Penn State Football Media Day got under way earlier this afternoon which means one major thing:
I am sweaty football is back in Happy Valley, folks. Ah, yes. That feels good.
I was on hand in State College for my fourth Media Day, and the day followed like usual. We got to hear from head coach James Franklin, offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich, defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, and special teams coordinator Stacy Collins. We then got to head onto the field to speak with the position coaches and any non-freshman on the roster. Later in the day, we got to watch the first 30 minutes of practice.
Because of the word length — 1,000 words coming up from just the coaches — I’m saving my conversations with the players for Monday. I’ll have a practice report out Sunday morning.
- I said this last year and I’ll reiterate again: the press conferences are generally the more useless part of the day compared to the on-field interviews and practice. Franklin is great at saying nothing. Yurcich is total coach-speak. Stacy Collins’ entire dialogue can be summed up in “everything is a competition.” I always thought Brent Pry was most thoughtful, and he’s been replaced by Manny Diaz who having been a head coach before is very skilled in giving away very little. Still, there were a couple points to take away from the press conference portion of the day.
- Franklin said a lot of the same things he said at Big Ten Media Day last week as far as the question marks of the team being the offensive line and the linebackers. He didn’t add much onto the offensive line piece, once again saying that they’ll need to prove it on the field. As for linebacker, he did go out of his way to mention Keon Wylie as someone who is practicing and impressing at the MIKE. It’s still by and large a competition between Kobe King and Tyler Elsdon, but I find it notable he praised Wylie when he really didn’t need to. Just something to remember as we get deeper into the season.
- Dave Jones of PennLive probably drew the best response from Franklin when he pointed out that over James’ tenure every other position group has had at least one season of being a legitimate strength — except offensive line. Somewhat surprisingly, Franklin really didn’t push back on the premise. He did say that they won a Big Ten Championship and that couldn’t be accomplished without a strong o-line, but other than that he was pretty honest with his answer in saying that all the components that go into having a strong offensive line — “scheme, fundamentals, coaching, and recruiting” — have played a part in the general struggle of the offensive line the last eight seasons. He pointed out that some of the staffing changes the last few seasons were because of that, and that he feels there has been a real focus on the offensive line play this offseason. So like Franklin has been saying: we shall see.
- When asked about the transfers, Franklin and Mike Yurcich both pointed out how impressed they have been with Mitchell Tinsley from a maturity perspective. Franklin said that Tinsley “understands some of the things that his teammates don’t” and expounded on that they by saying that Tinsley has been living with Sean Clifford to which Franklin succinctly said “smart.” Franklin also pointed out the consistency that Tinsley has shown, and that he’s a dependable wideout.
- Franklin was asked about the impact USC and UCLA joining the Big Ten would have on recruiting in California. While he admitted that anytime you have schools from a different state joining the conference it’s going to open up that state to more recruiting, Franklin did end his spiel by saying that State College’s airport — or lack thereof — does hinder them when it comes to recruiting from a national perspective. Not a whole lot of LAX —> State College flights, apparently.
- Franklin mentioned that the coaching staff needs to do a better job of getting the backups snaps when the outcomes of games are already decided — i.e. 35-0 in the third quarter. This put those backups in the position where they have more game experience so if they are called upon, they are going to be a little more seasoned. Why has this been a struggle for Penn State in the past? As Franklin said, “ego.” Wanting to put more points on the board as an offense or wanting to preserve a shutout as a defense.
- Collins was next up and really didn’t divulge much of anything outside of punter, kicker, punt returner, kick returner, and gunners are all up for competition. He did lead on that Amor Barney has a leg up over Alex Bacchetta and Gabe Nowsu for the punting job, while Jake Pinegar and Sander Sahaydak battle for the kicking job.
- Potential punt return options: Parker Washington, Mitch Tinsley, and Marquis Wilson. Potential kick return options: Daquan Hardy, Omari Evans, and Nick Singleton.
- Manny Diaz laid out his defensive philosophy of generating turnovers, but pointed out that this is really only possible if the defense gets stops on first and second down. “You have to put offenses in third and long,” Diaz said. “That is when most defenses cause turnovers.” Obviously, and Diaz alluded to this, but it’s easier said than done. Definitely seems like Diaz’s defense will be more aggressive than Brent Pry’s — whether that’s good or bad remains to be seen.
- I feel like the leader to start at the 3-Tech next to PJ Mustipher has been Coziah Izzard, but I believe it should actually be Hakeem Beamon. When asked about the defensive line, Diaz mentioned Beamon after before Izzard, which in this blogger’s mind seems notable. I’m sure they’ll both get a lot of snaps regardless, but it certainly seems like Beamon is “back.” Will have more on him in a future article as I was able to talk with him a bit.
- The focus of Yurcich’s press conference was on Sean Clifford. He said just how much better of a position they are in compared to last year when it comes to “installments, language, and communication.” He also said that he doesn’t feel like Clifford is “overdoing” things, which can sometimes happen with a 4th or 5th year guy that feels like now is there time. Now of course, Yurcich wasn’t going to come out and say anything negative, but being in his second year with Cliff should be beneficial for both.