Penn State still tinkering with offensive line

Posted: August 22, 2014

With Penn State's season opener approaching next week in Ireland, coach James Franklin and his staff have turned the page from training camp to preparing for Central Florida.

But Franklin acknowledged Wednesday that there still is work to be done. There's the development of depth and cohesion along the offensive line. And there's making progress on the Nittany Lions' offensive, defensive, and special-teams' schemes.

In a conference call with reporters, Franklin said the Lions broke camp - his first as the team's head coach - on Tuesday night, and coaches are modifying the game plans drawn up during the summer "because we have a better idea of who we are . . . and who we're going to be playing with."

Depth issues still are being addressed, however, especially on the offensive line, where "it's just not figuring out who the guys are, but all the moving parts that factor into it," Franklin said.

The Nittany Lions return just one starter there.

"We might have a guy who misses a practice because he twisted his ankle, or we might want to try a new guy at a different position, or whatever," he said. "We haven't really had the same five guys at the same five spots for multiple practices yet, and that's kind of where we're at now.

"Now we've got to evaluate all these guys, and it's how do we get the best five on the field complementing each other, playing as a unit, and getting some consistency there," Franklin said. "That's really what we're going to do now over the next week and a half."

In terms of backups along the line, Franklin said he's likely to have a starting five plus two or three others, and that means everyone will have to be versatile.

"There are seven or eight guys at this point that we feel good about," he said. "Those guys are going to have to be trained at multiple spots, which makes that consistency and cohesiveness that you need at that unit difficult. Maybe the starting center is also the backup right tackle, and the right tackle actually is the backup left tackle, and so forth."

Linebacker also is an area lacking depth. Starters Mike Hull, Brandon Bell, and Nyeem Wartman had a good camp, Franklin said, and he liked the play of sophomore Gary Wooten and freshman Jason Cabinda.

As for the rest of the linebacking corps, "we're kind of trying to figure that out," he said.

The 6-foot-1, 248-pound Cabinda, from Flemington, N.J., is one of the freshmen mentioned by Franklin as potentially making an impact. He also put Mike Gesicki, a 6-6, 237-pound tight end from Southern Regional (N.J.), in that category.

Others rookies he likes include defensive backs Marcus Allen and Grant Haley, and wide receivers Chris Godwin and Saeed Blacknall.

"They're doing some nice things at positions that we need - defensive back and linebacker, as well as on offense at wide receiver and tight end," he said.


jjuliano@phillynews.com

@joejulesinq

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