Backups getting important work

UNIVERSITY PARK – While Penn State’s stars are preparing for the Pinstripe Bowl in a couple weeks, their backups are working toward much further in the future.

With Penn State’s 15 extra practices that were guaranteed when it became bowl eligible, head coach James Franklin and his coaching staff are now given time to work with the less experienced players on the roster.

These practices have been split evenly between preparing for the bowl and preparing for spring football.

“It’s great to see these guys that have been on scout team basically for the entire year to now getting some legitimate reps in practice,” Franklin said.

Franklin said the way practices have run since the Michigan State game are the first team offense and defense receive five reps; the second team gets four reps; and the third team gets three reps. The younger players have also had the chance to participate in scrimmages.

After seeing less experienced players take more reps, Franklin said Joe Julius has been one of the standout performers. Once Sam Ficken graduates, Julius has impressed Franklin on special teams.

Offensively, Franklin wants to get DeAndre Thompkins more involved with the receiving corps.

“We know he’s a guy that can run and has been explosive,” Franklin said. “So we’ve been doing things with him the last couple of practices.”

Franklin listed Anotoine White, Christian Campbell and Torrence Brown as other impressive players from the scout team.

Elsewhere:

n With finals week approaching for the athletes, Franklin regards this period as an interesting time of year in which the coaches have “two full-time jobs” to balance.

“That’s one supporting our guys to make sure they finish strong academically,” Franklin said. “That’s practice, making sure we’re doing a great job in developing the guys that we have in our program now, and then also being on the road recruiting and being all over the place.”

Once the players finish with their finals, Franklin said the focus will fully turn to football.

n Saturday morning, students were able to lineup at the Bryce Jordan Center to purchase their tickets for the Pinstripe Bowl. Because of how cold it was, Franklin made it a point to go to the line and thank the student fans.

“I want to thank the fans. We’ve sold out our allotment and then some,” Franklin said. “Like we talked about all the time, that’s one of the things, I think, that makes us special.”

Because of how easily the student tickets sold, Franklin said more tickets were arranged to offer the students.

n Earlier in the weekend, Penn State announced that Michael O’Connor will be transferring for next season. Although it has not been clarified as to where the quarterback will be suiting up next season, Franklin confirmed he will no longer be a Nittany Lion.

“He just felt like this was an opportunity for him to start over again, and we support him and wish him the best of luck,” Franklin said.

O’Connor redshirted this season, but was planning to compete for the starting position when Christian Hackenberg graduates. The freshman committed to the blue and white under Bill O’Brien’s reign with the program, but O’Brien took his current position with the Houston Texans just two weeks before O’Connor was set to enroll at Penn State.

Franklin did not acknowledge if there are any other players who intend to transfer after this season and the focus remains on Boston College and the bowl game.

n The Pinstripe Bowl will bring a unique opportunity for Penn State and Boston College as they will be facing off in the legendary atmosphere in Yankee Stadium.

The assistant coaches voiced how special this experience will be, since playing in a baseball stadium was not something they ever imagined themselves doing.

Special teams coordinator Charles Huff said he was born and raised as an Orioles fan, but the history of Yankee Stadium is one he can respect and enjoy.

Offensive coordinator John Donovan, on the other hand, matter-of-factly mentioned that he is Mets fan. The New Jersey native did not seem to share the enthusiasm that Huff garnered for the historic venue.

Oakmont native Bob Shoop had the most excitement for the game’s location. The defensive coordinator played baseball in high school and is cherishing the opportunity to play in Yankee Stadium.

“I dreamed someday I might be playing centerfield or pitching in Yankee Stadium,” Shoop said. “But I’ll take this one. This is good.”