Penn State Football

Who’s Penn State’s fastest WR? Mac Hippenhammer doesn’t hold back — and other practice highlights

‘I would say I’m sneaky fast’

Penn State wide receiver Mac Hippenhammer speaks to the media about who's the fastest wideout on the team during Penn State football practice.
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Penn State wide receiver Mac Hippenhammer speaks to the media about who's the fastest wideout on the team during Penn State football practice.

Mac Hippenhammer, Penn State’s two-sport athlete, doesn’t like to back down from a challenge — so he offered his honest assessment Wednesday night on the Nittany Lions’ fastest wideout.

And, no, it’s not Hippenhammer.

“You know, I would say I’m sneaky fast,” said Hippenhammer, who plays baseball in addition to football. “But I know DeAndre (Thompkins) said he was the fastest receiver. That’s my man — but I think KJ (Hamler) is. You got to be real with yourself. And I think KJ is.”

And what about Polk?

“I forgot about him,” Hippenhammer said with a laugh. The redshirt freshman added that Hamler, Thompkins and Polk are definitely the top three. He might be fourth.

“But I’ll sneak up on you,” the receiver said, smiling.

Next week’s game creating scheduling chaos

Penn State coach James Franklin has consistently voiced his dislike over playing games Friday night and, for once, he didn’t mind looking ahead to next Friday’s contest against Illinois.

He definitely was not happy about it after practice.

“Yeah, we’ll have to bump everything up a day,” he said. “And we obviously won’t have our day off. And, right now, it looks like we’re going to have a bunch of class conflicts because our guys load up Monday and we have to practice Monday.

“So I was hoping we could find a way to work around that, practice early in the morning or something, but we couldn’t find a solution. It’s another reason why I’m probably not a big fan of the Friday games because it doesn’t fit our model and it causes a lot of academic issues for it.”

Practice observations

  • Polk dropped a wide-open ball in the end zone while the media was present. It wasn’t necessarily an easy catch — it was an over-the-shoulder attempt — but no defender was nearby. Drops have been a recurring theme for the Nittany Lions so far; Thompkins and Juwan Johnson have at least six between them so far this year.

  • Cornerback John Reid was not seen playing with the first team. He was pulled toward the end of the season opener against Appalachian State, and Franklin said at the time that he still needed to shake some rust off. It appears at least some rust remains.
  • Backup QB Tommy Stevens was in uniform but, once again, he did not take any snaps while the media was present. Sean Clifford will remain the No. 2 until Stevens is healthy.

Quality control

Franklin discussed his philosophy on hiring quality control coaches, who help prepare the team for games a week or more ahead of time, and said he looks to get a nice mix.

Some teams prefer to hire NFL coaches or coordinators who are under contract elsewhere but out of work. Others hire graduate assistant coaches who aren’t quite ready to be full-time assistants. Franklin likes to hire both.

In addition to those graduate assistant quality control coaches, Franklin also has former Idaho State coach Larry Lewis as a consultant on the staff this season. “For us, it’s really the best available and then play to their strengths,” Franklin said.

Usually, the quality control coaches will stay ahead enough so on Sunday the only thing left to be done is scouting Saturday’s game of the opponent. “Sometimes we’ll play a night game and our next opponent is a 12 o’clock game and they might be able to get that done in the hotel,” Franklin said. “But they pretty much should have everything done.”

Hippenhammer’s progress

The redshirt freshman caught his first career touchdown pass against Pitt, and both he and Franklin agreed he’s grown a lot — literally — over the past year.

Hippenhammer, who plans to play both baseball and football his entire collegiate career, came into Happy Valley around 165 pounds. He said he’s now up to about 178 or 180 pounds.

Franklin also said his confidence is a lot higher and believed also competing as an outfielder played a role in that.

“He got some playing time and whether it’s football or baseball or basketball or whatever it may be, I think that experience was really good,” Franklin said. “He’s always been a guy that the game of football makes sense to. You can say something to him and it transfers to the field. ... He’s just a natural athlete.”

Said Hippenhammer: “I think playing any sport at the collegiate level helps. When I play baseball, it gives me confidence to transition from baseball to football and playing a collegiate sport. I think it really helped.”