**

Blog

Recently in Football Category

Levi Brown Still Maximizing Opportunity by Earning Third Degree

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

1231422.jpgUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - When Levi Brown began looking at colleges as a high school student-athlete at Granby High School in Norfolk, Va., he had a couple things in his mind.

Firstly, Brown knew that no one in his family had ever obtained a college degree.

Secondly, he wanted to play on the defensive line in college.

Looking for a combination of academics and athletics, Brown leaned on his high school coach, Dave Hudak, for advice. It turns out that Hudak was fan of the way Penn State and coach Joe Paterno offered student-athletes elite academics and football at the highest level.

11916467.jpeg"It was a place where academic integrity and football could be put into one," Brown said. "Growing up in a house where I was taught that sports were a good thing to have, but education was more important than that. I felt like this was a place I needed to be. The stars aligned and everything worked out."


Following the guidance of his parents and coach, Brown selected Penn State as the place he wanted to attend. After all, it was one of just three programs that recruited Brown as a defensive player.

When he walked on campus as a student, Brown knew he had the opportunity of a lifetime and sought out to maximize what he had been given. That mindset began in 2002 when he started college. Nearly 14 years later, and Brown is still maximizing the Penn State experience.

After earning two undergraduate degrees and a successful career in the National Football League, Brown will graduate with a master's degree this week.

"My parents wished they had the opportunity to get a college degree and a chance to make more income and have a better life than what they grew up in," said Brown. "They instilled that into my sister (Brionna) and I. They urged us to go get an education and make our lives as good as they can be."

Knowing his football career could end at any moment, Brown worked tirelessly to achieve whatever was necessary to have a successful life after his playing days ended. From the moment he arrived, Brown still recalls words of wisdom Coach Paterno instilled in him.

"Coach Paterno reinforced the fact that football is here in the present, but it's just a game," said Brown. "There are more important things in life, and you need to be contributing member in society. Education is one way to do that. Having people like my family and Coach Paterno in my corner really pushed me to be a better person so that I could do these things in my life."

Things didn't exactly come easy for Brown in his first year at Penn State. Staring at becoming academically ineligible to compete on the football field, Brown turned to Todd Kulka and the academic support staff as mentors to help shape the rest of his time in the program. It was the first time in his life he'd been away from home, and the transition into college life was entirely new for the North Carolina native.

"It came to down to me bearing down and focusing on what I needed to do," said Brown. "If you wanted to be serious about getting a degree, you needed to focus. Having the academic staff in my corner really helped me turn things around that first year. And I just grew from there."

On the field, Brown overcame the hurdle of switching positions, something he wasn't too keen on at the time. But Coach Paterno had a vision for Brown as an offensive lineman. He knew that Brown could be successful, and in hindsight, it's safe to say that Brown can't really argue with the decision.

After redshirting in 2002, Brown started 45 of his 48 career games on the offensive line, earning second-team All-American and All-Big Ten honors in back-to-back seasons (2005 and 2006). Brown was instrumental in helping Penn State win the 2005 Big Ten Championship and the 2006 Orange Bowl, earning a 20-5 record his last two seasons.

FB Graduation - Dec13B6D8.jpgAfter three and a half years, Brown graduated with a degree in labor and industrial relations in December 2005. Rather than take the easy way out and have a light class load as a senior, he sought to finish a second degree.


"When I went college, I just felt like, 'look, I'm here and I need to make the most of this opportunity,'" said Brown. "I'm getting a free education and you get to play a sport that I loved. I tried to make the most of my opportunities."

In December 2006, Brown earned his second undergraduate degree in psychology. He then shifted attention to a master's degree.

"I told myself, if I'm going to be here, I'm not going to just take a golf course just to be eligible," said Brown. "I wanted to make the most of it, and see what I could do with the opportunity. It worked out."


The standout left tackle got a jumpstart in the master's program for human resources and employment relations because he had some room for a couple course spots to fill. A full course load in a master's program leads to completion in two years.

However, that third degree took a backseat when Brown was selected by the Arizona Cardinals as the fifth overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, which is the highest Penn State selection during the past 15 years. In seven NFL seasons (six with Arizona and one in Pittsburgh), Brown played in 81 career games, which included 79 starts at tackle.

Despite making a living in the pinnacle of the sport he loved, Brown always had the master's degree on his mind.

Through the National Football League's tuition reimbursement program, Brown decided to finish what he had started in 2007. So in 2011, he began taking one master's course via Penn State's World Campus during each offseason. Brown worked as an intern at a law firm during the process, and he recently finished the research portion of the program by assisting a company with its human resource practices.

"With the NFL reimbursing it for me, there was no reason not to take advantage," said Brown. "At any time during my career, I could have gotten injured and cause my career to be cut short and not be able to make the money I was able to make. I needed to have something to fall back on if things didn't go the way I planned. That's what I did, and here I am ready to finish the masters program."

3903784.jpegHaving been part of a team nearly his whole life, Brown has aspirations of continuing to help lead individuals in the workforce by getting a foot in the door to do human resources work with a company.

Brown has been married to his wife, Lynette, since 2009. The two met at Penn State. Currently in the process of moving from Chandler, Ariz., to Austin, Texas, the Browns have three children, twin daughters, age 3, and a seven-month-old daughter.

When he opted to attend Penn State, Brown told himself that he was not going to pass up an opportunity to succeed. As the first member of his family to earn a degree, Brown will now have three diplomas from a world-renowned educational institution.

Penn State and football opened the door, but it was Brown's drive and initiative that fueled a journey maximized to its fullest.

"If you are going to start something, you need to finish it," said Brown.



Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

2016 NFL Draft Roundup

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the 26th time, at least five Nittany Lion football products were selected in the NFL Draft.

Austin Johnson, Christian Hackenberg, Carl Nassib, Anthony Zettel and Jordan Lucas were each selected as part of the 2016 NFL Draft, which was held in Chicago over the weekend. In total, there have now been 343 total selections for Penn State in the NFL Draft.

Take a look at highlights and more from the busy weekend with Penn State and the NFL Draft.


Round 2 (Pick 43) - Austin Johnson - Tennessee Titans



Round 2 (Pick 51) - Christian Hackenberg - New York Jets



Round 3 (Pick 65) - Carl Nassib - Cleveland Browns



Round 6 (Pick 202) - Anthony Zettel - Detroit Lions



Round 6 (Pick 204) - Jordan Lucas - Miami Dolphins






Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Nittany Lions Wrap Up Spring with Eye on Regular Season

| No Comments | No TrackBacks
DSCN4129_BlueWhite16Blog_600.jpg

VIDEO: James Franklin Postgame Interview | VIDEO: Postgame Player Interviews

Spring Practice Central

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Ideal weather conditions and 65,000 fans greeted the Nittany Lions inside Beaver Stadium during the final day of spring practice for the 2016 season on Saturday afternoon.

After a practice period marked by superb progress and installation, the Nittany Lions will head into the final few weeks of the spring academic semester and summer with a confidence. The Blue topped the White, 37-0, during a productive gameday for the Lions.

"I thought we had 15 really good practices," said head coach James Franklin. "I thought we really improved dramatically from the start of the spring to the end. Today, having 65,000 fans here was unbelievable. Overall, we had a great spring."

Penn State practiced 15 times between March 18 and April 16 before the spring season culminated with the four quarters of action inside Beaver Stadium on a sun-splashed day with a terrific crowd.

The fan support Penn State Football receives throughout a year sets it apart, and Saturday was no different. From the new-look autograph session held at stadium gates during the morning to the spring game festivities, the Nittany Lions truly embraced the opportunity to spend a day with so many loyal supporters of the program.

"Blue-White Weekend is an awesome time every year to spend time with your family and see so many fans supporting us," said offensive tackle Andrew Nelson. "We couldn't be anymore thankful for our fans and how they came out to be in Beaver Stadium for the spring game."

Offensively, the Nittany Lions took a big leap forward from the start of spring ball. Installing a new offensive scheme in a span of 15 spring practices is no small task, but the Lions worked through the paces of the process with great efficiency. Tempo was the key throughout spring drills, and the Lions are primed to pick up right where they left off on Saturday when training camp begins in August.

"I think the offense did a really good job picking up the offense this spring," said quarterback Trace McSorley. "We kept getting better every day. We came out and had a really good day in front of the fans. I thought we moved the ball well most of the day. We have some things to clean up, but we are really happy with how the day and spring went."

McSorley and Tommy Stevens steered the offense with great efficiency during spring practice. The young Nittany Lions will continue to grow with work during the summer months, but Coach Franklin is pleased with the progress made during the past month on the field and how they performed on Saturday afternoon.

"I thought the two quarterbacks did a really good job of running the offense," said Franklin. "Tommy Stevens, even though he was working with the white team against the blue defense, he really did some nice things and then late in the game we were able to get him with the blue offense and he really did a nice job. I thought Trace (McSorley) looked poised, looked confident, looked under control."

On defense, the Lions gained valuable experience at a number of spots during the first spring under coordinator Brent Pry. The Nittany Lions are replacing two big pieces at defensive tackle, but the unit made a lot of big plays this spring and got its hands on a number of balls.

"I really like the way the defense has grown," said Franklin. "We made a bunch of plays and we didn't have Nyeem Wartman-White and Brandon Bell, two of our better players. We lost some great players on the defensive line that we are going to have to replace. I'm really pleased at defensive end and our secondary. We've got some very nice depth."

Penn State will look to finish the semester strong in the classroom before the summer conditioning program begins. With a spring marked by positive growth, the Nittany Lions have a lot to build upon before fall camp begins in early August.

Saturday's spring game was the final time the fans will see the team before action commences in Beaver Stadium against Kent State on Sept. 3. The window of opportunity for growth between now and the opener is a big one for the Nittany Lions. With the foundation laid this spring, the Lions are well on their way to a strong start for 2016.

"We improved on offense, defense and special teams this spring, but where we really took a step forward is that team camaraderie," said Nelson. "We are looking forward to growing more over the summer after a very good spring."



Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony



VIDEO: 2016 Blue-White James Franklin Postgame Interview

| No Comments | No TrackBacks
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach James Franklin talks with GoPSUsports.com following the Blue-White Game to wrap up a productive spring practice period.








Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: 2016 Blue-White Postgame Player Interviews

| No Comments | No TrackBacks
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Blue team topped the White squad, 37-0, before 65,000 fans inside Beaver Stadium on a sun-splashed Saturday afternoon. Hear from several Nittany Lions following the culmination of spring drills for 2016.





Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

2016 Blue-White Gameday Snapshots

| No Comments | No TrackBacks
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Take a look inside the 2016 Blue-White Gameday with snapshots from a sun-splashed day in Beaver Stadium.


IMG_9319_BlueWhite16Blog_600.jpg
IMG_9321_BlueWhite16Blog_600.jpgIMG_9323_BlueWhite16Blog_600.jpgIMG_9324_BlueWhite16Blog_600.jpg20160416_111015_resized_BlueWhite16Blog_600.jpg20160416_111711_resized_BlueWhite16Blog_600.jpg20160416_113325_resized_BlueWhite16Blog_600.jpgDSCN4109_BlueWhite16Blog_600.jpgDSCN4111_BlueWhite16Blog_600.jpgDSCN4112_BlueWhite16Blog_600.jpgDSCN4113_BlueWhite16Blog_600.jpgDSCN4115_BlueWhite16Blog_600.jpgDSCN4121_BlueWhite16Blog_600.jpgDSCN4122_BlueWhite16Blog_600.jpgDSCN4125_BlueWhite16Blog_600.jpgDSCN4127_BlueWhite16Blog_600.jpgDSCN4129_BlueWhite16Blog_600.jpgDSCN4130_BlueWhite16Blog_600.jpgDSCN4131_BlueWhite16Blog_600.jpgDSCN4132_BlueWhite16Blog_600.jpgDSCN4133_BlueWhite16Blog_600.jpgDSCN4135_BlueWhite16Blog_600.jpgDSCN4137_BlueWhite16Blog_600.jpgDSCN4138_BlueWhite16Blog_600.jpgDSCN4140_BlueWhite16Blog_600.jpgDSCN4141_BlueWhite16Blog_600.jpgDSCN4145_BlueWhite16Blog_600.jpgDSCN4146.JPG



2016 Blue-White Gameday Preview

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

FB_BW Header_2016-updated.jpg
Blue-White Gameday Central | Parking Map | Parking Pass | 
Blue Roster | White Roster

Spring Practice Central 



UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions will wrap up spring drills on Saturday afternoon at the annual Blue-White Game inside Beaver Stadium, marking the culmination of a very productive spring practice season. The game will kick at 2 p.m. with tape-delayed television coverage from BTN (Saturday at 7 p.m.).

11868108.jpegPenn State has made significant progress on both sides of the ball and on special teams during the allotted practice period for spring drills. Saturday's game marks the final opportunity for the coaching staff to evaluate the team before the start of training camp in early August.

"The Blue-White Weekend is such a huge weekend here all around the University," said head coach James Franklin. "I think the spring game is a good opportunity to see how guys are going to be in that type of environment. It's important to see how guys are going to react in that stadium before the first game this year."


On the offensive side of the ball, the Nittany Lions have worked diligently to install a new scheme under the direction of offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Joe Moorhead. The transition to a new no-huddle, up-tempo offense has been smooth and resulted in a great deal of big plays. Defensively, the Lions took a step forward under coordinator and linebackers coach Brent Pry. Both sides of the ball are excited about how the spring has transpired.

"I've been really pleased with the energy," said Franklin. "This week has been very good. It's easy to lose focus as you get closer to the spring game (and the end of practice), but the guys have been focused and locked in."

The Blue-White Game is a great opportunity to mimic a typical gameday environment for the Nittany Lions. While Saturday's game will be a fun way for the team to put on a show for the fans, it's a chance to work through typical game-like conditions.

"We always want to execute. The spring game is a lot of our base stuff, so we want to execute at a very high level as a team. It's a good opportunity for us," said sophomore quarterback Trace McSorley. "It's going to be fun to get out in front of the fans for the first time this spring."

The work is just beginning for the 2016 Nittany Lions, but the spring period set the tone for the rest of the academic semester and summer conditioning program. The team is optimistic about the direction the team is headed in, and the group is looking forward to getting in front of the Beaver Stadium crowd.

"We look at the Spring Game as an opportunity to show our growth," said junior wide receiver Saeed Blacknall. "We always want to continue taking steps forward, and this is the opportunity to do that at the end of the spring."

Take a look through some Blue-White items to watch as the Nittany Lions wrap up spring practice for 2016.

Autograph Session Returns
11868065.jpegThe popular pre-game autograph session returns for the third-straight year. Parking lots around Beaver Stadium will open at 8 a.m. The team will arrive at the South Tunnel at approximately 10:30 a.m. The autograph session will take place from 11:15 a.m. and 12:05 p.m., and new for this year, the Nittany Lions will be signing autographs at various Beaver Stadium gates.

The Nittany Lions will be spread out at five stadium gates by position. The breakdown is as follows:

 

Gate A -- Running Backs/Tight Ends

Gate B -- Quarterbacks/Defensive Backs

Gate C -- Defensive Line/Linebackers

Gate E -- Wide Receivers/Specialists

Gate F -- Offensive Line

 

A team poster will be available at the stadium gates, while supplies last, for the players to sign during the autograph session and for other fans attending the game. An autograph page is also included in the Blue-White Game programs that are sold in the tailgating lots.

 

The players will be permitted to sign one item per person to give as many fans as possible an opportunity to meet the squad members. The players will not be available for photographs during the autograph session.

Gates A and B will open at 12:30 p.m. in advance of the 2:06 p.m. kickoff.

Game Format
The Blue-White Game will feature regular scoring. The squad has been split into a Blue team and a White team. Quarterbacks will wear the opposite jersey color of their team (Blue team QBs will wear White jerseys; White team QBs will wear Blue jerseys). The game will have four quarters, each 12 minutes in length. All four quarters will feature a running clock. The clock will stop at each possession change and during a called penalty. There will be a media timeout in each quarter at the first change of possession after the 6:00 mark. The final two minutes of each half will have normal timing. Each team will be awarded three timeouts. There will be 20-minute halftime intermission.

Blue-White Game Rosters
Take a look through the breakdown of the roster for Saturday's game. Note that the coaching staff has been split into two groups.

16-FB-Spring_Game_Flip-Rosters.jpg
2005 Team Set to be Honored
Approximately 25 members from the 2005 Big Ten championship team will be honored on the field between the third and fourth quarters of Saturday's Blue-White Game. The 2006 Orange Bowl champion squad capped an 11-1 season with a dramatic 26-23 triple overtime victory over Florida State. The Nittany Lions marched to a Big Ten title with a 7-1 mark in conference games, which included a thrilling 17-10 victory over No. 6 Ohio State in primetime at Beaver Stadium. A last-second touchdown in Ann Arbor was all that stood between the conference champions and an undefeated season.

Levi Brown, Chris Harrell, Matt Hahn, Ethan Kilmer, Michael Robinson, Anwar Phillips, Derrick Williams and Alan Zemaitis are among the Nittany Lion greats scheduled to be back on Saturday.

Uplifting Athletes Connection
For the third-straight year, the Blue-White Game will help raise funds for Uplifting Athletes. This year, the helmets in the spring game will include an Uplifting Athletes logo on the back. Additionally, the game balls used in the Blue-White Game will feature the Uplifting Athletes logo. Five game balls will then be signed (James Franklin, 
Joe Moorhead and Brent Pry) before being auctioned off in the coming weeks with the net proceeds going to Uplifting Athletes.


Last July, the 13th Annual Penn State Uplifting Athletes Lift For Life raised more than $120,000. Last year's fundraising efforts brought the cumulative total of funds raised to more than $1.1 million to benefit kidney cancer research and the rare disease community. The 14th Annual Lift For Life will take place in July.

BTN Television Coverage
The Big Ten Network will again provide coverage of the Blue-White Game, with former Penn State standout and four-time Super Bowl Champion Matt Millen serving as the analyst for the broadcast. The game will be tape-delayed on BTN, but fans can watch it live on BTN2Go.

 

Millen is paired with play-by-play announcer Scott Graham and sideline reporter Brian Tripp. The game will air on a tape-delayed basis on BTN at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 16 and be replayed Sunday, April 17 at midnight and 10 p.m., Monday, April 18 at 11:30 p.m. and Tuesday, April 19 at 4 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.

 

A defensive tackle out of Hokendauqua, Pennsylvania, Millen was an All-America selection in 1978 by Walter Camp and United Press International.

 

The game is also airing on more than 30 Penn State Sports Network radio stations across the state and in metropolitan New York City, with Steve Jones and Jack Ham on the call. ESPN Radio (1450 AM) and WBUS (93.7 FM) are the State College outlets. The radio broadcast is also available on GoPSUsports.com.



Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Spring Football Position Breakdown - Quarterbacks

| No Comments | No TrackBacks


Spring Practice Central


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions practiced for the 13th time during spring drills on Wednesday afternoon. Throughout spring practice, GoPSUsports.com has provided a break down each position on the depth chart. Today, we wrap up with the quarterbacks.



The Quarterbacks

Players Returning-Newcomers/Lost:
4/2

Who's Back:
Billy Fessler (Jr./So.), Trace McSorley (Jr./So.), Tommy Stevens (So./Fr.), Jake Zembiec (Fr./Fr.)

The Breakdown:
11865176.jpegNo unit on the depth chart faced a bigger learning curve during spring practice than the quarterbacks. Under the direction of new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Joe Moorhead, the Nittany Lions worked diligently to install a new offensive scheme that will debut in the fall.

Meetings and efforts to go about the installation process began in the winter, but the unit did not get to take things onto the field until March 18 when spring practice began. Largely, it has been a spring marked by great progress for the Nittany Lion quarterbacks. The unit has adapted to the quick pace and new scheme with great focus and work ethic.

In addition to learning the intricacies of a new offense, the quarterbacks entered the spring period replacing the shoes of the program's all-time leading passer. Christian Hackenberg will be part of the NFL Draft at the end of the month, and the quarterback position will have a new starter for the first time since the start of 2013.

Sophomore Trace McSorley returns as the most experienced player at quarterback. The Virginia native redshirted as a true freshman in 2014. The 6-foot, 199-pound signal caller appeared in seven games as a redshirt freshman in 2015. That list of games included significant time at the TaxSlayer Bowl. McSorley completed 14-of-27 passes for 142 yards and tossed two touchdown passes.

He made very good progress during the 2015 season and during winter conditioning drills. McSorley can hurt a defense with his elusive abilities with the ball in his hands. He helped lead Briar Woods High School to four state championship games, winning three titles.

Redshirt freshman Tommy Stevens has split reps with McSorley during spring practice. The Indianapolis product was instrumental on the scout team offense during the 2015 season. Now, Stevens is firmly in the mix to contend for the starting assignment following a strong offseason.

The 6-foot-4, 219-pound athlete added eight pounds of muscle to his frame during the winter conditioning period. Stevens enrolled early during the winter of 2015 and is participating in spring practice for the second time in his career. Like McSorley, Stevens has adapted to learning the new offense very well and has put together a strong spring practice period.

Billy Fessler returns for his third season in the program. A redshirt sophomore, Fessler redshirted in 2014 and did not see any game action during the 2015 campaign. The Erie, Pa., native has been instrumental in helping the Nittany Lions prepare each week and plays a critical role as a sideline signal caller for the new no huddle offense.

New to the quarterback group is early enrollee Jake Zembiec. The Rochester, N.Y., product graduated from Aquinas Institute in December and started classes at Penn State in January. After going through winter conditioning, Zembiec's experience in learning the new offense has been invaluable for his development and adjustment to the college game.

All four quarterbacks are relishing in the opportunity to steer the new no huddle attack. The tempo of the offense rests on the shoulders of the quarterbacks, and the Lions have done a superb job growing with each passing day of spring practice.


Quoting Coach Moorhead:
"I think they have been very diligent in their approach to learning the offense and applying it on the field. I think they all have a great work ethic. I think at times during spring ball they have shown flashes of what we need from the position to be successful in the fall. So, I'm very excited about the potential. I think they've made the biggest strides mentally. Going form zero understanding of the offense to getting it entirely installed in about six days, they've done a great job really understanding the material and understanding the things it takes to be successful from a mental standpoint."

Spring Football: Post-Practice Press Conference (4/13/16)

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Spring Practice Central

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach James Franklin updated the media following Penn State's 13th spring practice on Wednesday evening. A spring marked by good progress on both sides, the Nittany Lions will return to Beaver Stadium on Saturday to wrap up spring drills.

Hear from Coach Franklin and quarterbacks Trace McSorley and Tommy Stevens following Wednesday's practice.





Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Spring Football: McSorley, Stevens Growing Inside New Offense

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

11863056.jpegSpring Practice Central

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The reps have been invaluable. The progress has been significant. And the process has been a pleasure.

That's how quarterbacks Trace McSorley and Tommy Stevens would best sum up the last four weeks of spring practice at the helm of the Nittany Lion offense.

Splitting reps throughout spring drills, McSorley and Stevens are just grazing the surface in their time commanding the new offense, but both are very optimistic with how things have gone and where the offensive unit can go from here.

"It's been a very good spring," said McSorley. "I think the offense has done a really good job picking things up. I think we are ahead of where we thought we would have been through (12) practices. We have been able to move the ball against our defense, which has been among the best in the nation during the past couple years. It's going to be exciting in the fall."

The offense began laying the groundwork of installing a new scheme immediately after the TaxSlayer Bowl. It was new for everyone in the offensive meeting room, which benefitted the young duo of returning quarterbacks. The entire group spent the spring learning together as one collective unit, and the on-field results have improved with each passing practice.

"Things have really become more efficient for the offense since the start of spring practice," said Stevens. "The pace at which we are getting in and out of plays has been very effective and at a high standard has been a big area of improvement."

Tempo has been the theme of the spring for the offensive players. McSorley, a redshirt sophomore, and Stevens, a redshirt freshman, are the men who set the pace at which the offense operates. When a play is over, the unit gets to the line of scrimmage as quickly as possible before looking to the sideline for the next signal. There is no huddle for the quarterbacks to lead, and it's something both returning quarterbacks can't help but smile about.

"The no-huddle is awesome," Stevens said. "It puts the power in our hands."

"It falls on each guy to get where they need to be at a fast tempo and then look for the signal," said McSorley. "In a way, it almost takes a little bit off of the quarterback because each guy gets where they need to be and then looks at the signal to get ready for the snap. The tempo really gives you some momentum."

The swift pace at which the offense is operating lets the Lions dictate things when they have the ball. Penn State can be the aggressor, put a defense on its heels and make the opponent play faster than it may want to. McSorley and Stevens said that conditioning was a factor in the first three or four practices this spring, but the unit has taken a big step forward with the effectiveness of the tempo.

Additionally, the offense puts a premium on getting the skill players in space. The quarterbacks have plenty of options to find talent across the offense, and they are enjoying how many chances it gives the Lion athletes to make plays in the open field.

"I really like how the offense lets our athletes get in space and go one-on-one with a defender," said McSorley. "We have a lot of really good athletes on the outside and in the backfield, so letting those guys get out in space and make someone have to tackle, like Saquon (Barkley) one-on-one, more times than not a guy like him is going to make people miss."

McSorley and Stevens both lit up when asked about the weapons Penn State's offense will have at wide receiver in 2016. The wide receiver group is an impressive unit to watch on the practice field. It's a diverse group with size, speed, experience and some youth.

"I really like the variety of the group. We don't have one guy who you can lock in on," said McSorley. "Saeed (Blacknall) is really good down the field. Chris (Godwin) can do so many different things. DaeSean (Hamilton) is so precise with his routes and diagnosing the defense. Then you have the speed of (Brandon) Polk and DeAndre (Thompkins). We have Juwan (Johnson) and Irvin (Charles) coming in and making plays. We have so much size and speed that I think it's going to create problems for defenses."

McSorley spent 2015 as the primary backup behind Christian Hackenberg. He played in seven contests, including significant reps at the TaxSlayer Bowl. Stevens played a paramount role on the scout team during his redshirt season last fall. The move into the primary rotation on the offense has been an adjustment for the Indianapolis native, but it's one that he has relished.

"Getting the experience on the scout team was really important, but the number of meaningful reps I've had this spring has been great. Being able to compete and make the team better has been a lot of fun this spring," said Stevens.

Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Joe Moorhead sets the tone for the unit every day. The Lions faced a steep learning curve this spring, but Coach Moorhead has put the group in a great spot to be successful on the field.

"Coach Moorhead brings a ton of energy and juice to practices and the meeting room," said Stevens. "He pushes us to get better every single day. He's always expecting a championship standard, and it's really challenging us to be at our best."

The Lions will have a couple more opportunities to grow before showcasing the new offense in front of the fans on Saturday in Beaver Stadium.

"I look for the group to continue to get better each day," McSorley said. "We need to clean some things up that we aren't 100 percent certain on and just continue to grow. As an offense, we have a good grasp on the base playbook. At the spring game, we hope to give people a little taste of what is to come next year."

The quarterbacks are pleased with the progress, but the unit knows this is just the beginning of the process leading up to 2016. The first chapter will draw to a close on Saturday when spring drills commence.

"Ultimately, we are prepared and want to be confident in what we are doing. We are excited to finally get out there and compete in front of the fans on Saturday," said Stevens.



Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

 

GoPSUsports

Instagram