Spring break is over and the Nittany Lions have hit the ground running, literally, in spring practice.
In a media session before the first practice, head coach James Franklin told reporters that he wants his team going full speed right out of the gate.
There is no walking on the field, ever. I told them the first day if you don't know where you're supposed to go or what you're doing when the horn blows, then sprint in a circle until you figure it out.
Franklin has no intention of letting his players ease in to this coaching transition, simply stating "We can't allow the fact that this is our first practice...to use that as an excuse to not fly around."
There will be no walking at practice, Franklin said. If players don't know where to go, told then to run in a circle pic.twitter.com/rYo4AiwLgP— Audrey Snyder (@audsnyder4) March 17, 2014
PLAYERS BULKING UP
Christian Hackenberg up from 220 pounds to 234 according to the latest roster released today.— Ben Jones (@Ben_Jones88) March 17, 2014
Several Nittany Lions showed up with some extra weight on the newest roster including Hackenberg and Anthony Zettel, who is up to 274 pounds from the 258 weight he played at last season. He's now slated as a first team defensive tackle but could still see time at end.
Redshirt sophomore and projected starting right tackle Andrew Nelson is up over the 300-lb. mark, after playing his senior season in high school at right around 250.
Depending exactly how the starters shake out, Penn State should have its heaviest offensive line in years.
FOCUSING ON SPECIAL TEAMS
From the sounds of it, James Franklin will use more starters on special teams than Bill O'Brien, who used mostly walk-ons at Penn State.— Greg Pickel (@GregPickel) March 17, 2014
The youth on this team will help with depth issues, particularly on special teams where James Franklin intends to play his best players.
Franklin says he's excited about special teams: "I think it's the area for the most improvement."— Josh Moyer (@ESPNJoshMoyer) March 17, 2014
Several players got looks at returning kicks and punts this week including Bill Belton, Zach Zwinak, Jordan Lucas and freshman De'Andre Thompkins, who Franklin admitted is the fastest player on the team.
ST coach Charles Huff on Thompkins practicing at returner: "Not bad, De'Andre. Getting a lot better." pic.twitter.com/REXgZAN2B1— Josh Moyer (@ESPNJoshMoyer) March 17, 2014
Chris Gulla and Sam Ficken both took shots at punting and the first team offensive line stayed on the field with the field goal unit.
The staff is expecting massive improvement for all special teams units this fall.
With guys like DaQuan Jones, John Urschel and Glenn Carson moving on to the NFL, Penn State will need new leadership to step up. This is a roster where that shouldn't be a problem.
Franklin's take on the leaders, from PennLive:
Hackenberg, obviously. The position kind of calls for that. Dieffenbach has been another guy I've been impressed with, and he's gone out of his way in that role. On the defensive side of the ball, Hull is a quiet leader, but when he speaks people listen. Jordan Lucas never lacks for something to say. He has lot of personality and is very charismatic.
Franklin points out C. Hackenberg, M. Dieffenbach, M. Hull, J. Lucas and A. Amos as leaders that he's noticed.— Lions247 (@Lions247) March 17, 2014
- WR Matt Zanelatto is getting plenty of opportunities to start alongside Geno Lewis.
- Anthony Alosi has been slowed by an injury and is buried on the depth chart.
- Brian Gaia and Derek Dowrey have been moved to offense and will add depth to the interior line behind Miles Dieffenbach, Wendy Laurent, Angelo Mangiro and Brendan Mahon.
- Nyeem Wartman and Brandon Bell are getting the first shot to start at LB alongside Mike Hull.
- Trevor Williams is the first corner running with Jordan Lucas right now.
This is just the beginning of spring practice and things should start really heating up next week as the coaches begin implementing their new styles and schemes.
Spring practice caps off with the Blue-White Game on April 12 at 1:30 p.m. ET
View Franklin's pre-spring press conference in its entirety at GoPSUSports.com.
We're looking for guys that are going to run around and compete and have fun. That's one of the things I think is so important to find coaches, to find people, to find players that can work extremely hard, but while they're working extremely hard, they can have fun and enjoy themselves, and that's what I want to see.