Lions will play lots of youngsters
A capsule look at James Franklin’s weekly news conference.
Opponent: Appalachian State (0-0)
Kickoff: Saturday 3:30 p.m., Beaver Stadium
About the Mountaineers: What most people know about App State is it pulled off one of the biggest upsets in college football history in 2007, a 34-32 win at No. 5 Michigan. What many may not know, though, is that App State was the No. 1 FCS team and went on to win its third consecutive national title that season. … Scott Satterfield, an App State alum, is in his sixth season coaching his alma mater. The team went 9-4 last season (7-1 in Sun Belt) and crushed Toledo, 34-0, in the Dollar General Bowl.
Last time vs. Penn State: First meeting
Line: Penn State is favored by 24; over/under is 54
Youth will be served: The Lions have veterans at a number of key positions, but there also are several spots where there’s not much experience, so young players and even some true freshmen will be tried out early in the season. Franklin mentioned that decisions already have been made that the following true freshmen will play this year: LB Micah Parsons, LB Jesse Luketa, TE Pat Freiermuth, RB Ricky Slade, DT PJ Mustipher and PK Jake Pinegar. Parsons is listed as a second-string outside linebacker, while Luketa is third string in the middle.
Place-kicking battle: After tough competition, the coaches have chosen true freshman Jake Pinegar to be the starting place-kicker. Hollidaysburg product Vlad Hilling will be the backup. “We really feel like that Pinegar, Hilling, (Justin) Tobin, (Rafael) Checa could all kick in a game for us, whether that was kickoff or field goal, and be able to do it at a fairly high level,” Franklin said. “So the competition at practice has been really good, so I think that helps.” Checa will handle kickoffs.
Right tackle, TE up for grabs: Based on the depth chart, the only starting spots up for grabs on either side of the ball are right tackle on the O-line and tight end. The right tackle job is between Chasz Wright and Will Fries, while Jonathan Holland and Danny Dalton are in the running for first-team tight end.
Special teamers: KJ Hamler and Journey Brown will handle kickoff return duties, while DeAndre Thompkins once again will return punts.
Bowen update: Linebacker Cam Brown said Tuesday that LB Manny Bowen made the decision to leave the football team to focus on academics. Franklin didn’t offer any specifics about Bowen’s departure. “Number one, we love Manny. We want nothing but success for him and his future,” the coach said. “I think Manny has a very, very bright future. But for us, we had been kind of working with this anyway (Bowen not being in mix to play much). Again, there’s a lot of details of this matter that you guys aren’t aware of, but it really had not changed a whole lot for us at this point in the season.”
Johnson in middle: Jan Johnson, a walk-on, is listed as the starting middle linebacker, as expected. “Jan has been very steady,” Franklin said. “He’s very smart. He’s very consistent. He’s very physical, especially within the box. … Probably one of the more intelligent players we have. Asks great questions of the coaches and has been very productive in the classroom, as well, and has earned everybody’s respect.” It is interesting, though, despite all of that, Johnson still has not been put on scholarship.
— Compiled by Cory Giger