Penn State vs Minnesota, Head coach James Franklin

Coach James Franklin greets staff before the game against Minnesota at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minn. on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019. No. 17 Minnesota defeated No. 4 Penn State 31-26.

Spring ball is officially in full swing.

James Franklin and cornerbacks coach Terry Smith addressed the media on Wednesday following practice.

The two brought up their excitement just to get back to spring practice after being sent home due to the coronavirus just a year ago.

So with the Nittany Lions anxious to get back out on the practice field, here is what Franklin and Smith had to say surrounding what they have seen so far.

The quarterback room

It is well known that Penn State’s quarterback depth is thin at the moment.

With just three scholarship field generals on the team, Franklin and new offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich have been able to work closely with the gunslingers and provided updates on all of their progress.

In regards to the likely starter Sean Clifford, Franklin is impressed with what he has done as a veteran of the team.

“He's a smart guy, he asks really good questions,” Franklin said. “He's had a lot of success and he's had a lot of adversity — with that comes maturity, comes wisdom, comes experience. He's a guy that really wants to be good and really works at it both mentally and physically.”

In addition to Clifford, Franklin talked about the progress of quarterbacks Ta’Quan Roberson and freshman Christian Veilleux, both of whom have impressed the coaching staff so far.

“It's really about consistency,” Franklin said. "I think Ta’Quan is showing more of that right now. Veilleux, I think, is pretty far along for a true freshman in terms of being able to operate and what we're asking him to do. That's an important thing for us to figure out: making sure we have a two and a three that we feel good about.”

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Defensive backs

Along with Franklin, Smith spoke to the media and had plenty to share regarding the defensive personnel for the Nittany Lions.

Smith had praise for many of Penn State’s young players but also discussed veterans such as Tariq Castro-Fields, who is set to be a big returner in the defensive backfield for the blue and white this season.

“With [Castro-Fields’] injury and missing so many games this year, there was just a lot of unfinished business,” Smith said. “He had an opportunity to go to the NFL and be drafted somewhere in the middle rounds, and we just felt like he could leave on a better note. He can help his draft status, he can help himself improve. And, ultimately, he can help our team improve.”

Franklin spoke highly of another returning defensive back for Penn State and this time it was safety Ji’Ayir Brown, who he says is being depended on to step up this season.

“[Brown’s] had a really good spring. I think he's leading us right now in turnovers, and he's just much more comfortable and much more confident, which we typically see in second-year players,” Franklin said. “He's an awesome young man in general, he's very appreciative of the opportunity of being here at Penn State.

“He’s kind of standing out right now.’'

Yurcich getting comfortable

While spring practice is normally critical to a program’s success, this spring is as important as ever for Penn State given the turnover on the coaching staff, specifically on offense.

The Nittany Lions are on their third offensive coordinator in as many seasons and are looking for some stability after the inconsistent start Sean Clifford got out to last season.

But while he has only been here a short time, Franklin feels newly hired offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich is adjusting well to the team’s personnel and is excited about what he is going to bring over the next few months prior to the start of the season.

“He's what I thought [he was going to be], he's an aggressive personality as a coach, he's an aggressive personality as a play caller,” Franklin said. “He has a proven track record of success. What he believes in and who I would like to be stylistically, it aligns. He’s got almost a mad scientist kind of way about him, which I like.

“I don't think there's a player or scheme that he doesn't like.”

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