Franklin looking for more than football
For as much as some fans love that there will be football of any kind being played, today’s Blue-White Game is still only one spring practice, so it has to be taken with a grain of salt in a lot of ways.
Penn State coach James Franklin even made the point of saying that the football is not the biggest element of today for many people coming to the game.
“I’ve learned very quickly around here that Blue-White weekend has very little do with the football game,” Franklin said in a preview video posted at gopsusports.com. “It’s all the other activities going on around campus kind of built around the spring game. But we’re excited to play our small part.”
With great weather expected, there could be 70,000 or more fans in and around Beaver Stadium for the 3 p.m. scrimmage. What will they see, Franklin was asked.
“We just want to get out in front of the fans and kind of enjoy ourselves and get some reps in that environment, because you still never know how guys are going to react in Beaver Stadium,” the coach said.
The spring game is always a showcase for many of the younger players in the program, and today will be no exception. But there will be some interesting things to watch from high-profile players, including quarterback Sean Clifford and two running backs, Ricky Slade and Journey Brown.
Projected starting quarterback Tommy Stevens is not expected to play as he recovers from surgery, so Clifford should see a lot of action.
“It’s been good having Tommy Stevens competing for the job, although he’s had some things that have limited him,” Franklin said. “But I think the battle with Sean Clifford and even (Will) Levis has been really good at that point.”
Asked about players who have stood out this spring, Franklin first mentioned receiver KJ Hamler.
“KJ is a guy obviously that continues to make big plays, is an explosive athlete,” Franklin said. “Obviously what’s going on at the running back position is going to be important losing Miles (Sanders) and having Journey battle for that job with Ricky Slade. So that’s been a good battle.”
Speaking about the early enrollees, Franklin said highly touted linebackers Brandon Smith and Lance Dixon have performed well.
“(Those) are two guys that were highly thought of, No. 1 ranked players their positions in the country, and this spring ball’s been very beneficial to them,” the coach said.
“I think (Anthony) Whigan, at offensive line, obviously being a junior college guy that graduated early, (the spring has) been invaluable. … All those guys that can get on campus — the local kid, Keaton Ellis (from State College), him and Marquis (Wilson) at the corner position have really had strong springs.”
What’s different about this spring, Franklin noted, is the team’s depth, brought on from graduations, early departures to the NFL draft and transfers.
“We’re a little thin and young, but we’re talented,” Franklin said. “I think that’s probably kind of how college football is going to be now with a lot of the new rules. A lot of guys leaving early for NFL, the transfer portal, as well, a lot of things that factor into that.”