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Penn State Football:Early Experience Key For Overall Depth

by on September 19, 2019 11:00 AM

According to Penn State coach James Franklin, the best way to get better is to simply play. The challenge, finding time for everyone to do that, and still win.

"I think the easy thing that I think probably people question do you just play your starters and ride those guys as much as you possibly can?" Franklin said after practice on Wednesday. "That's going to give you the best chance to execute at the highest level. But then one of those guys goes down or misses some time for whatever reason and the argument is that it sure would have been nice to get that backup time because now he's in a position where he needs to play."

Franklin's theory of player management is a concept that has likely helped the Nittany Lions in the long run, especially when their opponent has the ball. Defensive line coach Sean Spencer has been quick just about his entire tenure in State College, to change the entire line mid series or alternate between unit each possession. The result has given Penn State a deep and experienced defensive front, whatever their shortcomings might be in 2019 so far, it's not for a lack of experience.

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The same could be said for Penn State's linebacker group, where Micah Parsons enters the year as Penn State's leading tackler in 2018 but frequently out of the reserve role.

Look to Penn State's running back room and it's a four-man race for the job.

"So you've really got to balance the two." Franklin said of winning and building depth. "We've got to do enough that's going to give us the best chance to win the game, but also in a way to get those other guys some confidence as well. I know not everybody does it that way, some people are just trying to dominate and get their best players as many plays as they possibly can and build the confidence that way. I think it's a fine line, what we try to do early is get those guys some reps and let them play and I know there are some questions about that as well."

Over the past two seasons Penn State has seen 39 and 36 players take the field respectively in at least 12 games while 30 played in seven or fewer games in 2018 and 27 in 2017. The newer NCAA rule allowing a player to play four games without losing a year of eligibility has changed early season player management quite a bit, but the shuffling of experienced talent and up-and-coming youth is still an important part of program development and depth.

"We just balance that between playing the guys we need to play to win the game, and still be able to get some guys in there to gain some experience," Franklin added. "And hopefully over time, both groups the 1s and the 2s are executing at a championship level so you don't really feel it or see it when those guys are in there."

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