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VIDEO: Temple Week Player Q&As

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com talks with quarterback Christian Hackenberg and linebacker Nyeem Wartman-White during Temple week.

Christian Hackenberg


Nyeem Wartman-White




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2015 Tuesday Press Conference Roundup - Temple Week

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CN1RTBDWUAA5enW.jpgTranscript: James Franklin | Transcript: Players | Depth Chart | VIDEO: Player Q&A with Christian Hackenberg & Nyeem Wartman-White

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach James Franklin met with the media on Tuesday for the first time on game week in 2015 to preview Penn State's season opener against Temple.

The Nittany Lions and Owls are set to collide on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. (ESPN) inside Lincoln Financial Field. Franklin spoke with the assembled reporters for more than 30 minutes in the Beaver Stadium media room on Tuesday afternoon while offering his thoughts on game one.

"I would say that myself and the staff and the team is in a much better position this year than last year," Franklin said. "Last year we were excited to play the first game, but I think we could have also used another two weeks of preparation. I don't feel that way as much. I feel like our staff and our players are ready to play this game. We need the rest of this week to clean a few things up, but I feel good."

Collectively, the Nittany Lions have taken significant strides forward on both sides of the ball since the final snap of the Pinstripe Bowl. Offensively, the pieces around third-year starting quarterback Christian Hackenberg are much more confident heading into the season. The offense has grown, and the man under center has taken a step forward with it.

"I feel much better about it, and I see Christian so much more relaxed and so much more confident right now as a player and as a leader because of that," said Franklin. "He's really taken control of the offense and that side of the ball."

The big thing Franklin and the two players present at the press conference noted on Tuesday was the team's consistency at this point during the season. A lot of that has to do with the players and coaching staff being in year two of the same system. But another component to that is simply the growth and maturity of what was a very young team last year. Penn State's roster is still very young, but much more experienced when it comes to play in games.

"You need 11 guys to execute at the same time for a play to be successful," said Hackenberg. "So you know, I think that we've done a really good job of everyone being more comfortable with what we need to do, talking the same language, understanding how we want to attack teams, what we're good at. And you know, I think that has been evident throughout this entire camp."

On the defensive side of the ball, forcing more turnovers has been a big point of emphasis. Like Coach Franklin said on Tuesday, creating turnovers can elevate a good defense to a great defense. Temple finished among the national leaders in turnovers gained (No. 11) last season by forcing 30 turnovers.

"It's going to be a big factor in this game of obviously eliminating that, but then also I think that's an area that our defense, as well as our defense played, that's the one area that we probably weren't as dominant as we would like to be in creating turnovers," said Franklin. "That's where I think you can go from being good to elite."

Junior linebacker Nyeem Wartman-White is the centerpiece of the defense at the middle linebacker position. Wartman-White moved from outside linebacker to the middle, and he has become the vocal field leader of the defensive unit.

Being consistent each time he steps on the field or walks into a meeting room were the two big components to Wartman-White's new position. But as a leader on the team, he's very encouraged with where the team is at heading into the season.

"I feel like our bond even got even stronger, our communication got better and overall as a team we got better. So I think camp went very well for all of us," said Wartman-White.

The Nittany Lions will practice in full pads on Tuesday and Wednesday before the final complete pre-season session on Thursday. The team will then travel to Philadelphia for the opener on Friday.


Press Conference Notes:
- Nyeem Wartman-White grew up in Philadelphia and dreamed of an opportunity to play at Lincoln Financial Field. He will have that chance on Saturday in front of his friends and family.

"I remember at some points when I lived in Philadelphia I could actually see the Linc from where I live, and I remember never playing a football game in my life, but I knew I loved football at that time. It was dreams to play in the Linc, and look at me now, eight, nine years later, moved from Philly and I'm playing for Penn State, about to go play in the Linc. So it's truly a blessing, and all glory goes to God for that."

- Wide receiver Chris Godwin is a player on the cusp of a breakout season. Coach Franklin highlighted some of the things that make Godwin a unique player for only being a true sophomore.

"He's a very, very mature young man. That's what allowed him to play as a true freshman last year, not just his physical ability, but his maturity and how he handles himself, and I think all those things are showing up even more this year. Ended the season with a real strong bowl game, as we all know. But you know, if you had a list of characteristics that you were looking for, body type, speed, hands, maturity, intelligence, you know, all those types of things, he's going to have a checkbox. He's going to have a checkmark in almost every single one of those boxes. He gets it. He really does. "

- Christian Hackenberg has been outstanding in his two previous season-openers. He has thrown for an average of 366 yards per game and three touchdowns. What's the secret to game one success?

"I think it's just focus. You know, you really gotta be a guy who's really prepared, you understand the game plan; you feel like you know what you got to do, what have you to do to make sure that the team's successful, and you know, I think that you have to know what the other guys have to do and they have to know what you have to do."



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Depth Chart Released for Season Opener vs. Temple

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11284053.jpegDepth Chart - Temple Week (8/31/15)

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

The first depth chart of the fall season features five senior starters (one on offense and four on defense).  The chart is also filled with youth. In all, there are a total of 15 players on the top line at their respective position who are sophomores or redshirt freshmen on offense, defense and special teams.

On defense, the front seven is stacked with experience, including five starters who are either listed as junior or senior eligibility. All-Big defensive tackle Anthony Zettel and junior Austin Johnson headline the defensive line as returnees at the tackle position. Redshirt senior Carl Nassib and redshirt sophomore Garrett Sickels make up top lines at the end positions.

Junior Nyeem Wartman-White is atop the middle linebacker position, with junior Brandon Bell on the top line at strongside linebacker and true sophomore Jason Cabinda at the weakside linebacker spot.

In the secondary, seniors Jordan Lucas (Strong Safety) and Trevor Williams (Cornerback) are two of the most experienced players in the lineup (73 games of combined experience). Additionally, sophomores Marcus Allen (Free Safety) and Grant Haley (Cornerback) return after strong rookie seasons in 2014.

On offense, 2013 Big Ten Freshman of the Year Christian Hackenberg will direct the offense for the third-straight season at quarterback. Penn State's running back corps features a host of talent, including junior Akeel Lynch, along with redshirt freshmen Mark Allen and Nick Scott and true freshman Saquon Barkley. Junior Dom Salomone is listed as the fullback.

The projected starting offensive line includes four players with starting experience. Graduate senior Angelo Mangiro (C) will man the middle of the line, with junior Brian Gaia at right guard and sophomore Brendan Mahon at left guard. Redshirt sophomore Andrew Nelson returns at right tackle with junior college transfer Paris Palmer atop the depth chart at left tackle leading up to his first game as a Nittany Lion.

The depth chart features three tight ends/H-backs. The list include true sophomore Mike Gesicki, junior Brent Wilkerson and graduate senior Kyle Carter.

Redshirt sophomore DaeSean Hamilton (Z), sophomore Chris Godwin (X) and DeAndre Thompkins (F) are the starting receivers listed on the depth chart, but look for contributions from a host of players.  In addition to Hamilton, Godwin and Thompkins, junior Geno Lewis, sophomore Saeed Blacknall, graduate student Matt Zanellato, along with true freshmen Juwan Johnson and Brandon Polk, are expected to play key roles in the receiver rotation.

Redshirt freshmen Joey Julius is listed as the top kicker, while sophomore Daniel Pasquariello is listed as the top punter. Chris Gulla is the top holder, while sophomore Tyler Yazujian is the long snapper. Redshirt freshman Koa Farmer, Barkley and Scott are listed as the top kickoff returners. Allen, Thompkins and Polk are listed as the punt returners.

There are six true freshmen listed on the depth chart. That list includes - Saquon Barkley (RB), Nick Cox (LS), Juwan Johnson (WR), Brandon Polk (WR), John Reid (CB) and Tommy Stevens (QB).

Penn State kicks off at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday (ESPN) against the Temple inside Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.



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VIDEO: Red Land Visits Practice; Kicking Challenge

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Photo Gallery: Red Land Team VisitTraining Camp Central

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Red Land team paid a visit to the Lasch Football Complex to spend some time with the Nittany Lions en route to Williamsport.

While watching some of Penn State's Friday practice, head coach James Franklin challenged a member of the Red Land team. The result of the kicking challenge sent everyone in attendance into a frenzy. Take a look at a fun night during pre-season practice.




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Inside Training Camp - Safeties

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Defensive coordinator and safeties coach Bob Shoop loves the approach veteran senior Jordan Lucas and sophomore Marcus Allen bring to the secondary from the safety positions.

Lucas, who has started at cornerback in 24 of the last 25 games, moved to safety during the offseason to create more depth at the position. A gifted athlete with corner-like traits, Lucas has found a home in the back of the defense. Allen made his debut in the starting lineup mid-way through the 2014 season after Ryan Keiser was injured, and he hasn't looked back since.

"When you have elite, veteran players lined up around you, like Jordan Lucas, it helps you game grow that much more," Allen said. "As far as being comfortable calling the plays, it just comes natural because it is second nature. I know it like the back of my hand."

In addition to Lucas and Allen, the unit has very good depth with veteran Malik Golden leading a host of young players, which includes returnees Troy Apke and Koa Farmer.

Spend some time with Coach Shoop and the safeties during preseason camp.



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Inside Training Camp - Linebackers

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Training Camp Central

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Linebacker U is in good hands with the likes of Nyeem Wartman-White, Brandon Bell and Jason Cabinda heading in to 2015.

The unit has made good progress during the first three weeks of practice. Additionally, coach Brent Pry's unit has added depth at all three positions.

Spend some time with the linebackers during preseason camp.



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Training Camp: Gesicki Eager to Begin Year Two

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11275994.jpeg

Training Camp Central

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Mike Gesicki knows that he just grazed the surface of his potential during his true freshman season in the Blue and White.

Sure, he caught 11 passes for 114 yards, had at least one reception in nine games and showed flashes of big things to come. But 2014 was a year of learning.

Now, the 6-foot-6 tight end from New Jersey is a different man heading into 2015.

With a year of game experience and an offseason of conditioning under his belt, Gesicki is primed to be a significant contributor for the Nittany Lions this fall.

"I just feel so much more prepared to contribute," said Gesicki. "Last year heading into the season, my head was spinning because everything was so new. Now, I understand the system. I understand my job. And I know what I have to do."

Described by Director of Performance Enhancement as a "freak" athlete in the weight room, Gesicki added 20 pounds since last season and is playing with more speed and quickness than he did a year ago.

"He is extremely athletic. He runs really well. He's got tremendous ball skills," said head coach James Franklin. "He's not put himself in the position physically to change his body. He's 255 pounds now. Last year, he was 235. So blocking, he's able to fill a bigger role with that part of the game."

The added size aids in the area Gesicki worked on most during the offseason. Prior to suiting up for the Nittany Lions, the true sophomore had little, if any, experience putting his hand in the ground and blocking from the tight end position. Being a good in-line blocker is essential to being a productive player at the tight end position for the Lions.

"One thing I most certainly had to work on was my blocking ability," Gesicki said. "Last year, I was not a good blocker. I didn't get the job done. I had to put a chip on my shoulder going into the offseason to try and get bigger, stronger and faster to help build that negative into one of my strengths."

The early results have been positive, as Gesicki is among a host of players who have played very well during pre-season practice. The sure-handed tight end is a matchup nightmare for an opposing defense. With a 6-foot-6 frame to go along with long arms, strong hands and quick feet, Gesicki is an appealing target in the passing game.

The measurables speak for themselves, but what is separating Gesicki's production now from where it was a year ago is confidence.

"That's the big thing. When you play with confidence, you believe in yourself and what you can do. And that's when you start seeing results," Gesicki said.

Gesicki's diverse background in a wide range of sports has helped mold him into the athlete he is today. He was Southern Regional's (New Jersey) all-time scoring leader in basketball, named Boy's Volleyball Player of the Year (2014) and on a state champion volleyball squad. He also ran track growing up.

"It helped development in hand-eye coordination, speed, jumping ability, and overall, it teaches you discipline," said Gesicki. "Playing all of those sports growing up, it was definitely a positive in terms of how it has helped me grow as a football player."

Led by senior Kyle Carter and junior Brent Wilkerson, Gesicki and the tight ends have high expectations for what the unit can bring to the offense in 2015.

"We have some good depth with the group and that adds to good competition," said offensive coordinator and tight ends coach John Donovan.

The season opener can't come soon enough for Gesicki. He's ready to carry the progress he's made during the offseason onto the game field in 2015.



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VIDEO: Training Camp Update - August 26

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Training Camp Central

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions practiced for the 22nd time during the preseason on Wednesday evening at the Lasch Football Complex.

Following the afternoon practice session held in shells (helmets and shorts), head coach James Franklin and offensive recruiting coordinator and wide receivers coach Josh Gattis caught up with the media to provide an update on the team. Penn State is in the midst of game preparations for the season opener at Temple (Sept. 5 at Lincoln Financial Field).

James Franklin


 Josh Gattis





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Inside Training Camp - Running Backs

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Junior Akeel Lynch headlines a talented room of Nittany Lion running backs heading into the 2015 season.

Lynch took the reins of the backfield during the latter stages of 2014. He finished the season playing the best ball of his career. Logging seven straight games with 12 or more carries, including back-to-back 130-yard plus outings in November, Lynch scored touchdowns in three of the final four games and tallied 75 yards on 17 carries in the Pinstripe Bowl.

Now the veteran of the room, Lynch is serving as a mentor for the likes of a host of redshirt and true freshman backs.

Spend some time with the running backs during preseason camp.



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Inside Training Camp - Cornerbacks

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Training Camp Central

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Senior Trevor Williams has often been referred to by defensive coordinator Bob Shoop as one of the most consistent players on the Penn State defense.

Williams has played in 36 games during the past three seasons and will again be a staple in the starting lineup of the secondary. Outside of Williams, cornerbacks coach Terry Smith will have a host of young talent competing for playing time, led by true sophomore Grant Haley. Haley, along with fellow sophomore Christian Campbell played a significant role on the defense in 2014 and will again be central figures in the cornerback rotation.

"Clearly, Trevor Williams is a starter for us, and Grant Haley is doing really well," said Smith. "Those next three, four or five position are all up for grabs. We are going to sort through that."

Depth is key for the secondary moving forward, so Smith and the defensive staff have worked diligently to get as many meaningful reps as possible for everyone in the mix for playing time. That group includes true freshman John Reid, who has played very well in his first training camp.

"John Reid is having an exceptional camp," Smith said. "He's a really smart kid and a really driven kid. He's performing well and competing hard."

Spend some time with the cornerbacks during pre-season practice.




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