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January 15, 2014
Analysis: Lions ready to roll
The trappings are great fodder for us.
New head coach James Franklin is going to bring what type of offense and defense to the Nittany Lions for the 2014 season? Based on his comments at the introductory press conference held Saturday afternoon, the answer at this point is irrelevant.
How about the new quarterback coach that will help guide Christian Hackenberg now and into the future? If reports are to be believed, Ricky Rahne has done it before - guiding Josh Freeman to great success - so the biggest position in the Lions' offense appears to be in good hands.
What about replacing longtime Nittany Lions' assistant Larry Johnson along the defensive line?
All valid questions asked by a smattering of reporters on Wednesday afternoon to a select group of Nittany Lions in the Lasch Building's massive weight room.
Without many definitive answers to give about a coaching staff these players haven't been introduced to, or their still raw feelings on the departure of former head coach Bill O'Brien, one thing became overwhelmingly clear:
Tired of the distractions, these Nittany Lions are anxious to get back to work.
"There's a decent amount of uncertainty right now because a whole new staff is coming in, but we're all just excited to get started and get back at it," said senior linebacker Mike Hull.
As has been the case for more than two years, though, asked about his anticipation for meeting a new linebackers coach, Hull revealed what's been known all along: Penn State's players have little recourse but to trust the chosen direction of the decision-makers, work extremely hard and go from there.
Said Hull, "I just assume that Coach Franklin is going to bring in a great staff and we're just excited to start the workouts and see how everything goes."
For C.J. Olaniyan, a fellow veteran that has now seen not one or two, but four coaching changes (when counting interim head coaches Tom Bradley and Larry Johnson), the one constant that has existed throughout has been the players that remain.
Looking past the details, Olaniyan painted a picture of a team that is anxious to hit the ground running.
"As far as the team and the players, we're just ready to go back to work," he said. "We're ready to get playbooks, we're ready to do whatever drills that need to be done. We're just ready to work.
"All we want to do is play football and win games."
What's left is a team that, already fighting the effects of draconian NCAA sanctions, has found yet another reason to feel slighted.
Though tight end Adam Breneman disagreed with an assessment that the Nittany Lions collectively feel as though they're proceeding with a proverbial chip on their shoulders, the 19-year old breakout acknowledged some of the motivating factors that are presently pushing the team forward.
Said Breneman, "I think there's been a lot of doubt about Penn State and what we can do on the field, so I think definitely it just motivates us to work that much harder in the weight room because we want to be great."
His teammate, true freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg, took the sentiment a step further.
Putting into context the series of twists and turns that have defined being a Penn State football player for the past two years, Hackenberg was happy to speak for himself when asked whether or not he and his teammates felt like they had a chip on their shoulders.
"Definitely," he said without hesitation. "I think that as a team, we've been through a lot of ups and downs in the past two years. I think we're really excited with the new opportunity that we've been given with Coach Franklin here now.
"I think we're going to play with a little attitude and I think we're definitely going to go out and have fun. I know for a fact we're going to go out and compete and have fun each Saturday. We're going to lay everything out on the line."
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