Media members are allowed 10 minutes each week to watch Penn State football practice, usually to observe which players are on the field.
This week, the bigger concern was who was not.
While starting safeties Jordan Lucas and Marcus Allen were seen working with the defense on the far side of the field (Lucas had his right shoulder heavily wrapped), running backs Saquon Barkley and Akeel Lynch, offensive lineman Andrew Nelson and defensive end Evan Schwan were not present during the time the media viewed practice.
Third-string running back, Mark Allen, a freshman, was seen practicing with the offense.
Head coach James Franklin spoke Tuesday afternoon about the evaluation period of injuries.
“Although I don’t talk about injuries a whole lot, to be honest with you, this early in the week, even if I wanted to, there is not a whole lot I could tell you,” he said.
Barkley suffered what appeared to be an ankle injury on a carry against San Diego State, and had to leave the game (under his own power) before the first half to get his ankle taped heavily. He did not return to the game, but stood on the sideline in the second half testing out his legs. Lynch took a helmet to the knee and lay still on the turf for several minutes with trainers attending and Franklin gripping his hand, and was helped to the locker room in the first half. He did not return from the locker room.
After Wednesday’s practice, he said three running backs, redshirt freshman Jonathan Thomas included, are “under evaluation” this week. Allen played in the San Diego State game after Lynch came out, and scored his first career touchdown on his first play of the game off a 13-yard pass from quarterback Christian Hackenberg. Freshman Nick Scott also saw brief time, catching one pass for 32 yards.
“Yeah, (Thomas) is one of three backs that we plan on evaluating this week,” said Franklin, who did not specify who the other two were. “And then seeing who’s going to give us the best option on Saturday. And then obviously we still have the opportunity to get those other two guys, so it’s basically an evaluation process all week.”
Senior defensive tackle Anthony Zettel was also present. Zettel’s father, Terry, passed away last Friday and the captain played on Saturday despite that, posting a team-high seven tackles, 2 1/2 tackles for loss and a fumble recovery on his way to Big Ten Co-Defensive Player of the Week. The funeral services for Terry, who was 46 when he passed after a fight with cancer, were held in Michigan on Sunday.
“He’s been here in practice all week long,” said Franklin. “He was able to get home for the service and pay respect with his family, and spend some time there...our expectation is that he’s going to be here with us (on Saturday).”
Standing at Attention
Penn State football welcomed several dozen members of the university’s ROTC program to Wednesday night’s practice, in light of Saturday’s Military Appreciation Day game against Army West Point at noon. The large group stood in a line on the sideline of the Lasch practice field during the visit.
“I think it’s a great example of our community, the fact that people donated over 10,000 tickets for service members and their families to come to the game. The game is sold out,” said Franklin, speaking of Penn State’s successful “Seats for Service Members” program. “We talk all the time about being very appreciative of the opportunity we have here at Penn State. It’s a special place. We spent a lot of time talking about being appreciative of being in the United States, and all the freedoms and the liberties that come with that.”
Franklin joked that the ROTC members were also only allowed to see 10 minutes of practice, based on the upcoming opponent.
“Though they are at Penn State, we also are playing Army this weekend, so I want to make sure we don’t have anybody trying to get any information,” he grinned.
After practice, players shook hands in a line with the ROTC members and Franklin brought them into a huddle in the middle of the field and spoke to them for a few minutes. He also stayed after for several minutes to take pictures and shake hands with many ROTC members.