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Penn State Spring Practice Notebook: Position Changes, Weight Gains, And Practice No. 1

by on March 17, 2014 7:30 PM

Penn State hit the practice field on Monday afternoon for the first time with James Franklin and his coaching staff as they kicked off the 2014 season.

The Nittany Lions will practice a total of 15 times during the spring which includes a final practice in the form of the Blue White game held on April 12.

Penn State coaches and players have a long way to go before that day though as both continue to transition into a new chapter of their coaching and playing careers.

Here are a few notes and observations from the first hour of Penn State's practice on Monday:

Sprinting: Not very much about Monday's session happened slow as units sprinted from station to station, keeping the energy levels high throughout. It's hard to gauge the energy of a team based on a single hour of the first practice, but it's easy to see how Franklin and his staff could make their drills and practice sessions highly competitive events. If you aren't ready to hit the ground running, somebody is going to make sure you hear about it.

I'll Go First: Matt Zanellato and Christian Hackenberg both led the receiver and quarterback units for each drill during position work. Zanellato is technically one of the oldest receivers on the roster in terms of class ranking and Hackenberg is far and away the most experienced quarterback on the team. Who starts a drill first may not seem like a big deal, but little things like that can go a long way toward additional playing time come fall. This doesn't affect Hackenberg as much as it does Zanellato, but it's a sign of leadership in two areas where Penn State needs it on the offensive side of the ball.

Word And Phrases: Playing offensive line is a harder job than you might think and the majority of Herb Hand's first coaching session was more of a vocabulary lesson than anything else. Hand showed the offensive line how they would be calling out certain protections at the line during a game and what that protection would look in a game. It's not the most thrilling thing to watch, but it goes to show how a new staff has to start from square one in order to install a scheme or concept with a new team.

Hand seems to have his work cut out for him though as the offensive line is probably the biggest question mark on the team right now and it looks that way in person too. As an added note, Angelo Mangiro was snapping the ball at center with Hackenberg.

All Over: James Franklin spent much of his time watching all of the drills and sessions taking place on Monday, chipping in where he could and adding his two cents when he thought it was needed. You can't judge a coach and his approach to practice on a single hour, but Franklin seems to trust his assistants to do their jobs. Franklin spent a good amount of time with Hackenberg and the quarterbacks but roamed around for much of the position drills.

Position Changes: Penn State has a few position changes of note stating this spring. Franklin on the changes:

"We basically look at the overall roster positions of strength, positions of weakness, based on numbers, based on talent. For example, a great example is we've moved (Derek) Dowrey and we've moved (Brian) Gaia to offensive line. A big part of that is when I looked at the defensive line, we had a four-deep of scholarship players on the defensive line basically, four deep at defensive end, about three-and-a-half deep at defensive tackles, nose guard and D-tackle. The offensive line; we did not have a two-deep of scholarship players. Not even a two-deep. So, I just felt like we needed to make some moves."

"(Anthony) Zettel is going to be a defensive tackle. It's funny because that was kind of our thoughts when we got here, but that was already his thoughts. I brought him in and had this conversation I was going to sell him on D-tackle. I was talking about it for a while, and he kind of looked at me and was like, “Yeah, that's what I was planning to do.” I learned, “once it's been sold, stop selling.”

Ouch: Linebacker Ben Kline is still recovering from shoulder issues. Wideout DeSean Hamilton practiced with a heavy wrap on his left wrist but otherwise looked healthy. Kyle Carter looked healthy after a season of bumps and bruises last year.

Big Gainers: Here are just a few of the notable weight changes from some key Nittany Lions.

  • G Anthony Alosi, 310 (+27) 
  • DE Deion Barnes, 255 (+10)
  • S Jesse Della Valle, 203 (+13) 
  • G Derek Dowrey, 323 (+20) 
  • QB Christian Hackenberg, 234 (+14)
  • T Albert Hall, 266 (+21)
  • T Donovan Smith, 335 (+13)
  • DT Anthony Zettel, 274 (+16)

Photo Gallery - Penn State Starts Spring Practice



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