Penn State football notebook: 'Handful' of freshmen could make immediate impact
On Tuesday night, James Franklin and his staff went through a list of players to meet with. The group — mostly freshmen — are candidates to redshirt this upcoming season. Each told they fit into one of three categories.
“Some guys that we saw would play right away,” Franklin said Wednesday, “and then other guys it's kind of a wait-and-see, that were going to try to hold their redshirt if we're able to, based on the injuries. And another group that more than likely is going to redshirt.”
Franklin didn't divulge who was told what. But he did offer some clues as to what freshmen could be put in positions to make immediate impacts.
“There's a handful,” he said.
The Nittany Lions' opener against Central Florida in Dublin is nine days away.
“(Chris) Godwin and Saeed (Blacknall) are guys that kind of have jumped out to me,” Franklin said. “(Mike) Gesicki is a guy who's jumped out to me — and those are guys we need to have a role for us.
“On defense, Marcus Allen and Grant Haley are guys that have done some nice things, and Jason Cabinda — all at positions that we need.”
No surprise that Franklin mentioned freshmen at positions PSU lacks upperclassmen depth: wide receiver (Godwin, Blacknall), the secondary (Allen, Haley) and linebacker (Cabinda). Tight end Gesicki's role likely expanded after Adam Breneman's injury during camp.
Franklin repeatedly has indicated in the past that freshman receiver DeAndre Thompkins is a strong candidate for a prominent role in the return game.
O-line remains a question
Penn State's issues along the offensive line have been well-documented throughout the offseason. Days before the season opener, little has yet to crystallize.
“We've still got some work to do — we really do — in this last week leading up to the game,” Franklin said.
Franklin said there hasn't even been an opportunity to this point to have a cohesive unit of five practice together. Minor injuries and the desire to experiment with different combinations or trying players at certain spots have wreaked havoc with any day-to-day continuity.
“We haven't really had the same five guys at the same five spots for multiple practices yet,” Franklin said. “Now that we've had a chance to evaluate all these guys, now it's ‘How do we get the best five on the field, complementing each other, playing as a unit and getting some consistency.' That's what we're going to try to do now in the next week and a half.”
Franklin said there are “probably seven or eight guys” the staff has settled on for the offensive line rotation and the two-deep.
Franklin was asked if any of his players excelled more in the more competitive scrimmage setting as opposed to regular drills during practice. His answer included two players — both former WPIAL standouts.
“The only guy who really kind of sticks out to me like that is Cole Chiappialle — but he really does that at practice everyday as well,” Franklin said. “When we do live periods (in practice)… I always notice Mike Hull. He always really kind of has this huge impact. I've been very impressed with him.”
Chiappialle is a sophomore walk-on running back from Blackhawk who appeared in the final nine games last season. Hull, a fifth-year senior linebacker and team co-captain, is a Canon-McMillan product.