Franklin ready for Lions’ home opener

UNIVERSITY PARK – The final adjustment has been made as Penn State has returned to that classically humid State College weather.

After a cooler camp and the forgiving temperatures in Ireland, the Nittany Lions practiced in 80-degree weather Wednesday, all in preparation for another first this weekend as Akron heads to town: head coach James Franklin’s first home game.

“I think when you first come out of the tunnel and run out onto the field, that first 30 seconds, there will be a moment of the magnitude of it, but after that it will be all into the game,” Franklin said.

Once Franklin finds his wife and children in the stands, he’s ready to focus on the Zips.

Despite talks of a possible lightning delay during Saturday’s game, Franklin isn’t worried about having to weather the storm. No matter how humid or overcast it may be, he just wants to be sure his players are hydrated.

Work zone

After expressing dissatisfaction with the red zone play in the Croke Park Classic, the offense worked on zone play in the 15 minutes of practice open to the media.

Although the Lions were 5-for-5 in the red zone in their 26-24 win over UCF, they only managed one touchdown. The first unit of the offensive line remained the same as the starters from the opener, with Donovan Smith, Brendan Mahon, Andrew Nelson, Brian Gaia and Angelo Mangiro.

“Offensively, we have to score when we get in the red zone,” Franklin said during Tuesday’s press conference, “although I thought (Sam) Ficken did a great job for us, and our scoring in the red zone was 100 percent.”

Practice makes perfect

In order to prepare players as best he can for game situations, Franklin said he is looking for consistency in his practices.

This trouble is something Franklin believes plagues all college football teams, not just for a new coach trying to implement his philosophies to players that have had up to four different coaches since being at Penn State.

“Can you come out and not only physically execute your responsibilities for three hours, but mentally can you stay focused? I think that’s one of the biggest challenges,” Franklin said. “Can you do it for the whole three hours of practice? Can you do it for all three hours of a game or all four quarters?”

The ‘ultimate optimist’

Franklin’s efforts to rally up fans has littered his Twitter recently, especially as he is encouraging the Penn State faithful to sell out the stadium this weekend, and it doesn’t seem like he’ll be satisfied until every seat is filled.

What Franklin is looking for the most from the crowd is creating an atmosphere for a true home-field advantage. He said he believes the crowd could be a great source for drawing penalties and helping the defense distract its opponents offensive playcalls.

“I’m the ultimate optimist,” he said. “We’re going to keep talking about having 107,000 fans there. What a statement that is when you’re able to do that for out-of-conference games.