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Penn State Football: For Nittany Lions, 2018 Will Be As Much About Mental Talent As Physical

by on May 24, 2018 2:00 PM

If anything Penn State football's biggest challenge in 2018 might not be entirely football related.

Sure, replacing Saquon Barkley isn't exactly easy. And finding new linebackers and corners to make up for other losses is a process. But everywhere on Penn State's roster there are answers to those questions. Replacements for departures. The talent is there, the potential not far away.

So the hurdle to overcome, the one between the ears. It's one thing to have talent, another to have experience, especially at the highest levels of the game. 

"It's making sure that our team is mature enough to handle it and doesn't feel like winning is just a birthright at Penn State because it's not," James Franklin said in Philadelphia a few weeks ago. "Getting our guys to understand the type of sacrifices, the type of investment they are going to make."

"Jason Cabinda was quoted and Jason Cabinda and the Mike Gesicki's and those guys, they have been through a lot of adversity," Franklin added. "As a program, they have been through a lot of adversity, individually. They had to overcome stuff, they had to work through things."

In truth Franklin knows there is no real shortcut to getting back to that point. You can't coach the experiences of an Ohio State game into a player. You can't tell a freshman linebacker what it's really like to play in front of tens of thousands of people. You can't make players understand the investment needed to succeed. They just have to go out and do it. Go out and learn.

It's why in many ways this year for Franklin and his staff will be as much about coaching as it has ever been. It will be about leadership and work ethic. It's one thing to become a program that can create high levels of success once every three or four years, it's another all together to become a program that never loses a step.

"Are we working harder, are we working smarter, are we working longer, what are we doing to differentiate ourselves," Franklin asked. "I think that's an important lesson for our guys because that's the same thing they are going to do for the rest of their lives."

Unfortunately for Franklin, he won't get reals answers to those questions for a few more months.

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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