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.