Penn State Football: Journey Brown, Gross-Matos Suspended; Other Big Ten Media Day Notes
It was Penn State's turn to take the podium at Big Ten Media Days in Chicago and coach James Franklin was quick to remind everyone of the program's recent success as the Nittany Lions begin a new chapter.
“If you look at our success over the last three years at Penn State, we’ve been able to do some really good things in laying a foundation to build on,” Franklin said. “14 straight winning seasons, one of five programs in the country that has been able to do that, one of six programs to win nine or more regular-season games in the last three years.
“Obviously when you lose a quarterback who’s played as much football as Trace McSorley has played for us, that’s going to lead you off with some question marks going into the season."
And it's a big question mark that Penn State faces following the graduation of senior Trace McSorley and the transfer of Tommy Stevens. Left behind is a competent but unproven duo of Sean Clifford and Will Levis. The former is expected to earn the starting job this summer, but Franklin remained steadfast in his commitment to an open competition in camp and no urgent timetable to name a starter.
“We’ve got two, what we would consider, veterans in Sean Clifford and [Will] Levis, that are going to have a great competition this camp, and have really had that all summer, including spring ball, and then we’ve got two freshmen that are also going to have an opportunity to compete,” Franklin said.
The good news: whichever quarterback gets the eventual nod, there will be plenty of talented players around him, and fast ones too. KJ Hamler returns along with Jahan Dotson and Justin Shorter, who will look to bounce back from a true freshman season that saw him sidelined with injuries and slow to get back to his once five-star status.
Plenty of coaches think there teams are fast, and Franklin is no different, convinced that this one is his fastest yet.
“We are young, we are talented and (this is) probably the fastest football team that I’ve been a part of in, probably, my nine years as a head football coach. So we’re excited about having that speed and athleticism on the field.”
Off the field, Friday's biggest news was that both defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos and running back Journey Brown have both been suspended for the duration of the summer following a violation of team rules near the end of spring camp. James Franklin told reporters in Chicago that he expects both players back for the start of training camp.
Overall while Friday was not full of breaking news, it was a reminder of how far the program has come, and how hard it might be to go those final steps, the difference between great and elite the constant improvement of many little things.
“We’re at a point as a program, it’s not one glaring area. It’s fighting for every small fraction that we possibly could find and that’s in every area,” Franklin said. “That’s nutrition, that’s sports science, that’s scheme, that’s all of it, every single aspect we’ve got to be fighting and competing in every area to make sure that we’re putting ourselves in the best position to be successful week in and week out against the best teams in college football.”