Franklin says lack of depth an issue for Penn State

Penn State football coach James Franklin runs his team through the first day of an NCAA college football spring practice in State College, Pa. (AP Photo/York Daily Record, Jason Plotkin)

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - Eight practices into Penn State's spring slate, James Franklin is concerned about his team's lack of depth at certain positions.

"I think we've got really good football players and great kids here, but we just don't have enough of them," Franklin said. "That's the reality of it."

The coach holds more confidence in his defense than his offense. With players such as Allen Robinson and John Urschel not returning, Franklin said the wide receiver and offensive line positions are the least stable.

To compensate in the trenches, Franklin has pulled Brian Gaia and Derek Dowrey off the defense. However, their switch to the offensive line hasn't been easy.

"I feel for them. We put them in a tough position," Franklin said. "Two days before spring ball starts, I say, 'Hey, you're offensive linemen. Go at it.' They're tough guys, and they're smart guys, but that's a tough transition."

To further complicate matters on the line, Franklin said he hasn't seen enough from senior-to-be Miles Dieffenbach and redshirt freshman Andrew Nelson. Both are likely to play key roles in the protection of quarterback Christian Hackenberg in the fall.

On defense, Franklin is at least comfortable with his starters. He said it's difficult for all his players to find quality in their reps because there are often mismatches on different sides of the line of scrimmage.

"What I think a lot of people don't realize is when you have such lack of depth at certain positions, it affects everybody's development," Franklin said. "It doesn't just affect the quarterback, it affects the defensive backs because they're not getting the work they need to be getting. It has a major trickle-down effect on everybody."

While certain players may not be up to Franklin's standard just yet, several months still separate Penn State from its first game, in Ireland against Central Florida on Aug. 30. The Nittany Lions' goal is to stay healthy and absorb as much of Franklin's new approach as possible before summer.

"We want to get them confident with their assignments so we can start playing fast and violent," Franklin said.