Former walk-ons may lose scholarships under Penn State's Franklin

Chris Adamski
| Tuesday, July 29, 2014, 4:21 p.m.

CHICAGO — Without getting specific, Penn State coach James Franklin on Tuesday shed light on his roster's scholarship situation for the upcoming season.

Franklin expects his team to play with 72 scholarship players, he said during a roundtable discussion to wrap up Big Ten media days. That's three fewer than the NCAA sanctions-imposed limit of 75 this season.

Franklin was intentionally ambiguous about the identity of the 72, so it's possible guard Miles Dieffenbach (torn ACL) and/or linebacker Ben Kline (Achilles) — each of whom, at best, won't return until late in the season — aren't on that list.

Franklin also indicated some or all of the five former walk-ons who were given one-year scholarships last year by former coach Bill O'Brien will not be on scholarship this season. That group includes Langley alumnus Tryone Smith, a defensive tackle.

Franklin was emphatic that any player recruited out of high school will keep his scholarship for four years — he supports a proposed Big Ten rule dictating that — but said the five players O'Brien rewarded last season “knew the deal” that they were not guaranteed scholarships beyond last academic year.

Although he indicated his policy might change when Penn State is back to the full allotment of 85 scholarships, Franklin said he doesn't want to discuss which players are or are not on scholarship.

Belton no one-trick pony

It might be because he's known for breakaway speed or because he has a 233-pound backfield mate in Zach Zwinak, but for whatever reason, Penn State running back Bill Belton isn't thought of as a between-the-tackles runner.

He takes offense to that.

“In my opinion, it's very disrespectful,” Belton said. “I'm not just a third-down back. I'm not just someone who can run tosses and sweeps like that. I can do it all.”

Brown on ‘Coach Frank'

Maryland coach Randy Edsall joked that Seneca Valley's C.J. Brown — the Terrapins' starting quarterback — was “a professional student.” Brown is in his sixth year on campus this fall.

“After going through two head coaches, three offensive coordinators, two (season-ending) injuries, now in my sixth year with the opportunity to play in two conferences, I'm getting (my) master's paid for — I'm coming out on top,” Brown said.

How long has Brown been at Maryland? He was recruited by a young then-coordinator by the name of James Franklin.

“‘Coach Frank' just brings an enthusiasm and a confidence and just the vibe that he brings with him — he just has that feel that he makes you feel at home,” Brown said.

“Knowing him and his family and his background, you know he's going to keep having success.”

Ficken the kicker

Penn State's Sam Ficken was the lone kicker represented at Big Ten media days, though as a senior and a team captain (of the special teams), he was a logical choice.

“There are a ton of guys on our team who deserve to be here, but I was fortunate enough to come and represent the school, and I couldn't be happier,” Ficken said.

“(As a leader) I think there's things I can relate not just to other kickers and punters, but to other positions, too: ‘Don't get too high on yourself. Don't get too low on yourself. Never be complacent.' ”

Chris Adamski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.

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