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Franklin using versatility to fix depth issues

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 26, 2014 at 4:54 pm •  Published: August 26, 2014
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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — Training players to compete at multiple positions is how new Penn State coach James Franklin plans to combat a team depth chart that's not all that deep.

Particularly thin on an offensive line that will be charged to keep sophomore star quarterback Christian Hackenberg upright as well as create space for veteran running backs Zach Zwinak, Bill Belton and Akeel Lynch, Franklin gets to test his philosophy in Ireland on Saturday where Penn State is set to face Central Florida.

Penn State remains 10 scholarships shy of the NCAA limit of 85 because of sanctions imposed after the Jerry Sandusky scandal in November 2011.

"We have to train guys for multiple positions and that's going to allow you to get your best 11 guys on the field," Franklin said Tuesday. "It's something that we're going to have to do and we're going to have to embrace it until we're in a situation where we have similar depth as other people in the country and get some of our scholarships back.

Only left tackle Donovan Smith and center Angelo Mangiro have playing experience, and Smith's playing time far exceeded that of Mangiro's last season. Projected starters Andrew Nelson (right tackle), Brian Gaia (right guard) and either Derek Dowrey or Brendan Mahon at left guard are untested.

"On the O-line we have to train those guys and at wide receiver and all the positions," Franklin said. "It's probably how we'll call the game.

"At wide receiver, our tight ends have more depth and more experience so you'll probably see more tight ends on the field. We rotate those guys typically the way we do in practice.

"The way we do it, you may have a guy taking some reps with the 1's and the 2's or a guy taking some reps with the 2's and the 3's and vice-versa. The closer we get to game time, we really want to have those things solidified, but we're really going to have to keep working it all year long," he said.

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