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Lewis Looking to Build on Strong End to 2013

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Lewis Spring Practice.jpg
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Developing a strong rapport between receivers and their quarterback is essential for a successful passing game.

For sophomore Geno Lewis, he started the chemistry building process on the field with Christian Hackenberg last August, but the duo came on strong during the latter weeks of the 2013 season.

With increased playing time, Lewis gained confidence and played his best football in the season finale at Wisconsin.  The Wilkes-Barre native connected with Hackenberg three times for 91 yards, including 59-yard touchdown reception and a 1-yard score, in the 31-24 win over the Badgers.

Since that day, Lewis has not looked back and is ready to play a big role on the offense in 2014.

"This spring has gone really well for me," Lewis said.  "Christian and I are really seeing eye to eye now.  I definitely worked on a lot of things that I needed to work on, but I am really excited for the season."

Albeit just a redshirt sophomore, Lewis is the top returnee on the receiving corps.  Playing in all 12 games last season with four starts, Lewis made 18 receptions for 234 yards and had three touchdowns.  Sophomore Richy Anderson, who had 13 catches for 111 yards and junior Matt Zanellato, who made four receptions for 53 yards, are the only other two receivers on the roster with career receptions.

With youth throughout the receiving corps, Lewis knew that he needed to step up during the offseason to become a go-to target for Hackenberg.

"My main thing (during the winter) was route running," Lewis said.  "With Coach Gattis coming in and teaching us some new things, it really helped me a lot transitioning out of my routes (with more speed).  I think that is going to be a big change for me this year in my routes."

Two-time Big Ten Receiver of the Year Allen Robinson and graduated senior Brandon Felder are gone from the roster, and Lewis views 2014 as a great opportunity.

"I'm happy to be in this position, a higher spot than last year," Lewis said.  "I'm confident in going out there to make more plays to help the team win."

A gifted athlete with good speed and great jumping ability, Lewis's athleticism has impressed head coach James Franklin during spring practice.

"I've been very pleased with him. He's a big bodied kid with great ball skills, tremendous leaping ability, been very impressed with him in red zone and long ball situations," Franklin said. He's a great kid, working hard, him and hack are starting to build a rapport and that's got to continue to grow. Between now and start of summer camp, he has to take that next step."

With 13 spring practices down, the Nittany Lions will hold a session on Friday before the culmination of spring drills during Saturday's Blue-White Game in Beaver Stadium.

"I'm really excited for the game, I know that my teammates are," Lewis said.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Zettel Eager to Make Plays at Interior Spot on D-Line

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - When the 2013 season ended, junior Anthony Zettel had in his mind that he was ready to move back into the position that he played in 2012.

Zettel provided a big spark for the Nittany Lion defense on numerous occasions in 2013 with speed and quickness off the edge at defensive end.  He made 16 tackles, 6.0 tackles for loss and had 4.0 sacks last season.

But the West Branch, Mich., native knew that he could play an even bigger role at defensive tackle if given the opportunity to do so.  Zettel played in the interior of the defensive line during his redshirt freshman season in 2012, but weighing only 253 pounds, he moved to end prior to 2013.

Zettel finished last season at roughly 260 pounds.  Now, just a bit more than four months later, Zettel weighs nearly 280 pounds after making significant muscle growth in the weight room under the direction of Dwight Galt.

The weight game coincides with a move back to defensive tackle this spring, something Zettel is fired up about.

"You bring a lot of the same techniques to tackle," Zettel said.  "Personally, I feel like things are going really well.  I love playing inside.  It's a lot more about reading things quicker and reacting with a lot less thinking.  Basically, you bring the same techniques, but you need to stay lower and use more leverage because you are going against double teams."

Zettel has been superb for the defensive line during spring practice.  With great speed and quickness, he is a very difficult matchup for an interior offensive lineman.  Zettel has been tough to block for anyone lining up across from him.

"His first step at the line of scrimmage is one of the best I've ever seen," defensive end C.J. Olaniyan said.  "He's going to help us a lot this season, and he is going to make a lot of plays for us."

His move to defensive tackle required great commitment in the weight room and with his diet.  Zettel is eating five or six meals a day in order to keep his metabolism at peak performance.  The increased diet of roughly 2,000 calories per day has helped expedite the process of reaching a targeted playing weight of 285 pounds when the season begins in the fall.

"I have been a lot more consistent in my meals and trying to eat a lot more frequently throughout the day," Zettel said.

Zettel is thrilled with progress he has made, and the increased weight gain has helped him play more physical in the trenches.

"It's helped a lot.  Fighting off blocks, I feel a lot strong.  It wasn't just weight that I put on, it was a lot of muscle, too," said Zettel.  "My speed actually improved this spring.  Everything has been beneficial from the weight."

Despite the weight gain, Zettel got a step quicker during physical testing at the end of winter conditioning, which will pay huge dividends to competing in the interior of the line.

"Especially having a good group of defensive ends like we do, I think I will see a lot of one-on-ones, and I will be able to use my speed even more.  That's where the quickness really helps," Zettel said.

Zettel and the Nittany Lion defense will get to showcase the progress that they have made during the offseason on Saturday at the Blue-White Game (1:30 p.m.).  Confidence is high for the Michigan native, and he is looking forward to the opportunity on Saturday.

"We are all going out there compete against each other," Zettel said.  "We are going to compete like we have been doing in practice, but now the fans can watch us.  I'm excited for it."

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Ficken Striving for Consistency After Strong Spring

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It would be hard to find a player on Penn State's roster who has improved more during his time as a Nittany Lion than senior kicker Sam Ficken.

Mid-way through the 2012 season, the Indiana native put his nose to the grindstone and worked to become a more reliable player for the Nittany Lions.  Thousands of repetitions, relentless work in the weight room and regular feedback from Chicago Bear Robbie Gould later, and Ficken is on track to be a consistent weapon for the Nittany Lions in 2014 following a superb spring practice period.

Ficken made his final 10 field goal attempts of 2012 and his first five of 2013 to break the Penn State record of consecutive made field goals.  During that span, he set the Beaver Stadium record for the longest kick by a Penn State player against Kent State (54 yards).

In total, Ficken went 15-for-23 on field goal attempts in 2013.  He was perfect on kicks from inside 30 yards, and he went 41-of-42 on PAT attempts.  Ficken's leg strength was a big factor in the upswing from 2012 to 2013.  He made zero kicks of 40 or more yards in 2012.  In 2013, he made five kicks of 43 yards or more, including the 54-yard boot against Kent State.  Ficken also averaged 61 yards per kickoff and had 18 touchbacks.

The bulk of his work to tweak mechanics came during the offseason prior to 2013. Ficken shortened his step sequence from two and a half to two steps.  He also worked tirelessly on the position of his plant foot.

Now, Ficken is focused on consistency.

"My big thing is staying consistent, staying healthy," Ficken said.  "I think based on my changes that I made between the two seasons (2012 and 2013), I think my form is good.  I've looked at every game, basically two or three times.  I think the biggest thing for me is sticking to my fundamentals that I've learned from Robbie (Gould) and just following through with that and staying consistent."

Ficken's positive attitude and work ethic are noteworthy attributes to his tangible progress.  He faced his share of adversity during the first half of 2012, but he never lost focus on becoming the best player he could be for the team.

"When it comes to special teams, you lead by example as a specialist," Ficken said.  "It's hard to lead if you aren't doing your job to the best of your abilities.  I feel like with all of the experience I have, I definitely feel like I have an upper hand in that area where I can show that, 'hey, this is what needs to be done.'"

The Nittany Lions have put a big emphasis on special teams improvement during spring practice.  Ficken has enjoyed working with new special teams coordinator Charles Huff.

"He's really enthusiastic about special teams, which is great," Ficken said.  "He's really bringing a lot of energy to it.  That is really motivating the players to put their best foot forward on special teams, which I really like."

The special teams unit has been thrust into the spotlight throughout spring drills.  At the end of practices, the specialists are challenged with competitions, often with team conditioning on the line.  Coach Franklin then adds to the challenge by putting water on balls to make them more difficult to handle, spraying water at the specialists themselves or calling timeouts to "ice" the unit.  None of that has fazed Ficken, who has been solid since practice began on March 17.  He nailed a 55-yard field goal to save the team from running during a practice earlier this spring.

"Ficken has been money all of camp," running back Akeel Lynch said.  "He's made a lot of improvement.  Anytime it has been double or nothing for running at the end of practice, we put it on Ficken's leg and he's been clutch every time."

"The team gets really excited when we come through for them at the end of practice," Ficken said.

A small, but very significant factor to Ficken's consistency this spring is the return of longtime holder Ryan Keiser.  Keiser suffered a hand injury during the Kent State game last fall and did not hold during the final eight games of the season. 

Just how important is consistency in a kicking operation?

In games with Keiser holding, Ficken went 7-for-8 on field goal attempts and 16-for-16 on point after touchdown attempts in 2013.  His lone miss was a 57-yard attempt against UCF. 

In games without his primary holder, Ficken went 8-for-15 on field goal attempts and 25-for-26 on point after touchdown attempts.

Keiser and Ficken are back to full strength as a kicking unit this spring.

"We basically have picked up right where we were when he went down with the injury," Ficken said.  "It's definitely good to have him back.  I've worked with (Chris) Gulla in the offseason just in case something happens again."

With continued progress and consistency during the rest of the offseason, the sky is the limit for Ficken in 2014.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: 2014 NFL Pro Day Interviews

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Photo Gallery: 2014 NFL Pro Day

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Eleven former Nittany Lions participated in Penn State's 2014 Pro Day inside the Lasch Football Building and Holuba Hall on Tuesday.

The participants took part in mental and physical testing in front of representatives from 26 different NFL teams in preparation for the 2014 NFL Draft, which takes place in New York City on May 8-10.

9905530.jpegThe Pro Day schedule included film study, scout meetings with coaches, Wonderlic testing, team testing, player interviews, height, weight, reach testing, flexibility testing, 225-pound bench, physical testing on the practice field and individual player/group workouts.

The physical testing on the practice field included two 40-yard dashes, two 20-yard shuttle runs, L cone drill, one 60-yard shuttle run, two broad jumps and two vertical jumps.

The participants on Monday consisted of the following 11 former Nittany Lions: WR - Allen Robinson and Brandon Felder, OL - John Urschel, Garry Gilliam and Adam Gress, TE - Matt Lehman, DL - DaQuan Jones, LB - Glenn Carson, DB - Stephen Obeng-Agyapong and Malcolm Willis, P - Alex Butterworth.

"I was happy to be able to get back here to Penn State. This is home for me," Urschel said.  "I worked on polishing a few things.  I think I took a little bit off my 40 (time) today, so that's a good thing.  I looked good in drills. So, all's well that ends well."

In addition to Pro Day, Jones, Robinson and Urschel participated in the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis during February.  All three were pleased with progress and improvements they made from February to Tuesday's workout at Penn State.  Robinson's cousin and Ottawa Redblacks (Canadian Football League) quarterback Kevin Glenn threw for Robinson and Felder during passing drills.

"I feel great.  I feel in (great) shape," Robinson said.  "My body feels good."

Penn State head coach James Franklin was in attendance for the Pro Day festivities, in addition to Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly.

Several former Nittany Lion were among the observers, as well, including All-Americans Kyle Brady, Bobby Engram, Kenny Jackson and Stefen Wisniewski.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: James Franklin Spring Practice Update - April 5

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach James Franklin addressed the media following Penn State's 11th spring practice.  The Nittany Lions scrimmaged inside Holuba Hall on Saturday.  The Blue-White Game is slated for 1:30 p.m. on April 12.  Check out a spring practice update from Coach Franklin.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Bars Excited to be Back on the Field

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Having waited a full year to put a helmet back on, defensive end Brad Bars couldn't help running onto the field on March 17 for Penn State's first spring practice with great excitement.

Bars has been eligible to play in 50 games since he stepped on campus in the fall of 2010.  He redshirted during his freshman campaign.  That coupled with leg and Achilles injuries have forced the Nashville, Tenn., native to miss 28 games during the past four seasons.

The senior ruptured his Achilles during a routine workout during summer conditioning prior to last season.  After a long road to recovery in the training room and countless hours of rehab, Bars is back on the field and ready to play a role on the Nittany Lion defensive line in 2014.

"I believe if I can stay healthy that I don't think there's anything I can't accomplish this season," Bars said.  "If I stay healthy I can do some pretty great things."

The Achilles injury rehab is ongoing, but Bars has been a full participant in non-contact drills this spring.  His fellow defensive teammates are fired up about his return to the field.

"It's great to have him back out there. He's really an intense guy," senior linebacker Mike Hull said. "Always goes 100 miles an hour. He's really smart and he helps a lot of the younger guys and even the older guys. He does a really good job of on-field coaching and telling guys what they need to work on. It's definitely an asset to have him back out there."

Always enthusiastic and upbeat, Bars faced the Achilles injury with a tremendous attitude.  Knowing he was going to be a spectator throughout the fall didn't deter Bars from helping the team in any manner possible.

"Last year was probably the hardest thing I've ever been through," Bars said. "Once I got hurt I looked at the big picture and said what can I do to help? I made a decision I had to contribute and help this team, right when I got injured, and I knew that if I stayed involved, there wouldn't be a transition coming back," Bars said.

The senior defensive end is poised to play an instrumental role on a talented Nittany Lion defensive line, which features a host of returnees with playing experience. Deion Barnes, C.J. Olaniyan, Anthony Zettel and Austin Johnson all bring significant game experience to the field in 2014.

While the countdown clock for the UCF game in Dublin, Ireland, is at 148 days, Bars is thrilled to have the opportunity to make an impact.

"My teammates believe in me and they've seen what I can do in practices," Bars said.  "I have expectations of a veteran. My goals are to keep working and to keep progressing with my rehab."

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: Spring Practice 10 Player Interviews

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Just four practices and nine days remain until the Nittany Lions take the field inside Beaver Stadium for the Blue-White Game on April 12 (1:30 p.m. kick).

In a spring marked by progress on both sides of the ball under the direction of head coach James Franklin, the Nittany Lion players are excited about the opportunity to get in front of the fans for the first time in 2014.

"It's something to look forward to during spring practice," senior safety Adrian Amos said.  "We don't have games to look forward to, so the Blue-White game is a big weekend, and we're excited to be back in Beaver Stadium."

As the team continues to get more reps in the new schemes installed on both sides of the ball, the Lions are beginning to feel more and more comfort with each passing practice.

"We have made a lot of progress each and every day as we get more acclimated into the scheme," Amos said.  "We are getting a lot more comfortable with the defense and working with each other."

"Things are going really well," sophomore running back Akeel Lynch said.  "We are gelling together.  Offense takes some time.  The concepts are getting into our heads, and we are starting to move faster."

Penn State completed its 10th practice of the spring on Wednesday afternoon.  The Lions practiced outdoors for the first time on Monday.  A portion of Wednesday's practice was outdoors, as well.  Senior kicker Sam Ficken ended Wednesday's practice with a 55-yard field goal, keeping the Nittany Lions from running sprints.

"Ficken has been money all of camp," Lynch said.  "He's made a lot of improvement.  Anytime it has been double or nothing for running at the end of practice, we put it on Ficken's leg and he's been clutch every time."

The Nittany Lions will practice on Saturday before shifting into the final week of spring drills, which will feature three sessions before the Blue-White Game on April 12.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Nittany Lions Making Good Progress During Spring Drills

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The first six sessions of Penn State's initial spring season under the direction of head coach James Franklin have been marked by progress.

The Nittany Lions completed their sixth practice of the allotted 15 on Wednesday inside Holuba Hall.  Penn State will practice eight more times leading up to the culmination of spring drills on April 12 at the Blue-White Game inside Beaver Stadium.

So far, the team is excited about the strides that have been made on a daily basis.

FB_Spring Blog_Practice 6.jpg"It's been awesome," senior guard Miles Dieffenbach said.  "You kind of can't get a feel for the coaching staff until you get on the field with them and see what they are really like.  They are awesome.  They are super enthusiastic.  They love the game, love our team and are really excited to be here."

Starting with a clean slate, the Nittany Lions have had the challenge of learning new systems installed on both sides of the ball.  Offensively, 2013 Big Ten Freshman of the Year Christian Hackenberg thinks the first two weeks have been highlighted by improvement.

"I think that we have really bought into the system," Hackenberg said.  "We've gotten to meet.  We've gotten to see what each position coach expects out of us.  I think that you can see with each practice that we are getting a little better and a little better at the little things and the intricacies on the offense.  We're just looking to build on that.  I think it is really impressive how quickly we have progressed, and we are really excited."

Establishing timing and cohesiveness within the offense is the ongoing task the Nittany Lion offense will work on between now and the start of training camp in August.

"Hackenberg has done really well with the offense," Dieffenbach said.  "He's really starting to get things down, along with the wide receivers and running backs.  I'm pretty with how things are going so far."

Defensively, senior linebacker Mike Hull and junior cornerback Jordan Lucas know the unit has a long way to go, but both believe the defense has gotten significantly better in a short period of time.

"We have improved a ton," said Hull.  "The defenses are getting a lot easier.  They are becoming more natural.  The communication is definitely there.  Coach (Bob) Shoop has done a great job taking it step by step with us."

"There are going to be some growing pains because it is a new system, but we have a lot of smart guys on the field who know football," Lucas said.  "The system allows us to play.  We don't have to think as much.  We can go out there and play."

Whether it be developing the timing on offense or playing effectively within the defensive scheme, improvement is marked by chemistry on the field.

"We really want to just continuing building our offense and our defense," Dieffenbach said.  "We want to have a good feel for the schemes (by the end of spring).  Practice takes time, and you have to build the chemistry on the field."

Coach Franklin established core values for the program during his introductory press conference in January.  He said that the Nittany Lions would compete in everything they do.  That starts from the moment any player steps onto the practice field.

"It is a competition in everything we do," Lucas said.  "Whether it be one-on-ones, pass-blocking, team drills, everything is a competition.  That's how we treat it.  If we don't win, we are going to get you the next drill that we are doing."

"The intensity level is 1 million percent," Dieffenbach said.  "They have been super intense practices, but that is good because it brings the best out of guys and it will only make our team better."

On both sides of the ball, the Lions practice with the mindset that they want to win everything.

"We are all competitors at heart," Hackenberg said.  "We want to go out there and compete.  Each practice, each drill and each rep is an opportunity to do so.  It has really been made a focal point, and we love it.  It makes practice a lot more interesting, and you are really focused on that rep.  And that helps you in the grand scheme of things."

The competitive nature on the field will only help the Nittany Lions set the tone for how they want to play during the regular season.

"I really like the intensity from the coaches and their enthusiasm," Hull said.  "I think we have gotten a lot out of the practices so far.  I think what we have established thus far is really going to help us come fall."

In addition to practices being ultra-competitive, the sessions move at a swift pace.  From the moment any player steps onto the green surface of the practice field, he is running.

"The pace is very, very fast," Dieffenbach.  "We were used to that with some of our old practices.  But these ones are extremely high-paced.  We get our conditioning done during practice running from drill to drill.  There is no walking on the field."

The warp speed during practices will only help the Nittany Lions prepare for tempo any opposing team throws at them in the fall.

"I love it because it is only going to help us during the games," Lucas said.  "It helps us work on our communication and it helps us play fast."

While the Nittany Lions still have nine more chances to get better this spring, they are excited about the opportunity in front of them as they build towards the start of the 2014 season.

"I like that we are very young.  We have some guys who have quite a bit of experience with our tight ends and running backs, especially," Hackenberg said.  "I'm super excited about it.  We're in our infancy of learning this offense.  The spring game will come.  Then we will have the whole summer to work on our own with 7-on-7s together, and then camp will be here.  I think we have an opportunity to do something special.  We are really excited about it."

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: Spring Practice One Sights and Sounds

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions returned to the practice field on Monday afternoon for their first of 15 spring practices.  Penn State practiced indoors on Monday with helmets and shorts.  The Lions are back on the field Wednesday, Friday and Saturday this week.  Take a look through some sights and sounds from the first practice of 2014.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Franklin, Nittany Lions Kick Off Spring Practice

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FB_Practice Blog_Spring.jpgVIDEO: Spring Practice I Sights & Sounds | Practice I Photo Gallery

James Franklin Press Conference Transcript - March 17

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Football is back in Happy Valley.

Head coach James Franklin and the Nittany Lions took the field inside Holuba Hall on Monday afternoon for the first of 15 spring practices.  Penn State will practice four days a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday) leading up to the culmination of spring drills at the 2014 Blue-White Game on April 12 in Beaver Stadium.

The Lions made good strides during the winter strength and conditioning program.  Now, Coach Franklin and the staff are excited to see how things translate onto the field during the spring practice season.

FB_Spring Practice_2.jpg"Just like I told the coaches and the players, we need to go out there with the mindset that we've been here for three years," Franklin said.  "We know how to practice.  We know what the expectations are.  We can't allow the fact that this is our first practice for us to use that as an excuse to not go out and fly around.  We need to go out and practice like a veteran team, like a veteran staff, and like a veteran organization, so that's kind of our goal is to hit the ground running."

With 26day window from the first spring practice and the Blue-White Game, the coaching staff has a four-week window to install everything it wants to between now and the start of fall camp in August.

"So we do basically 15 installs - offense, defense, special teams, run game, pass game, whatever it may be, and how we break it up," said Franklin. "They were able to get two or three of the installs in written form to look at before they left for spring break to have it with them over spring break, and then also video as well.  So, for example, install 1 of the defense may be Cover Two. They'll get that in writing, exactly what the responsibilities were, but then they'll also get film of examples of that coverage as well."

Franklin wants to see an up-tempo, energetic approach with a positive attitude each day during spring practice. 
The emphasis during the spring practice season is geared towards individual technique, improving fundamentals and consistency for the Nittany Lions.

Additionally, the Nittany Lion coaching staff will examine different players in different positions.  Among the position changes this spring, Derek Dowrey and Brian Gaia have moved from defensive tackle to offensive guard.  Albert Hall has moved from tight end to tackle.

Those moves were made to bolster the depth on the offensive line.  Additionally, Franklin confirmed on Monday that Anthony Zettel would move from defensive end to defensive tackle.  Zettel may continue to get looks at end, but playing on the interior will be his primary assignment.

"A big part of that is when I looked at the defensive line, we had a four-deep of scholarship players on the defensive line basically, four deep at defensive end, about three and a half deep at defensive tackles, nose guard and D‑tackle," said Franklin.  "The offensive line; we did not have a two-deep of scholarship players.  Not even a two-deep.  So, I just felt like we needed to make some moves."

On the defensive side of the ball, Franklin is pleased with the personnel and experience back for the Nittany Lions this season.

"I feel really good about our defense and about our secondary in general.  I really do," Franklin said.  "I think it's a little different on the defensive side of the ball compared to the offensive side of the ball.  Those guys are two deep on the secondary.  They've played a lot."

Franklin believes there is one area where the Nittany Lions can make a big jump in 2014.

"Probably as excited about special teams as any area on the team because if you look at us statistically the last year or so, it's the area for most improvement, I think," Franklin said.  "It's the area that we can make the biggest impact, and we're committed to playing the best players on special teams."

While there are several things Franklin and the coaching staff want to accomplish this spring, the primary item the new leader of Penn State Football wants to see is progress each time the team steps onto the field.  He wants to see an enthusiastic group with an undying work ethic.

"We're looking for guys that are going to run around and compete and have fun," Franklin said.  "That's one of the things I think is so important to find coaches, to find people, to find players that can work extremely hard, but while they're working extremely hard, they can have fun and enjoy themselves, and that's what I want to see."

The Nittany Lions will practice on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday this week.

Press Conference Notes:
- On players who have stepped up in leadership roles
"I think Hackenberg, obviously.  The position kind of calls for that, but he's a quiet leader.  He really is a quiet leader.  On offense, if I kept going, Dieffenbach has been another guy I've been impressed with.  He's kind of gone out of his way in that role.  I think it's important to him.  The tight ends are a quiet group overall.  The running backs are a quiet group overall.  They're probably the two guys that stand out to me the most.  On the defensive side of the ball, Hall is a quiet leader.  When he speaks, people listen.  When he does open his mouth to say something, it's well thought out and it's calculated.

"Jordan Lucas never lacks for something to say.  He enjoys talking and speaking his mind, and he's got a lot of personality, and he's very, very charismatic.  It's not always as well thought out before he says it.  It just comes out of his mouth.  He's a great kid, love him.  I think Amos is a quiet leader as well and has done some nice things.  They're the guys that when you say that jump out to me.  The guys that have gone out of their way."

- On contact at practice
"I think we can get a lot of work done with tag off, which is basically two‑hand touch, but you're doing it in an athletic position.  You've got to be able to legitimately when you watch the tape say that guy would have made the tackle.  He was in an athletic position.  He was down in a football position, bent down, good bend in his ankle, knees and hips, and was able to tag palms up with two hands on the ball carrier.  If not, they're going to run.  They're going to keep running to the ball carrier until they're able to do that.  I think you can get a lot of work done if you do it the right way and you demand the fundamentals and the technique in an athletic position."

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony