Penn State

Beat writer Donnie Collins keeps you posted with in-depth analysis and commentary

A look inside Penn State’s Pro Day

You’ve probably committed the numbers from Penn State’s annual Pro Day on Tuesday to memory. If you’re not, here’s a good place to catch up.

I created a video documenting some of the drills and interviews and insights from players during the event. It’s the first one I’ve put together, and I hope you enjoy it. Not going to take this one to Sundance quite yet, but every journey starts with one, small step…

Welcome to spring practice

Welcome to spring practice

ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTO

Spring practice officially starts today at Penn State, and head coach James Franklin’s press conference is being held at around noon.

Stay tuned for updates from Franklin, and new special teams coach Joe Lorig, who will be introduced to the press at a conference following his new boss.

UPDATE: “We’re obviously young.”

But he adds some of the stats don’t exactly tell the story. Pointed out Micah Parsons is an example. Led teams in tackles, but didn’t start.

UPDATE: Mac Hippenhammer is focusing on baseball full time this spring. “He’s Bo Jackson for us.”

Franklin adds that C.J. Thorpe is back on the offensive side. “We really believe he has an unbelievable ceiling to be an elite offensive lineman.”

Team also moved walk-on Grayson Kline to tight end.

Juice Scruggs got into a car accident and will miss spring ball.

UPDATE: Confidence and chemistry are two things Franklin says the staff wants to develop with the team this spring. Also, ball protection on offense and play disruption on defense.

Wants to work on developing the two-deep, obviously. Especially at DT, where they want 5 who can play. Safety and receiver two other positions where coaches need to “speed up the development process.

UPDATE: “I think we’re all growing. I think you better have a growth mindset the rest of your life.”

Franklin said he is happy with Micah Parsons’ growth away from the field. He has “been phenomenal.” Doing well in classroom and has been very coachable. Strong relationship with coaches.

Big reason he didn’t start last year was to take pressure off of him.

UPDATE: Taylor, Sutherland, Neff and Romano at free safety. At strong, Wade, Petrishen, Rudolph and Hartlaub.

That’s where Penn State goes into camp at the safety position.

“We’re really excited about what Wade has done this offseason,” Franklin said, adding that John Petrishen is healthy for maybe the first time in a while.

UPDATE: Early to say where leadership is going to come from on this team.

Franklin said team will go back to having more captains. Had just three last year, but two on offense, defense and special teams a few years ago. They’ll go back to that this year if they can.

Will Fries, Michal Menet, Steven Gonzalez are “going to have to bring a lot of leadership value to our team.” Same with combination of Freiermuth and Bowers at tight end, plus the quarterbacks.

Also, K.J. Hamler has as much energy and can impact anyone positively.

UPDATE: Going to be really good competition at a lot of positions, including quarterback. But fact is, Penn State is going to be inexperienced. Talented, but inexperienced.

UPDATE: Franklin “not sure” if Tommy Stevens will be full-go for the spring.

UPDATE: Franklin “excited” for assistants who move on and advance their careers. His responsibility is not just to develop players, he says. Selfishly would love for them to stay at Penn State “and watch their goatees get grayer with every press conference, like mine…but that’s not the reality of our industry anymore.”

Wants the situation to be one where assistants don’t feel like they have to leave, but he says that’s the reality of the job right now.

UPDATE:
Transfer portal created an opportunity for players to look around, make sure they were in the best situation for them and their families, Franklin said.

Had a lot of conversation with Lamont Wade and his parents. Able to get “to a good place” based on where he was at academically and in his football careers. Wade decided to return.

Franklin notes that most players who left Penn State had their degrees, which to him was more a graduate transfer thing than a transfer portal development.

UPDATE: Ricky Slade has done some nice things at running back, but staff is also excited about Journey Brown.

Players put so much pressure on themselves about “their timeline.” They think about playing as true freshmen, entering NFL in three years. “Guys put way too much pressure on themselves. Everybody’s path is different.” Franklin said patience is an important part of the development process, and that patience has been a big part of Journey Brown’s career. He’s playing with confidence and speed. “The guy’s got ability. But all those other things are starting to fall into place for him.”

Noah Cain and CJ Holmes also in the running. Franklin mentioned Lake-Lehman walk-on Nick Eury as well, and prospect Devyn Ford is coming in for the summer.

UPDATE: Special teams coordinator Joe Lorig is now at the podium.

Says leaving Texas Tech “wasn’t difficult at all” despite being there only five weeks. Relationship with Franklin and the stature of Penn State program combined to seal the deal. He adds that if it were not for Franklin, he probably wouldn’t have made the move.

UPDATE: Tries not to come in to a new place with preconceived notions. But Lorig was impressed with kicker Jake Pinegar’s approach. “He has a good plan of how he can get better.”

UPDATE:
If you see some CTG signs around the special teamers, that’s because it’s Lorig’s mantra. “Change The Game.”

Lorig models the special teams units like any other position group. Holds individualized meetings, and he says that’s rare. Punt team will be with punt team, kick team with kick team, etc. “Special teams can’t be about me. It’s not my deal. It’s our deal.”

UPDATE: Lorig watched film on offense, defense and special teams in 2018 to get a feel for the team. Spent all last week doing it. Noticed too many balls being kicked out of bounds. Almost all missed field goals were from the same spot — the right hash. “But I also saw a lot of really talented guys who play hard. If you have that, you can build the type of culture I’m talking about really quick.”

Fastest way to improve a football team, he said, is on special teams.

UPDATE:
Lorig will recruit parts of Delaware, Maryland, Erie County and the Space Coast of Florida. Will coach on defense a bit, as well, though that has not been established. Right now, he’s assisting “as needed.” But very experienced around the defense. He has coached outside linebackers in the past in 3-4 schemes, but it’s clearly a little different with Penn State running a 4-3.

UPDATE: Not sure yet who is dynamic enough, makes good-enough decisions, to get the first crack at returning punts and kicks. Hamler is in the mix, of course. But a lot of players are going to get a chance. No hesitation to use the same player to return both punts and kicks.

Oruwariye wraps up Combine

Oruwariye wraps up Combine

Penn State cornerback Amani Oruwariye finished up strong at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis on Monday, as he did by picking off this pass against Appalachian State to seal an overtime victory in the 2018 season opener. CHRIS KNIGHT / ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTO

Things are winding down at the NFL Combine this afternoon, and some of the numbers are in on Penn State’s last participant, cornerback Amani Oruwariye.

Here’s what he has done:

 

Amani Oruwariye

Bench press

17 reps (t5)

40-yard dash

4.47 seconds (t12)

Vertical jump

36.5 inches (t17)

Broad jump

120 inches (t22)

3-cone drill

DNP

20-yard shuttle

DNP

60-yard shuttle

DNP

All in all, solid so far for Oruwariye. There are some drills that are more important for some prospects than they are others.

For Oruwariye, I’d guess a lot of scouts and general managers were looking at the bench press and the 40-yard dash. He’s a bigger, stronger guy. So, the bench will tell you where he compares there. But, of course, you also have to show when you’re big and strong that you can run a solid time. Which, he did.

It’s going to be a really interesting debate about which Penn State player will be the first selected next month. Oruwariye might be the favorite, but Connor McGovern is going to be in the mix there, and I wouldn’t fall asleep on Miles Sanders, either.

Big Ten commissioner set to leave post

Big Ten commissioner set to leave post

Some really big news out of the Big Ten this morning: Commissioner Jim Delany will retire after his current term runs out on June 30, 2020.

The Big Ten’s Council of Presidents and Chancellors has started a search process to ultimately replace Delany, with Northwestern president Morton Shapiro leading the charge.

“It’s been an amazing opportunity to serve and lead these preeminent institutions, presidents, administrators, coaches and students,” Delany said in a statement released by the conference. “It is incredibly fulfilling to support the hundreds of thousands of young men and women who have been afforded an opportunity to obtain best-in-class educations as a result of the invaluable, one-of-a-kind lessons learned through the unique combination of athletic and classroom competition. I would like to recognize and thank each of my colleagues for being such invaluable members of, and contributors to, the Big Ten Conference team, while acknowledging that there is still plenty of work to be done. I look forward to continuing that work through the balance of my term.”

Delany has been the Big Ten’s commissioner since 1989 and has lead the conference into a new era of college sports with some bold moves and innovative decisions. He oversaw the expansion to 11 programs with the addition of Penn State in 1993, and he led a second expansion in 2014, with Nebraska, Rutgers and Maryland joining the league. He also guided the Big Ten to implement the first replay system in major college football and, of course, the launch of the Big Ten Network has brought a wider range of notoriety — in addition to billions in extra revenue — for conference programs since 2007.

The conference will have some time, of course, to search for a replacement. But, Delany announced a few years ago he felt he was approaching a retirement from the commissioner’s post, and one name that always seems to get mentioned as a potential replacement was Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips. Not sure it ultimately goes that way, but there are certainly some interesting candidates among athletic directors around the conference.

Miller, Givens have solid Sundays at Combine

Miller, Givens have solid Sundays at Combine

Defensive linemen took to the field at Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday to wrap up their drills at the NFL Combine, and it was an interesting day for both Penn State defensive end Shareef Miller and defensive tackle Kevin Givens.

Here are their results:

 

Shareef Miller

Kevin Givens

Bench press

16 reps (18)

32 reps (t3)

40-yard dash

4.69 seconds (t10)

5.08 seconds (t17)*

Vertical jump

29.5 inches (19)

31 inches (t14)

Broad jump

DNP

115 inches (t9)

3-cone drill

DNP

7.63 seconds (12)

20-yard shuttle

4.45 seconds (12)

4.62 seconds (15)

60-yard shuttle

DNP

DNP

*The numbers I’m giving you are ones the NFL is listing on the Combine website. Givens, however, ran a much better time than a 5.08 in his second go-round, a 4.87. If that was the listed time — and I’m not sure why it’s not — he’d have had the seventh-best 40 among defensive linemen.

If there was a Penn State junior-eligible player who entered the Draft that I figured might go undrafted, it was Givens. But he was pretty impressive, if you’re a scout or general manager who loves the drills, then you’re going to really like what Givens was able to do. So, Givens probably bumped himself up some draft boards considerably.

The Combine wraps up this afternoon with the cornerbacks and safeties working out. Amani Oruwariye will get his chance to impress the scouts.

McSorley shines in Indy

McSorley shines in Indy

ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTO

Trace McSorley evidently was asked by a few teams at the NFL Combine this week to work out as a defensive back.

He did just fine at the position he wants to play in the NFL anyway.

McSorley participated in four drills on Saturday afternoon at Lucas Oil Stadium and finished in the top seven among quarterbacks in every one, led by his blistering top speed in the 40-yard dash.

Here are his numbers.

Trace McSorley

Bench press

DNP

40-yard dash

4.57 (1)

Vertical jump

33 inches (t6)

Broad jump

115 inches (t7)

3-cone drill

DNP

20-yard shuttle

4.12 seconds (t2)

60-yard shuttle

DNP

McGovern leading trio of Lions at Combine

McGovern leading trio of Lions at Combine

Lake-Lehman grad Connor McGovern and the rest of the offensive linemen invited to the NFL Combine in Indianapolis this week are finally getting to take the field for the position drills at Lucas Oil Stadium.

I’ll have some updates as the day progresses. Fellow offensive lineman Ryan Bates has run the 40 with his group, and running back Miles Sanders has as well. But McGovern is going through the on-field drills right now. He’ll run the 40 later.

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Stay tuned for updates.

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Welcome to Combine Week

Welcome to Combine Week

He won’t be asked to catch the ball, of course. But Lake-Lehman graduate and former Penn State guard Connor McGovern will work out for NFL general managers, coaches and scouts at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis on Friday. (CHRISTOPHER DOLAN / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)

The biggest misconception about the NFL Combine is that players show up, do their drills in front of scouts, get talked about on NFL Network for a little while, then leave.

You won’t see constant coverage of events from Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis until those on-field workouts start Friday, but make no mistake, the NFL Combine is a week-long event, and invited players will start rolling into town today for what unquestionably will feel like their first step toward a professional career.

Led by quarterback Trace McSorley, seven Penn State players have been invited to participate in this week’s Combine: Lake-Lehman offensive lineman Connor McGovern, offensive lineman Ryan Bates, running back Miles Sanders, defensive linemen Kevin Givens and Shareef Miller, and cornerback Amani Oruwariye are the others.

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AD Barbour, Penn State agree to contract extension

AD Barbour, Penn State agree to contract extension

A contract extension for Penn State athletic director became official today. ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTO

It’s official.

Penn State has signed athletic director Sandy Barbour to a four-year contract extension, the university announced today. The pact runs through the 2022-23 academic year, and it comes with a new title for Barbour, Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics.

Financial terms of the extension, which is retroactive to last July: She’ll get $6.165 million over the course of the deal, which will pay her $1.169 million this year with a $50,000 raise each year.

In short, Barbour is now one of the highest-paid athletic directors in the nation.

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Lions round out staff with veteran ST coordinator

Lions round out staff with veteran ST coordinator

Can the hiring of Joe Lorig as special teams coordinator be the impetus for a big season in the return game for Penn State speedster K.J. Hamler? (AP PHOTO / HOLLY HART)

Penn State felt it had the pieces in place to be dynamic in certain areas of its special teams last season.

It hardly looked dynamic as the season wound down, though.

That’s why fans, at least, seemed ready to move on from first-year coordinator Phil Galiano after the 2018 season and pursue a new avenue on special teams. Galiano didn’t get relieved of his duties (he found an assistant special teams coordinator job with the New Orleans Saints last week), but head coach James Franklin got the opportunity to seek that new direction anyway.

He landed Thursday afternoon on a 22-year veteran coach who, statistically, has been one of the better coordinators in the nation.

But how much of an impact can the Nittany Lions, and their increasingly demanding fans, expect Joe Lorig to make as he heads into his first season — the only one those same fans were willing to give Galiano?

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