Recently in Football Category

2016 Blue-White Gameday Snapshots

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


2016 Blue-White Gameday Preview

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

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

Spring Practice Central 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Gate A -- Running Backs/Tight Ends

Gate B -- Quarterbacks/Defensive Backs

Gate C -- Defensive Line/Linebackers

Gate E -- Wide Receivers/Specialists

Gate F -- Offensive Line


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Spring Football Position Breakdown - Quarterbacks

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Spring Practice Central

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

The Quarterbacks

Players Returning-Newcomers/Lost:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Spring Practice Central

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

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

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Spring Football: McSorley, Stevens Growing Inside New Offense

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

11863056.jpegSpring Practice Central

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Spring Football Position Breakdown - Cornerbacks

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Spring Practice Central

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions practiced for the 12th during spring drills on Monday afternoon. Throughout spring practice, will break down each position on the depth chart. Today, we focus on the cornerbacks.

The Cornerbacks

Players Returning-Newcomers/Lost:

Who's Back:
Kyle Alston (Jr./Jr.), Christian Campbell (Jr./Jr.), Desi Davis (Jr./So.), Grant Haley (Jr./Jr.), Amani Oruwariye (Jr./So.), John Reid (So./So.), Troy Shorts (So./Fr.), Jordan Smith (Sr./Sr.), Garrett Taylor (So./Fr.)

The Breakdown:
11861635.jpegCoach Terry Smith and the Nittany Lion cornerbacks entered the spring with the mindset that they can do their part in helping the team by challenging more balls and forcing more turnovers in the back end of the defense. A group mixed with experience and youthful talent, the Lion corners have put together a very productive spring and will head into the summer with confidence.

The unquestioned leader of the cornerback room is junior Grant Haley. The 5-foot-9, 184-pound Georgia native played the best football of his career in the latter stages of 2015. Now, Haley is eager to lead the unit into 2016. He started in 11 games (missed first two due to injury) in 2015 and appeared in all 13 contests in 2014. Haley finished with 42 tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss, tied for the team-high in interceptions (2) and led the team with nine passes defended last fall. The junior has taken another step forward and will be among the top returnees on the defense.

Like Haley, John Reid played the best football of his season in the final few weeks of 2015. One of just four true freshmen to start a game, Reid appeared in all 13 contests during his first season on campus and started two games at corner. Named to's Big Ten All-Freshman team, Reid made 29 tackles and tied Haley for the team lead in interceptions with two. A student of the game, Reid made good strides in his first winter conditioning period and will play a key role on the defense and challenge for the starting spot alongside Haley.

Jordan Smith is one of just six seniors on the defensive side of the ball. The Washington, D.C., product is primed to play a role in the Nittany Lion secondary when the season kicks off in September. With 27 game appearances under his belt, Smith has made good progress this spring.

Junior Christian Campbell, sophomore Amani Oruwariye and redshirt freshman Garrett Taylor will all be among the group competing for a much bigger role on the defensive backfield in 2016. Campbell has played in 18 games during the last two seasons (missed five due to injury last fall). He made 16 tackles and broke up two passes in 2015. The Alabama native will be among the Lions competing for a starting assignment.

Oruwariye played in all 13 games last fall and was one of 17 redshirt freshman to see action in 2015. The Tampa, Fla., native made five tackles and defended a pass last season. Taylor made good progress on the scout team defense and is eager for an increased role when camp commences in August.

Sophomore Nick Scott, who transitioned into the secondary following the TaxSlayer Bowl will give the Lions another player with game experience in the defensive backfield. Scott has made a smooth transition into a new role for the Nittany Lions this spring.

Junior Kyle Alston, sophomore Desi Davis and redshirt freshman Troy Shorts will provide the cornerback group with increased depth for the 2016 season.

Collectively, the Lion cornerbacks are a talented group looking to have a bigger impact at the line of scrimmage in press coverage and get their hands on more balls. Coach Smith enjoys the group's attention to detail, and the corners are poised to be one of the team's strengths in 2016.

Quoting Coach Smith:
"The corners have a business-like approach to everything. These guys understand where our deficiencies were in the fall and where we need to improve this spring to be a better football team on the back end of the defense. These guys are studying a lot more film. They are working on technique more. Grant Haley is the leader of the room. He is a junior, and he is the elder spokesman of the group. He's the guy that holds it all together. The young guys look to him."

Spring Football - Scott Relishing Opportunity at New Home

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Spring Practice Central

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Like the thousands of Penn State fans across the country, Nick Scott marveled at the dazzling performances Saquon Barkley manufactured as a true freshman.

Working out alongside Barkley in the backfield, Scott debuted as a redshirt freshman in 2015, impacting the team on offense and serving as an ace on special teams.

One of 17 redshirt freshmen to see playing time last fall, Scott appeared in all 13 games and tallied 133 rushing yards on 30 carries and scored one touchdown. The Fairfax, Va., native also had four receptions for 43 yards. He averaged 23.8 yards on 13 kickoff returns and made eight tackles on the team's coverage units.

For his prowess, Scott was named the recipient of the John Bruno Memorial Award, which is handed out to the team's most outstanding special teams player.

Clearly, Scott illustrated his athletic ability on the field when given the opportunity to play. Head coach James Franklin frequently talked about how Scott's attitude on special teams set the tone for the Nittany Lions.

Like any student-athlete, though, Scott wanted to impact the team in the best way possible. Scott was recruited as a running back out of Fairfax High School and rushed for 1,582 yards en route to all-state honors as a senior. He served as a key member of the offensive scout team in 2014 before taking the game field for the first time last fall.

That said, it could not have been easy for Scott to initiate a conversation with Coach Franklin after the TaxSlayer Bowl about switching positions. It was something that Scott and some of the coaches had talked about briefly during his first two seasons on campus, but the redshirt sophomore was serious about a change to the defensive backfield leading up to 2016.

"Watching Saquon Barkley and seeing just how special of a player he was, and knowing that I am a competitor and do what is best for the team, I wanted to go to Coach Franklin to help any way I could," Scott said.

Immediately after the decision finalized, Scott knew he had plenty of work to do. He called several of his teammates from the secondary.

"I said, 'Listen, I've got to make up some ground,'" said Scott. "I hadn't played defense since high school. And even then, I was more of an offensive guy. But I knew that I could play."

Junior safety Marcus Allen was among the first teammates Scott talked to on the phone.

"The first day I let Marcus (Allen) know, I think it was the day after I made the switch, he took me under his wing," said Scott. "He said, 'Ok, you switched. We are going to Holuba tomorrow. Bring your cleats.'"

Scott worked out with Allen and redshirt freshman Jarvis Miller on day one to learn some of the basics and acquire background information on the defensive scheme. Scott said Allen's leadership was a big boost to helping him get started with the transition.

"I always felt that I was athletic enough to play defense, but the thing I really wanted to emphasize during winter conditioning was my footwork," said Scott. "That's something that feels completely different when you move to defense. You have to make a lot of cuts and get your hips in the right spot. I understood that I had some work to do."

Knowing it would be a big adjustment, Scott approached the change like he does everything - with a positive attitude. You won't find a guy who has a smile on his face more than Scott. He has an infectious personality, and he loves being around his teammates and truly enjoys every facet of being a student-athlete.

"I love playing defense," said Scott. "I'm a guy who has never been shy on special teams, and I love being on the defense. The coaches were great during the process because they just told me to fly around and have fun. Once you understand the scheme, you can go out and play and have fun. Their advice was to work hard and do my best to perfect the tasks I'm given."

When it came time to head onto the field for the first time on March 18 to begin spring practice, Scott donned a dark blue jersey with his fellow defenders for the first time in his career. It was a different feel for a guy who had been accustomed to the offense's white.

"It was a little weird putting that blue jersey on during the first day of spring practice," said Scott. "I think I almost ran with the offense (laughter)."

With each passing day, the Virginia product looks more and more like a guy who is a natural in the secondary. And Scott knows things will continue to grow from here.

"I think I'm definitely getting more comfortable every single day as I learn more about the system and understanding what my role is on the defense," said Scott. "I'm having a lot of fun. I think the last (week) of practices have been the most fun I've had because I'm getting comfortable. I was able to play at a good speed."

The evolution in the defensive backfield will continue long after the Blue-White Game on April 16, but Scott is committed to the process.

"I just want to show my teammates and the coaches that no matter where I'm at, I'm going to play hard and give 100 percent. Obviously, I want to have a lot of fun and just compete," said Scott.

To best serve the team, Scott gave up an opportunity to be a running back at Penn State. But if he had the chance to make the decision again, he wouldn't hesitate to do what's best for the team.

"I think the guys on the team would agree with me when I say that I always want to put the team first," said Scott. "I'm at the place I want to be - Penn State. So to me, it didn't matter what I was doing as long as I'm part of the program I love."

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Spring Football: Offensive Line Growing in New Scheme

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

11849801.jpegSpring Practice Central

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - You won't find a group more motivated to be successful than the Nittany Lion offensive line.

The past is ancient history, and the unit is looking ahead with great confidence following a strong start to 2016 that began in the weight room over the winter.

"The winter conditioning period was very productive for our group," senior Brian Gaia said. "Each guy had a specific goal, whether it was getting bigger, maintaining weight or getting more flexible. And I think we all grew significantly both physically and mentally."

It has been a period of change for the men in the trenches. In addition to learning a new offensive scheme, the Lions are working through their first spring practice period under the direction of coach Matt Limegrover. The first taste of things this spring has left the unit wanting more.

"Across the board, this offense just fits our offensive line very well, and I've seen a lot of guys take a big step forward this spring," said junior Andrew Nelson. "I love this offense in general. I think you can talk to anyone and they will tell you that they are enjoying it. We've had good success this spring."

It has been a period marked by installation on the field. The Nittany Lions have taken the new scheme in stride, and it has resulted in a high number of explosive plays this spring. Sure, there is an adjustment to learning new terminology, but the Lions have been locked in on the task at hand.

"There are a lot of new wrinkles going in, so obviously there is going to be an adjustment," said Nelson. "But offensively, I think guys are doing a really good job being focused and locked in with all of the new stuff going in."

Gaia and Nelson are two of the offensive line's biggest leaders. Gaia has more game experience than anyone on the roster (37 appearances), and Nelson has evolved into a consistent voice for the unit.

Gaia is in the process of adapting to a new home on the line. The Pasadena, Md., product started his career as a defensive tackle. He moved to guard before the 2014 season, and now he is meshing with the rest of the unit at the center position. Being the voice during pre-snap situations, Gaia knows the importance of leadership for the unit.

"At my position now, I feel that way," said Gaia. "I dictate when we get set and when the play starts. Being a senior and in the spot that I'm playing, I feel like leadership is something that is on my shoulders."

The most striking difference for the offense this spring is the tempo at which the group practices. The Lions are moving to the line at a swift pace and without going into a huddle. The speed lets the offensive players set the tone.

"I think the tempo of how the offense is operating really helps us," said Gaia. "We will be used to working at that pace, and the defense will face a challenge. We can dictate how quickly things move."

The players love operating at a faster pace. It can put a defense on its heels, and the strength and conditioning gains from the winter period are paying huge dividends for the line already this spring. With five practices left in spring drills, intensity is high as the unit continues to learn the intricacies of a new offense and grow as a collective group.

"The competition between the group makes everyone better," said Gaia. "We've had a number of different combinations on the offensive line, so all of us have played together at some point. That helps with the chemistry building."

With the groundwork being laid for 2016, confidence is a huge factor in the offensive line's evolution. There are four starters from the TaxSlayer Bowl back and a host of groomed, young talent ready to take the next step into the rotation. Optimism is very high for a group that is ready to take a step forward.

"The offense has come out this spring with a different mindset," said Nelson. "We have an extremely positive attitude of what we can accomplish, and I think that starts with Coach (Joe) Moorhead."

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Spring Football Position Breakdown - Offensive Line

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Spring Practice Central

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions practiced for the 10th during spring drills on Wednesday afternoon. Throughout spring practice, will break down each position on the depth chart. Today, we focus on the offensive line.

The Offensive Line

Players Returning-Newcomers/Lost:

Who's Back:
Ryan Bates (So./Fr.), Noah Beh (Jr./So.), Brendan Brosnan (Jr./So.), Adam De Boef (Jr./So.), Tom Devenney (Sr./Jr.), Derek Dowrey (Gr./Sr.), Brian Gaia (Gr./Sr.), Evan Galimberti (Sr./Jr.), Alex Gellerstedt (Fr./Fr.), Steven Gonzalez (So./Fr.), Sterling Jenkins (So./Fr.), Wendy Laurent (Gr./Sr.), Brendan Mahon (Sr./Jr.), Connor McGovern (Fr./Fr.), Andrew Nelson (Sr./Jr.), Paris Palmer (Sr./Jr.), Zach Simpson (So./Fr.), Chance Sorrell (Jr./So.), Charlie Shuman (Jr./So.), Chasz Wright (Jr./So.)

The Breakdown:
11846704.jpegOne group that entered spring practice eager grow is the Nittany Lion offensive line. The Nittany Lions return four starters from the TaxSlayer Bowl and are now under the direction of coach Matt Limegrover. Experience is a big piece to an offensive line's success, and the Lions are much more seasoned up front than they were at this point last season.

Headlining the list of returnees is the most experienced player on the field for the Nittany Lions. Graduate senior Brian Gaia has appeared in 37 career games for the Blue and White, including 25 starts during the past two seasons. The Maryland native started his Nittany Lion career on the defensive line before shifting to guard prior to 2014. He was the only offensive lineman to start every game in 2015, and now Gaia is the leader of the unit after shifting to center during the offseason.

Redshirt junior Andrew Nelson is another guy who has been an anchor for the offensive line during the past two seasons. The Hershey product started eight games last fall (missed four due to injury) and all 13 games of his redshirt freshman campaign in 2014. Nelson had a superb offseason and is a consistent performer at tackle. An All-Freshman Team selection two seasons ago, Nelson has started games at both tackle positions and will again be a staple in the starting lineup when the season begins in August.

Fellow redshirt junior Brendan Mahon is another Nittany Lion with significant game experience on the o-line heading into 2016. The Randolph, N.J., native has started 20 times and appeared in 25 contests during the past two seasons. Mahon has spent the vast majority of his time on the game field at the left guard position.

Senior Derek Dowrey is alongside Gaia as one of the most experience players on the roster. Dowrey has played in 33 career games, including six starts. The Virginia product moved from defensive line to the offensive trenches before spring practice began in 2014. After graduating with a degree in journalism in December, Dowrey is again positioned to be a contributor on the line in 2016.

The fourth returning starter from the bowl game back for 2016 is one of the team's most improved players from the end of the season. Paris Palmer transformed his body during winter conditioning and added significant size to his frame and increased his overall core strength. After transferring from Lackawanna College, the 6-foot-7, 302-pound tackle appeared in 13 games and started 11 contests last season.

Senior Wendy Laurent is another very experienced piece on the offensive line for the Lions. The Hamilton, N.J., native has played in 22 games and started eight games. Laurent has experience at all three interior positions along the offensive line.

In addition to the corps of players with significant game experience, the unit has a host of talent looking to break into the rotation once camp commences in August. The battles for playing time along the offensive line will be very competitive. The list of names at the interior positions includes the likes of Ryan Bates, Steven Gonzalez, Chasz Wright, Adam De Boef, Tom Devenney, Evan Galimberti and Zach Simpson. At the tackle positions, keep an eye on Noah Beh, Brendan Brosnan, Sterling Jenkins, Chance Sorrell and Charlie Shuman as they compete for playing time.

Additionally, the offensive line includes two early enrollees who are on campus going through the paces of their first spring practice period. Connor McGovern and Alex Gellerstedt joined the roster in January after decorated scholastic careers.

With more depth and experience, coinciding with a new offensive scheme, the Nittany Lions and Coach Limegrover know that the group can take a significant step forward in 2016. The Lions have approached spring ball with a great attitude and will carry some confidence into the final weeks of spring practice and into the start of fall camp.

Quoting Coach Limegrover:
"One thing that has really impressed me since I've been here is that there is a real hunger amongst my group. There is a nice mix of younger guys and older guys, but they share the same passion for improving. It showed during our offseason workouts, and it's transferring onto the field here this spring. When you have a group of guys who are willing to work and put it all on the line, they are pretty easy to coach. With being a new offense and a lot of new installation, my hope is that come April 16 my guys have a good idea of fundamentally what we are trying to accomplish as an offense and a foundation of what needs to continue to be built upon when we get back together in August."

Spring Football: Post-Practice Press Conference (4/6/16)

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Spring Practice Central

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Head coach James Franklin updated the media following Penn State's 10th of 15 spring practices on Wednesday evening. A spring marked by good progress on both sides, the Nittany Lions will return to the field on Saturday to close out the week.

Hear from head coach James Franklin, running back Saquon Barkley and safety Marcus Allen following Wednesday's practice.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony