Spring practices are ongoing for the Penn State football program and on Monday, three Nittany Lions caught up with media to discuss the first few days. Here are some takeaways:
Where he can get better this spring: Brisker believes that one spot he needs to improve on this Spring are his ball skills, noting that he dropped a few interceptions last season, and that he would like to capitalize on those opportunities in 2021. He also thinks he could work on improving his versatility in his ability to play both strong and free safety.
On Ji’Ayir Brown’s improvements this spring: Brisker and Brown were teammates at Lackawanna Community College before once again joining forces at Penn State. Brown has already been noted by James Franklin as someone standing out this Spring, and Brisker says a lot of that simply comes down to him having a year with the program and knowing the playbook better, as well as “getting his feet under himself” which has allowed him to play faster, getting more and more comfortable within the defense as a whole. He also spoke highly about fellow safeties Tyler Rudolph and Enzo Jennings and the improvements they’ve made.
On seeing the new look offense: From Brisker’s perspective the new look offense is “very fast” and he has a sense they will wear out opposing defenses this season.
On working with Mike Yurcich: Dotson’s press conference started out with how it’s been so far working with new offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich. Dotson says it has been exciting so far this spring working with the highly-touted offensive coordinator and learning the ins and outs of the new playbook. When Yurcich was hired by Penn State, it was noted by quite a few recruiting analysts that the Nittany Lions could become bigger players for top wide receivers because of his offense and how fun it is for receivers to play in the system. It seems that's already true for Dotson, who is already having a blast playing in the Nittany Lions’ new offense. The Nazareth, PA native also noted that it’s big for the program to have Spring ball this year after not having it last year, due to the pandemic.
On returning for 2021 along with Jaquan Brisker and Tariq Castro-Fields: Dotson put it pretty straightforward when he was asked about his decision to return along with Jaquan Brisker and Tariq Castro-Fields. He said that the three players talked following the season and discussed the 2020 season and their future. What it came down to it seems, is the bad taste the 2020 season left in their mouths, and how it failed to meet the standard of Penn State football. That feeling helped ultimately lead them to the decision to return as they look to help the program bounce back from 2020 and live up to the standards set in the past for the program while also trying to set the new standard. A lot of that sentiment was always prevalent when Brisker discussed the decision.
On Sean Clifford: Dotson unsurprisingly talked highly of his quarterback, noting that the likely third-year starter is setting the standard for everyone as being one of the first guys in and the last guys out every day while also just being an overall strong leader for the team.
Talking about No. 14, here are a few takeaways from the signal caller’s first press conference since last season. Much of his time was spent answering questions about Mike Yurcich and the new offense.
On Yurcich and the offense: Clifford started off his thoughts on Yurcich by discussing the passion and fieriness that he has brought to the program so far and the excitement it’s created. Throughout the call with the various questions regarding Yurcich, Clifford came off as someone who is truly excited to play in the program and someone who loves working with an offensive mind like him.
On adjusting to his third offensive coordinator in three years: Clifford gave a very professional answer when asked about having his third offensive coordinator in his three years as Penn State’s starter. He noted that he can’t really be happy, mad, or sad about anything and that while he built a good relationship with Kirk Ciarrocca, he’s now building another good relationship with Mike Yurchich and that’s he really enjoying being coaching by Yurcich.
Overall, I think this is something important to remember and will be a discussion piece entering this upcoming season, not just for Clifford, but for the entire offense. Being under a third offensive coordinator in three years can be incredibly tough for some programs. Only time will tell how the Nittany Lions respond to the newest change and how quickly they adjust to the new offense and playbook.
His relationship with the wide receivers: The biggest takeaway from this answer is about how much the pandemic truly cost Clifford and the receivers last season in getting to know each other as players. For example, he noted that the first time he was able to get a solid amount of reps throwing to Parker Washington was only about two weeks before their season opener against Indiana.
Also, Clifford discussed how it’s easy to take for granted the time quarterbacks and wide receivers usually have to develop those important relationships on the field and that he’s not taking those for granted this Spring.
His struggles last season: Another professional answer out of Clifford here, as he said that it wasn’t an easy year for him or anyone on the the team last season. He also noted that he believes it helped grow more as a man than as a player and his maturity as he had to deal with that adversity he faced. After all, it’s likely the first time in his career he faced that level of adversity.
Sean also noted that while getting benched does suck especially on nationally television, those few weeks after being benched was as he described, some of his best weeks at Penn State, allowing him to grow as a man and a player.
(Please excuse not having quotes - none were provided for these press conferences. Please file all complaints in the comment section and no, no refunds will be given.)