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Penn State Football: Media Day Notebook

by on August 04, 2016 2:40 PM

Penn State football media day took place on Thursday afternoon as the Nittany Lions prepped for the third season under head coach James Franklin and first under several new assistants. Franklin spoke to the media for just over 35 minutes as he address topics all across the board, from special teams to the rotation at linebacker.

Franklin was followed by offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, special teams coach Charles Huff and defensive coordinator Brent Pry, all of whom had their own insight into the upcoming 2016-17 campaign.

Here are some keys to take-aways from all four coaches.

--James Franklin--

Offensive line change:

"We're going to start camp with Nelson at right tackle (had been at left tackle) which I know is different for you guys from the way it ended in the spring. There's a number of reasons why we're going to do that which I will not go into at this time. But we still need to figure out who are going to be those tackles, who is going to be the best left tackle, who is going to be the best right tackle and then the guys behind them."

Get your weight up:

Penn State has been making strides all summer under strength coach Dwight Galt, and that's finally starting to show as team averages rise.

"Our team's strength index, which is our pound-for-pound strength evaluation, we're up 12 points since last summer," Franklin said.  "So we've improved. Last summer we were 6.04, this year we're around 6.16. Our bench went up 15 pounds. Our average bench for the entire team is 348 pounds, which is tremendous. Our squat went up 3 pounds, which is a 453-pound average for the team. Our power clean went up 12 pounds. Our team average is 315 pounds in the power clean."

"So we're really excited. I want to thank our strength staff for their commitment and the hard work they made in the off-season. Our students did a great job from a leadership standpoint, which you guys know over the summer is critical. It's their program basically from the time spring ball ends until camp starts and we were able to get a lot of work done with player-led and player-driven initiatives so that was really good."

JUCO transfer DT Tyrell Chavis is on campus:

The only member of Penn State's incoming class that didn't make it on campus with the rest of the newcomers, the defensive tackle prospect out of Virginia is now on campus and ready to compete, according to Franklin. Penn State lists the junior at 6-3, 298 pounds.

"He's had to overcome a lot of things in his life that when the time is right and he decides to get into those things with you guys in a public format, wonderful," Franklin said. "But to me, this is why I coach is stories like this, and I've had a number of stories over my 22 years. But just as proud as I am of the guy that comes in and in five years after a red-shirt leaves with a masters degree, it's also the guys that come in and overcome a lot of things and walk out of here with a degree from Penn State as well."

"So he's going to be one of those success stories and I'm really proud of him. He's had to overcome a lot. He's had to overcome a lot, and I'm really proud of him."

More practice reps on the way:

With a full allotment of scholarships finally back on campus, Franklin and his staff are more confident about safely getting back to the kind of practices most teams participate in. While that doesn't mean there will necessarily be more hitting, there will be more action.

"Yeah, there is NCAA, there are Big Ten recommendations, there is also a lot of other discussions going on nationally about that. We're always going to be under those things anyway. I think I've mentioned to you guys before, I think you can get a lot of value out of walk-throughs and jog-throughs if you approach it the right way and you're detail oriented and those things.

"At the end of the day it's still critical that you get your best players to the game and that goes back to that risk-reward. So for us, you'll see some changes, but it will probably be more in time of practice and reps in practice. With the tempo, the increase in tempo, we were getting done in our ten-minute period, we were getting done our script with about three minutes left to go.

"So the combination of that and just having more depth, we felt like we could increase reps that we had in each period and maximize that. That's where we're starting. Then we'll adjust as camp goes on based on how practices are going. We feel like it's the right amount of reps if we have to tweak it, all those things. So that's kind of where the science comes in."

--Joe Moorhead--

What Moorhead is looking for in the starting quarterback. 

"I think you're looking for a guy who can beat you with his brains, beat you with his arm and beat you with his legs. When you have a quarterback who is a threat to run the football successfully, either by design or when the play breaks down, I think it makes it that much more difficult to defend your offense. But if you're asking or leaning one way or the other, we're looking for someone who can do both.

"But you want a passer who can run rather than a runner who can pass. Simply because what we ask our quarterback to do in our passing game from a dropback perspective. But it becomes a point where if a guy's not athletic enough, it really doesn't matter how good of a passer he is, and if he can't function some of the things we're asking him to do in the run game, then it's just not a guy who would be a great fit for our system."

Benchmarks for Penn State's offense throughout camp.

"I think the things that we're looking for throughout camp are to build off of the foundation that was established in spring ball. We talked to the guys about it. We want to come out with the opportunities that we have in camp and prior to the Kent State game, we just want to see incremental improvements. Come out every day, pick something and get a little bit better at it.

"So I don't think there is a hard and fast guideline or we say, 'Hey, we're at this practice and camp and we're not here yet.' We're just looking for steady games throughout camp. And if we continue to make those games like we did in spring ball and heading into the first game, we just can't take a step back. I think that's going to be the big focus throughout camp."

--Charles Huff--

Saquon Barkley on special teams.

"Yeah, I think one, this is something that we've discussed all summer moving in. I think whenever you have a player who has his play-making ability, whatever position he is, I think you've got to look at multiple ways to put the ball in his hand. You look around the country and there are other teams doing it. You look at the conference and there are teams that have guys playing offense and defense. If you do a history lesson there was a really good running back here that returned kicks and he was pretty good at it.

"I think like Coach said, it's risk-reward. You've got to be mindful of the fact that, yeah, there is another opportunity. There is another rep. But whenever you can help the team win by putting the ball in the hands of a playmaker, I think you've got to look at that option. That's something that we'll look at moving forward in camp and throughout the season. That also depends on how some of the other guys, how their camp goes.

"As running back coach, to me, it's about winning. So whether it's winning with the running back, whoever he may be, getting 300 yards rushing or whether it's winning, having the kick returner return two kicks for touchdowns, to me it's about winning. However that is, that's fine with me."

--Brent Pry--

Middle linebacker competition with the return of Nyeem Wartman-White

"I told those guys this morning in a meeting we're very fortunate that we have multiple guys in the room that have extensive experience at both spots. You throw Brandon Bell, Brandon's played Sam, he's played Will. Jake Cooper for a young guy has played a lot at Mike and a lot at Will over the course of the fall and spring. I think that there's competition in that room because everybody wants to be the starter, and everybody wants to be the guy.

"We've got the versatility. Those guys are going to roll through multiple spots through camp. They're in a place that we can do that with them. We're going to train Manny Bowen some at the Will linebacker. He's been strictly a Sam to this point. Brandon Bell's going to play some at Mike linebacker. We're going to roll those guys through.

"We've got some experience and some maturity in the room that we feel like even though potentially the numbers aren't there, the versatility allows us to create the depth we need. We've got some sub packages that allow us to do that. So we feel really good about it. Jason's an outstanding leader, and he's got great command of the defense."



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