Campbell getting his chance
UNIVERSITY PARK — Cornerback John Reid’s knee injury opens up a big spot for Penn State, and senior Christian Campbell appears to have done everything he needs to do so far in order to take over the position.
“Christian Campbell is another guy that we’re very, very pleased with,” PSU coach James Franklin said after practice Wednesday. “He had a great offseason.
“It’s the first time since he’s been here that he really had a complete offseason. He always seemed to miss winter workouts. He went through all winter workouts this year, did a great job in the weight room, did a great job out here.”
The Nittany Lions are preparing for Saturday’s Blue-White Game, and a lot of eyes will be on how well Campbell performs.
“He’s played a lot of football for us,” Franklin said. “We have viewed him as a starter, really, since he’s been here … so we’re excited about what he’s going to do.”
Franklin gave updates on several players and topics Wednesday. Here are the highlights:
n Koa Farmer is up to 239 pounds, an ideal weight for him at linebacker. The junior has been shifted back and forth between there and safety during his career.
He joked earlier this week, “I don’t even remember what I was playing (last spring) because I’ve switched too many times.”
“He’s got everybody really excited,” Franklin said of Farmer. “He’s finally kind of found a home and is comfortable. I’ve had a lot of conversations and arguments with Koa about this is where I felt like since he got here was the right place for him, but we weren’t going to force him there. He has been fighting genetics for a long time. He’s finally embraced linebacker.”
n Another linebacker, sophomore Cam Brown, had an excellent offseason, with Franklin calling him a “machine” during winter workouts and in the weight room. But Brown hasn’t been quite as impressive on the field during spring drills.
“He came out and had a good spring,” Franklin, sort of emphasizing the word good, said. “I thought he was going to take a bigger step. But I do think he’s got an opportunity now to go back and watch the film, take some of the comments from the coaches and be able to make a big jump and put it all together now.”
n Backup quarterback Tommy Stevens has continued to make good progress, and as he’s done repeatedly over the past year, Franklin praised Stevens on Wednesday.
“Tommy Stevens has really had a good spring,” the coach said. “I’m very, very pleased with him and the (progress) that he has made every year since he’s been here. But he’s playing at a really high level.”
Stevens will back up Trace McSorley, who may not see a lot of playing time Saturday.
“We’ve got two quarterbacks right now that we feel really confident in, and (Stevens has) handled everything extremely well,” Franklin said. “He’s got the whole team’s respect.”
n As for the third-string quarterback, Franklin said that’s still up in the air. No one has really stepped up between Jake Zembiec, Michael Shuster and Billy Fessler.
n Redshirt sophomore Jonathan Holland figures to be a factor this season as the backup tight end to Mike Gesicki. He has been blocking well and making an impact in the passing game.
“He’s a guy that I really think has factored in now,” Franklin said. “We feel like we’re in a really good situation there as a legitimate backup to Mike.”
n Teams soon will be able to add a 10th assistant coach. Franklin said he would like to use the position as someone who’s focused on special teams and also can help out on defense.
n An early signing period has been approved for college football, and Franklin sees pros and cons in it. “I’m kind of old school, and I worry about unforeseen consequences,” he said. “I get it. I know why we’re doing it. And there’s some problems with what we have now. But we know the problems. So I just worry. There’s other challenges.
“Early signing period I do think makes sense,” he added. “I wasn’t a big fan of the early visits. But I also understand why they’re doing that, as well.”