Penn State Football

Penn State football lands in Jacksonville, kicks off TaxSlayer Bowl week

Penn State football coach James Franklin high fives players as the team warms up for practice on Friday, December 18, 2015 at Holuba Hall.
Penn State football coach James Franklin high fives players as the team warms up for practice on Friday, December 18, 2015 at Holuba Hall. adrey@centredaily.com

According to its Twitter account, the Penn State football team has touched down in Jacksonville, Fla., and is ready to kick off bowl week before Saturday’s appearance in the TaxSlayer Bowl against Georgia.

Head coach James Franklin mentioned earlier this month, during Penn State’s bowl media day, that taking a plane full of young men to Florida for a week (or anywhere, for that matter), is not without its challenges.

“I’m pretty confident that we are going to go down there and represent ourselves the right way again,” he said. “Does that mean that 125 18- to 22-year-old males don’t make a mistake from time to time? They do.

“Florida is an aspect of that. Obviously we want to do some things to enjoy it, to allow them to experience maybe a part of the country or region that they haven’t been to before, and the bowl associations usually have some activities for them and then we want to have some activities for them. We want to be able to give them free time, but the free time is what you worry about.”

I've been places where you go do bed check and they know bed check is coming and they are snug as a bug in the bed, and you don't realize they are fully dressed, and then you leave bed check and then all of a sudden, the pillowcases and the bed sheet's out the window and they’re (rappelling) down the side of the hotel.

James Franklin, on keeping an eye on players in Florida

Franklin said that as the game gets closer, curfew gets tighter, and that the staff does bed checks each night to ensure players are where they’re supposed to be.

“We’ll have our strength staff, what I call our ‘bouncers,’ they are the kind of enforcers and they go do bed check,” he said with a laugh.

“And what I’ve learned after 21 years of doing this, you always have double bed check. Because I’ve been places where you go do bed check and they know bed check is coming and they are snug as a bug in the bed, and you don’t realize they are fully dressed, and then you leave bed check and then all of a sudden, the pillowcases and the bed sheet’s out the window and they’re (rappelling) down the side of the hotel.”

Franklin also said that the team has continued to start meetings with examples of athletes at every level who have made mistakes, and tries to emphasize the modern pressure that comes with representing a university.

“In our society, as a college athlete or as an athlete in general, you can’t make mistakes like you could 25 or 30 years ago,” he said.

Former Penn State receiver Gregg Garrity laughed when he spoke about how different things are now as opposed to his own bowl game experiences. He helped Penn State to a national title after beating Georgia in the 1982-83 Sugar Bowl with his famous touchdown, now called “The Catch.”

“Joe (Paterno) kind of gave us free rein,” he said last week. “Every single year, you know, we went to four bowl games and pretty much ... (by) the national championship year, he gave us almost every evening off. And probably half the week we had no curfew.

“And, if you were 21, they gave you a rental car. Oh yeah. So we could come and go, and there was a lot of ‘demolition derbies.’”

Garrity chuckled.

“We talk about that, we just laugh about it. Because I mean, cars were on fire in our parking lot from the demolition derbies, it was just brutal. But we had a blast! And the good thing is, everyone kind of looked out for each other. So if we saw someone that was in trouble or was going to get in trouble, we got him out of there right away and everything turned out fine.”

Depth chart notes

Franklin said earlier this season that from week to week, the depth chart would reflect the game prior.

However, it appears that the TaxSlayer Bowl depth chart, released Monday afternoon, deviates a bit from Penn State’s last game.

Starting defensive end Garrett Sickels did not travel to the Nittany Lions’ last game, a 55-16 walloping at Michigan State, but he was seen at practice working out with the team in the following weeks. Both of his knees had heavy braces on them.

Sickels was listed as Penn State’s starter at the position on the weak side. Franklin also said at bowl media day that he also expects to have his counterpart, Carl Nassib, back to full health by the bowl game.

Additionally, Gregg “Pook” Garrity was listed as the team’s starting punt returner for the game. Garrity had seen limited action this season at the role but was put in during the waning minutes of Penn State’s loss to the Spartans after a few bobbles and muffs by former starter DeAndre Thompkins.

Finally, many fans had hoped that senior safety Jordan Lucas would be healthy enough for the bowl game, after he officially accepted his invitation to January’s Senior Bowl following a season-ending upper-body injury. However, a source told the Centre Daily Times that Lucas has since had shoulder surgery, and he is not listed on the depth chart.

Jourdan Rodrigue: 814-231-4629, @JourdanRodrigue

  Comments