Penn State opened its 2017 training camp Monday, officially beginning the final phase toward the pursuit of a repeat Big Ten championship. The Nittany Lions returned to practice fields for positional and team preparation accompanied by the greatest expectations in the James Franklin era.
The atmosphere Monday featured 85-degree weather, sunny skies and early Heisman Trophy hype for junior running back Saquon Barkley.
A repeat performance of his sophomore campaign (1,496 yards on the ground) would make him Penn State’s all-time leading rusher. Barkley, a 5-foot-11, 223-pound playmaker, also projects as a premier 2018 NFL Draft prospect should he elect to leave school early.
Barkley led the way as running backs maneuvered through drills under the direction of position coach Charles Huff.
Meanwhile, offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead grew more acclimated with his current group of quarterbacks. Fresh off a record-breaking redshirt sophomore campaign, Trace McSorley is the first man behind center entering Moorhead’s second year with the staff.
Sean Clifford, a 4-star 2017 signee who became an Elite 11 finalist during his career at St. Xavier (Cincinnati) High School, is the newcomer in this group. Despite mid-winter surgery to replace a torn labrum in his right shoulder, the freshman was in uniform for his first college practice.
Though media access was limited to a few sessions of the action Monday, we also caught a glimpse of consensus preseason All-Americans Marcus Allen and Mike Gesicki.
Gesicki, a senior tight end, aims to build off a 2016 season that saw him set the school’s positional records for catches and receiving yards.
Allen, a senior safety, is prepared to help spearhead the Nittany Lions defensive attack. He worked to set an immediate tone during initial drills.
Redshirt junior linebacker Koa Farmer is also expected to be a lynchpin player in the defensive back seven.
Like every college football program in the country, Penn State will search for young players to step up and fill roles. Linebacker Ellis Brooks, a late addition to the 2017 recruiting class from Virginia, already appears physically ready to compete against Big Ten opponents.
Meanwhile, returning players such as redshirt freshman Daniel Joseph will have a chance to turn heads during their second season in State College. The 6-3, 250-pound Brampton, Ontario, native has helped establish a developing pipeline between Penn State and Canada, and he was one of several Nittany Lions who garnered a look from Franklin.
Penn State will host its Media Day event on Saturday, four weeks before the season kicks off vs. Akron. Stay tuned to Land of 10 for plenty of coverage from the event, along with our next opportunity to witness live practice action.