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This is your Penn State Wake-Up Call for Wednesday, Sept. 28. Let’s get started.
Franklin pleads for patience
Penn State coach James Franklin, stating the case for his beleaguered team during his regular weekly news conference Tuesday, channeled Aaron Rodgers and Sam Hinkie.
Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers quarterback, memorably asked the team’s fans to “R-E-L-A-X” when Green Bay got off to a poor start in 2014. Supporters of Hinkie, the Philadelphia 76ers’ former general manager, urged others to “trust the process” during the Sixers’ interminable rebuilding phase. (Hinkie, who left the organization late last season, never uttered the phrase himself.)
The Nittany Lions are 2-2 and coming off a humiliating 49-10 loss at Michigan. The defense —particularly the linebacker corps — is wracked by injury. The offensive line is again struggling. But Franklin, who is in his third year, is trying to keep a stiff upper lip:
“I want everyone to take a deep breath.”
The Lions, still digging out from under the NCAA sanctions handed down in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal, went 7-6 in each of Franklin’s firs two seasons. Only this season have they inched within a scholarship or two of a full 85-man roster. They have 12 seniors, second-fewest in the FBS.
He believes they are heading in the right direction, however:
“There’s a process from the time we arrived to where we’re going. … Are there times where we all want the progress to happen a lot faster? No doubt about it. But I think that’s also what makes Penn State special, that there are very high expectations here. There’s a tremendous amount of pride.”
Trust the process? We’ll see if the paying customers are willing to do that. And more pointedly, whether athletic director Sandy Barbour does so.
Franklin confirmed that freshmen Connor McGovern and Cam Brown begin the week as the first-stringers at right guard and weak-side linebacker, respectively. He also said that Penn State should place a disclaimer at the top of its depth chart each week, as Minnesota does: “Subject to Change.”
As he put it:
“That’s kind of where we’re starting right now. But we’ll evaluate all week long based on this week’s performance in practice of who gives us the best opportunity to start in that position on Saturday.”
The coach also offered an update of sorts on injured linebackers Brandon Bell and Jason Cabinda:
“We’re going to get Brandon Bell back. We’re going to get Jason Cabinda back. When that is, I’m not sure yet.”
Franklin, notoriously close-mouthed about these matters, would not say for certain if either player would remain sidelined until November, adding only that they had suffered “significant” injuries. Cabinda has been seen with a cast on his left hand, and Bell has been on crutches.
Wide receiver Saeed Blacknall, cornerback Grant Haley and defensive end Evan Schwan have also missed significant action, leaving the coach to wonder if there is a thread that ties them all the injuries together:
“I’ve had that discussion with our medical staff and the coaches and the administration as well. I’m not sure. I mean, there’s a lot of factors that could go into it. It could go into our set of circumstances over the last three to four years, having reduced roster and guys taking a lot more reps than they would in a traditional situation.
“Does that factor into it? Is it nutrition? Is it sleep? Is it sport science? A lot of factors. Is it just a streak of bad luck? I think it’s probably a little bit of all those factors, like most things in life. But yeah, it’s hard to say right now.”
More about Yazujian
Erin McCarthy of Philly.com followed up a school-generated profile of long-snapper Tyler Yazujian with one of her own, when Yazujian was made available to reporters after Franklin’s news conference Tuesday.
Among the highlights were the awarding of a scholarship to Yazujian, a one-time walk-on, after a workout in February. McCarthy also writes that Yazujian began snapping as a high school senior, and that he made the team at Penn State, then coached by Bill O’Brien, on his second try:
As Yazujian put it:
“I just decided, ‘Hey, I might as well give it a shot. I had nothing to lose.”
He is in his third year as a starter, and so good he is scarcely noticed. That’s just the nature of he position, Franklin said:
“If you’re a long-snapper, the only time anyone gives you attention is usually when something bad happens. I try to make sure he knows how much we appreciate him.”
Seen, not heard
Penn State’s freshmen are not made available for interviews, but Pennlive.com’s Greg Pickel recalled on Twitter a conversation he had with Cam Brown during the recruiting process.