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Better Special Teams? James Franklin Likes What He Is Seeing

What was a weakness last year could become a strength for the team.

Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

On Wednesday night James Franklin gave his final press conference before the Blue-White game. On Saturday afternoon the team will take the field and we will get a glimpse at the players that have grown both physically and mentally since the last time we saw them a few months ago.

There will also be plenty of players that will see the field for the first time, which will be exciting for both them and the fans. One improvement that the team has made since the Citrus Bowl is an upgrade on special teams. There won’t be too many chances to see the unit at its best during the Blue-White game, but coach Franklin is already talking about the change in culture within the group.

Joe Lorig was hired to take over the beleaguered unit following a season filled with mistakes. Let’s hope that by late August Lorig has his group playing with speed and swagger, the talent on the depth chart is there, all that is needed is better execution.

Sean Clifford has been taking the snaps with the first team while Tommy Stevens is limited in his involvement for the spring. We will see a lot of Clifford on Saturday, whose arm has already impressed Penn State fans in limited playing time. Coach Franklin spoke highly of the work that Clifford has done to become what he considers to be a dual-threat quarterback.

When asked what he learned most from Trace McSorley, the redshirt sophomore spoke about the mental side of the game.

With the quarterbacks being protected during the game, we may not see too much of the new wheels that Clifford has been working on. His arm is already a known commodity. What we haven’t seen much of is his ability to make reads and process information. Clifford mentioned that as a talent that many people didn’t appreciate in Trace McSorley. We will see how Clifford performs while getting extended snaps with the starters.

Yetur Gross-Matos is coming into his third season with the Lions. The defensive end is soft-spoken and has done everything that the team has asked of him, while becoming one of the best returning players in the Big Ten. When asked what he was looking forward to this weekend, he mentioned the crowd inside of Beaver Stadium.

As fans, we look toward the field for entertainment, and cheer on the players that we have followed since the time they began their recruitment to come to Penn State. The players, as Gross-Matos reminded us, look to the stands for inspiration.

We can’t make plays on the field but we can give the players the boost that they need. Let’s make sure that we bring it on Saturday from the stands, to give the team the experience that they enjoy, heading into a very important four-month break between appearances.