STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — James Franklin watched as Carson Landis continued his spring with a golden opportunity as Penn State’s lone kicker on the roster.
As teammates looked on from the side at one of the team’s position battles that won’t heat up until all the competitors are here this summer, Landis missed five of six field-goal opportunities during the 15-minute portion of the Wednesday night practice open to the media.
The walk-on kicker wasn’t alone as even Penn State’s offensive linemen had a chance to try to drill it through the uprights, something the team has done from time to time to help keep the mood light. At this point, the kicking situation is what it is and this was just a small sample size from an April workout.
Penn State giving many of the nonkickers a chance to kick tonight, including Mike Miranda, Chasz Wright, Rob Windsor and Charlie Shuman. pic.twitter.com/0hzOWhn9iE
— Audrey Snyder (@audsnyder4) April 4, 2018
“We really don’t have a competition to be honest with you,” Franklin said Wednesday night in Holuba Hall. “At kicker, we got Landis. We got one kicker right now. Obviously I think [Blake] Gillikin can do it and he did it in high school, we prefer not to do it. But there is an aspect where he may do kickoff and he’s shown that he’s pretty good at that. From all the people we talked to plus the kicking gurus that’s an easier kind of job to handle with punting and kickoffs where field goals are a lot more technical.”
Scholarship kicker Jake Pinegar arrives this summer as do other walk-ons who will be pushing for the job. Gillikin also kicked a few field goals during practice Wednesday night as well, something he did in the lead up to the Fiesta Bowl as well.
Other observations from the eighth practice of the spring:
• Running back Mark Allen was praised last week for his pass protection skills and the senior caught a pair of passes down around the goal line in the Wednesday workout.
• Quarterback Tommy Stevens was off the cart and crutches this week as he continues recovering from an undisclosed injury.
• Cornerback John Reid would take the field if Penn State was playing a game this week, Franklin said. Reid and wide receiver DeAndre Thompkins were the last two players off the field as the two stayed after practice going back and forth for an extra workout. That’s become the norm for those two friends who were able to start resuming those extra workouts as soon as the season ended, Reid said.
• Wide receiver KJ Hamler was the darling of spring ball last week and it’s safe to add safety Garrett Taylor to that conversation now as well. Franklin said if the season started today the starting safeties would be Nick Scott and Taylor. Penn State moved Lamont Wade to safety this offseason from corner so while that transition is ongoing, for the time being Taylor has left a favorable impression. Ayron Monroe, Jonathan Sutherland and John Petrishen are lying for time as well.
“We feel very good about Nick,” Franklin said. “I think Garrett has kind of separated himself from the pack in terms of if we were playing Saturday, they’re probably our two starters. Ayron Monroe is missing some reps right now during the spring, so he’s not really factoring in right now.”
• Reserve quarterback Billy Fessler handled signaling duties last year, a responsibility that could fall to another reserve quarterback or even a reserve wide receiver. Franklin mentioned Bob Shoop’s son, Tyler, a walk-on wide receiver, could be an option.
• Micah Parsons has moved from the Mike to the Will already this spring. Penn State’s box linebackers are viewed as interchangeable parts so this move would take a little off Parsons’ plate, at least for the time being. Penn State wants all their linebackers to know all three spots, but perhaps this means Ellis Brooks or Cam Brown could be the more realistic options in the spring? Jake Cooper and Jan Johnson are also vying for time.
“He can run. He’s got really good instincts,” Franklin said. “He really hasn’t found a stance that he’s comfortable in yet, which I know sounds crazy, but it’s more challenging than it is.”