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2016 Tuesday Press Conference Roundup - Pitt

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State head coach James Franklin met with members of the media Tuesday afternoon to recap the 2016 opener and preview the upcoming matchup between the Nittany Lions and Pittsburgh. Penn State hits the road for its first road trip of the season, traveling to Steel City to take on the Panthers Saturday, Sept. 10 at Heinz Field.

Meeting for the 97th time in program history, the series with the Panthers is among the longest in program history, dating back to the first meeting between the two teams in 1893. Noting the rich history and the significance of the series, Franklin stressed that amidst the excitement, the focus is approaching week two the same as any other week.

"For us, focus on the process of being successful, not the results or not a specific type of game," Franklin said. "And our guys are excited about it. But I think everybody understands the significance of it. We've been hearing about it all off-season. There is no doubt about it. But our approach is consistent week in and week out."

Opening his weekly press conference with a quick Kent State review, Franklin highlighted success both defensively and on the special teams unit. Pointing out the high points, Franklin also looked toward some areas of improvement. Among the praise for special teams, Franklin highlighted junior Tyler Davis, who was 2-for-2 on field goal attempts against the Golden Flashes, moving him to 10-for-10 in his career.

"And a guy who probably doesn't get enough credit, Tyler Davis, I think is 10 for 10 now on field goals," Franklin said. "He has done a nice job there."

Davis was among the Penn State coaching staff's player of the week honorable mention picks for special teams. Franklin also highlighted running back Saquon Barkley as the staff's offensive pick and junior defensive end Garrett Sickels on the defensive side.  The coaching staff also had honorable mention weekly accolades for sophomore cornerback Amani Oruwariye, redshirt freshman defensive end Shareef Miller, sophomore kicker Joe Julius and junior kicker Tyler Davis.

On the offensive side of the things, junior Chris Godwin got a chance to address a question about his connection at wide receiver with quarterback Trace McSorley, who felt confident in being able to rely on his outside receivers.

"It's awesome knowing that your quarterback believes in you and with the weapons that we have in our receiver group as deep as we are, it's something that we're pretty confident in, as well," Godwin said. "At the same time it didn't happen overnight. It took a lot of time to build that rapport with Trace over the course of the off-season. So getting to where we're at now and obviously we still have a lot of room to grow, but we're looking forward to that growth."

Penn State and Pitt kickoff at noon from a sold out Heinz Field on ESPN with Bob Wischusen (play-by-play) and Brock Huard (color commentary) and Allison Williams (sideline) on the call.

On The Quote Board -

- Penn State fans were treated to a glimpse at some of the depth of the Nittany Lion secondary in Saturday's win against Kent State. Something Coach Franklin was pleased with all preseason, several Nittany Lions got a chance to shine including Amani Oruwariye's pick-six.

"I think having four or five corners that play - I think we played about eight or nine DBs the whole game - having that depth keeps everyone fresh and can keep the number of reps down," Grant Haley said. "So just having that depth...we're a young group, but the experience in there, not true freshmen, with red-shirt freshman and sophomores and even guys like Malik [Golden] and Marcus [Allen] playing a lot. I think that's helped us from the experience and leadership standpoint, as well."

- Four of Penn State's eight plays in its second to last drive were pass plays from McSorley, which ended with a 30-yard completion to Mike Gesicki for a touchdown. When asked about Gesicki's touchdown Godwin had this to say:

"As Coach Moorhead likes to say, 'we're always going to attack' we're not going to be on the passive end of things. No matter what point of the game it is; we're going to keep attacking," Goodwin said. "That was evidence of that. It was awesome to see Mike get that touchdown. Regardless of who makes the play, we're all in it together." 

Monday Notebook: Week One Highlights

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By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUsports.com

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State Football showed signs of both potential and promise in its 2016 season opening win against Kent State. Even with a wealth of positives, the Nittany Lions are keenly aware of some areas for improvement. 

"Overall I think there are some really good things to build off of, but we have a lot of things we need to get cleaned up," Franklin said. "I know people say we have a big game coming up this week so we'll look at this past week and learn from that and move on to the next one."

Before getting into the week ahead, let's take a look at some of the positives from Saturday's fifth consecutive win over the Golden Flashes.

Blake Gillikin's Rookie Debut
Six Nittany Lions earned their first career start against Kent State, with one of those starters being true freshman Blake Gillikin. Gillikin is the third true freshman starting punter for PSU since 1946 and made his debut averaging 47.0 yards on the day, which is fourth among freshmen in Penn State history and tops among true freshmen. His punting average ranks him ninth nationally and first in the Big Ten after week one.

With the top punting job closely contested all throughout camp, Franklin noted after the game that there's still room for Gillikin to improve.

"I went to him right when we start our typical warmups when we do a sky punt and he knocked it about 12 yards out of the endzone," Franklin said.  "I said to him that his legs were a little live today and he was excited about the game so just to make sure he understood that."

Under the Radar
Sophomore John Reid made a statement when called upon at punt returner in Saturday's win.  Across four attempts against Kent State, Reid highlighted the evening with a 21-yard haul on a punt return in the third quarter for a career-high mark. Franklin praised Reid's strength and ability following the game, mentioning that it was late last week that the staff became confident in their decision to put him at punt returner.

"He always caught the ball but his fundamentals early on weren't great," Franklin said. "As you know John, he is the type of guy once you decide to make him the punt returner, he's going to stay out there after practice on his own with managers and [Jordan] Wombacker, one of our punters, and get in a bunch of work. He's done that and I think he has the chance to be a weapon for us down the road."

Success in the Secondary
While sophomore Amani Oruwariye's interception for a 30-yard touchdown return certainly shined a light on the depth in the secondary, junior Marcus Allen also came through in the clutch.  Allen forced the third fumble of his career and recorded the second recovery of his career in the second quarter to swing the momentum in favor of the Nittany Lions, who were tied at 6-6 at the time of Allen's impact play.

"I mentioned to you guys all summer that we felt really good about our back seven with our linebackers and defensive backs," Franklin said. "I thought Marcus Allen played really well, I thought John Reid played really well and obviously Amani [Oruwariye] made a big play for us."

Saquon being Saquon
Penn State rushed for 145 yards in Saturday's win, with 105 of those yards coming from sophomore Saquon Barkley. Notching his sixth career 100-yard rushing game and eighth career rushing touchdown, one might think the tale of the box score has Barkley pretty pleased.

"I felt like it was half of what we are capable of doing," Barkley said, reflecting on the overall offensive performance. "We were still capable of having 33 points on the board, but we left about 21 out there."

Pittsburgh Connections
Looking toward next week, the Nittany Lions will renew a long standing series with the Panthers on the road in the Keystone Classic presented by People's Natural Gas. Having met regularly from 1900-31 and 1935-92, Penn State and Pittsburgh will square off for the first time since 2000 - in the 97th outing between the two teams.

As the Nittany Lions prepare to renew the series, there's no shortage of hometown connections. For starters, Penn State has eight Nittany Lions from the Pittsburgh area on its roster.

On the staff side of things, offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, who is also from the area, served as a graduate assistant for the Panthers from 1998-99. Offensive line coach Matt Limegrover is also from Pittsburgh and assistant head coach and cornerback's head coach Terry M. Smith is from nearby Aliquippa, Pennsylvania.  

Nittany Lion junior cornerback Grant Haley's parents also met attending Pittsburgh's School of Medicine. Haley's mother, Carla Neal-Haley, attended Penn State and was a member of the track and field team.

Personality Emerges Among Defensive Line

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By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUsports.com


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -  Exactly a month ago today, Brent Pry took the podium for his first Media Day session in his new role as defensive coordinator for the Nittany Lions.

 

The very first question? What was his plan to adjust to the departures of four defensive linemen heading to NFL? Among those four are defensive tackle Austin Johnson, defensive end Carl Nassib and defensive tackle Anthony Zettel, who all had standout careers in the Blue and White that ended in 2015. Defensive tackle Tarow Barney was also a solid contributor for the Nittany Lions.

 

The departures were no reason to be concerned for Pry, who mentioned that it wasn't the first time he he has dealt with good players leaving. While not always leaving for the NFL, Pry addressed a room full of media members with some of his own perspective.

 

"There's talent. There's just not a lot of experience," Pry said. "There are young guys, highly recruited. There are old heads that just haven't played a lot because they've played behind those [NFL] guys. I think we've got great depth. It's unproven depth, but the roster in that unit right now looks better than it has since we've been here."

 

That collection of talent featuring young and familiar faces making up the "unproven depth," finally got its chance to make an impact as the Nittany Lions opened the season Saturday with a 33-13 win against Kent State in Beaver Stadium.

 

Six Nittany Lions earned their first collegiate start against the Golden Flashes. Half of that number came from the defensive line with junior Parker Cothren, senior Evan Schwan and redshirt freshman Kevin Givens all lining up on the front four.  Joining the new guys were familiar faces in juniors Garrett Sickels, (DE) and Jason Cabinda (MLB) and seniors Brandon Bell (SAM) and Nyeem Wartman-White (WILL), who returned after missing the 2015 season due to an injury.

 

Leading 16-13 at halftime, it was the starters who held it together, with Bell leading the way with five tackles, Wartman-White and Sickels combining for a sack and Schwan posting one tackle for a loss of three yards.

 

The show began in the second half.

 

"The end of the second quarter felt like one of those things where you saw glimpses of it, but it was never really transferring into continuing momentum," Sickels said. "At the start of the third quarter, we started making plays left and right and everyone could just feel it."

 

On Kent State's first drive, sophomore cornerback Amani Oruwariye caught a pick-six and returned it 30 yards for Penn State's first interception return for a touchdown since 2014.

 

On the next drive, freshman Shareef Miller, one of 19 players to make their first career appearances, sacked Kent State quarterback Justin Agner for a loss of 10 yards. Miller finished with 1.5 sacks and a career-high five tackles.

 

Two drives later, Bell grabbed his third career interception on the Penn State 13.

 

"The ball came up on me hot," Bell said. "I turned my head around and it was in my face. It caught me off guard but I was lucky enough to catch it."

 

Holding Kent State without a score in the second half, Penn State logged six sacks, most of which came from the depth on the bench. Sophomore Antoine White and redshirt freshman Ryan Buchholz combined for 2.5 sacks for a loss of 17 yards. White closed out the day with a career-high five tackles, while Buchholz's one sack was the first of his career.

 

The Nittany Lions totaled seven sacks in the win against the Golden Flashes, marking the most since recording seven at Northwestern in 2011. The new-look defensive line accounted for six of those seven sacks.

 

Buchholz, junior Tyrell Chavis (DT), redshirt freshman Ryan Monk (DT) and redshirt freshman Robert Windsor (DT) were also among the group of 19 Nittany Lions to make their first career appearances, all rotating in on the defensive line.

 

"Sometimes we didn't capitalize on our opportunities and other times we did," Sickels said, reflecting back on the much improved second half. "During the off-season I took it very personally when people were saying that I played in the shadows and what are we going to do without AJ (Austin Johnson) and Tarow (Barney), but seeing everyone help out today really made me proud to be the head of that field."

 

The new Nittany Lion defensive line has certainly emerged, with a new look, but one that has potential. Each year is always a little different but with the first win out of the way, Penn State's defensive line is poised to continue to showcase its new personality this year. 

VIDEO: Postgame Players One-on-One - Kent State

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com spent time with several Nittany Lions in exclusive interviews with Chris Godwin, Mike Gesicki, Saquon Barkley and Brandon Bell following the 33-13 win against Kent State in the season opener.

 

VIDEO: One-on-One with James Franklin - Kent State

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach James Franklin talks with GoPSUsports.com following Penn State's 33-13 win against Kent State in the season opener on Saturday.

 

2016 Gameday Live - Penn State vs. Kent State

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to live, interactive coverage of the Penn State football season. The Nittany Lions open the season at home in Beaver Stadium against Kent State. Follow along for live updates from the stadium.




Live Blog Penn State Football vs. Kent State
 

2016 Gameday - Penn State Hosts Kent State in Opener

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Gameday Central Game Notes Depth Chart Press Conference Roundup | Game Blog 
Wednesday Practice Update | Charles Huff Q&A Training Camp Central Coverage

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The 130th season of Penn State Football has finally arrived and the Nittany Lions are set to welcome Kent State to Beaver Stadium Saturday for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff on BTN.

Opening the season at home for the first time since 2012, the Nittany Lions and the Golden Flashes meet for the first time since 2013. In that 2013 outing, Penn State shut out Kent State 34-0 at home in Beaver Stadium on Sept. 21 for its fourth consecutive victory in the series.

"The focus has been on this week and doing everything we possibly can to get ready for it," head coach James Franklin said. "I know the assistant coaches and the players are really excited about the opportunity to go out and show our fans and the alumni what we're about."

The Nittany Lions enter the 2016 season with 16 returning starters, with three on special teams, five on defense and eight on offense, including an offensive line that is the 17th most experienced unit in the country and second-most experienced in the Big Ten.

Leading the offense this year is sophomore Trace McSorley, who steps into the starting role at quarterback for the first time against Kent State. With a newly implemented offense under the direction of offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, McSorley's options including seemingly endless potential.

Freshman All-American Saquon Barkley returns to lead running back unit that's packed with potential. Barkley led the offense with 1,076 rushing yards in 11 games to set a Penn State freshman record. Despite missing a few games last year, Barkley totaled five 100-yard rushing performances, en route to becoming the 43rd Nittany Lion in program history to break 1,000 yards rushing.

The Nittany Lions also return a stacked group at wide receiver, led by All-Big Ten second team selection Chris Godwin and All-Big Ten honorable mention DaeSean Hamilton. Godwin caught at least four passes in 11 of 13 games last year and became just the third Nittany Lion in program history to total 1,000 receiving yards in a season.

Surpassing the 1,000-yard mark in each of their positions, Barkley and Godwin are just the third other duo in program history to achieve the feat.

Fourth-year head coach Paul Haynes will lead the Golden Flashes in their season opener, taking on Penn State for the second time during his tenure at Kent State. The Golden Flashes return nearly all of their starters from last year, including eight from a defense that ranked 27th in total defense last year.

Pregame Notes -

What to Watch For: Penn State
1. While there's certainly buzz and excitement this year surrounding the new up-tempo offense, Franklin says he's just as excited about the special teams unit as he is about the offense. Listed on the depth chart this week, the Nittany Lions have true freshman Blake Gillikin at punter, with Tyler Davis listed as the top kicker. Redshirt sophomore Nick Scott and Barkley are listed as the top two kick returners, while senior Gregg Garrity and Thompkins will handle the punt returns.

"I'd probably say the best thing that happened to our special teams this summer was signing the two younger guys," special teams coordinator and running backs coach Charles Huff said. "Not from a, 'hey they are going to come in and be the starter and carry coach off the field winning a national championship,' but it was more from a pure competition standpoint.  Every day those guys are having to go out and compete"

2. Under the direction of defensive coordinator Brent Pry, who was promoted following the 2015 season, the Nittany Lion defense has a fairly new look this year, especially in the front seven. Despite some NFL departures last season, the defensive line has not rebuilt, but rather reloaded. Garrett Sickels, the only returning starter, will look to make another sizeable impact, along with senior Evan Schwan at defense end. Parker Cothren and Kevin Givens will both take over at the tackle position. Jason Cabinda and Nyeem Wartman-White highlight the line at the middle and weak side linebacker positions, respectively. 

Franklin made special note of Schwan earlier this week saying, "We're excited, the fact that we have a senior, which we have a few on our team, stepping up on the defensive line for us. We're expecting good things out of Evan. I've just been very, very pleased and proud of him with how he's approached everything; his leadership, his understanding everything. He's put in five years waiting for this opportunity and really approached it the right way."

What to Watch For: Kent State
1. Kent State returns nearly all of its starters from last year, including defensive end Nate Holley, who has ranked in the nation's top five in tackles per game in 2014 and 2015, with 14 or more tackles in six of his last nine games. Holley is just one of three All-Mid-American Conference first team members on defense, set to be led by newly appointed defensive coordinator Ben Needham. Promoted from linebackers coach to DC during the offseason, Needham is the youngest defensive coordinator (31) in the FBS.

2. Haynes said earlier this week that Kent State plans to play three quarterbacks on Saturday, naming true freshman Justin Agner as the starter. Other quarterback options include redshirt freshman Mylik Mitchell and sophomore George Bollas. Bollas played in 12 games last year, making 94 completions on 167 attempts for 756 yards.

After three seasons at quarterback, including the 2013 meeting between Penn State and Kent State, Colin Reardon moved to wide receiver in the spring. Listed at the top spots at wide receiver for the Golden Flashes are junior Kris White, sophomore Johnny Woods and junior Nick Holley, who is the twin brother of defensive end, Nate Holley.

Final Note -
The 2016 Penn State home opener against Kent State marks the first of four consecutive season openers for the Nittany Lions. Penn State will be at home against Akron in 2017, Appalachian State in 2018 and Idaho in 2019. Having won 12 of their last 14 season openers, the Nittany Lions are 115-13-1 all-time and 47-9 in Beaver Stadium. Kickoff in Beaver Stadium is set for 3:30 live on the Big Ten Network with Scott Graham (play-by-play) and Chuck Long (analyst) on the call.

Kent State Q&A - Charles Huff

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Sept. 1, 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK Pa. - Penn State special teams coordinator and running backs coach Charles Huff talked with the media to preview the season opener against Kent State Saturday at 3:30 p.m. (BTN) in Beaver Stadium.

Updates from the Q&A with Coach Huff are below.

Q: Last year we talked a good bit about the punt returners and coach [Franklin] mentioned often about consistency with catching and that maybe you would use other players but you were worried about the consistency with them catching punts in games. Have you seen any marked improvement in that area in maybe some of the younger guys or other players you might use in those roles if you could rely on them more often?

Huff: We all sound like a broken record, with all the coaches telling you that having more depth and having more options and being able to have better practices. It goes back to that, having more options, having more depth. There were some guys that redshirted that caught punts in high school that we said, 'hey - this guy has shown the ability to catch some punts in high school is he a guy we give a chance,' well he's redshirting and we can't put him out there.

Also just having the pure competition back there, the group got bigger. We started to lose some of the guys we redshirted that we put in the group but now all the sudden we go from three or four options to five or six options. And the guys that we have here are a year older. A lot of the guys that played early for us like DeAndre Thompkins, did a great job for us. He had some issues in some games and put some on the ground which he has constantly worked on this summer, but if you think back, DeAndre was basically almost a true freshman. He had been here having come mid-year, but he was playing probably a little bit ahead of what he was in a perfect scenario where you would have loved him to play. He's a year older.

Gregg Garrity, he's a year older. All of those guys in situations where the circumstances demanded for them to have to be out there are now a year older and they have learned from those things and have been able to see some live game action. When the ball turns over different off a right footed punter or a left footed punter - all of those things that you gain that experience within a year with the depth, that kind of helps.

Q: One of the things we've heard Saquon Barkley talk about quite a bit and what we've seen in practice is how he kind of helps out the younger guys. Can you talk about the importance of an experienced proven guy helping some of the guys who are coming in?

Huff: It's awesome. The tough part is that you start looking around at your leaders or your experienced guys and you're talking about a true sophomore. So that's a positive and you kind of say, 'wow as young as he is and to have those skills,' I truly believe that leaders are born and it's up to the coaches to help them mature and teaching them ways to lead. But I think leaders are born and Sqauon is that type of person. And it helps - it's hard when your leaders aren't your best players. It makes it a lot easier when your leaders are your best players because then peers see more than what the coaches see. Peers see it as he's out there on the field making plays so I should probably listen to him because he's doing it right on and off the field.  Coaches see a guy that gets it and sees the big picture. So whenever you can put the two together, you can do it on the field and off the field, it helps, and Saquon has been able to do that.

He has been able to handle the tough part sometimes which is when you're trying to be a leader, it makes it tough to prepare yourself because you're always motivating someone else and you're always kind of firing someone up. He has been able to do both, which has been unbelievable. He has been able to consistently improve his game and ask questions saying, 'hey coach I want to improve at this area or why am I struggling at this area,' and he's been able to share his knowledge with the younger guys. The guys like Andre [Robinson] who haven't played yet, and Miles [Sanders], who just got here. He basically said, 'hey these are some things that helped me along the way and these are some things I didn't learn until game four, five or six that I can tell you now that will help speed up your maturation process.'

Q: I'm curious how you thought Miles Sanders looked in camp, both as a kick returner and as a back. Would you guys consider easing him in as a kick returner that way you could try and get him involved to be able to play him at some point this year? 

Huff: I think he [Sanders] looks great. Five stars are easy to see. We could send you out on the road recruiting and say, 'hey bring us back all the five stars and you could do that.' He physically looks like he could play. As you go through camp you get to see a little bit of the mental part - can he handle the playbook, is he able to translate and see blitzes and coverage? Then is he able to go to class and handle the schedule and routine - and he has done an awesome job with that so far.

Putting him back there at kick returner, it's one of those things where you want to be able to get good players on the field as much as possible and any time you can get a really good player on the field whether that's in the backfield, at wide out or at kick returner - you put yourself and you put the team in a much better position. We're looking at trying to get him those looks and returns and the running back and just getting him involved without forcing someone to do something maybe they are not ready for or that they'll kind of grow at.

As we go, we'll see if he can handle It. He has done an awesome job through camp. It will be interesting to see, a lot of those flashes that we see - hopefully it translates but there's going to be a little bit of 'wow I'm playing college football.' It's a growing, slow process and we're in a position now that we haven't been in since we've been here where we can bring those guys along slow, which in the long run I think is going to be a lot better than forcing them because of the depth issues and the numbers. We can bring them along slow and not force feed them, but give them a little bit at a time and let them be able to handle all the other things as well.

Q: When it comes to Miles Sanders - with Mark Allen, Saquon Barkley and Andre Robinson, how has he been able to fit into that group, not only on the field but off as well.

Huff: One of the good things was that Miles committed to us pretty early in the process so he got a chance to build that relationship very early. He came up for games, he came up for practices, so he got a chance to be around those guys very early. From the off the field perspective, he got a chance to get along with those guys and they got a chance to see his personality and open up to him.

When he got on the field, this summer he did an unbelievable job in the weight room so they saw the way that he worked and he earned their respect by working up to their standard. The one thing that he did not do was that he did not come in with an, 'I'm a five star, I'm the number one running back in the country get out of my way' approach, he came in and said, 'hey I want to work at the level and the standard that you guys set and I want to be accepted in that standard.' I think that helped the transition. 

Sometimes kids are highly rated and recruiting is pumping these kids up and then sometimes they get to camp and they kind of have the 'I'm the number one running back, I'm a five star' type of attitude and it rubs some players wrong. None of the guys that we have in our program had that, which makes it a lot easier for the guys to accept guys who say, 'I want to be the best but I also know that you guys work at a certain standard so I want to be able to keep up with that standard.' 

Q: With Saquon, where is he better than he was this time last year? He's talked about making little changes and becoming better at certain things and what's he like to watch film with?

Huff: I think just being a year older he's better. Just having seen some things on the field that you can't always replicate in practice. The speed of how the safety moves, the speed of how the backers blitz, some keys and tips that normal defenses have when they're blitzing and when they're not blitzing, depth of safeties. Seeing that for a year, of course, he's a year older. In high school not every defense on every team gets as extensive as they do in college so he didn't see everything but being a year older he saw that.

I think he worked his tail off this offseason at the fundamentals of the position, keeping his shoulders square, trying to eliminate some of the extra cuts, getting vertical. He worked his tail off on his pass pro, which he came out of last year and said he has got to get better. He understands the game better, the areas of the field, the importance of the down and distance and how doing something a little extra on first down may eliminate third down and all of those things that we talk about in our summer RB school to kind of help these guys understand the game on a deeper level. All of that helps.

The other part, would be just mentally being able to know our program, how our schedule works throughout the summer, throughout the spring and the winter and into the season. Watching film with him, he wants to know like the quarterback does. He wants to know the routes that the wide receivers are running and what concept they are running and why. He's always asking what's the quarterback's read on this or what's the quarterback looking at or when is he going to come to the field or the boundary. He wants to know. I preach to those guys that a smarter player is a better player. He is becoming a smarter player and a smarter play is not just, 'hey I know the plays,' but do you know the situation, what are defenses trying to do in this situation. What are the tendencies and how to do you pick up tendencies - those are some of the things we went through this summer. What coverages and what coverage based teams do and why, what's the difference between one team playing cover four and another team playing cover four and why.

This summer he really dove into that and hopefully it pays off and he'll be able to play a step faster. I tell those guys, if you can get more information before the ball snaps, you're playing much faster. When you're playing much faster you're going to put yourself in position to make bigger plays. Bigger plays lead to more yards and more yards lead to more points and everybody's happy. It makes it a lot easier if you know things before they happen.

Q: What's the punter situation with Blake Gillikin and Daniel Pasquariello?

Huff:
The first week of camp we talked to those guys and we said it's going to be a true competition. For the first two and a half weeks, you could have closed your eyes and picked a punter between Blake, Danny [Pasquariello] and [Chris] Gulla. The thing, that as it went on, was the consistency. Blake was consistent in all three phases. All the other guys had some really good, strong parts, but overall in distance, location and hang time, Blake over the course of camp, proved to be the most consistent and it wasn't a landslide.

I'd probably say the best thing that happened to our special teams this summer was signing the two youngers guys. Not from a, 'hey they are going to come in and be the starter and carry coach off the field winning a national championship,' but it was more from a pure competition standpoint.  Every day those guys were having to go out and compete and that's no different than at the running back position. We're a better running back unit because of Miles Sanders, because of Mark Allen, because of Andre, because all of those guys know when they get in the game, 'I've got to be on because there are three guys standing behind me that when they get in here, they're going to be on.' That's kind of been spread across our team, the numbers and being able to compete.

At the college level, to me and from my experience, there's only two things that motivate people in general. One is money and well, we can't pay them here. So if you go to the NFL and you want to get money, you produce. That motivates you. The second thing is competition, the true competitors in life will compete and if you put somebody beside a competitor and they are ready to race, they are going to compete and they are going to line up again until they win. Those two things are true motivators and we can't pay players. So how do we do it, we recruit competition.

The same thing at punter. Those guys had some great things and flashes of greatness during the year and there were some times they were very inconsistent. The way that we kind of improved that was to bring in guys who compete so now you've forced them to be consistent. I think those two younger guys coming in - Blake really took the punter unit and took it to a whole different level. The same thing with [Alex] Barbir with the kickers, he took it to a whole different level because now you're sitting here saying, 'If I want to play, I have to compete,' and I think that's what really happened this camp. Now of course we have to translate it. I told these guys that we have to take a short half mile walk to Beaver Stadium and do the same thing we do over here at Lasch.

VIDEO: Practice Updates - Kent State

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -  Head coach James Franklin and Nyeem Wartman-White met with the media following Wednesday's practice at the Lasch Football Complex.

Penn State is set to square off against Kent State in its 2016 season opener Saturday, Sept. 3 at 3:30 p.m. in Beaver Stadium. Check in with Franklin and Wartman-White for updates from practice during game week.

James Franklin

Nyeem Wartman-White


2016 Tuesday Press Conference Roundup - Kent State

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Transcript: James Franklin Transcript: Players 2016 Depth Chart VIDEO: Player Q&A with DaeSean Hamilton & Parker Cothren

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State head coach James Franklin kicked off game week media availability, meeting with the media Tuesday afternoon to preview the newly released depth chart as well as the 2016 season opener against Kent State.

The Nittany Lions open the 130th season of Penn State football Saturday with a 3:30 matchup (BTN) against the Golden Flashes in Beaver Stadium. Franklin took time to meet with several media members, answering an assortment of game one related questions.

"It's amazing to me that time has flown by and we're already in week one of the season," Franklin said. "I am excited to watch the team open the season in Beaver Stadium starting at home. We've been very, very pleased with what they did this summer as well as in camp. [The team] had an excellent camp in our opinion."

Several new changes will be on display in full force Saturday afternoon, but perhaps one of the largest changes comes in the debut of quarterback Trace McSorley, who will take the reins of the offense for the first time. Nerves and jitters are no issue for McSorley though, who has been described by Franklin as "Steady Eddie."

"He's a guy that doesn't get too high, doesn't get too low," Franklin said. "He's kind of the same guy."

Wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton shared the same thoughts on McSorley's calm nature ahead of the opener.

"I haven't seen any nervousness from him," Hamilton said. "Ever since he was announced as a starter, he took that role and ran with it. He's just ready to lead this team to the best of his capabilities."

Along with McSorely, Penn State fans will get a chance to see the new up-tempo style offense, engineered in large part by first year offensive coordinator Joe Moorehead.

"Joe's done a great job, not only from a schematic standpoint, but I really think just the leadership and the motivation on that side of the ball has been really helpful," Franklin said.

With a stacked group of receivers featuring starters in Hamilton, Chris Godwin and Saeed Blacknall along with a running back group led by Saquon Barkley all the pieces of the offensive puzzle are certainly present.

 

"My focus is on, let's get to the stadium and let's allow people to form opinions based on what they see," Franklin said.

 

The Nittany Lions enter 2016 with a new look on the defensive line following NFL departures. Among many changes, Parker Cothren not only moves into a starting role this year, but also a leadership role.

 

"I worked harder this year than I probably have in the past, having everyone look to me when they have questions, trying to be that guy that AJ (Austin Johnson ) and (Anthony)  Zettel were to me, to them; taking that leadership role," Cothren said.

 

Penn State will also see significant leadership from its senior class, which consisting of just 12 senior-eligible players is tied for the second-fewest in the FBS.  Among the group of seniors are captains Brian Gaia, Brandon Bell and Von Walker.

 

"Of the things that I think are interesting, you look at our three senior captains which we are very, very proud of what those guys brought to the table this summer, and the team voted for those guys," Franklin said. "It was overwhelming."

 

ON THE QUOTE BOARD
-Parker Cothren has worn his No. 41 jersey nearly his entire life across all sports he has ever played. Why No. 41?

"It actually started back in elementary school when my favorite channel on TV was 41. When asked what number I wanted to be, I said 41."

 

And that favorite channel? Cartoon Network.

 

-The first release of the depth chart featured five true freshmen who could all be called upon to make an impact in their very first season in the Blue and White. Franklin has confidence in the physical ability of his newest Nittany Lions.

 

"They are ready to play," Franklin said. "Mentally they are catching up day by day. Will Fries is a guy who has done some good things in a short period of time on campus and earned a lot of people's respect."

 

"Connor McGovern had a little bit of a head start being here for spring ball, and Michal Menet is another guy that's done some really nice things and has been able to get a lot of reps with our guys and our number one unit in practice."

 

-Making the move to the slot, DaeSean Hamilton took spent time in the offseason building strength and increasing muscle mass to adjust to bigger defenders.

 

The advantages of making the move?

 

"Just going against guys that aren't really used to covering, people that have played wide receiver or that have played outside and are finally moving inside, going against safeties, they are the more aggressive guys that are looking to come in and stop the run, especially in the Big Ten which is a run-heavy conference," Hamilton said.

 

"Then going against linebackers, as well, being able to just definitely take advantage of that mishmash because they definitely don't cover a lot, especially against wide receivers. It's really just putting my advantages to everyone else's weaknesses, so it really has played out in my favor and it's been a good move."

 
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