CARSON, Calif. - For the first time since arriving in California, Penn State football hit the practice field at the StubHub Center this afternoon. Following practice, defensive coordinator Brent Pry and five Nittany Lions met with members of the media for the defensive media availability opportunity.
With less than five days remaining until Penn State and USC meet in "The Granddaddy of Them Al," Pry and Nittany Lions Evan Schwan, Brandon Bell, Jason Cabinda, John Reid and Marcus Allen all met with members of the media with questions ranging from a broad variety of Rose Bowl topics.
Improvement Up Front
Pry had high praise for his Nittany Lions up front, specifically giving credit to a group of redshirt freshmen who have improved steadily as the season progressed, gaining more confidence with each opportunity.
"Robert Windsor, Kevin Givens, Shareef Miller, you're talking about a bunch of redshirt freshmen, Ryan Buchholz, that as the year went on, they got more comfortable at their position, and we got more comfortable doing more with them," Pry said.
For Pry, having the ability to see young guys gain their footing and make adjustments, has played into Penn State's evident shifts in momentum from the first half to the second half of a variety of games this season. On the year, Penn State's second half offense ranks second in the FBS (22.92) with the Nittany Lions outscoring opponents 298-105 in the second half this season.
"I think part of it is we do have some young guys out there, some inexperienced players, and sometimes seeing the plays at live speed, getting used to the game speed against a different style of offense, I think there is some of that, an inexperience factor," Pry said.
For Pry, that growing maturity throughout the season has translated into a more experienced Nittany Lion unit up front - one that now possess the ability to execute at a higher level.
Nittany Lions on Coach Pry
As Pry's first season as Penn State's defensive coordinator is nearly wrapped up, every single Nittany Lion available talked not only about his positive demeanor on the field, but also his father-like intangibles that have made his transition move along with ease.
"There's challenges with all these young guys, and you're here to help them succeed and grow and mature and understand and realize things," Pry said. "That's awesome. Football's a great tool to do that, a great vehicle for those guys to mature. I've said it. I believe 100% the more maturity we put on that field, the better off we are."
Prior to practice, Penn State linebacker Jason Cabinda announced he'll be staying in Happy Valley for another season, deciding to opt out of an early departure to the NFL.
🔵⚪️🔵⚪️🔵⚪️📢 pic.twitter.com/SBDPBj6Au5-- Jason Cabinda (@jasoncabinda) December 28, 2016
"I just felt like it's the right thing for me to do and I thought it was in the best interests for me," Cabinda said. "Obviously make sure I have my degree, as well and I get to play for Penn State for a whole 'nother year. Not a lot more to say than that. I love playing here and I love this place to death."
A Few Notes on USC and the Rose Bowl
- Jason Cabinda on how the Trojans have compared to other teams this season.
"I think from a talent aspect, they are up there with the best of them. They have got really good receivers, big receivers. I don't think we've played receivers as big as USC has, big possession receivers who can make big catches."
- Brent Pry on USC quarterback Sam Darnold.
"He doesn't hold the ball. He's smart enough that he's not going to be careless with it. I think they're asking him to do the right things. He's got a quick release. Again, I liken him to our guy."
- Evan Schwan on returning to the Rose Bowl to compete this time, rather than attending with his family as a fan.
"Actually when I was home for break for Christmas, my mom was pulling out a bunch of pictures, saying hey, this is us at the Rose Bowl kind of thing, so 16 years later, to be able to play in such a prestigious game, "The Granddaddy of Them All," it's such an honor. I'm honored to be with my team out here and play one last game."
- Brandon Bell on defending a dynamic Trojan offense.
"A ton of athletes that they get the ball to in space. Those guys make plays, athletic, O-line. The running back is one of the best running being backs we might see this year. Just fast guys that they get the ball to him."
- John Reid on Adoree Jackson and what he brings to the Trojan team.
"We know on offense and even special teams, the work he does there. He's an explosive guy, real athletic. I remember in his previous years, he played a little more receiver than he did this year, so you have to respect that as a defense and things like that. We know he's going to be pretty much everywhere, if they play him on offense. So we have to kind of prepare for that."