Saturday, December 27, 2014

Excitement building for Penn State opener in Ireland

James Franklin said his players are excited to compete in their season opener on Saturday, but that he hasn't started feeling the nerves yet for his first game as Penn State head coach.

Excitement building for Penn State opener in Ireland

Penn State head coach James Franklin and quarterback Christian Hackenberg. (Joe Hermitt/PennLive)
Penn State head coach James Franklin and quarterback Christian Hackenberg. (Joe Hermitt/PennLive)

The countdown for Penn State's 2014 season opener, not to mention the initial contest of James Franklin's tenure as head football coach and the Nittany Lions' first game played outside of the United States, is winding down and the players are excited.

But Franklin? The former Bucks County resident said he isn't feeling those emotions and nerves yet.

"I really don't get too excited too early before games," he said Tuesday at his first weekly teleconference of the season. "It's more about doing the job and all the things that we have to get done to be ready to play and play the way we want to play.

"I do get some of that nervous anxiety right before the game in the locker room, get the butterflies and things like that. I usually sleep extremely well the night before the game, and I don't usually get a whole lot of those feelings until I'm in the locker room right before the game before heading out."

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Franklin and his staff have made sure they had everything in place prior to their scheduled Tuesday night departure for Dublin, Ireland, and Saturday's game against Central Florida. Franklin said he would get his players on the field Wednesday, shortly after their arrival, and conduct a walk-through rather than a full practice.

As for his players, Franklin said he felt the excitement was building. He said he has marked the countdown to the first game at the end of every meeting he's conducted since he took over last January, starting with 230 days, as he recalled.

"I put that up the other day and talked about when we were leaving and how many days we had left, and it was a little different feeling in the room," he said. "They get to the point where they're sick of seeing us, we're sick of seeing them, we're sick of practicing against each other. They want to play a different opponent."

Franklin released his first depth chart of the season on Tuesday and there are still battles for starting jobs at two positions - left guard and cornerback.

The guard matchup pits redshirt sophomore Derek Dowrey, one of two defensive tackles who were moved to the offensive side of the ball last spring, and redshirt freshman Brendan Mahon. At corner, it's juniors Trevor Williams, who started six games last season, and Da'Quan Davis.

Of the guards, Franklin said, "I think they're different guys and they're different situations. We kind of threw [Dowrey] in the fire and I thought he handled it extremely well. Mahon was a highly recruited offensive lineman. From my short period of time on campus, he's matured dramatically. I'm really proud of both those guys and how they've handled it."

Franklin said both Williams and Davis will play a lot because he plans to rotate players in the secondary. But he added, "We need somebody to truly take hold of that position and be a playmaker."

Later on the Big Ten coaches conference call, Franklin preferred not to say anything about photos making the rounds on Twitter that showed Penn State uniforms being packed for the flight to Ireland with the players' names on the back.

He did say, "I have not made it official" but then added, "At this point, I'm not really going to get into all this. This came out because we gave media access as we were loading the buses and they kind of ran with it. I'm more than happy to talk about it after the game. Right now, our focus is on preparing for Central Florida."

Having names on the backs of uniforms happened for the first time in Penn State history during each year of Bill O'Brien's two-year run as head coach.

About this blog
Joe Juliano has been a staff writer for The Inquirer for 20 years, covering college sports, golf and the Penn Relays.

Joining Joe this season will be John Stuetz, an intern for The Inquirer and senior at Penn State majoring in print journalism and marketing. This is John's third season covering the Penn State beat. He previously covered the Nittany Lions for the Daily Collegian, the university's student newspaper. A native of Glenside, Montgomery County, John graduated from Cheltenham High School.

For Joe, this will be his fifth season on the paper's Penn State beat. He previously covered the Nittany Lions for United Press International from 1976 to 1984.

Joe Juliano Inquirer Staff Writer
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