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Tuesdays With James: Running Back Depth, Offensive Line and Mega Barnwell

Penn State Football started its spring practice on Monday. Head coach James Franklin held a press conference to kick off the day as he talked about depth at running back, the offensive line, and a potential position change for one of his newcomers.

James on Running Back Depth

Penn State has arguably the best one-two punch at running back in the Big Ten with Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen. However, one issue is the depth behind them as they are the only two scholarship players currently enrolled at the school. Franklin spoke about developing depth in the spring until London Montgomery and Cameron Wallace come to campus this coming summer.

“Yeah, we’ll get those guys a ton of reps, not just to develop depth, but also just to be smart with the other two, right? It’s for a number of reasons. That’s the exact reason why we ended up signing two running backs and it ended up being two high school running backs. But that was the whole idea of signing two because whether the third back comes from who we currently have in the program or whether the third back comes from an incoming freshman, that’s what we’ve got to figure out between this spring and then summer camp as well, for depth but also to make sure that we’re not overworking those two guys either.”

James on the Offensive Line

The Left side of the offensive line was injured towards the end of this past season as Olu Fashanu and Landon Tangwell suffered injuries. Then there is the biggest question along the offensive line is who will fill the shoes of Juice Scruggs at center? He confirmed that Fashanu and Scruggs will be at full go at spring practices and Veega Ioane, Dominic Rulli, Sal Wormley, Ian Harvie, and Nick Dawkins will be in competition with Hunter Norzad for the starting spot. Franklin spoke on the status of the lineman as well as the competition at center.

“Yeah, good question. Olu will be full go. Landon, I think will be full go by practice 3. We’ve got a number of guys, they will come out the first two practices and do kind of more individuals and jog-throughs, individuals full speed. And then depending upon how they do with those, then they will have an opportunity by practice 3 to, the medical staff will determine, do we need to keep modifying them or are they in a good place. So it will be great to have those two guys back. Obviously proven guys that played a ton of football for us.” Franklin said.

“Then at center, yeah, I think Hunter, I think is going to be in a competition with [Nick] Dawkins. I think there’s some other guys, I think Vega [Ioane] will take some center reps. I think [Sal] Wormley could take some center reps as well. And then [Dominic] Rulli and [Ian] Harvie will be there as well. It allows us to have, you know, on paper a four-deep from practice perspective. Which I think will be really valuable for those guys. But part of it is Hunter will also be one of those guys that starts out slightly modified for the first two practices to see how it goes. But it will be a competition with Nourzad and Dawkins and some of those other guys that we have listed as guards, but we’ll also get them some center reps as well. Then Rulli’s a guy that’s done some really nice things that the staff’s been impressed with. We’ll see kind of the step he’s taken since the season ended”.

James on Mega Barnwell

One of Frankin’s top enrollees currently on campus is listed as a tight end but he is currently weighted in at 269 pounds, which is considered big for a tight end, and with Khalil Dinkins, Jerry Cross, Tyler Warren, and Theo Johnson in the tight end room along with Joey Schlaffler and Andrew Rappelyea he was asked about a potential position change in the future for Barnwell.

“Yeah. So, we were very transparent with Mega from the beginning. We had conversations about position flexibility, whether it was D-line, whether it was tight end, whether it was O-line, and he was open to that as long as he was going to be given the opportunity to come in and compete at tight end.” Franklin said.

“So, with us, all of our guys, we have open conversations with them during the recruiting process about how we see them. I think you saw it a little bit with [Cristian] Driver last year. So, we’ll see how it plays out. The thing I have heard from the players is he’s got really good hands and he moves well out on the field, you know, talking to the strength coaches and watching him in the winter workouts and then again talking to the guys. So, he could be one of those kinds of exceptions where he’s just a massive tight end, maybe more of a true Y. We’ll see how that plays out. But he is big. He did have an injury early on when he first got here, which I actually also think limited some of his training and development in terms of putting on muscle. So, I think he’s going to continue to grow. But you never know, he could be the exception. We saw a couple of those guys at the combine that are 280-pound tight end. You never know. We’ll see how that plays out.”

Penn State will hold its Blue-White game on April 15.

Twitter: @bwalkerdadon

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