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Practice Report: Michigan State Week

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State head coach James Franklin and quarterback Trace McSorley met with members of the media Wednesday evening following practice. 

The seventh-ranked Nittany Lions will travel to Michigan State this weekend to meet the Spartans in a noon matchup at Spartan Stadium.

"We've got a real good challenge going on the road against a really good program," Franklin said. "They're always tough on defense, they're always going to have a few wrinkles that cause some challenges from a protection standpoint or on offense, play action pass perspective."

Check in on a few more updates from the media sessions. 

Benefit of Familiarity
When asked about having already experienced playing a similar style team in Michigan earlier this year, Franklin pointed out that it certainly helps in game week planning. 

"I think it always helps when you've played someone that has a similar style and we've game planned for that style already during season," Franklin said. "The different responsibilities that we're asking guys to do, all the things, the recall is important. I think our guys, our coaches and our players feel better after this being our second opponent like this but obviously each team has got their own little wrinkles or things that they try to emphasize that can still be problematic. That will be a challenge."

McSorley: 'It means a lot'
Earlier today, McSorley was recognized as one of 10 finalists for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, presented to the nation's top quarterback. For McSorley though, he's more pleased with those surrounding him that have helped him get to the point where he would be considered for such recognition. 

"It means a lot," McSorley said. "Obviously a lot of credit goes to my teammates and coaches because as we've been preaching, those kinds of individual awards come with team success. A lot of that doesn't happen without the team being successful." 


Feeling the Grind
Franklin noted that there certainly comes a time when he notices redshirt freshmen and true freshmen typically starting to feel the grind of the season. Thanks to the support of the athletic training and sports science staff members though, he's confident that the Nittany Lions who are in those positions this year, are able to handle it. 

"The redshirt freshmen are more prepared for it," Franklin said. "I think the true freshmen typically hit a wall and you've got to fight through that. The redshirt freshmen, once again, I think depending on position and who they are, they are a little bit more prepared. Fortunately, we don't have too many of those guys that are having to have significant roles. They are rotating in and gaining experience. We've got a few of them, but overall, I think our guys have been good."

High Spirits
Franklin and linebacker Jason Cabinda both noted the Nittany Lions held a players only meeting on Sunday to regroup. From the meeting, McSorley noted that he was incredibly pleased with the way Penn State returned to practice on Tuesday.

"Tuesday came out, it was a really good practice. It was really energetic, guys were jumping around. It was actually, it kind of surprised me more than I kind of expected. The guys really bought into what we were talking about." 

First and Second Year Player Meeting
Franklin noted he'll have a meeting with all the first and second year Nittany Lions to revisit the Ohio State game, to ensure that in a few years when they might be in the same position, they'll have learned as much as possible from the experience. 

"I think it's just constant development," Franklin said. "When you have programs that 100 percent of their focus is on playing the game that week, that's where you see dips. That's where you see a program that has a really good year every four years because they build on it but they're not developing the redshirt freshmen, redshirt sophomores and when the time comes, they're not ready because they're so invested in just that year."

Tuesday Roundup - Michigan State Week

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RELATED LINKS: Transcripts - Franklin I Cabinda I Watch - Full Press Conference

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State head coach James Franklin and linebacker Jason Cabinda highlighted the Nittany Lion weekly press conference this afternoon at Beaver Stadium. 

Preparations are well underway for a second consecutive road trip, as Penn State travels to Michigan State for a noon matchup Saturday.

Since touching down in Happy Valley last weekend, the Nittany Lions have remained confidently focused and positive approaching the upcoming outing against the Spartans. 

"I could not have more confidence in our players," Franklin said. "They had a player-only meeting on their own on Sunday. Sometimes I have a hand in those. I did not have a hand in this one. It was not a long meeting at all. The feedback I got, it was really good. Some things I think they just wanted to get off their chest."

Among the Nittany Lions responsible for the players only meeting, was Cabinda, who texted with quarterback Trace McSorley and running back Saquon Barkley. Together, they decided to call the meeting to reiterate the mindset headed into Michigan State week.

"We just felt like there were just some things we had to get off our chest," Cabinda said. "Making sure the mentality of the team was the same. Be sure that we were [all] still taking the same approach. Knowing there's a ton of football left and a lot still left to be accomplished. We kind of just reiterating those things really."

For Cabinda, his confidence was reassured knowing that at this point, there really wasn't much convincing that anyone in the room needed when it comes to keeping the confidence alive.

"I know the kind of kids we have, the kind of guys we have in that locker room," Cabinda said. "It was really to reiterate and make sure the mentality was set. Get anyone who was doubting that and make sure we are all pulling the rope in the same direction, which we are."

On The Quote Board
- Franklin on how the team and staff handled Sunday's practice following the loss at Ohio State.

"We were able to learn from it, grow. We got a resilient group of guys with tremendous character and heart and belief in themselves and belief in what we're doing. We'll have a great week of practice and go play a tough opponent on the road."

- Cabinda on his experiences keeping confidence after a loss. 

"I think the best thing about this team is we're very aware of what we're capable of. We're very aware of our potential and how good we can be. I think that's the reason we're not really losing any confidence. I think it's more feeling as though we just didn't play our best football. It's more disappointing really than anything."

- Franklin on Troy Apke following a career performance at Ohio State.

"I'm really pleased with Troy and his development. He's been a great teammate. He's kind of earned his role and worked up the ladder in terms of his role on special teams, on defense, now as a starter, a leader. He's very well-respected. The coaches trust him. He's making the plays that he's supposed to make from a force perspective in terms of tackling in the run game. He's making plays in the passing game from a coverage, pass breakup from an interception perspective. I couldn't be any more pleased with Troy."

- Cabinda on the strengths of defensive tackle Kevin Givens.

"To me, it's his leverage. If I had to compare him to a player, he is kind of like an Aaron Donald. He just plays with leverage. He gets low, he's strong and twitchy. He comes off the ball and drives people back. He lives in the backfield. He's always in the backfield, creating a new line of scrimmage. That's why he's so effective both inside and outside."

- Franklin on the positives following the loss at Ohio State in his opening statement

"Offensively we were able to score 31 points. Didn't turn the ball over at all. That's been one of our real secrets to success this year. We're plus 14 in turnover ratio, that's number two in all of college football."

- Cabinda on improving the way the Nittany Lions handle momentum shifts in the game, especially defensively.

"Those situations, sudden change, whether it's an interception, a blocked kick, some type of turnover on downs or any unfortunate situation. A lot of times you're put in bad field position and are asked to make a stand. We need to make that stand. It's as simple as that."

Monday Notebook: Michigan State Week

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With film reviewed and corrections made, Penn State football has turned its full attention toward Saturday's assignment. Hitting the road for the second consecutive week, the No. 7 Nittany Lions travel to No. 24 Michigan State for a noon kickoff. 

Saturday's matchup also marks Penn State's only Big Ten regular season trophy game of the 2017 season. The Nittany Lions currently own possession of the Land Grant Trophy, having captured it for the first time since 2010 in last year's regular season finale.

Established in 1993, the Land Grant Trophy is presented to the winner of the Penn State-Michigan State game, initially established to honor a pair of pioneering land-grant institutions.

With a win on Saturday, Penn State would maintain possession of the Land Grant Trophy in back-to-back outings for the first time since 2008-09. The Nittany Lions are currently 14-7 in Land Grant Trophy outings.

Like Penn State, the Spartans enter the matchup coming off their first conference loss, falling in a 39-31 triple overtime decision on the road at Northwestern.

Looking at the statistics, Michigan State is ranked among the best nationally in rushing defense, allowing opponents an average of 89.8 rushing yards per game, which ranks fourth in FBS and tops in the Big Ten. In total defense, the Spartans are ranked eighth nationally (283.4) and third in the conference.

Before officially moving toward Michigan State though, take a quick look back at a few more bright spots from the weekend.

Not-So-Retired Kickoff Returner
Penn State linebacker Koa Farmer joked postgame that he might not be the retired kickoff returner he joked he was back in mid-September. Between running back Saquon Barkley and Farmer, two accounted for 175 of Penn State's 185 kick return yards against Ohio State.

A large part of that yardage of course came by way of Barkley's stunning 97-yard kick return for a touchdown on the opening kickoff of the game. Farmer made the most of his opportunities when Ohio State did opt to kick it to him though, highlighting the day with a career-long 59-yard kickoff return in the second quarter that led to a Nittany Lion touchdown drive.

Even with his success Saturday though, when asked about the kick returns, Farmer was quick to give credit to Barkley, although smiling at the notion he might not be retired anymore.

"He's probably the best player in the country," Farmer said. "He is the best player in the country. If I was a kicker or a coach, I probably wouldn't kick it to him too."

Honors and Awards
For his 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, Barkley earned Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week honors, marking the second time he's earned special teams laurels and his fifth overall Big Ten weekly award this year.

As the major national awards begin narrowing down semifinalists and finalists, Barkley was selected as one of 18 semifinalists for the Maxwell Award, presented to the collegiate player of the year.

In the statistical standings this week, Barkley is still atop the FBS and conference rankings averaging 206.25 all-purpose yards per game. Having scored a touchdown in a school-record and FBS leading 15 consecutive games, Barkley has tallied nine rushing scores, good for third in the Big Ten standings.

Career High Day
Penn State safety Troy Apke posted a career-high eight tackles at Ohio State, halting several potentially big Buckeye plays that didn't necessarily show up on the stat sheet, especially near the end of the first quarter. Apke added one tackle for loss and one pass breakup. Apke has posted at least four tackles in every Big Ten outing this year. 

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Penn State Focused on the Bounce Back

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It's been nearly 10 months since Penn State felt the uncomfortable pang of the emotions surrounding a bitter loss. Experiencing seemingly some of its most excitable highs and even the lowest of lows in a 3:42 stretch Saturday, the result came in an excruciating one-point loss.  

While the stat packet tells one story, as Penn State head coach James Franklin noted postgame, that's not the full story this time around.  

Regardless of what the stats say, Saturday's 39-38 loss at Ohio State was perhaps decided by a final shift in momentum, a proverbial pendulum swing that sent a jolt of energy straight into a ferocious crowd, and one that Penn State could not overcome.

"The margin of error is very small when you play these types of games," Franklin said. "I thought the blocked punt was a huge play in the game."

With a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter, defensive end Shareef Miller dove on a loose ball following a J.T. Barrett fumble for his first career fumble recovery to give the Nittany Lions a prime opportunity to widen to finish the Buckeyes.

 Ohio State's defense then forced a Penn State three-and-out before blocking a Nittany Lion punt with a 6-yard return to cue the proverbial pendulum swing mentioned above.

"I don't think we've handled sudden change really well this year, defensively," Franklin said. "If the offense turns the ball over or something, like the blocked punt, our defense has not handled sudden change well. That's an area we've got to get better. I have to take a hard look at that."

In the three quarters prior to the final one Saturday, Penn State engineered its highest point-scoring total in Columbus ever, opened by yet another sizzling start, when running back Saquon Barkley returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown to mute an anxious crowd packed inside Ohio Stadium.

"The reality is we didn't win the game against a really good opponent on the road and we have to learn from this and get better," Franklin said.

As the clock ticked down to zero and Ohio State fans poured on to the field, Penn State's first loss in more than 300 days was most definitely a reality.

Tight end Mike Gesicki was the first Nittany Lion to exit the field, jogging alone up the cement gray tunnel to the locker room, where he, the rest team and the coaching staff would soon gather to reflect. 

"Coach Franklin came in and told us that he loved us and that he was so proud and happy to be the head football coach at Penn State, and told us to keep our heads up because everything's out there still in front of us that we want," Gesicki said. 

As the small visiting media room flooded with media members, the Nittany Lions entered with a much different message than the one that resounded throughout the Rose Bowl locker room the last time the Nittany Lions were faced with adversity.

"For us, anything can happen," quarterback Trace McSorley said. "At this point last year, we thought maybe we have a chance at the Rose Bowl and by the end of the year we had a shot at the College Football Playoffs. Teams lose, upsets happen. We don't control our own destiny but we can focus on the only things we can control which is coming in each day, working harder than ever, playing harder than ever on Saturday's and doing whatever it takes to get wins from here on out."

For McSorley, it's not only what happens on Saturday's that dictates the outcome of the all the little things built magnified in the tiny margin of error.

Rather, it's what happens on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday that really makes the difference.

That's precisely what the Nittany Lions are ready to turn toward.

"You just watch film and think about the corrections, what you did wrong, what you did right," wide receiver DeAndre Thompkins said. "You talk about that as a unit and as an individual, you watch the film and question what you would have done on each play to help the team."


For Thompkins, the message he took in from the coaches and seniors who stood up to speak in the locker room was clear, that adversity strikes every team and the opportunity to capitalize on an even stronger bounce back is now.

As Gesicki noted, the bounce back begins at the end of the 20-minute correction period on the field today, with the conclusion signaling only one thing - Michigan State. 

Ohio State Postgame: Players

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COLUMBUS, Ohio - No. 2 Penn State came up short in a close 39-38 loss on the road at No. 6 Ohio State Saturday at Ohio Stadium. Check in with several Nittany Lions following the game for a postgame comments featuring running back Saquon Barkley, quarterback Trace McSorley, defensive end Shareef Miller and more. 

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Ohio State Postgame: James Franklin

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COLUMBUS, Ohio - No. 2 Penn State fell short in a 39-38 loss on the road at No. 6 Ohio State Saturday at Ohio Stadium. Check in with Penn State head coach James Franklin postgame following the game. 

2017 Gameday Live - No. 2 Penn State at No. 6 Ohio State

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - No. 2 Penn State football (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten) is set to hit the road, traveling to No. 6 Ohio State (6-1, 4-0 Big Ten) for a top 10 matchup Saturday. The Nittany Lions will make their first trip to Ohio Stadium since 2015, meeting the Buckeyes in a 3:30 p.m. kickoff.

Follow along with our live blog for up-to-the-minute information and join the conversation for in-game updates and exclusive content. 
Live Blog No. 2 Penn State at No. 6 Ohio State
 

RELATED LINKS: Gameday Central I Live Blog I Game Notes I Depth Chart I Tuesday Presser Roundup I Wednesday Practice Report I S. Spencer Q&A I Monday Notebook I Nittany Lions in the NFL - Week 7

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - No. 2 Penn State football (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten) is set to hit the road, traveling to No. 6 Ohio State (6-1, 4-0 Big Ten) for a top 10 matchup Saturday. The Nittany Lions will make their first trip to Ohio Stadium since 2015, meeting the Buckeyes in a 3:30 p.m. kickoff.

While Ohio State enters the weekend fresh off a bye week, the Nittany Lions will look to channel the momentum from a spectacular 42-13 victory against Michigan, in yet another quintessential Penn State White Out at home in Beaver Stadium last weekend.

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Led by head coach Urban Meyer, Ohio State heads into the 18th meeting between the Buckeyes and the Nittany Lions at Ohio Stadium on a five-game winning streak. Well aware of the bonus of the bye week, Meyer-coached teams are currently 45-4 in games where he's had more than a week to prepare. 

Since Penn State head coach James Franklin arrived at Penn State, matchups against Ohio State have been some of the most dramatic and thrilling in program history. From a 31-24 double overtime loss in 2014 to last year's magical 24-21 thriller, so much has changed from then to now.

"I think our team has steadily just grown over the last four years in a lot of different ways and a lot of different experiences to get to this point," Franklin said earlier this week. "But again, there are no moral victories, but I do think there are lessons. There are lessons that are learned in every win and lessons that are learned in every loss, as long as you're willing to look at them and be honest with yourself."

For both Franklin and senior tight end Mike Gesicki, when looking at where the Nittany Lions are now compared to 2014, it all comes down to maturity.

"We have guys like myself, Trace [McSorley], Saeed [Blacknall], Jason [Cabinda], Marcus [Allen] and DaeSean [Hamilton]. A bunch of guys who were either true freshmen or redshirt freshmen for that game and are now either seniors or a redshirt junior as guys who have played a lot of football for us. I think taking those experiences that we've gone through in our past and taking some of those losses that we went through earlier in our career and remembering what went wrong in those game and the little things, trying to improve from that and use that to our advantage now, I think that all goes along with being a mature football team." 

Regardless of maturity, there's no doubting the impending challenge in this week's assignment. 

"A tremendous challenge there, tremendous respect and a great history between these two schools, I think that's probably going to be one of the biggest differences in this game is being able to go on the road and play one of the best teams in the country on the road in a tough environment," Franklin said. "It's one thing to win at home in a whiteout. It's one thing to win at home with College GameDay and 110,000 [people in the stands]. It's another thing to go on the road and do that. That's a challenge for our entire program."

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What To Watch For - Penn State
1. It comes as no surprise that Penn State's special teams have been on display this year. In his Tuesday press conference, Franklin noted he was particularly pleased with improvements in field goal protection, while also giving credit to Blake Gillikin at Irvin Charles.

"Obviously Blake has just been fantastic," Franklin said in his Michigan review. "I would make the argument that the punt out of our end zone, and then to pin [his second punt] on the sideline - and Irvin Charles I think is probably playing as elite of a level as you possibly could play as gunner. The combination of Blake's punts and Irv going down there, you see a guy who is 6-foot-4, 230 pounds running down the field like that, he's been tremendous."

2. Among few critiques following the win against the Wolverines, Franklin did not that the Nittany Lions would need to do a better job in caging the quarterback. When asked about containing Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett from beating the Nittany Lions with his legs, defensive tackle Curtis Cothran noted it will certainly present a challenge. 

"Definitely just try to keep a good cage on him," Cothran said. "A lot of times with a lot of those good runs it's either the defensive linemen doesn't rush up the right angle, or the linebacker blitzes at the wrong angle, so it's just going to be trying to keep him caged. It's definitely a challenge, J.T. Barrett is a great athlete. He's been at Ohio State for a long time, he's seen a lot of football."

3. Penn State's improving offensive line will also be tested against the strength of a deep and experienced Ohio State defensive line. With 96 starts between seven Buckeyes, that also including returning freshman All-Americans Nick Bosa. With a team-high 10.0 tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks, Bosa is part of an Ohio State defense that ranks sixth nationally with 8.5 TFLs per game, with the d-line accounting for 35.5 on the year.

"People were saying last week against Michigan that we were playing two good defensive ends and [Maurice] Hurst in the middle at nose tackle," offensive lineman Ryan Bates said. "They were saying that they are the best d-line in the country but personally, I think Ohio State, their d-line, they rotate a lot of people and I think they're the best d-line in the country per say, just from my perspective."

What To Watch For - Ohio State
1. Earlier this week, Franklin noted that experienced Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett is playing with a lot of confidence. Within the five-game winning streak, Barrett is completing 72 percent of his passes for 1,351 yards with an 18-0 touchdown to interception ratio. The Buckeyes are also averaging 53.1 points per game since a Sept. 9 loss to then-No. 9 Oklahoma.

"I mean you have to just completely respect everything that that guy's been able to do in his career and everything I know about him and have heard about him, he's a class act," Franklin said. "So that's going to be a challenge for us because he can beat you with his legs, he can beat you with his arm, he can beat you with his mind." 

2. Penn State defensive line coach Sean Spencer said Thursday the Nittany Lions would have to be conscious of true freshman running back J.K. Dobbins. More than just Dobbins though, the Nittany Lions won't be singling anyone out. 

While Dobbins is averaging 7.8 yards per carry with five touchdowns and 775 yards on 100 carries, Mike Weber has four touchdowns with 227rushing yards, sidelined only due to injury early in the season. 

"We recruited J.K. Dobbins and I think Coach Huff said about two months ago that he'll be the starting running back before the season is over," Franklin said. "That's no disrespect to Mike Weber, we think he's fantastic too. I think that he's a special player. There's no doubt about it. He's playing behind a really good offensive line and a good scheme and just like us, they have a lot of weapons that you have to deal with, which is ideal for running backs."

3. As Franklin also mentioned earlier this week, Meyer has assembled a staff that's loaded with individuals who also possess head coaching experience. His take on a just a few of the former head coaching staffers, below. 

"Their defensive coordinator, Greg Schiano, obviously very familiar with him and his reputation as a guy who's been a college and NFL head coach. Their offensive coordinator, Kevin Wilson, again you have a guy who was a successful college head coach in our conference," Franklin said. 

The Final Word -
Saturday's matchup marks the eighth time the Nittany Lions and the Buckeyes have meet as top 10 opponents and the all-time series within the stretch is quite close. As Penn State preps for its highest ranked Big Ten game since 1997, Ohio State leads top 10 matchups between the two teams 4-3. The last time Penn State and Ohio State met as ranked opponents though, it was the then-No. 3 Nittany Lions who emerged with a 13-6 win against then-No. 9 Ohio State Oct. 25, 2008 in Columbus. 

Sean Spencer Q&A - Ohio State Week

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State defensive line coach Sean Spencer joined the weekly assistant coaches conference call during Ohio State week.

Talking everything from the Buckeyes to the Nittany Lion scout team, catch up on a few highlights from the teleconference.

Spencer on Dobbins
Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins' 7.8 yards per carry currently ranks fourth best in the nation as the top number among freshmen. The true freshman has rushed for 775 yards in seven starts and the Nittany Lions have taken notice. With great feel and balance, Spencer tabbed Dobbins a tremendous player with the ability to make all the runs.

"When you continue to play teams, each week there is going to be a guy who presents problems," Spencer said. "Clearly we have to be conscious of him with our preparation throughout the week but we have to prepare for them as a unit because they're a great team. Not really singling out one person, but just focusing on gap control and doing those types of things and rush lanes so that we're where we're supposed to be when we need to be."

No Surprises with Miller
For Spencer, there aren't exactly surprises when it comes to defensive end Shareef Miller who's currently eighth on the squad with 22 tackles and at least a half of a tackle for loss in all but two games on the year. While Spencer had seen flashes from Miller last year in a reserve role, he and the staff knew what Miller could do in practice and even in a game setting, but the question soon became if he could execute with the game on the line. Through seven games, Miller is meeting expectations.

"I'm not just talking about his two sacks at Pitt, I think one of his best plays of the game in my opinion, was the safety at Iowa where he's circling out, he's bending down the line, he circled out and made a tackle, made an unbelievable tackle on an unbelievable back in the end zone which I thought was a huge play in the game," Spencer said. "Those were the plays where we were wonder could he be like [Garrett] Sickels, [Evan] Schwan, [Carl] Nassib, [Anthony] Zettel, [Austin] Johnson, dating back to [Deion] Barnes, those guys who just made those plays, those game changing plays. Could he do that? And he has shown to this point that he can."

Givens' Biggest Jump
For Spencer, defensive tackle Kevin Givens' biggest jump from last year to this year is simply in his ability to make the most of his knowledge of the game. With the versatility to play end, nose guard or three technique, Spencer noted that it's his size that also adds an advantage.

"That gives us a changeup guy where you can go, from having, nothing wrong with our ends at 255-260 (pounds), but you play at 285-pound end that's strong and powerful and dynamic, I think you have a really good weapon there," Spencer said. "At the same point, he can rush in four down and affect the pocket. I think what people don't know about Kevin is that he's so good in the run game because he plays with such great leverage and he's so powerful. If you ever tap him on his back it's like hitting a wall. You're going to hurt your hand, I have to go see Tim Bream every time I tap him on the back because I bruised up my knuckle."

Looking at the Scout Team
Spencer is pleased with the looks the scout team his given the defensive line this year, especially when it comes to true freshmen offensive linemen C.J. Thorpe and Des Brown, or "Big Sweat" as he's called.

"I coach against all of the o-linemen in the conference and those guys are true Big Ten guard, tackle type players," Spencer said. "They are aggressive, they are athletic. They give us a tremendous, tremendous look week in and week out. I'm really excited about them and guys like Mike Miranda. They definitely help prepare us and better ourselves for the speed of the game. I'm excited about them."

Rotation Strategy
On any given game, Spencer noted that he'll generally rotate in anywhere from eight or nine defensive linemen, but the number is much more strategic than random. 

"I think I develop tremendous confidence with any of my guys going into the game at any point in time," Spencer said. "I get a feel for the game. Obviously as you guys know we chart the reps on the sidelines so it's really strategic and calculated in how many reps I want a guy to take. We plan it out on Saturday morning. Myself and coach Franklin and coach Pry, we just talk about how much we want to see a guy this and that. If I could play more guys, honestly in games where we're ahead and I can get guys valuable reps I'll certainly play my younger guys because there's nothing like game experience."

Practice Report: Ohio State Week

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State head coach James Franklin and running back Saquon Barkley met with members of the media following practice Wednesday evening at the Lasch Building.

With Ohio State prep underway, Franklin noted he was pleased with the level of execution and energy in Wednesday's practice. 

Catch up on a few highlights from the media sessions.

Keeping Routine
For Franklin, regardless of what the outside chatter might be, Penn State will rely in its usual routine and stand operating procedure ahead of Saturday's matchup, allowing the Nittany Lions to keep a level head, especially faced with the magnitude of critical situations. 

"You don't change," Franklin said. "You don't overemphasize things, you keep teaching football the way you've taught football all year long. For us, we're going to stick to our routine. We've played very good, disciplined football and we're going to need to continue to do that. Everything's magnified obviously when you're on the road, but I think that's something I'm pretty proud of, how we've done so far."

Freshman Flashback
Drawing on his first experience against Ohio State, Barkley paused to look back on a game where he rushed for 194 yards on 26 carries as a true freshman for his third 100-yard rushing game of the 2015 season. 

"I was kind of in awe of being on the field with Braxton Miller and Ezekiel Elliott, obviously coming from high school watching their highlight tapes, especially Braxton," Barkley said. "What I remember from that game, obviously we lost that game, it was a blackout, Ohio State fans are amazing, the stadium is amazing but it's going to be a fun challenge for us. 

Since then, Barkley said he's a smarter player and knows both the game and the playbook much better than he did when he first stepped on to the field at Ohio Stadium. 

"I just think I've developed into an all-around player and I'm willing to do it all whether it's special teams, blocking or making the catch," Barkley said.

On the Buckeye Defense
Speed, athleticism and length were all words that Franklin used to describe Ohio State's defense.

"They're one of the more talented teams in the country, Franklin said. "They have recruited really well, they have developed really well. They're really a multiple defense, they do a lot of things and they do a lot of things well."

Allen's Leadership
When asked about how safety Marcus Allen's leadership has developed, Barkley noted that it has come through his improvement as a more vocal leader on the team. 

"Last year, he was always a lead by example type of guy but as the season went on last year and in the offseason and now, he's more vocal," Barkley said. "He's a guy who has to be vocal, he's one of the best defensive players in college football and it comes with the part. He's taken that role and accepted it and he's been doing a good job with it."

When it comes to who is the better dancer though, Barkley said he has that one on Allen.

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