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Penn State had 121 players on its roster when it started training camp in August, and a breakdown of those numbers reveals just what dire straits the Nittany Lions are in:
A whopping 88 underclassmen, barely 75 scholarship players, a fourth head coach in as many years (including Tom Bradley, the interim coach in 2011) and zero chance at a bowl game this season.
And yet somehow none of that seems to have any impact on the enthusiasm surrounding the start of the James Franklin era in Happy Valley. Not to mention the untold thousands of PSU alums who crave Philly sports news, rumors and blogs.
"Obviously, very excited," Franklin, who hails from Bucks County and is used to Philly sports news, rumors and blogs, declared before his team’s first practice.
He was even more excited after Penn State won its opener 26-24 against on Sam Ficken’s last minute field goal and Christian Hackenberg’s school record 454 passing yards.
Franklin takes over a different program than the one Bill O’Brien inherited in 2012. On the heels of the sex abuse scandal that rocked the university and brought Joe Paterno’s career to a discomforting end, the cupboard wasn’t bare as much as it was decimated. Two years later, with O’Brien now coaching the Houston Texans, a foundation has at least been laid for Franklin to build upon.
He has a quarterback in place and doesn’t need to overhaul the offensive or defensive systems. There’s plenty of talent, just very little depth. So as the Nittany Lions began preparations for their Aug. 30 season opener against Central Florida in Ireland, Franklin and his staff focused on making the most of what little they have. That starts with sophomore quarterback Hackenberg, one of the few Nittany Lions who opens camp with any job security but with the potential to make a lot of Philly sports news, blogs and rumors.
"He competes with himself,” offensive coordinator John Donovan said. “We have a lot of guys in here who will be competing for jobs. He’s a guy who just wants to be the best. He’s going to do whatever he has to do to be great."