Penn State football in early April: Key takeaways from James Franklin’s Wednesday news conference –

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STATE COLLEGE — An offensive line still searching for the right players at the right positions. A defense that took it to the offense late in practice. And another running back who caught James Franklin’s eye last Saturday. Here are the highlights from Wednesday’s session with Franklin …

1. Andrew Nelson may have a new home. The veteran tackle, who can play both sides and is a returning starter, was working at first-team left tackle and redshirt sophomore Noah Beh was the right tackle. That’s a new look. Nelson, a Hershey High grad, has primarily started on the right side. The second-team tackles were redshirt freshman Sterling Jenkins (left) and senior Paris Palmer (right). “He (Palmer) had missed a practice,” Franklin said. “And we had ‘Nellie’ at left tackle and thought it went well. “So we thought, let’s experiment with Paris at right tackle. Sometimes you make those types of moves because of the situation you’re in and it ends up being a blessing in disguise.” 


2. Noah Beh at right tackle is not the only surprise involving the O-line. Franklin said true freshman Connor McGovern, projected as a center or guard, has received reps at tackle. “He’s doing a nice job for a true freshman,” Franklin said, also adding at one point, “it’s still us kind of searching for the best five, getting them on the field; not only getting the right people on the bus but getting them in the right seats as well.”

3. PSU’s defense got after QBs Trace McSorley and Tommy Stevens quite a bit during the late stages on Wednesday. “I thought today, defensively, I thought we played probably our best practice of the spring,” Franklin said. “We’re playing a lot more, with what I call personality, with our linebackers and our secondary disguising some of the pressures. I think in the past we’ve been a little bit predictable. … I think coach (Tim) Banks and coach (Brent) Pry are doing a really good job of disguising some of the things.”


4. Despite the O-line shuffling, Franklin believes the offense is on the right track. The new offensive coordinator, Joe Moorhead, has more ways to attack as both McSorley and Stevens can make plays with their legs. That didn’t happen a lot from 2013 to 2015. “There’s an excitement right now, offensively,” Franklin said. “The line’s playing better. We still have some things that we’ve got to get resolved. We’re veteran now at wide receiver where we’ve been young in the past. We’re veteran at running back and we’ve got some experience at tight end.”

5. Don’t count out redshirt sophomore Mark Allen in the running back rotation yet. Saquon Barkley is the starter, Andre Robinson has received some praise in spring and top recruit Miles Sanders is on the way. But … “Mark Allen’s the guy that’s really taken the opportunity and run with it,” Franklin said. “He had a great Saturday. He played extremely well, broke a bunch of tackles. Saquon’s doing some really, really nice things but it’s also been really good to evaluate some of those other guys in the live stuff.”