found the jersey numbers when they were doing some research but we always knew that there was a stripe on the pants, the number on the helmet, the sleeve trim, those concepts were always there in the history so once we started doing the research we decided as it's called, generations of greatness, so versus throwing back to any one particular era, we tried to incorporate a number of different timelines in there."

For an aesthetic starting place, Penn State didn't have to do a tremendous amount of research to find a visual, all thanks to Caldwell of course.

"When Spider and I first talked about this three years ago, all these things were downstairs," Franklin said. "So when I asked Spider, he brought up the helmet with the gray face mask. He already had it. The numbers on the helmet, he already had it. The striped pants were downstairs. Brand new. Bought."

At first a little unsure of the gray facemask, which the Nittany Lions sported from 1959-86, Franklin saw it and found it pretty sharp, also enjoying the numbered helmets, which were originally in place from 1959-61 and later on from 1967-74.

As Franklin also noted though, the white cleats were the final piece to tie the concept together, one particular element that Franklin noted was probably the most exciting to the team bright and early this morning. 

Once greenlit, Takach got to work, secretly sizing and ordering, with new jersey and pant materials to take into consideration, both design pieces also under his desk for about four of five months. 

Now proudly displayed for all to see, the planning for September 30, 2017 is still ongoing.

For Keen, the fun has merely just begun, with ideas of vintage inspired video boards, student section props, advertisements and field elements all beginning to swirl. 

"We've got the ultimate throwback uniform," Keen said. "Everyone does a throwback uniform, but we're going to have the ultimate throwback game. So now I'm going to start to figure out how we can incorporate some vintage throwback elements into our gameday atmosphere and into our gameday experience."


Champions Visit State Capitol

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HARRISBURG, Pa. - Penn State hit the state capitol today for an afternoon of recognition, celebrating Nittany Lion conference champion student-athletes and head coaches following a record-setting 2016-17 season both in competition and in the classroom.

Joined by select head coaches and staff members as well as student-athletes, the group toured through the Pennsylvania House and Senate, stopping in for lunch with Sen. Jake Corman in his office. Penn State then made its way to the floor of the Pennsylvania Senate before remarks from Corman, welcoming the group to the state's capitol following a few early proceedings.

Penn State then made its way to the floor of the Pennsylvania House, which holds all 203 members, including Pennsylvania's Rep. Mike Hanna, Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, Rep. Rich Irvin and Rep. Scott Conklin, who read a resolution to again welcome and congratulate the Nittany Lions on an all-around successful season, one that drew a standing ovation from the members on the floor. 

"I want to congratulate the teams for not only what they do on the field but what they do in the community, the outreach they give, the coaches who oversee them," Conklin said. 

Nittany Lion director of athletics Sandy Barbour only echoed the all-around success in her remarks in the main rotunda later in the afternoon, noting that the individuals surrounding her representing a combined 2016-17 total of nine conference titles, among a few other crowns, are only one part of the story.

Penn State was recently slated fourth in the first spring update of the Learfield Directors' Cup standings following a year that saw seven Nittany Lion squads earn Big Ten Championships or tournament titles in seven sports, the most of any league institution and the third-highest total in school history.

As head coach Cael Sanderson brought instantaneous cheers from the floor of the Pennsylvania house upon his introduction, the room was reminded of Nittany Lion wrestling team's stunning second consecutive NCAA Wrestling Championship, marking its sixth in the last seven years, with five individuals earning NCAA titles along the way.

As Barbour pointed out though, the impact of the Blue and White extends much further than excellence in competition.

Nearly a month ago, a school record 114 Penn State student-athletes graduated, bringing the 2016-17 total to 142, with more students on track to cross the stage in August. Penn State also revealed its 89 percent NCAA Graduation Success Rate this year, which stands just one point below its all-time program mark. 

"Penn State student-athletes, not unlike their student colleagues and their servant hearts, have dedicated themselves to service," Barbour said. "Our student-athletes served over 6,200 hours of community engagement this last year. This comprehensive excellence is embraced by our Penn State and Pennsylvania community. It's truly Penn State's point of difference. It has historically motivated a state and a community, connected passionately to each and every one of our programs and each and every one of our student-athletes who wear the Blue and White."

Representative of just a small piece of a variety of community engagement close to Penn State student-athletes is THON, a beloved annual event that encompasses the entire university and Happy Valley community.

Led by the efforts of the Penn State Student Athlete Advisory Board, SAAB raised $59,679.49 for THON in 2017, which ranked third among the 400-plus general organizations represented. Surging past a fundraising goal of $50,000, the 2017 figure is SAAB's second-largest total in the history of the organization, adding to a career total of $680,000, all for THON and the Four Diamonds Fund, with four Penn State student-athletes joining the 703 dancers on the floor this year.

Among those dancers this year was women's soccer's Megan Schafer, a Big Ten Champion from Langhorne, who joined the group today for her second trip to state capitol, but first as a Nittany Lion. 

"A couple of years ago I got recognized for winning a state championship, so I think it's pretty cool coming back at the collegiate level to get recognized for our hard work all season," Schafer said. "I think it's really cool everything that people put together just to recognize us today."

Prior to Penn State, Schafer scored the overtime game-winner to lead Neshaminy high school (also the alma mater of Penn State head football coach James Franklin) to a Pennsylvania state title.

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The entire group of Nittany Lion coaches and student-athletes were treated to a personal meeting with Gov. Tom Wolf, who stopped by the steps of the main rotunda to greet the champions before heading back to Happy Valley.

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 ans26@psu.edu 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. 

@GOPSUSPORTS

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