PSU youngsters will get chance to help

The promise of early playing time has been a big drawing card in recruiting for Penn State the past few years, and Wednesday coach James Franklin singled out several true freshmen being counted on to contribute this season.

Franklin rattled off the following names when asked which freshmen he expects to play: receivers DeAndre Thompkins, Chris Godwin and Saeed Blacknall, tight end Mike Gesicki, linebacker Jason Cabinda, cornerback Grant Haley and safety Marcus Allen.

The Nittany Lions have big question marks at receiver, but those could be answered if some of the talented freshmen are able to step in and produce right away.

“Godwin and Saeed our guys that have jumped out to me,” Franklin said.

Franklin mentioned Gesicki, too, which he has done repeatedly the past few weeks. The big tight end has made a strong first impression on the coaching staff.

Cabinda, who’s huge for a freshman linebacker at 248 pounds, is a name Franklin also has discussed several times. The coach said Allen and Haley “have done some nice things.”

Franklin said the coaching staff had discussions Tuesday night about which freshmen might redshirt. He didn’t mention any specific names but said the coaches pretty much knew right away which ones would play.

“The other guys were kind of wait and see,” Franklin said.

O-line issues

The Lions’ biggest concern remains the offensive line, and it’s not good news that Franklin said the primary players on the unit haven’t been able to be on the field much at the same time.

“We’ve got some work to do,” Franklin said. “I think a lot of it is not just figuring out who guys are, but all the moving parts that factor into it.

“What happens is we might have a guy that misses a practice because he twists an ankle, or you want to try a new guy at a different position or whatever. And we haven’t really had the same five guys in the same five spots for multiple practices yet.”

Teams like to have two deep at every position, but Franklin said the offensive line won’t have “traditional depth.” He expects to have only seven or eight players able to rotate in and out of the various spots on the line.

“Those guys are going to have to be trained at multiple spots, which makes that consistency, that cohesiveness that you need at that unit difficult,” Franklin said.

Two of the projected starting linemen, guards Derek Dowrey and Brian Gaia, are moving over from the defensive line. Both have good potential – Franklin called them “really smart really motivated” – but they still are inexperienced at their new positions.

“We just have to keep working them and keep finding ways to try and gain that experience through practice and video,” the coach said.

SUBHD: Williams at CB

Jordan Lucas will start at one cornerback spot, while Trevor Williams has been working the most with the first team at the other spot.

Williams had a disappointing 2013 season as he started six games but wasn’t consistently effective.

SUBHD: Dublin trip

Penn State will take 118 players to Ireland for the opener, as well as a traveling party of about 310. The team will practice Wednesday through Friday in Dublin in preparation for the game against Central Florida.

SUBHD: Norwood injured

Former Penn State receiver Jordan Norwood suffered an ACL injury in his left knee and will miss the season for the Denver Broncos. Norwood was having a strong camp with the club and was vying to make the opening-day roster.