Franklin remains confident
UNIVERSITY?PARK – With day 11 of training camp complete, coach James Franklin isn’t concerned about too much.
The team released earlier this week that tight end Adam Breneman will be out indefinitely with an undisclosed injury, but Franklin isn’t worried.
“You don’t want to lose anybody, but that’s the position we probably have the most depth,” Franklin said after Thursday’s practice.
Breneman is no stranger to injuries, having suffered a torn ACL his senior year of high school and a bone bruise earlier this year, causing him to miss part of spring practice.
With Jesse James and Kyle Carter still healthy, however, the tight end position is still locked up and Breneman’s sidelining should be an injury the Nittany Lions can weather.
In addition to his tight ends, Franklin is comfortable with his punters as well. Since the start of training camp, he is impressed with the punters’ improvement in consistency, especially.
“I’d rather you punt it 38 yards every single time than one time punt it 56 yards, another time 26 yards,” Franklin said. “They’ve done a much better job with that. The location of the ball is something we talk about a lot with those guys and I see their confidence growing.”
Redshirt freshman Chris Gulla and freshmen Robby Liebel and Daniel Pasquariello all took turns to show what they’ve got in front of both their team and reporters at Thursday’s practice. With sophomore Gregg Garrity and freshman DeAndre Thompkins cleaning fielding each punt at the other end, most were as impressed as Franklin with the special teams unit.
Unlike the specialists, however, concerns about the offensive line still exist. Donovan Smith, the line’s most experienced player, watched from the sidelines on Thursday as the rest of the line, filled with freshmen and redshirt freshmen, practiced contact drills.
Despite the youth of the offensive line, Franklin is still confident that the work of offensive line coach Herb Hand is making the unit more cohesive.
“Herb does a really good job of bonding with those guys not only with him, but getting the whole group to bond together and communicate as one and play as one,” Franklin said. “You can be wrong on the O-line, but everyone has to be wrong together. Everyone’s got to be on the same page and you still have a chance to be successful.”
Although the quality of his protection on the field is still up in the air, the leadership of quarterback Christian Hackenberg is not. Having been voted a captain by what Franklin said was a “landslide” earlier this week, the true sophomore seems to have adjusted well to his new role throughout training camp.
“I’ve been very pleased with Hack. I think his improvement from the spring and his confidence and his command of the offense, I think across the board is much better,” Franklin said.
Hackenberg split snaps with Michael O’Connor and Trace McSorely on Thursday. Franklin said the starter’s throws are being monitored throughout camp, but that is takes care of itself by having five quarterbacks to share the duty with. Redshirt freshman D.J. Crook and freshman Billy Hessler are practicing with the other three to help ease the arm workload.
“The No. 2 battle is interesting. McSorley, all the things we thought about him when we recruited him, he’s a winner, he’s smart, he’s picked it up very well, he doesn’t panic,” Franklin said. “I think Mike O’Connor has had a great summer. Dwight Galt, our strength coach said he’s maybe had the best summer of anyone on the team. But McSorley is right there.”
Overall, Franklin was satisfied with Thursday’s session and with training camp in general. Even his “classy” new signs around the practice field had the coach impressed with his first summer in State College.
The preseason is quickly winding down and as there are only 15 days left until kickoff against Central Florida in the Croke Park Classic, but that doesn’t bother Franklin, either.
“We haven’t started anything with Central Florida yet,” Franklin said. “Soon we’ll flip the switch.”