Nittany Lions Wrap Up Practice In Dublin, Set For Saturday's Meeting With UCF
DUBLIN -- With the sun shining and a light breeze cooling off the field Penn State took part in the final practice of the week before they open the 2014 season in Dublin.
“This is a game,” Franklin said. “This is a game. This is a game against Central Florida that happens to be in Ireland.”
That business-like approach has been the message since Penn State arrived in Dublin on Wednesday. There is little time for anything but football. There is no free-time for a bowl game-like celebration at some tourist attraction. There is nothing but taking care of Week 1.
Even so, Thursday was still a chance to keep the energy levels on an upward trend after a long flight this week and a summer full of hard training sessions nearly every day. If Penn State wasn't far enough along with only two practices remaining in the summer, those two extra practices weren't going make a major difference. At this point it's about staying energized and cleaning up the little details.
And so the team practiced without pads when the media was allowed in to watch on Thursday but was still going full speed after a more relaxing and energy-recharging day on Wednesday. A dinner at the Guinness Storehouse will cap off the team's second day in Ireland and even though Franklin is football-first, Friday will include a bus tour of the city and a quick stop at a Penn State pep rally.
Just two days away from taking on UCF the Nittany Lions are moving closer to answering some thorny questions. One of the biggest questions being the offensive line.
“I feel pretty good, I do,” Franklin said about the unit’s ability to come together by the end of camp. “I think Herb (Hand) has done a great job, I think the kids have done a good job and have worked extremely hard. We’re doing some things in the way that we’re calling the game to try and help them. And if you do that you’re helping Hack.
“That’s really what we’re trying to do, get the ball into our playmakers’ hands and we gotta be smart. When you have a good quarterback like Hack you say you want to throw the ball, but for a lot of reasons we’ve got to be able to run the ball, we’ve got to be able to commit to the running game and we’ve got to be able to protect the quarterback. So we’ve got to call the game to help the offensive line.”
The offensive line will get a stiff first test this weekend as the Nittany Lions face a UCF defense that is deep and has played lots of games together. While the Knights may not bring with them the power and elite skill of an Ohio State it will still be a good benchmark to see how far Hand has taken what is an inexperienced unit.
In many ways the game will also provide some insight about the start of James Franklin era at Penn State, even in a contest where the Nittany Lions aren't -- and probably shouldn't be -- favored to win.
But as Franklin said himself. "It's a game." And James Franklin will coach many more at Penn State no matter how No.1 starts and ends.
Keep track of Ben Jones as he navigates Dublin by reading his Penn State Football/Ireland Travel Blog.