ShareThis Page
Penn State’s James Franklin goes to work immediately on rebuilding project |
Penn State

Penn State’s James Franklin goes to work immediately on rebuilding project

Jerry DiPaola
| Wednesday, January 2, 2019 6:25 p.m
Kentucky safety Davonte Robinsonstops Penn State running back Miles Sanders after a short gain during the first half of the Citrus Bowl on Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019, in Orlando.

Penn State lost four games this season, a significant regression from the previous two when the Nittany Lions dropped a total of five while winning the 2016 Big Ten championship.

It didn’t take long for coach James Franklin to start doing something about it. Less than a day, actually.

The first move came Wednesday afternoon, the day after the 27-24 loss to Kentucky in the Citrus Bowl, when Franklin fired wide receivers coach David Corley, who spent one season on the staff.

Penn State’s aerial game was not good enough, especially in an embarrassing 42-7 loss at Michigan when Penn State’s wide receivers caught only three passes for 49 yards, and the Nittany Lions were shut out until the final two minutes. Overall, quarterback Trace McSorley threw for 1,040 yards fewer than in 2017, and receivers were plagued by drops for much of this season.

Meanwhile, special teams also must get fixed. In the Kentucky game, Penn State missed a field goal, had another attempt blocked and allowed a 58-yard punt return for a touchdown. Plus, Franklin’s decision to try a fake punt on fourth-and-2 from the PSU 33 led to a Kentucky field goal in the first quarter.

“We’ll look at everything,” Franklin told the Morning Call. “We’ll have tough conversations. We’ll do what we’ve got to do to get better, but it was not up to our standards today. It wasn’t up to our standards all year long.”

Yet Michigan was the only opponent against whom Penn State was not competitive.

In fact, the Lions did well to win nine games, with a young defense led by freshman linebacker Micah Parsons, who recorded a team-high 83 tackles while listed No. 2 on the depth chart. Sophomore defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos, who led the team in sacks (eight), also returns. All but three players on defense are eligible to play next season, although junior defensive end Shareef Miller, who had 712 sacks, opted to come out early for the NFL Draft.

But no one was as impressive as McSorley, who ran from Kentucky’s defense on one good foot in the second half of the Citrus Bowl. The senior jeopardized his immediate future by going back onto the field on a right foot he knew might be broken in a game Penn State trailed 27-7 by the end of the third quarter.

Penn State officials told reporters in the press box that McSorley, who also had been poked in the eye, was out for the game with a broken foot.

After the game, Franklin was unclear on the extent of the injury, and Penn State officials said they planned to release no updated information on McSorley’s foot, according to

Broken foot or not, McSorley said he felt better after walking around on it, but he admitted playing in “a lot of pain.” He told reporters the pain was “seven or eight” on a scale of 10.

“Adrenaline kicked in,” he told

Now, all Franklin must do is find a way replace him.

McSorley leaves Penn State with school records for victories (31), yards passing (9,899) and touchdown passes (78, fourth in Big Ten history).

The backups are junior Tommy Stevens, who had recent leg surgery and didn’t make the trip to the Citrus Bowl, and redshirt freshman Sean Clifford. If Stevens is recovered, a position battle will ensue in the spring.

“We’ve got some great guys after Trace, and the way he’s shown them how to prepare only makes them better,” offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne told the Daily Collegian.

“He’s really done a nice job when he got in the game,” Rahne said of Clifford. “But, really, it’s been the progression throughout the week and the questions he asks and the things he sees and things like that. (We’ve) been extremely pleased. If you look at the end of spring to now, he’s grown probably tenfold, so it’s been great to watch what he’s done.”

No matter the identity of the quarterback, his chances for success will be enhanced if junior running back Miles Sanders (Woodland Hills) returns for his senior season.

“It’s going to be the hardest decision of my life,” Sanders told the Centre Daily Times.

Sanders was second in the Big Ten in rushing, gaining 1,274 yards (5.8 per attempt) with nine touchdowns. He also caught 24 passes for 139 yards.

Penn State junior guard Connor McGovern announced Wednesday he plans to leave school and enter the NFL Draft. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. projects McGovern as the top guard in this year’s draft class.

Ryan Bates, a third-team all-Big Ten offensive tackle, also will forego his final year of eligibility after declaring for the draft Wednesday.

Kevin Givens, an Altoona grad who started for two seasons at defensive tackle, also declared.

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry at or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at or via Twitter .

Categories: Sports | Penn State
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.