It didn’t take long for major news to break on Saturday when Penn State held it’s annual media day.
In fact, before the press conference even started we were alerted to a couple of roster changes.
The first and most notable was the return of senior linebacker Manny Bowen. who was previously removed from the team following multiple incidents where he violated team rules.
Bowen returns to an ailing linebacker unit that is as young as it is thin.
Heading the opposite way is Brailyn Franklin, who is no longer with the team for undisclosed reasons.
With James Franklin’s opening statement, he addressed that this year’s team had more question marks than those prior, particularly on the defensive side.
He praised Trace McSorley, Nick Scott and Blake Gilikin for their leadership as well as the nutritional staff, saying that this was the healthiest the team has ever been heading into the season.
Linebacker, defensive tackle and kicker are what Franklin called the biggest questions marks heading into the season. He also noted that the kickers performed well on the first day of camp.
A bit of laughter went up in the media room when Franklin revealed that he decided to take the team paintballing and immediately regretted it, showing the welts left on his body from being gunned down.
Franklin briefly addressed the current situation at Ohio State, but seemed to steer around the question a bit.
Both Franklin and defensive coordinator Brent Pry refused to comment on the role Bowen would play. They also both noted that walk-on linebacker Jan Johnson will compete for playing time at middle linebacker.
After a question regarding new NCAA redshirt rules, Franklin said that the rules will have the biggest impact on players he deemed “yellow lights.” He stated that he wasn’t going to just play players in order to play them and that he felt the next step would be the NCAA expanding travel rosters.
When discussing running back Miles Sanders, Franklin said that he was impressed by how the Pittsburgh native has taken on a leadership role. He also added that senior running back Jonathan Thomas told him that the running back group would produce just as much as it did a year ago, even without Saquon Barkley.
To wrap up his portion of the presser, Franklin said that he felt recruiting on a national scale isn’t a must in order to compete for championships, but that the staff has to be versatile in how and where it recruits.
New offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne said that he felt that McSorley’s attitude and the way he carries himself has remained constant from the time he arrived on campus to now.
He also mentioned how both the tight ends and wide receiver groups have developed, particularly KJ Hamler, Mac Hippenhammer and Cameron Sullivan-Brown.
As for the offensive line, Rahne said that the team has eight to 10 guys they feel comfortable playing and that offensive line coach Matt Limegrover has done a good job developing the younger players.
Defensive coordinator Brent Pry heaped praise on Johnson and said that senior Jake Cooper is also in the thick of things at both MIKE and WILL.
Pry also called freshman Micah Parsons an “interesting bird” who loves attention but also takes coaching very well and has an opportunity to contribute in 2018.
Nick Scott, Garrett Taylor, Lamont Wade and Ayron Monroe will compete for the starting safety sports with Jonathan Sutherland also throwing his hat into the ring.
Newly installed special teams coach Phil Galiano said he expects DeAndre Thompkins to continue to return punts, with Mark Allen, KJ Hamler and Mac Hippenhammer also capable.
He mentioned Scott, Thomas, Tariq Castro-Fields and Jarvis Miller as guys he expects to play big time roles on special teams.
Galiano also mentioned that while Gilikin is capable of handling both punting and kicking full time, the staff is hoping one of the kickers on the roster steps up and sets themselves apart.