James Franklin doesn’t have much to say about true freshman defensive end Damion Barber.
Ask him again in a month, and that might change.
But for now, Franklin hasn’t seen much of Barber — who arrived on-campus late in August and practiced for the first time Tuesday.
“He looks beautiful. I mean, standing next to our guys in the huddle, he looks great,” Franklin said jokingly at his Tuesday press conference. “It’s just too early at this time.”
Franklin said Barber, a Harrisburg product who had to shore up his academics before arriving at Penn State, “has not shown up on any lists” and has “handled his business.”
But the four-star prospect — who’ll likely redshirt in 2017 — was sick when he showed up, according to Franklin, leading to a delay on the practice field.
Otherwise, Franklin didn’t have other observations to offer. But redshirt junior defensive end Torrence Brown did.
Brown, who’s taken on more of a leadership role this season, has watched Barber grow off the field since mid-August — and he hinted at a large role for the freshman down the line.
“Damion’s coming along very well,” Brown said on a conference call. “He’s a good guy, fun to be around and feel like he’s working hard — harder than he’s ever worked in his life right now. He’s going to be special for us in the future.”
Picking Cael’s mind
In the offseason, Franklin said he sat down with Cael Sanderson and the entire Penn State wrestling staff, and it was a “really good” experience for the football coach.
“Obviously two completely different sports,” Franklin said, “but to sit there and talk to Cael and his staff about how he’s built it, what are the things that he emphasizes and why; what do they look for in recruiting, how do they practice.”
About a week later, in March, all five wrestlers who won individual national championships — Jason Nolf, Zain Retherford, Vincenzo Joseph, Mark Hall and Bo Nickal — visited Franklin’s office to chat.
“It was kind of interesting to get their perspective compared to the coaches and be able to kind of tie those two things together,” Franklin added.
“Punt returning really is backyard football. Once you catch the ball, it’s kind of like just get away from everybody who is trying to tackle you. It’s like playing tag, basically.” — Penn State punt returner DeAndre Thompkins