Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Notes from Big Ten Media Days.

Today was day two of the Big Ten Football Media Days in Chicago. Representing Penn State along with James Franklin are running back Bill Belton, kicker Sam Ficken, and linebacker Mike Hull. The players met with the media today. Here are some nuggets from their meetings with the meeting.

There was some talk of Sam Ficken possibly doing the place kicking and punting this season. However, Ficken said he does not expect to punt at all. And no, it’s not like the bill O’Brien days when he just basically said screw punting. So it looks like Chris Gulla will handle the punting duties.

Linebacker Mike Hull had some interesting comments. He said when the sanctions were levied in 2012 and players were allowed to leave he had made up his mind and was going to go. Hull said he was prepared to tell BOB he was leaving. Then the night before he talked about it with his roommates, slept on it, and woke up the next morning realizing that leaving would be a huge mistake. Thankfully. Hull also said that Penn State’s defense this year will be more aggressive and feature a more blitzing, attack oriented style. Thank God. This has been missing from the Penn State defense for a long time, and I am very glad to see it is changing.

James Franklin also spoke today. He informed us that offensive coordinator John Donovan and defensive coordinator Bob Shoop will coach from the box. Meanwhile, special teams coordinator Charles Huff will be on the field at all times. This is welcoming news on Coach Huff. Special teams has been a major deficiency for Penn State for many years now, and has cost the Nittany Lions countless games. It appears Coach Franklin is putting an emphasis on improving the special teams.

It was also announced today by Vegas that the Nittany Lions have opened up as a 1 point favorite against UCF for the season opener August 30th. Only 32 more days until Nittany Lion Football, and the Coach Franklin Era truly begins. I can not wait. WE ARE…..

Friday, July 25, 2014

Pre-camp depth chart and other notes.

We’ve got just 36 more days until the Nittany Lions travel to Dublin to clash with the UCF Golden Knights in their season opener. Yesterday Coach Franklin released their pre-camp depth chart. Needless to say, it wasn’t exactly what people thought. Now pre-camp depth charts usually mean nothing, as it is at camp when players put on the pads that the starters begin to separate themselves. But we’ll take a look anyway.

At quarterback there is no surprise Christian Hackenberg tops the list. Same goes for running back as Zach Zwinak and Bill Belton are one two on the depth chart, but then things get fun. On the offensive line three year starter Donovan Smith is listed a top the chart at left tackle, redshirt freshman Andrew Nelson is at right tackle (this is no surprise), right guard still has Miles Deffienbach listed despite the fact he’ll miss at least the first 8 games of the season (Brian Gaia is behind him on the depth chart), left guard was a surprise having Derek Dowrey listed above Brenden Mahon, and Angelo Mangiro is at center. Now left tackle, right tackle, and center are not surprises, but Dowrey over Mahon and seeing Deffienbach still listed as starters are. I expect Brenden Mahon to get the call at right guard this season.

At tight end there are not many surprises. Kyle Carter is listed as the starter at the F position, and Jesse James at Y. Both players are on the preseason watch list for the Mackey Award which is given to the nation’s top tight end. Adam Breneman and Brent Wilkerson, who is returning from knee surgery, are listed behind them. Wide receiver is, um, interesting. Geno Lewis, De’Andre Thompkins, Matt Zanellato, Chris Godwin, DaeSean Hamilton, Saeed Blacknall all guys you’d expect to possibly see listed as starters. Well, none of them are. Instead the Nittany Lions have DeShawn Baker, Gregg Garrity, and Jake Kiley listed as the starting wide receivers. Needless to say, I do not expect these three to be starting any ball games. It will be guys like Lewis, Thompkins, Zanellato, Hamilton, etc.

On defense we’ll start with the secondary because, believe it or not, the secondary could be a strength for the Nittany Lions this year. There are no surprises at safety as Ryan Keiser and Adrian Amos are listed as starters. Amos is one of the more underrated defenders in the Big Ten, but Keiser stinks. So it’d be nice to see a young guy like Malik Golden who excelled down the stretch last year, or Koa Farmer step up and supplant Keiser. At cornerback you would expect to see all-conference performer Jordan Lucas leading the way, right? Well, not exactly. Devin Pryor and Jesse Marise are listed as the starters. I can guarantee you they will not start. It will be Jordan Lucas at one cornerback position, while the other is pretty wide open but the leading candidates being Trevor Williams and Da’Quan Davis. Oh Coach Franklin, you troll you.

Linebacker is also a jumbled mess. The starting linebackers will be Mike Hull, Brandon Bell, and Nyeem Wartman. However according to the pre-camp depth chart the starters will be Hull, Ben Kline, and Drew Boyce. The defensive line has CJ Olaniyan, Tarrow Barney, Tyrone Smith, and Brad Bars listed as starters. OF these four, only Olaniyan is guaranteed to start. Deion Barnes will be at the other defensive end position. Austin Johnson will be one of the starting defensive tackles, and the other spot is between Barney and Anthony Zettel.

Coach Franklin must be trying to just troll everyone. This depth chart, at most positions, looks nothing like it will at the end of camp next month. Whatever his reasoning was for doing this I just know it’s nice to see a pre-camp depth chart, even if it is all over the board, because it signals that Nittany Lion Football is very close to being here. As I stated above, just 36 days to be exact.

Other Notes
- Troy Apke will move to safety after being recruited as a WR.
- Keep former All-American Devon Still and his family in your prayers as his young daughter battles Pediatric Cancer.
- 5 star defensive lineman Shane Simmons, a member of the 2016 class, will make his announcement on Wednesday. Penn State is one of 5 schools he will choose from.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Adam Butler rips Coach Franklin.

Adam Butler, no I had never heard of him before either, had some not so nice things to say about James Franklin today at SEC Media Days. Adam Butler is a defensive end at Vanderbilt, who seems like he's still rather salty. When asked about Coach Franklin's departure Butler said this, “I don't want to say I'm glad Coach Franklin is gone but then again I am. It was a little shady in a way. Repeatedly he told us he wasn't going anywhere. He really stressed it. He was in tears talking about he wasn't going to leave. Then he just up and leaves.”

Now Butler is far from the first player to ever be upset at a coach for leaving a team. However, Butler really seemed to take it to the extreme. He would even go on to indirectly call Coach Franklin a bad person. “The bad always weed themselves out and the good always comes,” Butler told CBSSports.com. Um, ouch. To me that just sounds like a player that is upset over losing his coach.

Coach Franklin at his introductory press conference in January.

Now, do not get wrong, I do not blame Butler one bit for being upset. Coach Franklin and his staff were most likely a huge reason, if not the biggest reason, that Butler chose to attend Vanderbilt University. I do think however that it is a bit low of Butler to seemingly be holding a grudge, and to express it this way. Penn State is a much better coaching job than Vanderbilt is, so this was essentially Coach Franklin accepting a promotion. Some thing that anyone in any line of work would do. Plus, as Coach Franklin has said multiple times, Penn State is his dream job. Are you supposed to blame a man for taking his dream job? No. That is the same reason why I never did, and never will, blame Bill O'Brien for going to the NFL. Because, after all, his dream all along was to coach in the NFL. To Bill O'Brien Penn State was a stepping stone to achieving his dream. For Coach Franklin however, Penn State is no stepping stone but rather his dream.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Miles Dieffenbach hopes to be back late in the season.

The annual Lift For Life was held today, and we finally got a more definitive update on Miles Dieffenbach. The senior offensive lineman was injured during team workouts in the spring. However, all Coach Franklin and his staff would say is that it was a "serious knee injury." We now know how serious it is.

It was revealed that Dieffenbach did indeed require ACL surgery. He has been rehabbing, and hopes to be able to play late this season. This is a huge blow for the Nittany Lions, and terrible news for Miles. Dieffenbach, along with Donovan Smith, was slated to be one of two returning starters on the offensive line this season. Dieffenbach is also widely recognized as one of the senior leaders in the Nittany Lions' locker room.

Prior to this the offensive line was shaping up to be Wendy Laurent at center, Smith at left tackle, Dieffenbach at left guard, Brendan Mahon at right guard, and most likely Andrew Nelson at right tackle. This is an offensive line that was already inexperienced. Laurent was a back up last season, while Mahon and Nelson were getting redshirted. Now the Nittany Lions will be forced into playing another inexperienced player on the offensive line. Left guard now looks to be between Derek Dowrey and Brian Gaia, both of whom played defensive line last season, and Angelo Mangiro.

If there is one silver lining to this, it is that all 5 of these players will be back next season. And 4 of the 5, Smith being the exception, have at least 3 years of eligibility remaining. So getting this players experience early in their careers sets the foundation for a very good offensive line moving forward. Especially when players like Steven Gonzalez and Sterling Jenkins join the fold next year.

Dieffenbach told reporters today that his knee feels good, and that he is on track. He said if he remains on track he should be able to return for the final 3 or 4 regular season games. Hopefully Miles' recovery keeps going well, and he is able to get back for the last few regular season games. It would be a huge boost for the Nittany Lions' offensive line.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

SEC coaches vs James Franklin

James Franklin is awesome, we all know this. However, the SEC feels otherwise. This summer Coach Franklin and his staff will be "working"camps in Georgia and Florida, and the SEC doesn't like this. According to NCAA rule coaches can work at a camp more than 50 miles from their campus as long as they are the NOT the primary hosts of the camp. Coach Franklin and his staff are simply exploiting a loophole.

Big Ten coaches do this quite often, Kirk Ferentz and the Iowa staff are also doing it this summer. However, the SEC does not allow coaches to do this. so they are ticked off. SEC coaches have been pressuring SEC Commissioner Mike Silve to do something about this. Basically, they do not like the idea of one of the best recruiters in college football being on their turf. According to Ben Jones and statecollege.com ESPN recently asked some SEC coaches about this, they aren't happy. “I want you to know that it’s not the right thing,” LSU coach Les Miles said. Shut up, Les. You probably break more rules while recruiting then a bear breaks twigs while walking through the woods.

It's hilarious to watch SEC coaches complain about people being 'dirty' recruiters and taking advantage of loopholes. Truly God only knows what kind of illegal recruiting goes on within the SEC. There is nothing wrong with what Coach Franklin and his staff is doing, it's actually very smart of them. Basically, SEC coaches feel threatened by Coach Franklin and are realizing that the Nittany Lions are a sleeping giant and that their alarm is about to go off. If you think SEC coaches are angry now, just wait until kids from Georgia, Florida, etc. start playing college ball for Penn State.

Only 93 days until Penn State vs UCF, WE ARE!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Sterling Jenkins and Brandon Wimbush commit to Penn State.

When Coach Franklin was hired he said that he and his coaching staff were going to, "dominate the state." Well so far they have. Today offensive tackle Sterling Jenkins, the top prospect in the state of Pennsylvania, committed to Penn State. This gives Nittany Lions 5 of the top 10 players in the state of Pennsylvania for the 2015 recruiting with two more, John Reid and Jordan Whitehead, considered Penn State leans. Dominate the state Franklin has indeed.

As for Jenkins, this is a huge get for Penn State. Not only did they keep him away from Big Ten rivals Michigan and Ohio State (suck it Urban!) who were hot in pursuit of Jenkins, but most importantly the kid is a stud. He is the #1 prospect in the state for a reason. At 6'8 305 pounds Jenkins is a mountain of a man. He is a very strong player, and also plays quick for his size. Two things that will be a huge advantage for him in the college game. One area he'll need to work with offensive line coach Herb Hand to improve is that he tends to play a little tall at times. This means he stands up too much and loses form. When a player does this it makes it much easier for opposing players, even much smaller players, to win the battle at the line of scrimmage. This should be an easy fix however.

Brandon Wimbush is one of the top dual-threat QBs in the nation for the 2015 recruiting class. Wimbush, much like Jenkins, had a choice of whose who in college football to pick from. This included his other top school the Ohio State Buckeyes (suck it again Urban!!). Winbush decided the Nittany Lions were the right team for him. Good choice, Brandon. The commitments of Jenkins and Wimbush help the Nittany Lions remain neck and neck with the Alabama Crimson Tide for the nation's top recruiting class. Also, landing both of these young men in one day will cause May 6th, 2014, to go down as one of the single best recruiting days in the history of Penn State Football.

Wimbush stands 6'2 and weighs in at 205 pounds. Wimbush has great arm strength, and puts some real touch on his passes. He also is a great athlete who is very mobile in the pocket, and can make defenders miss once on the run. Wimbush will need to improve on his accuracy, and become a quicker decision maker. These are issues that he and quarterback coach Ricky Rahne can work on and improve however. Welcome to Happy Valley young men!

Back to the recruiting trail it is now for Coach Franklin and the staff. There's a few more players in Pennsylvania to snag to finish off dominating the state. Anyway, only 116 days until the Nittany Lions head across the pond to battle UCF. WE ARE!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

This Coach Franklin Stuff

According to the Tennessean Coach Franklin had contact with the victim in the Vanderbilt rape case that led to him dismissing four players off the team when he was still in Nashville. The report states Franklin, and strength coach Dwight Galt, had contact with the victim. They reportedly told the victim that they care about her because she is important for recruiting. They also asked her to get a group of good looking girls together to meet with recruits, despite this being against NCAA recruiting rules.

Before people freak out, I am not worried about this. First off, I'm sure this information was known by Penn State when they hired Coach Franklin. It may just now be getting released to the public, but I'm sure it was known in the investigation. Secondly, it appears to be nothing more than her word against Coach Franklin and Coach Galt. Finally, as the article linked above delves into, this case is a mess. There is a ton of information and records that the police can no longer find. Plus, the contact Coach Franklin is accused of having with the victim, is in no way, shape, or form a cover up of any sort. Do not forget as well that her lawyer released this statement, and his job is to make it sound as bad as possible in an effort to help his client.

I am not worried about this, and don't expect a whole lot to come out of it. But right now people still really hate Penn State, so everyone will scream all kinds of nasty things and accuse Coach Franklin and his staff of wrong doing. Be prepared for the trolls to be out in full force on the internet, too. It'll be one classless joke after another. I'd brace myself for that, but probably not a whole lot more.