PSU players to enjoy rest on off week

Following the four-overtime victory over Michigan, Penn State is entering its second bye week of the year.

Christian Hackenberg said the off weekend allows the Nittany Lions to recharge, calm down and start focusing on the next task at hand.

“[The bye week] definitely helps us to get healthy and really regroup and start focusing on Ohio State,” Hackenberg said.

C.J. Olaniyan said the team’s mentality during the week does not change with the open date because the notion of improving every day still exists on the Penn State practice field.

Olaniyan joked after the game Saturday that he can return to his home state of Michigan this weekend and not have to hear anything about losing to the Wolverines.

While Olaniyan will be making the trip home during the bye week, one person that will not be is Hackenberg.

The freshman said he went home during the last off weekend, so he will not be visiting Virginia this time around, but he will still utilize the couple of days off.

“My dad is coming up, so I will spend time with him, and one of my little brothers is coming with him,” Hackenberg said. “But, I’m really going to relax, recharge, catch up on my schoolwork and focus on Ohio State.”

In other news:

n The Big Ten conference schedule was released Wednesday for 2018 and 2019, both years in which the two will have moved on from the playing field of Beaver Stadium.

In 2018, Penn State will host rival Ohio State and fight for the Land Grant Trophy against Michigan State in Beaver Stadium before closing the year out with a home game against Maryland.

In 2019, The Nittany Lions will host Pitt and Michigan and finish off the season with a match in Beaver Stadium with Rutgers.

Maryland and Rutgers, which close out the 2018 and 2019 season respectively for the Nittany Lions will join the Big Ten in 2014, which will launch the East and West divisions of the conference. Both the Terrapins and the Scarlet Knights will be in the East division with Penn State.

In 2016, the Big Ten will move to a nine-game conference slate that will see each team play all six in-division opponents in addition to three opponents from the opposite division.

n With a true freshman quarterback under center, a lot of emphasis is placed on development throughout the year and Hackenberg is no exception.

Hackenberg has reached the midway point in his first year at Penn State and currently leads the Big Ten in average passing yard per game with an average just under 280.

The freshman said he is happy where he is at right now, but cited some development concerns in a conference call on Wednesday.

“I just feel like there’s always room for improvement in every aspect, mentally and physically,” Hackenberg said.

Bill O’Brien said Tuesday that Hackenberg is focused, but he can improve on his accuracy, mechanics and knowledge of the offense.

One thing the freshman recognized he can improve on is his presence outside the pocket and scrambling when it collapses.

“I’ve was really trying to make a lot of plays with my arm, so I’m understanding I can get out of the pocket a little bit and make those plays,” Hackenberg said.”

One of the standout statistics from Saturday was that go-to wide receiver Allen Robinson was held to just two receptions for 18 yards in the first three quarters of the game, something which Robinson and O’Brien attributed to Hackenberg’s reads through a play.

Hackenberg said he is getting better with reads in the pocket, but as with his scrambling, there is room for improvement.

“I’m still working on trying to get to the back sides of reads,” Hackenberg said. “…We’re trying to simplify it so that we’re all working on the same page.”

n While there is obvious room for improvement for a true freshman, upperclassmen can experience the same development throughout a season.

Olaniyan saw just that.

The redshirt junior had a career day against Michigan with 2.5 sacks, two pass breakups and a forced fumble that culminated in Olaniyan being named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week for the first time in his career.

Olaniyan had struggled previous to the Michigan game, just recording a single sack, but his breakout performance displayed the strides he made in the offseason.

“We tried to improve every aspect of my game and one of the biggest aspects was being able to play full speed every snap,” Olaniyan said.

Olaniyan said he thinks he has come a long way in improving that ability and coach Craig Fitzgerald, who is in charge of strength and conditioning for the team, helped him get there.

“My conditioning is what helps be able to play faster,” Olaniyan said. “If you tire, you can’t play fast. But, I feel like my conditioning…has given me the ability to play faster.”