The music blaring from the speakers inside Penn State's Holuba Hall on Saturday afternoon was not quite as loud as a packed stadium. But the situation coach James Franklin set up for his players was meant to mirror a specific game scenario.
"Today, we took the Illinois situation exactly, yard-line situation, timeouts, and went through it again," Franklin said after practice. "We want to learn from some of the mistakes we did last year. And [Saturday] the offense was able to line up in four-minute offense and play pretty good. . . . That's because of the O-line. The tight ends are blocking better, and, as well, the running backs are running hard."
Before Saturday, Franklin hadn't talked much about the situation at running back with Zach Zwinak and Bill Belton gone. But after the fifth of 15 spring practices for the Nittany Lions, he voiced confidence when asked about depth at the position behind the returning Akeel Lynch.
"What I like is we're being a lot more definitive, there's less hesitance, we're getting downhill. We're keeping our shoulders square. We're just so much stronger and more explosive than we were last year," Franklin said. "We've still got a long ways to go, but Akeel's looking like the workhorse that we think he can be and some of the young guys that we were excited about are showing some pretty good signs."
Those young running backs include redshirt freshmen Nick Scott and Mark Allen, Franklin said.
Another change this spring: the move of Jordan Lucas from cornerback to safety.
The change is one that Lucas feels good about it, Franklin said, and the 6-foot, 201-pound senior brings much to the table at his new spot.
"He loves to talk, being back there as a safety, and being able to kind of coordinate and tell people where to go and where to line up is really important," Franklin said. "The other thing, obviously, you don't make that move unless you feel good about the young corners."