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PSU notebook: Freshman cornerback Haley soars up depth chart

| Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014, 8:30 p.m.

Penn State coach James Franklin apparently is not going to make freshmen available to speak with the media.

Grant Haley's turned enough heads during the preseason that plenty of Nittany Lions are talking for him.

A 5-foot-9, 186-pound cornerback from Atlanta, Haley might be Penn State's fastest player. After enrolling a couple of months ago, his ascension on the PSU depth chart might be even faster.

“I could not be more excited about Grant Haley,” defensive coordinator Bob Shoop said. “He's been everything we'd hoped for and then some.”

On Penn State's first official depth chart, Haley was one of only two true freshmen listed as high as a second-teamer (joining outside linebacker Jason Cabinda).

Considering the demands of modern pass-happy offense, at least four cornerbacks will play a large amount of snaps. Shoop indicated as much. Also, Franklin said Haley will have a kick-return role.

Defensive co-captain Mike Hull said Haley is “always popping up on film (in practice and scrimmages) making plays.”

“He's done a great job being consistent throughout camp, and I think that's what coaches value,” Hull said.

“We knew he was really athletic, and he's been able to translate that athleticism to the scheme.”

Depth chart released

There were few surprises on the first depth chart of the season, released Tuesday. Some observations:

• Bill Belton was listed above fellow senior running back Zach Zwinak.

• Trace McSorley has an edge over fellow freshman Michael O'Connor as quarterback Christian Hackenberg's backup.

• At one of the cornerback spots, incumbent Trevor Williams had an “or” between him and fellow junior Da'Quan Davis.

• Some big names atop the chart at kickoff and punt returner: Akeel Lynch and Geno Lewis (kickoff) and Lucas (punt).

• Chris Gulla and Tyler Yazujian were atop the list at punter and holder, respectively.

5 camps, 3 head coaches

On a short list of players who by the end of Saturday will have played in a game under four different Penn State head coaches, including interim coach Tom Bradley, Hull expounded on comparing the training camp styles of Paterno, Bill O'Brien and Franklin.

“Joe's camps were the most physical and demanding as far as hitting goes in live periods,” Hull said, “and Coach O'Brien was run like an NFL camp — not as much hitting, not as much physicality. I think Coach Franklin's right in the middle. He did a good job preparing us this year as far as conditioning and also getting live reps in there. But he didn't take it over the top to the point where guys were banged up.”

Big Ten's best DTs?

Penn State defensive co-captain C.J. Olaniyan praised starting defensive tackles Austin Johnson and Anthony Zettel.

“I feel like they're going to be the top two defensive tackles in our conference,” Olaniyan said. “They've been wreaking havoc the whole camp. They've been out there just dominating.

“They're going to have a great year for us.”

Nittany notes

Belton smiled when asked if he'll be running the wildcat: “We have a couple days until game day, so we'll see.” … Franklin vowed that he would make as many players available in uniform as possible, by rule, for every game this season. That includes the Croke Park Classic, to which PSU staffers said last week were traveling to with an estimated 118 players. … Franklin: “We'd like to redshirt (freshman wide receiver DeAndre Thompkins) if we could.”

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

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