Penn State’s three coordinators addressed reporters during Saturday’s media day and discussed the return of linebacker Manny Bowen, Trace McSorley’s evolution and more.
Here are the highlights from what they said:
OC Ricky Rahne
1. Miles Sanders has stepped up and assumed a “leadership role”
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Rahne said Saquon Barkley’s replacement has taken another step forward by assuming a leadership role with the offense. “That’s critical to our football team,” Rahne said. “You can never have too many leaders.”
Sanders should be the bell cow of the running backs this season, and Rahne says he looks every bit the part so far.
2. Juwan Johnson taking coaching well
The team’s top wideout is the furthest thing from a prima donna, Rahne said. On the first day of practice Friday, Johnson stopped at one point and turned to his offensive coordinator: “I’m not sure I did that right,” he told Rahne.
“No, you didn’t,” Rahne said he told him. Johnson’s response? “What do I need to do?”
“He’s able to make those corrections and move on,” Rahne said. “And those young guys seeing that is critical.” Like Sanders, Rahne said Johnson has stepped up and helped fill the role of leader.
3. Trace McSorley hasn’t changed one bit
Despite the publicity, and any early criticism (i.e. just throwing the ball up), Rahne emphasized that McSorley is still the same person and hasn’t allowed outside pressures to change him.
Just ask Rahne’s 9-year-old son, Rider.
“He could tell you,” Rahne added. “The kid is the exact same kid.”
Rahne said attention didn’t change Saquon Barkley, and it hasn’t -- and won’t -- change McSorley. “We’re not only able to recruit great football palyers but great people as well,” he added.
DC Brent Pry
1. Manny Bowen’s role is still TBD
Bowen may be one of the team’s best linebackers, but that doesn’t mean he’s penciled in as a starter right now.
Pry said the priority is to make sure he graduates in December. Outside of that, Pry said he’s going to coach as if Bowen won’t be in the starting lineup -- but anything can happen.
“I don’t think we still know for sure how this thing’s going to unfold,” said Pry, who’s known Bowen since his sophomore year of high school.
Still, even after one day of practice, his value is impossible to ignore. “He’s a student of the game,” Pry said. “He’s played a good number of snaps for us, and he’s coaching the heck out of those guys.”
2. The situation at LB is still very fluid
Based on projections, it seems as if Koa Farmer and Cam Brown will start somewhere at linebacker. But Pry wasn’t even comfortable saying that.
“To be honest, I’m not sure at any of the three spots how linebacker will take shape,” he said. “Right now, it’s just getting reps, continuing to evaluate these guys and get them better.”
Micah Parsons is the wild card -- “he’s a smart guy,” Pry said -- and Pry acknowledged he’ll obviously have an opportunity on the field.
3. Team using media disrespect as a motivator
Pry said he doesn’t read what the media has to say about Penn State. But he thought his team might.
So the defense plastered five magazine articles up that tick off critiques, such as saying that Penn State won’t be as strong up the middle or how they’re losing more than half their starters.
“I don’t read them,” Pry added with a laugh.
4. DE Torrence Brown is not expected to be ready for the season
The defensive end, who generated a lot of hype last offseason, suffered a season-ending injury last September.
Pry acknowledged he still hasn’t fully recovered.
“I do not expect Torrence to be ready for the season,” he said.
ST Phil Galiano
1. More than a dozen solid contributors on special teams
Galiano said there’s about “13-15 guys we feel we can go with that are going to be major contributors on special teams.” That means guys who could play on all four special-teams units.
Among players he mentioned by name were Tariq Castro-Fields and Johnathan Thomas.
2. Blake Gillikin could also be the kicker, if the team needs
Ideally, Gillikin would strictly focus on punter. But Galiano echoed what Gillikin said back in the spring, which was that he could handle both duties if he needed to.
At this point, he’s trying to give reps to each kicker on the roster to see where they stand.
3. Galiano loves him some Nick Scott
He gushed over Scott’s intensity, leadership and work ethic.
“Nick Scott, he’s one of my favorite guys I’ve ever seen play on special teams,” Galiano said.
4. DeAndre Thompkins still returning punts
There will be an open competition -- speedster Journey Brown is another potential returner -- but Thompkins remains a solid option at the position. Kick returner is also open.