James Franklin sheds light on the depth at running back

By Audrey Snyder/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 1 day ago

One story line to keep an eye on as Penn State readies for camp is the position battle at running back.

Redshirt junior Akeel Lynch is the only player with any game experience and Lynch led the team in rushing last season after injuries and a sluggish offensive line gave way to a change in the backfield. Behind Lynch though is anyone’s guess. James Franklin is looking for a three deep and his options include the trio of redshirt freshmen scholarship backs in Nick Scott, Johnathan Thomas and Mark Allen as well as true freshmen scholarship backs Saquon Barkley and Andre Robinson. 

Barkley didn’t waste time impressing teammates once he arrived for workouts at the end of June. At 5-foot-11, 215 lbs. he’s built like a college ready running back --though teammates are quick to point out his baby face-- but will he be able to pick up the offense and particularly pass blocking quickly enough? 

“Saquon, the way he’s built is crazy already coming in like a freshman like that,” senior safety Jordan Lucas said. Due to Lucas’ class schedule he worked out with the freshmen regularly once they arrived. “His numbers in the weight room are ridiculous and he’s just a powerful kid. We watch him out there running when we do 7-on-7s and certain drills and he’s a very mature freshman so I’m impressed with him.”

Franklin said of the running backs Allen, the 5-foot-7, 181 pounder is one of the better pass protectors. Scott is a combination of Thomas and Allen while Robinson put together a high school campaign at in-state Bishop McDevitt that was one for the record books. 

Here’s Franklin’s take on the backfield and why he won’t yet rule out any freshman challenging for a key spot:


Audrey Snyder: and Twitter @audsnyder4

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Balancing act: Athletic Director Sandy Barbour on Penn State's schedule

By Audrey Snyder/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 1 day ago

Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour has a balancing act to complete as Penn State works to complete future football schedules.

Beginning in 2016 the Nittany Lions play nine conference games per season, making it a challenge to fit in various non-conference games. A potential continuation of the series with Pittsburgh was among the topics Barbour discussed in Chicago at Big Ten media days, and striking a balance between competitive non-conference games to attract crowds and giving the team the best shot to keep an unblemished record is also part of the plan.

How will Barbour try to make it all work? Hear from her below:


Audrey Snyder: and Twitter @audsnyder4

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Kyle Flood downplays a rivalry with Penn State

By Audrey Snyder/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 4 days ago

CHICAGO — Last year Kyle Flood referred to Penn State as “the school in Pennsylvania,” but Friday morning at Big Ten media days the Rutgers’ head coach wasn’t pushing to create a rivalry.

“I know it’ll be a great environment out there,” Flood said about his team’s Sept. 19 game at Beaver Stadium, the Nittany Lions’ first night game of the season. “They’ve got a very exciting fan base, so we’re looking forward to that game, but we’re not looking at that game right now because we’ve got two that we’ve got to play before it.”

Last season the Nittany Lions beat Rutgers, 13-10 in Piscataway, N.J. and given Penn State’s recruiting success in New Jersey Flood shed light on the three keys that could lead to a Penn State-Rutgers rivalry.

“Geography. Certainly the geography is there,” Flood said. “Recruiting. Do you have players in both programs that were recruited by both schools? We do, certainly the case. And then competitive football games, which we had last year.

“Is it the start of something like that? It might be, but I think those things have to happen organically, I don’t think you can create them.”

Audrey Snyder: and Twitter @audsnyder4

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Maryland's Randy Edsall on recruiting against Penn State, creating a rivalry

By Audrey Snyder/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 4 days ago

CHICAGO — Penn State’s 20-19 loss to Maryland last November continues to be one of the Terrapins’ largest bargaining chips as they move forward on the recruiting trail.

The win was Maryland’s second all-time against Penn State and the team’s first ever win in State College. Beyond the non-handshake during the coin toss that created a stir, Maryland coach Randy Edsall said the win continues to help as the Terrapins as they move forward in the Big Ten.

“I think it showed kids in our area that we can compete with them and that we can win,” Edsall said Thursday at Big Ten Football Media Days. “Kids look at that. High school kids look at that. Penn State has always had a niche for being able to come down to Maryland and take players up and we knew if we wanted to get some recruits we’d have to beat them on the field.”

The Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia region has been a large part of Penn State’s recruiting footprint during the past. It was the region now Ohio State assistant head coach/defensive line coach Larry Johnson dominated during his time as a coach at Penn State. 

Penn State continues to have a strong presence in that region, with 2015 signees Kamonte Carter (Gaithersburg, Md.), Jonathan Holland (Potomac, Md.), Ayron Monroe (Washington, DC). The 2016 class has verbal pledges from defensive end Shane Simmons (Hyattsville, Md.), defensive tackle Ellison Jordan (Baltimore, Md.), linebacker Cameron Brown (Burtonsville, Md.) and cornerback Zechariah McPhearson (Upper Marlboro, Md.).

Edsall also was asked about how he views the future of Penn State and Maryland and whether or not the two schools will start to create rivalry.

“I think the proximity between the two schools, you hope that can develop into a rivalry because I think those things are good,” Edsall said. “But again, those things do take time and the only way you can create a rival is by beating teams on the field and that’s what we know we have to do if we want to have rivalries in the Big Ten.”

Franklin downplayed creating a rivalry with Maryland prior to the game last season, saying that while he understands the regional perspective, he simply viewed it as another Big Ten game. 

Audrey Snyder: and Twitter @audsnyder4

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Where did Penn State finish in the preseason poll?

By Audrey Snyder/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 1 week ago

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The stacked Big Ten East division with Ohio State and Michigan State has one clear favorite.

Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer accepts an award from the Reds honoring the Buckeyes during the offseason. (Gary Landers/Associated Press)

That much is certain after’s fifth annual Big Ten preseason football poll, which used responses from 40 beat writers around the conference to pick their order of finish in the Big Ten’s East and West division as well as preseason Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year honorees. The Big Ten doesn’t do an official preseason media poll so this is as close as it gets.

Ohio State is a unanimous pick to win the Big Ten and Wisconsin, with 32 first place votes is the favorite to win the West. 

Below are the complete poll results, with the Nittany Lions picked to finish third in the East, behind Ohio State and Michigan State. Point totals follow each school along with first-place votes.


1. Ohio State 280 (40)

2. Michigan State 240

3. Penn State 186.5

4. Michigan 163.5

5. Maryland 95.5

6. Rutgers 78

7. Indiana 76.5


1. Wisconsin 272 (32)

2. Nebraska 231.5 (5)

3. Minnesota 197 (3)

4. Iowa 158.5

5. Northwestern 125

6. Illinois 77

7. Purdue 59

For those wondering, here’s what my ballot looked like:


1) Ohio State

2) Michigan State

3) Penn State

4) Michigan

5) Maryland

6) Rutgers

7) Indiana


1) Wisconsin

2) Nebraska

3) Iowa

4) Minnesota

5) Northwestern

6) Illinois

7) Purdue

You’ll notice there’s not much difference between the two, except for me placing Iowa ahead of Minnesota. I did pick Ohio State to beat Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game and predicted Ohio State would be the only team from the conference in the College Football Playoff. 

Also in the poll, no surprise that Ohio State standout Joey Bosa was picked as the conference’s preseason Defensive Player of the Year. He secured the first-place vote from me too and I also had Michigan State’s Shilique Calhoun coming in next followed by Nittany Lion tackle Anthony Zettel.

Zettel garnered 25 votes, good enough for third place, and given his rare combination of speed and athleticism for an end-turned tackle -- plus the eye popping stats he put up last season with a team best 17 tackles for loss, eight sacks, three interceptions and a touchdown-- he’ll be one to keep an eye on. The full preseason Defensive Player of the Year votes can be found here.

Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott is the preseason Offensive Player of the Year, picking up 31 first-place votes (and 150 votes overall), including a first-place one from me. Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook is second with 57 votes and Ohio State’s Cardale Jones is third with 19 votes. Who knows what Urban Meyer does at quarterback, but Jones certainly showed last year what he’s capable of. I gave Jones the second place nod over Cook.

Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg was sixth with nine votes. Hackenberg’s spot also tied him with the voters who simply selected “Ohio State quarterbacks” in the same slot. All of the preseason Offensive Player of the Year votes can be found here.

Audrey Snyder: and Twitter @audsnyder4

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