Penn State Football: Saturday Practice Notes And Observations
The Nittany Lions were at it again on Saturday morning for the latest installment of spring practice. With the Blue White game only weeks away Penn State fans are getting closer and closer to seeing what James Franklin's first season in Happy Valley might look like. With dozens of recruits in attendance the energy wasn't lacking inside Holuba Hall despite the rainy weather outside.
Here are just a few notes, injuries, and observations from the open portions of Saturday's practice.
1. Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger: Christian Hackenberg doesn't really have to worry about anyone beating him at the quarterback position and it doesn't look like anyone could catch him if they wanted to. Up to 220 pounds (10-15 more than when he came to Penn State) Hackenberg looks the part more than he did when he stepped on campus last summer. Michael O'Conner might be the most skilled quarterback behind Hackenberg but the returning Big Ten Freshman of The Year looks the part more than anyone else at his position.
Last year Hackenberg drew attention from the media and fans because of his hype, this year he simply passes the eye test in ways he didn't last summer. Hackenberg grew into his role under O'Brien, he owns it now.
Early in practice all four quarterbacks took turns passing through a small square hole in a large net from various distances. Hackenberg made two of the three passes before putting a little too much air under the final pass. Considering the window couldn't have been larger than 2x2 feet it's hard to blame him for the miss.
2. Recruit HQ: Penn State hosted a good number of recruits and coaches on Saturday and had a fairly extensive check-in station in place for all the recruiting action. High quality name tags, an itinerary and seating along most of the field were just some of the features. Following practice Franklin gave a short pitch to all of the recruits and families in attendance. It wasn't anything new for Penn State, but it was an interesting look at how Franklin and his staff have gone about the process. A name tag may not seem like much, but the little things can sometimes be the difference between a commitment and a miss on the recruiting trail.
3. Blow The Whistle: The media didn't have access to this portion of practice but Penn State ran a few plays at real speed on Saturday including an entourage of referees to oversea the play. It's not an uncommon sight to see but a sign that the Nittany Lions are making good headway towards much more of the substance of the offense and defense rather than simply technique work.
4. Music: It may have been added in because recruits were in town, but practice music made its return for some of the morning after being absent to start off the spring. Strength and conditioning coach Dwight Galt made players earn music in the weight room and the same likely could be said for the practice field. Either way, you haven't lived until you see coaches singing "Pop A Molly" while trying to maintain their serious practice faces.
5. Ouch: Safety Malik Golden walked out of practice in the early stages with a slight limp and one of his hamstrings iced. Practice sessions always come with their fair share of bumps and bruises and with a full summer ahead it's hard to imagine something like that would be a long term ailment.
6. Gotta Catch Them All: Penn State ended practice with offensive linemen and other large body position players catching punts from the jugs machine. It was a fun drill to see as the team watched 300 pound players field punts with perhaps are higher than expected success rate. Obviously not something fans should expect to see on the field but a light hearted way to end practice.