— Story by Brian Tripp (@psuTripp)
Some mid-week news and notes
Depth Chart Changes:
First, on defense, with injuries continuing to impact the linebacker position, true freshman Cameron Brown is listed as the starter at Will Linebacker. Brown made 10 tackles in his first significant collegiate action at Michigan. Additionally, Grant Haley is atop the depth chart at the Field Cornerback position. Haley missed the last two games due to injury.
On offense, freshman Connor McGovern leaps incumbent Derek Dowrey at right guard. For the first time this season, McGovern received more snaps than Dowrey in Saturday’s loss.
In his weekly press conference, Franklin noted that things may change prior to kickoff against Minnesota. He also emphasized the play of Brown, who he said “showed a lot to work with and naturally has the ability to find the ball and make plays.”
Franklin continued to express concern about his team’s ability to match opponents’ physicality. In fact, he used the word “physical” or a variation of it 13 times in the first 15 minutes of his weekly press conference.
“Defensively I think we’re playing hard; however, we need to be more physical up front,” Franklin said. “We have to play the run better and more consistently. We have to get off the field on third down.”
Penn State will be challenged again in these situations on Saturday against Minnesota. The Golden Gophers rank 5th nationally, converting on 55.8% of third downs this season.
Rushing Attack Struggles:
Despite featuring sophomore standout running back Saquon Barkley, Penn State is averaging only 101.2 rushing yards per game. The Nittany Lions rank 122nd nationally in rushing offense. Only UTSA, South Carolina, Arkansas State, Massachusetts, Texas State and Georgia State are worse statistically.
Franklin was frequently asked about the group’s struggles on Tuesday and says a combination of factors is likely to blame. According to Franklin, scheme, on-field decisions, personnel, skill and opponents have all impacted the rushing attack. He also mentioned improvements Barkley can make to help.
“I think the other thing where Saquon could be a little bit better is not trying to make every run an 80-yard touchdown,” Franklin said. “You have to be willing to lower your shoulder and run people over or get in a gap and push the pile for four or five yards. I think he’s been trying to make the extra cut every single run, and there will be a time and a place for that.”
Former Nittany Lion Catches First NFL Pass:
Former Penn State basketball player Ross Travis made his second consecutive NFL start last weekend for the Kansas City Chiefs. The 6-7 tight end caught two passes for ten yards in the Chiefs 24-3 win over the New York Jets. Travis did not play football at Penn State. In fact, prior to landing a workout with former Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien and the Houston Texans after completing his basketball career, Travis had not played football since his freshman year of high school.