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Penn State Football 2021: Media Day Takeaways

Football is here.

2021 Big Ten Football Media Day Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Penn State’s football season is semi-officially underway as media gathered to Beaver Stadium to sit in a press box with no A.C. to listen to James Franklin, Joe Lorig, Brent Pry, and Mike Yurcich speak over Zoom. After the head coach and three coordinators spoke, the media members got to go down on the field (where there was a breeze!) to speak with individual players and coaches.

  • Generally speaking, I don’t think there’s all that much to take away from the press conferences. I’ll obviously hit the major points, but this now being my fourth media day, and I can’t say the press conferences themselves are all that important except for the “breaking news” aspect of them. This shouldn’t be too surprising, but the coaches and players are much more candid when you are standing and talking with them individually rather than when they are up on a podium speaking (virtually) to a room full of people.
  • Speaking of that whole “breaking news” thing, Franklin confirmed that defensive end Adisa Isaac was “likely” out for the entire season. That’s a big blow for Penn State, as it means the Nittany Lions will be replacing their top four defensive ends from last season: Shaka Toney, Jayson Oweh, Shane Simmons, and the aforementioned Isaac. I mean, I literally said on June 29 that Penn State needed Isaac to have a career season if it wanted to get to where it wants to be — you know, “good to great.” Tough break.
  • So who replaces Isaac? Well, his expected opposite starter — Arnold Ebiketie — will have to carry an even heavier load than once projected. Ebiketie said his transition from Temple to Penn State has been going well, but admitted it took him a bit of time to adjust to the system. He pointed out how pivotal it was that he enrolled in the spring rather than the summer, because he had the time to go through those growing pains. No surprise, but he feels he’s in a much better spot than when he enrolled.
  • Sticking with the defensive end room, James Franklin announced that Amin Vanover will play some defensive end this season. That makes sense since he weight dropped from 279 to 263 this season.
  • On a similar note, neither Franklin nor Pry mentioned Hakeem Beamon at defensive end, who went from “298 pounds” last season to a slim 256 pounds now. When I asked Beamon whether he was a defensive tackle or defensive end, he smiled and said, “I’m playing everything right now. I play the d-line.”
  • Two things regarding Beamon’s weight: one, he said his preferred playing weight is “at least 275” so there is obviously a concerted effort to keep his weight down. Second, Beamon pointed out that the 298 pounds was from his true freshman season, not last year. He said he was in the 260s last season so remember that when considering how seriously PSU Athletics updates those weights.
  • So what does it all mean? To me, Beamon is probably going to see more time at defensive end. But if it’s only a drop of 10 pounds and not 30-40 pounds, he probably will see some time at defensive tackle too.
  • One more thing about the defensive line: Jesse Luketa will spend most of the fall camp at defensive end, according to Franklin. This isn’t too surprising given Luketa’s size (6-foot-3, 247 pounds), but good that we officially have confirmation.
  • Sticking with Luketa, as is tradition after media day, I jump up to touch the crossbar. Those that remember Media Day 2019 remember how impressed Charlie Katshir was with me when I touched the crossbar with ease. I’m an athlete, what can I say? Well, Media Day 2021 wasn’t as easy. Missed on the first jump. Barely touched it on the second jump. Luketa saw and chirped me for my hops. I’m not going to make excuses though.
  • My jeans are pretty form fitting though. NOT skinny jeans. Definitely not skinny jeans. But a little more modern in style. More difficult to jump in them.
  • Also, I am wearing Thursday Boots. If I had sneakers on, my vertical is way higher and I touch the crossbar no problem. The boots really held me down.
  • Also, it was hot and I didn’t eat breakfast. Literally hadn’t had a meal all day, and it was like 2:30. Some would say I was malnourished.
  • Glad I’m not making excuses, though.
  • Moving away from the defensive line and my athletic achievements, Brent Pry confirmed that Keaton Ellis is mostly a safety for Penn State now. He said he’ll still cross-train between both safety and corner — and could play corner in a pinch — but for the most part, he’s a full-fledged safety now.
  • Pry also confirmed that Marquis Wilson — who is tabbed as an athlete on the roster — is mostly a cornerback, but will see some time with the wide receivers too.
  • I’ll say this for Mike Yurcich: a lot of coach speak. The general gist of most of his answers to anything was: we aren’t where we need to be, but if we attack our problems with the right mindset and attitude, then we’ll be successful. The guy is certainly angling for a head coaching job eventually. Or maybe politics. Both?
  • I talked with a few other players and coaches — namely Ty Howle and JaJuan Seider. I’ll have more on them in a later article, but a good chat with both on a number of topics.
  • ^That’s called a teaser. Keep the reader coming back. Blogging 101.
  • The media will also get to see the first 25 minutes of practice at 5:00 p.m. so I’ll have some notes from practice as well. Expect that tomorrow.
  • ^Another teaser. I’m killing the blogging game.