Less stress for Penn State offense this spring, running back says

Penn State star running back Saquon Barkley.

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - Before each practice, Andre Robinson writes down two or three goals.

Charles Huff, Penn State's special-teams coordinator and running backs coach, requires this of all his players.

"I've met my goals pretty much every practice," the redshirt sophomore running back said, noting that he has had a few off days in the process.

Robinson said that spring practice has been easier to jump into this season, partly because offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead is more comfortable entering his second year with the program.

"I'd say now that we know the system a little better, he's a little bit more relaxed because we know how to practice, we know what he wants," Robinson said. "As opposed to last year where he kind of had to teach us what he wanted and how he wanted us to run practice, what tempo he wanted and everything like that.

Last spring, Moorhead used spring practice to install his fast-paced offense. This time, he took only three or four practices to install the offense, Robinson recalled, then moved right into working on weaknesses.

"Last year," Robinson said, "I was kind of like on my toes and nervous, like 'What am I going to do here? What am I going to do there?'

"I think everyone now knows the deal, knows the road, so he's a little bit more relaxed with us."

At practice Wednesday, head coach James Franklin listed players who have stood out during spring practice. He mentioned backup quarterback Tommy Stevens, Christian Campbell, Jonathan Holland, Koa Farmer, and Josh McPhearson.

While Franklin said Stevens has gained the whole team's respect, he said the next step is deciding on a third-string quarterback. It's a decision the coaching staff isn't quite ready to make.

Last week, the coach said Jake Zembiec was struggling with his physical development, while starter Trace McSorley has been solid, with Stevens in his rearview mirror.

Although Franklin said Holland, a 6-foot-4 tight end, didn't scrimmage well Friday, he has "improved dramatically," gaining about 10 pounds since last season, to 255.

"He's a guy that has the ability to block, yet he's made really good plays in the passing game, which is something that's come natural to him since he's been here," Franklin said. "He's a guy that I really think is factored in now. We feel like we're in a really good situation there as a legitimate backup to Mike [Gesicki]."

On the other side of the ball, Farmer, a redshirt junior, has bounced around from safety to linebacker. Franklin is confident he will stick to linebacker because of the weight he has put on.

"Everyone's more comfortable, everyone's playing faster," Robinson said, "and we're not worrying about playing hesitant or anything like that."