Penn State true freshman running back Saquon Barkley was again seen dressed out at practice on Wednesday night, as was starting running back Akeel Lynch.
Like last week, Barkley had his right ankle wrapped low. Lynch, who, was hurt in the first half against San Diego State after a helmet collided with his knee, wore a soft brace on his knee and stood with Barkley away from the action on the field during the media’s allotted 10-minute availability.
A noticeably loose head coach James Franklin confirmed that Lynch took reps in practice.
“Akeel took reps,” he said, then joked, “Since you guys love this, Adam Breneman took reps at practice too, since I know at every press conference, there’s an Adam Breneman update.”
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Franklin said on Tuesday afternoon, while addressing media during his weekly presser, that “the days of coaches making decisions on who plays or not are long gone,” and that it would be the team’s doctors’ call as to whether Barkley would be active for Saturday.
“Yes, the doctors have made a decision,” he said, on Wednesday evening, and, grinning, did not elaborate further.
“It’ll be like Christmas morning,” he joked, of the public interest in whether Barkley will suit up on Saturday. “(Everyone) just waiting for Saturday.”
Franklin talks stats,
stats talk Nassib
When the Nittany Lions take on the Buckeyes, they’ll also face the formidable Joey Bosa, who is regarded as one of the nation’s best defensive linemen.
But Franklin thinks his own guy, Carl Nassib, who he said is similiar to Bosa in terms of build and athleticism, is more efficient, despite having less opportunities on the field, as Nassib operates under the defensive rotation scheme employed by coordinator Bob Shoop.
“I wouldn’t say that — the numbers say that,” said Franklin. “If you play less reps, and you’re having a lot of big plays and statistics, I think that shows up.”
Nassib, by Franklin’s count, has played 280 snaps in six games while Bosa has played 329 snaps in five. Nassib has recorded 10 sacks during that time alongside 27 tackles and 12 tackles for loss with an interception, a pass deflection and five forced fumbles. Bosa has 1.5 sacks alongside 20 tackles and three pass deflections.
“That doesn’t take anything away from Bosa,” said Franklin. “I mean, you turn the film on, everybody that’s played Ohio State is concerned about Bosa. He’s gotten a lot of attention. Been on a lot of awards lists, and I think that’s deservedly so. But if you’re just talking about efficiency and production based on number of plays, to tackles for loss, sacks, and things like that, I think you make an argument that Carl Nassib is in a similar discussion.”
Buckeyes bursting ear drums
Franklin and his staff have not only scouted Ohio State, but the Shoe in Columbus as well. The team practiced to a mix of deafening crowd noise and music that the head coach said they’d learned the Buckeyes play during games.
“Yeah, it’s not a whole lot of fun,” Franklin said. “Sometimes I stand behind the defense, it’s not a whole lot of fun. But it’s important for us to get ready, you know, we do our research and try to find out what kind of music they play in their stadium, and try to replicate it as much as we can here, try to make it louder than we anticipate it being on Saturday.
“I think our guys have handled it extremely well, so I think that’s important.”
Earlier this week, sophomore middle linebacker Jason Cabinda said that though he and several other of the younger players on Penn State’s roster had never visited the Shoe, he felt playing five straight home games at Beaver Stadium has also helped the team prepare for Saturday’s atmosphere.
Franklin said his prior experience “at a previous university” (Vanderbilt), at which he faced hostile environments such as Texas and Alabama, has been valuable as he’s never made the trip to Ohio State himself.
“I think going into these venues, whether it’s experience in the NFL, whether it’s experience in college, yeah, I think it prepares you,” he said. “I think it’s the same with our players.”
He also mentioned that he’s spoken to players like Christian Hackenberg about what it was like to visit the Buckeyes, and that “there’s a comfort that comes from that.”
“We need to lean on the guys that have been there in the past,” he said.
Mangiro suits up
Penn State’s starting center, Angelo Mangiro, was seen dressed out at practice and took a few goal line reps with the first-team offense. He also was seen holding sheets of paper with play calls and formations on them, and directing other linemen as well.
Mangiro is the most senior member of the offensive line. His presence has been lauded by teammates and coaches alike all season, but was missing last week against Indiana after he appeared to suffer a lower body injury and was forced to sit out.
Having his experience back on the field against Ohio State would be very beneficial for the Nittany Lions, especially against Bosa.
“Angelo is our guy,” said Franklin on Tuesday. “He has, I think, a calming effect on our offensive line and our offense, how he calls and how he leads and identifies the front and makes adjustments.”
If Mangiro is unable to play this weekend, backup Wendy Laurent will again start in his place. Laurent has undoubtedly been working on his communication this week, especially in light of the upcoming environment.
“You could make the argument that Wendy has improved as much as anybody,” said Franklin. “I’d still like to see him be more verbal in terms of making the calls, taking control, getting everybody on the same page, but he’s really played well.”