PSU chemistry has Franklin concerned

Now that the Big Ten has done an about-face on its football season, James Franklin has plunged into the task of building a team.

At the top of his concern list is team chemistry.

The coronavirus has limited group interaction, which precludes team meals and hanging out at Franklin’s home and other bonding such as movies, bowling and paintball.

Franklin said he consulted with medical staff on recreational options and was informed that the players would have to maintain social distance, wear masks and eat a prepackaged lunch.

“It didn’t sound like much fun,” Franklin said during a Zoom call with reporters Thursday.

While he finds ways to unify off the field, Franklin will mix in some physicality that hasn’t taken place in six months.

Spring practice was suspended, the Blue-White Game was canceled, and the players have yet to hit each other.

“When was the last time a Big Ten player tackled anybody?” he said, repeating a question that the league’s coaches raised during a Thursday conference call. “We have to get that ramped up.”

Franklin admitted “there’s very little hitting” in college football — “same as the NFL,” he said — but added, “you’re going to have to do some of it.”

The Lions have resumed 20 hours per week of football activities with practice starting Sept. 30.

Since on-campus visits are not permitted, recruiting has fallen off. Penn State is currently ranked eighth in the Big Ten in recruiting with just 13 commitments, moving Franklin to admit, “Up to this point, we haven’t gotten it done like we normally have.”

The NCAA has extended the dead period for visits to Jan. 1, and Franklin said it’s possible Penn State will sign prospects who haven’t been on the campus.

Athletic director Sandy Barbour, who was also on the call, said a conference’s eight-week schedule should be confirmed by week’s end with games being played in campus stadiums. The teams will play a final game against a cross divisional opponent in week nine, likely at a neutral, indoor venue.

Barbour said the Big Ten agreed that no fans would be present this season and added that tailgating will not be permitted at Beaver Stadium or on campus property.

Players will be tested for the coronavirus daily and anyone testing positive will be sidelined for 21 days. Barbour said players testing positive, per Big Ten protocol, will not be made public, though schools have the option to disclose the information.


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