Buffalo, Coach Franklin

Head coach James Franklin before the game against Buffalo at Beaver Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019.

Penn State is now just 10 days away from its season-opening game against Indiana, and the Nittany Lions are settling into a groove.

Despite not having months to prepare for a season, Penn State is turning its attention toward the Hooisers as a new “normal” sets in at the Lasch Building.

Here are a few takeaways from James Franklin’s media availability following practice on Wednesday.

Getting into a groove

Continuing to adjust before its Week 1 game, Penn State had some kinks to work out right away with new protocols, Franklin said, but, ultimately, the Nittany Lions have been able to accomplish everything in training camp they would in a normal year

“We’ve gotten into a good routine now,” Franklin said. “In some ways, you could make the argument it's been better.

“We’ve had a lot of meeting time, and we’ve had a lot of individual [time], probably more so than we normally have.”

With masks being worn constantly and new daily testing procedures, Franklin admitted practice is different, but Penn State has embraced these changes.

“We’ve embraced it,” Franklin said. “It’s been different. There’s no doubt about that. But our staff has gotten into a pretty good routine with how we are going to deal with it and focus on the things we can control and not get frustrated by the new normal.”

In fact, Franklin said things like split practices might benefit the team and is something he will look into implementing full time once the Nittany Lions can return to a “normal” schedule.

“We got a chance to work with the freshman and the transfers, probably longer and they got more reps than they normally would,” Franklin said.

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Building connections

In a normal October practice, it wouldn’t be unusual to see Franklin’s family on the field at the Lasch Building, a number of visitors from the community or some alumni back in town.

Franklin prides himself on the family atmosphere he has built at Penn State. But this season, this has all changed.

Franklin’s wife and his two daughters are living in Florida while Franklin is in State College leading the Penn State program.

And while Franklin admits the new normal has been tough on him and his family, he also feels for the new coaches and players in the program.

“I feel bad for the new staff, and the new players are having a very different Penn State experience than normal,” Franklin said. “John Scott, I haven’t even met his wife face-to-face, I haven’t even met his children face-to-face. We are having challenges and issues, I’m having challenges and issues with it.”

The key to Franklin moving forward is building this morale and finding a balance between the hard work of college football and safely having fun.

“Even stuff like bringing the freshman home to my house for dinner, or bringing a position group to my house for dinner,” Franklin said. “We’ve just had less of that, so there’s always that balance.

“Major college football is a lot of hard work, but you want to make sure you are having fun with it too.”

A special visitor

A special day for long snapper Chris Stoll featured a special visitor in the Lasch Building.

As Franklin was awarding the former walk-on long snapper a scholarship, he caught former linebacker Micah Parsons in the corner of his eye in his office.

In fact, it was Parsons’ scholarship the coach was awarding to Stoll after the star linebacker decided to opt out of the upcoming season and prepare for the NFL Draft.

“We were at 85, so when Micah decided he wasn’t coming back, we were able to do an appeal with the NCAA and give it to Stoll,” Franklin said. “So I turned and Micah was standing there and I’m like, ‘Does he have second thoughts? Because it’s too late.’”

Ultimately, Parsons was in town and wanted to stop in and see his former teammates, which created a challenge for Penn State due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We want Micah around, but there is also the challenge of how we are living right now under the COVID bubble that we’ve tried to create here,” Franklin said. “So it makes it hard to have people who aren’t in that bubble, aren’t living that lifestyle.”

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