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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Per the usual, Penn State Football head coach James Franklin met with members of the media for his weekly press conference Tuesday afternoon. Quarterback Trace McSorley and safety Troy Apke also joined Franklin for a pair of sessions with the media.
In his opening remarks, Franklin announced staff player of the week picks went to the entire offensive line, defensive end Ryan Buchholz and DeAndre Thompkins on special teams for their performances in the Akron opener.
Among early takeaways, Franklin noted that he and the staff were pleased with Penn State's effort and ability to execute - even in the wake of some typical uncertainty with the scope of a season opener.
The Game Wrecker
Franklin noted the he and the staff were particularly keyed in on the Pitt special teams unit, specifically naming All-American return specialist Quadree Henderson as a unique piece of the group.
"He's the guy you go into the game and you say who's the guy that can be a game changer or a game wrecker, however you want to describe it," Franklin said. "He's that guy. So we have to have a plan for him to try to limit the impact that he'll have in this game."
In 2016, Henderson led the nation with a school-record three kickoff return touchdowns, also adding a punt return for a score last year.
Apke has a few unique family connections with both of his parents former student-athletes at Pittsburgh, his dad a linebacker on the football team and his mother on the track and field team. Although too young to attend a game, he does have a few memories of some Penn State, Pittsburgh history from his dad.
"It's kind of funny, my dad used to say every time he walks on this field for a photo shoot or media day, he tells me his blood is still on the ground because of when they played Penn State.
It's no secret that linebacker Jason Cabinda is among the most respected Nittany Lion leaders on the team. As Franklin noted, Cabinda's family foundation in the importance of education also makes him just as strong of a leader in the classroom.
"He's an active listener," Franklin said. "He's an active learner. He's on the edge of his seat. He's nodding his head. He's got great eye contact, and he's the guy that you feel really strong is going and reinforcing in the locker room and Saturday night what the young guys should be doing, as well."
When it comes to leaving behind his legacy after Penn State, Franklin said Cabinda is often one to reference modeling his approach to that of former Nittany Lion Mike Hull.
"I think he left an impact to Jason, and I think Jason is going to end up leaving an impact with the young guys that we've got in our program now, leaving a legacy that guys say, well, this is how Jason did it when he was here," Franklin said. "I'm very pleased with him. "The last cherry on top is making sure that he leaves in December with his degree in economics."
McSorley described Saquon Barkley's 80-yard run from Saturday's Akron game as if he was shot out of a cannon, noting that even sometimes it's a little hard to keep focused when Saquon is doing Saquon things.
"I kind of had my eyes backside with the read but once I handed it off and by the time I looked up he was already 40 yards downfield."
On The Quote Board
- McSorley's take on the offensive line improvements
"Probably the biggest area you can see is just in their confidence as a unit, where they're kind of going into games, they're confident where they're setting their blocks and really confident in themselves that this run play is going to work or we're going to be able to pass protect as long as we need to, to not let our receivers get open downfield."
- Franklin on the status of the Nittany Lion kickoffs
"Right now, Tyler [Davis] is the guy. We want to treat Alex [Barbir] very similar to other positions when we feel like we can get him a rep and gain some experience. We'll try to do that. But it's Tyler's job. I thought Tyler did a great job with his ball location. You talk about we'd like for that ball to land three, four yards deep in the end zone and outside the numbers, and he didn't consistently get it three, four yards deep in the end zone, but his hang time was really good, and his location was really good in terms of outside the numbers."
- McSorley's take on what the second half of the Pittsburgh game did for the confidence of the offense overtime.
"I think early on that was kind of a little confidence booster for us, being able to have that success and get it going. Obviously, it wasn't one of the big moments because yeah, we weren't able to finish it out and come away with the win, but I think if you were to look back on it and think about how we were able to have some success in that second half and claw and fight back and give ourselves a chance, I think that's something that you can look back and say, yeah, that gave us a little bit of confidence moving on through the year."
- Franklin on the progress of Connor McGovern settling into his role at center.
"He played at a pretty high level as a true freshman
for us last year, has gotten bigger, has gotten stronger, has gotten leaner, is
really doing a good job being verbal. That was an area I was a little bit
concerned about him is he's not the most vocal guy. Making sure that he was
going to take control in there, make the calls with confidence. That was
something that I think needed to grow, and I think that was communicated
through Coach Limegrover and myself, and he has done a good job. I think you'll
just continue to see him get better and better as the season goes on and gain
more confidence, which will allow him to be more physical."