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Penn State Building on Spring Depth

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State football wrapped its 2018 spring season with the annual Blue-White spring game. In the culmination of a series of 15 spring practices, the Nittany Lions took to the field in front of more than 70,000 fans for a final session before breaking until training camp.

There's wasn't exactly anything Penn State head coach James Franklin learned from the final spring practice of the season Saturday, instead focusing on yet another standout spring crowd, in addition to a few final flashes from some promising young talent on the roster. 

An estimated 71,000 packed into the stands at Beaver Stadium, marking the fifth consecutive year the Nittany Lions have drawn 60,000 or more for the spring game.

The energized crowd was treated to a glimpse of the future early with wide receiver Mac Hippenhammer connecting with quarterback Trace McSorley for the first of two touchdown grabs. 

"It felt good," Hippenhammer said reflecting on his first trip to the end zone as a Nittany Lion. "I prepared all spring for that moment and it finally came and I just executed."

Hippenhammer's second touchdown catch came on a 29-yard toss from quarterback Sean Clifford in the fourth quarter.

"This is kind of who Mac is, Mac's a gamer, he happens to make plays in big spots," offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Ricky Rahne said. "I can see it in his eyes, especially after that first series where you could tell he was really focused and locked in. When he does that, he's hard to deal with." 

Nearly 400 miles from Beaver Stadium, Penn State baseball was battling with Michigan. A two-sport student-athlete though, Hippenhammer was in Happy Valley instead of Ann Arbor. It's a unique situation in today's typical student-athlete path, but a scenario that Franklin noted is absolutely do-able with the right individual and the correct situation.

"Penn State was a school that I felt would give me the opportunity to play both [sports], Hippenhammer said. "When I got here, coach Franklin had discussions with coach Cooper so I knew it was real."

Part of the agreement between Hippenhammer and Franklin though meant keeping academics in line.

"He crushed it in the classroom and did better than I even anticipated," Franklin said. "Coach [Rob] Cooper had a spot for him and I know he has been really pleased for him. Once spring ball started we shut him down with baseball because he is on a football scholarship and now once spring ball ends he will go back to doing baseball as well as his academic responsibilities." 

Prior to spring ball though, Hippenhammer's day started with football winter workouts bright and early in the morning before heading over to baseball for an afternoon practice following a full day of classes. 

"It's a lot of going back and forth," Hippenhammer said. "You just have to keep a balanced mindset and stay focused. It was a really long day but for me I think it was worth it because my dad always told me to play both as long as you can so I'm just making the most of the opportunity I was given." 

As he has done consistently through the spring season, Franklin gave credit to the blue team's offensive line, consisting of mainly Nittany Lion starters. Offensive line coach Matt Limegrover noted last week that the level of competition drove the group all throughout the spring season. 

Come Saturday, Michal Menet emerged to take a firm hold on the starting spot at right guard.

"I think staying healthy has been a huge thing for me to be able to develop my skills and techniques every day," Menet said.

As both Franklin and Menet noted postgame, dealing with nagging injuries early in his career set him back. Now fully healthy, it was Franklin who noted Menet is now one of the more improved Nittany Lions from the end of the season to now. 

"We think he has the ability to play all three inside positions, right and left guard as well as center, we think he may have a really bright future at the center position as well with his quickness," Franklin said. "He creates some flexibility, which is what we are trying to create throughout our program, guys that can play multiple positions, solve problems for us, but overall I have been very, very impressed with him really since the end of the season."

Looking at the offensive line as a whole though, Menet noted the Nittany Lions have built on strengthening the finishers mentality, which on occasion plagued Penn State in 2017.

"I think everybody is really buying into all the techniques and fundamentals that coach Limegrover has been teaching us," Menet said. "I think we've been taking strides every day." 

If Franklin had to name a player of the game Saturday though, he'd look to cornerback Zech McPhearson, who finished with three pass breakups and two tackles.

"We've created a lot of depth and competition at that position so it's exciting," Franklin said. "He's a guy who I think has really kind of showed since the end of the season that he means business and is going to factor in for us this year."

That business-like mentally all started when McPhearson shifted his mindset following the end of the season. He wanted to play. 

The work doesn't stop with spring ball though, as McPhearson noted this offseason is going to be very big for the emerging Nittany Lion. 

"In the offseason I definitely want to get stronger, maybe get a little bigger but keep working on my speed," McPhearson said. "I feel like that helps me a lot driving on routes and things like that." 

It was of course hard to miss what looked like a second James Franklin on the field Saturday. Instead, it was Penn State alum, actor and comedian Keegan-Michael Key who joined the Nittany Lions as a guest coach.

"I really, really could not be more appreciative of you guys asking me to come and guest coach," Key said postgame. "The welcoming spirit and atmosphere of this university is the same as it was when I attended and I think for the most part I can see that the players are spry and dedicated and I look forward to the fall." 

More from Key below. 

Spring Ball Postgame: Players

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State football hosted its annual Blue-White spring game Saturday afternoon at Beaver Stadium. Catch up with a few Nittany Lions following the final spring session.  

Zech McPhearson

Mac Hippenhammer

Michal Menet

Spring Ball Postgame: James Franklin

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State football hosted its annual Blue-White spring game Saturday afternoon at Beaver Stadium. Catch up with Nittany Lion head coach James Franklin following the final spring session. 

2018 Blue-White Gameday

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RELATED LINKS: Parking Information & Lot Closures I Blue Roster I White Roster I Spring Practice Central

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State football is set to cap its 2018 spring season with the annual Blue-White spring game Saturday afternoon. In the 15th and final spring practice of the season, the Nittany Lions will take to Beaver Stadium for a 3 p.m. outing with live coverage on the Big Ten Network.

In a different place than perhaps any spring season under the head coach of Penn State head coach James Franklin, the Nittany Lions have a mixture of depth and veteran experience, all responsible for driving yet another productive slate of practices. 

On the heels of a second consecutive 11-win season though, what's next for Penn State following a series of departures that has more than 10 former Nittany Lions headed toward the upcoming NFL Draft is especially intriguing. 

Among the intrigue of course is the addition of six early enrollees, a vital group who arrived in Happy Valley at just the right time to work their way into the mix at a variety of critical-need positions. 

"I'd make the argument that this is where the mid-semester guys are so valuable because without them, it would obviously change the way we would run the game and the way we run spring practice," Franklin said earlier this week after breaking down the format of the spring game.

Released yesterday, Penn State's blue and white rosters feature mostly one's on the blue squad with two's and three's competing for spots assigned to the white team.

While Franklin described Saturday's Blue-White game as one final opportunity for total team evaluations, it's whole new game day experience for Penn State's newest Nittany Lions.

The Nittany Lions took spring practice 12 to Beaver Stadium last weekend, as all six early enrollees passed through the tunnel under a completely different circumstance.

"I went up to Coach Franklin and I said this is what I committed here for," linebacker Micah Parsons said. "Even with the fans not there, I just imagined them from when I was a recruit and it was just insane."

For tight end Zack Kuntz, it was special moment among the early enrollees as they gazed around before eventually finding each other on the field, this time for practice instead of a visit.

Ask any Nittany Lion early enrollee and they'll describe the process of transitioning from a high school senior to a college freshman as anything but easy.

"They've all done very well," Penn State defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Brent Pry said. "They work, they want to do right. They want to do everything they can to compete with the old guys. They want to play. That's why they enrolled early. They want to play in the fall, they don't want to redshirt."

The willingness from the group to compete at the highest level from winter workouts on through spring ball has been both obvious and impressive to staff members to teammates.

"About a week before I came here, Coach Pry said winter workouts are pretty tough but I was thinking it would be like a normal hard work out that I've been through," Parsons said. "That first one was probably one of the most intense workouts I've ever been through in my life." 

Parsons can remember his first few winter workouts where he often finished last. Progressing through the winter, he worked his way toward the middle.

"I think I stayed right in the middle all the way until the last winter work out," Parsons said. "I came in and I didn't get any sleep the night before because I was thinking about the last winter work out. I said to Coach Pry, I'm going to come in top five in this 400 lap."

Fueled by his work ethic and a desire to earn his spot from the very beginning, Parsons finished in the top four.

A quick glance up at the record holders listed the wall inside the Lasch weight room already has Parsons on it. Listed under linebackers, a 4.52 in the 40-yard dash in winter 2018 - Parsons, M.

In the thick of spring practices, there were still wake-up call moments, learning to adjust to the speed and tempo of the collegiate game and of course, an experienced offensive line. 

"I came in off a blitz and Chasz Wright, a fifth-year senior, 346 pounds, I was running across the middle a little high, but not too high, and I tried to come in and he just knocked my block right off," Parsons said. 

In his transition from Mike to Will linebacker though, Parsons soaked in everything from his teammates, learning best by listening. 

"As a young guy you just listen and learn," Parsons said.

For someone like Kuntz, he listened when his veteran teammates told him find time for the JUGS machine.

"I try to get 100 balls before practice, 100 balls during practice from reps and everything and 100 balls after practice," Kuntz said. 

His only problem? 

Being the only early enrollee on the offensive side of the ball doesn't always match his schedule with his fellow newcomers. So Kuntz opts to work alongside his lifting partner, junior tight end Danny Dalton.

Within the first week of arriving on campus Kuntz met with the quarterbacks to begin learning the offense, taking points from quarterback Trace McSorley before putting them into action on the field. 

"Coming early I knew it was going to be a challenge but I knew it was going to be an advantage as well," Kuntz said. "Being able to get reps right away, I'm learning it by physically doing it. If I do something wrong, now I know if I'm in that situation again, this is what I do should do instead of what I did before." 

Come Saturday, both Parsons and defensive end Nick Tarburton will represent the blue team. Kuntz, along with safety Isaiah Humphries, cornerback Trent Gordon and linebacker Jesse Luketa are all slotted on the white roster.

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

Autograph Session Returns
Penn State fans will have the opportunity to receive autographs from their favorite Nittany Lions Saturday from 12:15 - 1:05 p.m. outside five stadium gates at Beaver Stadium. Team posters will also be available while supplies last.

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Spring Ball Top Performers: Running Backs

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State's spring season has nearly come to a close, culminating with tomorrow's Blue-White spring game. In the final position by position look at the Nittany Lions this spring, check in with Nittany Lion running backs coach Ja'Juan Seider for a closer look at who is standing out. 

For Seider the running backs have all made strides this spring, but it's the older Nittany Lions like Miles Sanders and Mark Allen who are leading the way.

"The older guys are playing like older guys, taking pride in working on the little things like technique and footwork, all of that stuff," Seider said.

Earlier this spring it was Sanders who noted the process of stepping into more of a leadership role was something he's actively working toward.

"Miles is a guy who we are leaning on and he's doing a great job of stepping up and trying to be a leader," Seider said. "He'll call at night and say, 'hey coach I could have done this,' which is important because that's what you want to see with an older kid who has growth potential."

Seider noted Sanders has taken the increased leadership responsibilities off the field too, spending more time going through film and taking time to study all aspects of his game.

"It's encouraging to see him taking on that aspect of the game because that shows me this kid is really developing and working on being that back we want him to be," Seider said. 

Looking toward the younger Nittany Lions, Seider has been impressed with the strides Journey Brown and Johnathan Thomas have made, but is more impressed with just how much the group has continued to lock in on their new position coach. 

"They are taking to coaching which is important and gravitating to me, a new coach coming in, and it's been fun seeing those guys buy in," Seider said.

Spring Ball Features: Wade Making Strides at Safety

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - This time last year Lamont Wade was nearly finished with his first spring season, set to take the field at Beaver Stadium for his first Blue-White outing.

Seated inside the fueling station at the Lasch Building nearly 365 days later, Wade paused for a moment to look back.

"Coming in it was real rough," Wade said. "Being in high school one week and then literally next week, next month, being in the college system, it's really great seeing how much I have changed from then."

In a span of time just shy of year, Wade is bigger, stronger and mentally tougher too. The result of a ferocious winter conditioning effort - one where Penn State assistant athletics director for performance enhancement Dwight Galt described him as a piranha in a small pool in a media session on max out day.

"Coming in, like I said, it's real rough," Wade said. "Sometimes you're up and down about it. You're not sure and when something gets hard and you might want to give up. Getting older you realize you don't really have the option."

Wade is older, yes, but things aren't exactly easier. Instead, what now comes easier is more in learning how to deal with change, like understanding lifts and workouts, eating better and even something like switching positions.

At the start of spring ball, Penn State head coach James Franklin listed off a variety of position changes across the roster. Among the moves, Lamont Wade from cornerback to safety. 

When asked about the move, Franklin noted the Nittany Lions are in good shape depth-wise at cornerback. In Wade's case it's perhaps an opportunity for Penn State to replace a few question marks at safety with exclamation points.

"Lamont is a football player and although he's not the longest guy in terms of height, he's put together," Franklin said. "He'll hit you, and we just felt like it probably played to a little bit more of his strengths." 

Since arriving back on campus for Penn State's NFL Pro Day, former standout safety Marcus Allen asks Wade the same series of questions every time he sees him.

"He asks me how I like it, how it's going so far," Wade said. "I just let him know and he lets me know all of the upsides of playing safety, what was hard about it and what came naturally."

For Wade, it's a certain toughness and aggression that happens to come easy for him.

"It's one thing safeties have to have," Wade said. "I feel like my aggression comes natural. I feel like my instincts come natural even though there's a whole different step playing safety. You're kind of pushed into a captain role because you're starting to make more calls out there. You have to make sure other people are in alignment too."

Outside of a natural aggression, there's of course the added emphasis on communication, something Wade says started at cornerback. Looking over, getting the call and flying into action.

"At safety, you have to not only get the call to yourself but get the call to the man to the right, to the left and in front of you," Wade said. "Just making sure everyone is straight and taking accountability is one of the biggest things."

One of three true freshmen to start in 2017, Wade played in 12 games, finishing the season with three pass breakups and a forced fumble, which came on a kickoff return at Rutgers.

Wade had a significant role one special teams last season, something he credits to helping him tremendously.

"I played a lot on special teams," Wade said. "My role increased on special teams throughout the season. Special teams is a part of the game, they say if you start on special teams, you're a starter."

This spring though, Wade is back at square one, or starting right back at the beginning if you ask him.

"It's a new position, so I have to take new strides," Wade said. "I've played safety for probably two games in my whole high school career so it's completely new to me." 

It's a humbling experience, but one Wade is determined to see through, setting his spring goal to get fully comfortable at safety. 

"I'm a sophomore, in my second year but honestly it feels like I am a freshman again because it's a whole new position with whole new techniques," Wade said. "I know the play book but it's going out there and adjusting."

Come Saturday, Wade will have one final opportunity to go out and get adjusted. Represent the white team in Penn State's annual spring game, he's listed alongside a spring ball standout in Jonathan Sutherland and current early enrollee Isaiah Humphries, to name a few.

For new position coach Tim Banks though, when it comes to Wade he knows, he'll be ready to go when it's time to.

"Lamont's excited, he loves to play football, it's important to him," Banks said. "Obviously with a new position, there's a learning curve he has to get through but he is a willing participant. He's really working hard."

Spring Ball Top Performers: Linebackers, Quarterbacks

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State's spring season has nearly come to a close with Saturday's annual Blue-White game marking the final practice of the spring season.

Ahead of the weekend, Penn State offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Ricky Rahne and defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Brent Pry paused for closer look inside spring ball.

Talking quarterbacks and linebackers, both Rahne and Pry also give a quick snapshot of a few Nittany Lions stepping forward on both sides of the ball.

There's no question the Nittany Lions have plenty of roles to replace defensively, beginning with the situation at linebacker

As Penn State head coach James Franklin noted early this week, when it comes to filling a priority position in the middle linebacker spot, it all comes down to trust and consistency. 

For Pry though, spring ball has been an opportunity to get a variety of Nittany Lions plenty of snaps at multiple positions. The results so far having been promising. 

"Cam Brown has started off very well," Pry said. "Jan Johnson is very steady. Ellis Brooks has made some flashes. Jake Cooper has shown flashes."

Among the younger group, Pry like many, is pleased with the transition Micah Parsons has made since arriving to campus as an early enrollee.

His biggest surprise in the room though is Jarvis Miller, who has shown progress at outside linebacker.

"Jarvis has always had abilities and a skillset but hasn't been able to play with them," Pry said. "He is comfortable. He knows his position. He's doing some good things out there."

Outside of the linebackers, Pry only echoed the earlier picks of a few previous position coaches. 

In the back end, there's Jonathan Sutherland and Garrett Taylor, led by the leadership of newly elected captain Nick Scott. Among the cornerbacks, Pry also noted he and the staff have been continually impressed by Donovan Johnson.

"Defensively overall, we have some guys up front who are getting a lot of reps for the first time in their career and doing some good things," Pry said. "Obviously there are your steadies in there, Kevin Givens, Shareef Miller and those guys. At the same time Antonio Shelton is really having a good spring. A guy we'll be counting on who is in competition for significant playing time."

On the offensive side of the ball, for Rahne there's no better place to start than with quarterback Trace McSorley, who has only continued to lead with the same confidence he has had since taking over as Penn State's starting signal caller.

"He has such command of the offense, not only the schemes but also the timing of everything," Rahne said. "He makes great throws. He does everything physically. He's a great player, really happy to coach him."

While pleased with all of Penn State's quarterbacks, Rahne also noted sophomore Sean Clifford has done some good things with an increase in reps this spring.

"I'm happy with what Sean is doing really from the mental side and being able to consistently put together big plays," Rahne said.

Outside of the quarterbacks, much like Franklin, Rahne is pleased with the progress the entire offensive line has continued to make. 

"I think they have been blocking very well, getting movement," Rahne said.

Spring Ball Top Performers: Defensive Backs

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The days are drawing closer to Penn State's annual Blue-White spring game inside Beaver Stadium. With only two spring sessions remaining, check in with cornerbacks coach Terry Smith and safeties coach Tim Banks for a closer look at the Nittany Lion defensive backs.

While Penn State's senior departures spanned the secondary, upon closer review, the Nittany Lions still have strong leadership returning, as well as a wealth of depth at cornerback.

For Smith, the Nittany Lions will get an added boost on the field with the return of a healthy John Reid, who noted a few weeks ago he's feeling better than ever.

"He's in good form and making plays, working on his technique and perfecting his craft," Smith said. "He goes through all the individual periods and goes through some 7-on-7 work. He looks natural, he looks really fast, really explosive. He looks like the old John Reid. I'm excited to get to the fall and unleash him."

Among the younger cornerbacks, Smith noted Donovan Johnson and Zech McPhearson have both played well through the spring season.

"First, Donovan Johnson, he's having a terrific spring," Smith said. "He's getting his hands on a lot of balls, playing really good coverage and learning the system."

Smith called Johnson the most improved cornerback in the room from fall to now, praising his toughness and tenacity. His teammates have also noticed.  

"He's doing good," Amani Oruwariye said. "He's fast, really athletic with good feet, good technique and he is coming into his own. He has been taking great strides this spring, making strides on the ball. I like where he is going."

While Oruwariye isn't taking the full amount of reps this spring, Smith said that 80 percent of the reps the fifth-year senior has taken so far, have resulted in impact plays.

Circling back to the group of younger Nittany Lions stepping forward though, Smith praised McPhearson's consistency this spring.

"He doesn't make many mistakes, makes plays on the ball and he is challenging routes so I'm really, really happy with him," Smith said.

Rounding out the younger group, Smith said the Nittany Lions will look to rely on Tariq Castro-Fields this year, as he builds on a rookie season where he was one of just three true freshmen to see the field.

"Obviously Tariq Castro Fields is having a good spring," Smith said. "We're excited about him, he's one of our guys we are going to depend on a lot and count on."

Looking toward the safeties, Banks is pleased all around with the group, led by the veteran leadership of Nick Scott.

"Nick has done a tremendous job," Banks said. "Starting with our offseason conditioning program, he was excellent and he has really picked up where he left off during spring ball. He is a great leader right now. He's playing a lot faster. I'm excited about him. I think the sky is the limit this upcoming season." 

As Penn State head coach James Franklin mentioned earlier this month following the eighth spring practice session, Scott and Garrett Taylor have emerged in the safety battle.

"He's another young man who played some significant snaps last year on special teams but it looks like right now he's ready to take the next step," Banks said when asked about Taylor. "I've been really pleased with him so far."

Looking at the younger group, both Franklin and Banks made note of the progress Jonathan Sutherland has made, especially when it comes to his work ethic.

"He has been very physical, he has been very prepared," Banks said. "He treats every snap like it's his last snap so I'm excited about him. When we talk about practicing with a purpose, he gets it."

When it comes to work ethic though, Banks noted Scott is similar in the way he approaches practice too, which has become contagious in the room and especially encouraging with training camp not too far away. 

"We have a good balance of senior leadership," Banks said. "We have some young guys who have a great work ethic and I think everybody in between has kind of that same mentality. We're not going to leave on rep un attacked if you will. We're going to get after every rep like it's going to be our last rep."

Spring Practice Update

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State hosted its final media opportunity of the spring season Monday evening following practice at Holuba Hall. 

Nittany Lion head coach James Franklin joined offensive lineman Ryan Bates and cornerback Amani Oruwariye for three media sessions ahead of Saturday's annual Blue-White spring game.

Check in with all three Nittany Lions for one final look at all the spring ball action through 13 spring practices.

Blue-White Breakdown
Franklin noted the format of Saturday's game will keep consistent to what the Nittany Lions have done in the past with one's on the blue team and two's and even three's battling for positions on the white squad. 

"The first unit, typically, there's a little bit more guys on that unit because there are some guys that we know aren't going to play a lot of reps in the game, but overall one's against two's," Franklin said."

Ultimately though, the final spring session is just another opportunity for Franklin and his staff to gather one last critical look at where the Nittany Lions have progressed ahead of training camp.

"The spring game, it's an opportunity for us to go out and make some plays, build on the things that we did during spring ball, gain some confidence, have some fun and then really put some closure to the end of spring practice," Franklin said.

Big Picture with Bates
If there are two things on the rise as a whole with the team this spring, Bates noted the Nittany Lions are playing with some serious swagger, also connected through a level of chemistry that's perhaps at an all-time high. 

"We have some swagger to us compared to years past," Bates said. "We had a lot of swagger this year but I feel like the swagger we're bringing this year, we have a lot of big personalities on offense and defense. If you talk to some of those guys, it will really show, especially if you know them personality."

Big personalities aside though, this spring has presented a team that's more connected than perhaps any team Bates has been a part of thanks to an uptick in accountability across the squad.

"We all hold each other accountable," Bates said. "I feel like where we started in spring ball to where we are now, I feel like that progression of chemistry is only going higher." 

Oruwariye Embracing Leadership Role
In high school Oruwariye didn't exactly need to be a vocal leader, but as a returning veteran this year for the Nittany Lions, he's embracing the need to step up and into a leadership role.  

"The past couple of years we have had good leaders so the ball's in my park now and it's new but I'm embracing it," Oruwariye said. "I've never really been that vocal kind of leader. I'm usually a leader by example but at this level you need that vocal leader."

As the cornerbacks begin to settle in, Oruwariye noted the Nittany Lions are taking on the responsibility of developing the younger members of the room, while also working to restore some of the chemistry from last year.

"The past couple of years we've had that chemistry between me, Marcus Allen, Troy Apke and Grant Haley," Oruwariye said. "We already knew what to expect, now we're trying to get that chemistry and cohesion throughout the defense, but Nick Scott and Garrett Taylor have played a lot of football for us so it shouldn't be that hard."

Spring Ball Top Performers: Offensive Line

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State's top performers series is continuing along, taking a closer look at the Nittany Lion offensive line with Matt Limegrover.

The countdown to the Blue-White game has reached single digits as less than 10 days separate Penn State from its brief return to Beaver Stadium before the fall season.

On a conference call earlier this week it was junior Connor McGovern who said he believes this year will be the year of the offensive line. Equipped with both depth and experience, the Nittany Lions have a strong collection of options at all five starting spots, most of which who have started.

It's this situation though that creates something unique this spring from Limegrover - competition.

"I think one of the things that has been real beneficial this spring is there's tremendous competition so you have a lot of guys who have played a lot of football that are in there," Limegrover said. "You also have a young group of guys who have been highly touted who have kind of grown into their roles."

Among the returners are fully healthy Ryan Bates and consistent performers in Steven Gonzalez and Connor McGovern, who has settled right into the starting role at center for the Nittany Lions.

"Ryan Bates is another guy, he had a pretty significant injury against Ohio State last year," Limegrover said. "Even when he had a chance last year against Washington in the bowl game, he wasn't quite 100 percent. He came in and gave us some good reps but he's healthy again and out doing a great job."

Emerging from the younger group is Michal Menet, who Limegrover noted is at full strength, along with CJ Thorpe, who has started to step forward.

"CJ Thorpe is a young guy who has really started to show up," Limegrover said. "He's starting to put a lot of good technique together with his demeanor, which we really like having in the room. He's kind of got a little chip on his shoulder, which makes a difference."

It's the competition though that's driving the expectation, pushing the Nittany Lions toward a whole different level this spring, with Limegrover noting he's no longer handcuffed by having to do things a certain way. 

"We've had some variety," Limegrover said. "Some of these guys have been playing two or three different positions, playing at tackle, both sides, the guards and centers. I'm trying to get as many guys as I can to snap the football so we have options at center, at guard."

Even with the moves along the line, there's still a feeling within the group that nothing is given.

"They come out here and there's not a lot of messing around," Limegrover said. "They know that if they have an off day or if they are not on top of their game, they are going to fall behind and nobody wants that right now. That depth chart is really crowded."

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